Some tourists in Kyoto treat geishas as a freak show, snapping pictures of them without permission and sometimes even chasing them down and tugging at their kimonos. The Gion neighborhood in Kyoto, Japan, has banned unwanted photography on private roads frequented by geishas after complaints about annoying and persistent tourists.
The neighborhood is a famous tourist attraction for its stone-paved roads, ancient temples, wooden teahouses and, perhaps most of all, its geiko and maiko (apprentice geishas) who walk to and from their evening performances in the area.
“I’ve seen maiko bursting into tears and fending off people who want to have their photo taken with them,” one local resident told The Guardian. “They are not on display. This is a live, working environment.”
Signs have been posted in small alleyways off the neighborhood’s main street of Hanamikoji warning tourists that they face fines of ¥10,000 (US$92) if they take pictures of the geishas without permission, according to NHK News reported.
A record of 28.7 million people visited Japan in 2017, an increase of 250 percent from 2012. Most of the visitors are from China; others are from South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Thailand, and the United States.
Local authorities have tried to curb tourists’ bad manners by developing a tourist information app and providing mobile devices to be distributed by hotels and inns. The app and devices explain local manners and customs in English and Chinese.
The city also has surveillance cameras that survey the streets. “We’d like to study what steps are effective in dealing with problems stemming from differences in customs,” a Kyoto city government official said, as quoted by japantimes.co.jp.