Destinations

Kyoto’s famous Gion neighbourhood bans photos in private areas

Christian Fleetwood

Christian Fleetwood

Residents of a popular tourist area in Kyoto have pushed for a ban on photography, in a crackdown on perceived bad tourist behaviour.

Tourists visiting the Gion district of Kyoto will no longer be allowed to take pictures in privately-owned alleys, after the area’s local resident group voted to ban photography in the community’s private streets and homes, Japan’s public broadcaster, NHK, reported.

Gion is considered one of Japan’s geisha districts, where the women entertainers are known locally as ‘geiko’ and often sighted in colourful kimonos. The region is also known as the home of the Kennin-ji Temple and its Zen garden, the wooden Tatsumi Bridge, and the Yasaka Shrine.

Higashiyama Ward, Gion district, Kyoto.

The ban on photography came into effect on 25 October, amid ongoing concerns by residents over bad tourist behaviour by foreigners, with tourists accused of harassing geiko and maiko apprentices.

Gion’s local resident group put up signs informing visitors of the ban, and handed out leaflets urging tourists to ask for permission before taking photos of geiko and maiko, NHK reported.

Anyone caught flouting the law can expect a fine of ¥10,000 ($134).

Kyoto, and metropolitan Japan, is currently grappling with the downside of a boom in visitors to the country.

In a survey of 300 restaurants and shops in the area, The Guardian reported that complaints by Gion residents against tourists ranged from littering and smoking while walking, to blocking traffic and trespassing.

The outlet also reported that some residents said they had witnessed groups of tourists surrounding taxis carrying geiko and chasing the women along the street in an attempt to take photographs.

Both the ban and fine are not reportedly legally binding; however, residents hope the measure will convince visitors to have more respect for the neighbourhood and its residents, The Guardian reported.

There are few countries considering the potential of tourism as determinedly as Japan, with the country having set an official goal of attracting 40 million inbound visitors by 2020 and 60 million by 2030.

Factoring into Japan’s plans for the future of tourism is the opening of further slots on international routes, with an unprecedented opening on flights from Australia to Tokyo’s Haneda International Airport occurring earlier this year, among them.

Virgin Australia and Qantas have both secured one slot each, with Brisbane becoming the latest of Australia’s cities to offer a direct service to and from Haneda, with Virgin.

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