English Corner

Because guests keep misbehaving, Kyoto closes individual alleyways to tourists. Picture: Unsplashed

Tourists banned from popular alleyways in Kyoto

Rude tourists are making life difficult for the residents of the Japanese city of Kyoto. Now the city council has had enough. It wants to restrict access to the popular geisha neighbourhood.

Japan is booming as a travel destination. It is also more popular than ever with Swiss tourists. This rush also has its downsides, including in the city of Kyoto.

Because many visitors to Kyoto's geisha neighbourhood of Gion misbehave too often, city officials want to ban them from visiting certain alleyways in future. "We will ask travellers to stay away from narrow private streets in April or later," Isokazu Ota from the city council told the AFP news agency. "We don't want to do this, but we don't know what else to do."

In future, signs will read in Japanese and English: "This is a private road, so you must not cross it." The ban is primarily aimed at pedestrians rather than cars. However, it only applies to some streets in the Gion neighbourhood. The public streets in the former capital of Japan are still open to travellers.

Geishas disrespected by visitors

In Gion, the geishas, Japan's traditional entertainers, pursue a centuries-old profession. The locals have long complained that tourists often behave disrespectfully. In December last year, the Gion District Council finally called on Kyoto City to address the problem and emphasised that the neighbourhood was not a theme park.

A district council member told Japanese media that someone had pulled the kimono of a "maiko", i.e. a geisha trainee. Another geisha had a visitor throw a cigarette butt into her cleavage.

There is still a widespread misconception that geishas are prostitutes. However, they are qualified entertainers who are trained in traditional Japanese dance, make music and entertain their guests with games and stories.

The tourism boom in Japan has also led to measures being taken elsewhere. On Mount Fuji, a visitor limit and an entry fee will be introduced from the middle of the year (Travelnews reported).