Tourists May Now Be Fined for Taking Photos at Kyoto's Famous Geisha Neighbourhood

Tourists May Now Be Fined for Taking Photos at Kyoto’s Famous Geisha Neighbourhood

Kyoto has decided to implement fines on tourists who take photographs without permission on private streets and properties.

Image credit: Elsie Lin

Geishas, with their painted faces and silk kimonos, walk the streets of Gion district in Kyoto as they make their way to work. For many travelers, this picture-perfect spot with its wooden teahouses from the Edo era, simply can’t be missed. However, there are some lines that shouldn’t be crossed, like trespassing on private property and harassing the geishas. 

From 25 October 2019, travelers who take photographs on private streets will be fined S$124.65 (¥10,000). Offenders will be tracked via video surveillance. 

Not the only etiquette rules which have been broken

As seriously as trespassing and harassment are taken, travelers have also offended the locals (albeit unknowingly) by breaking many other etiquette rules. 

Kyoto has released an English-language guide for tourist behavior in 2017. It listed laws such as not smoking in public and cycling intoxicated. This has evolved into a smartphone app (launched in early October 2019) that will remind tourists of the rules and conduct when downloaded. Other social rules include not sitting on bamboo fences, touching the city’s lanterns and not eating while walking. 

Loud noise at night from unlicensed-rental properties, overcrowded buses and crowds have also added to the resentment of the locals. 

Image credit: Alicia Chong

Director of Cerca Travel, Mr Tamura, has suggested a “passport” to be issued to tourists visiting Kyoto. For a small fee that goes back into the city’s infrastructure, tourists will receive a travel document to guide them on proper behavior in the city. 

According to the Kyoto City Tourism Association, Kyoto received 53.6 million domestic and foreign visitors in 2017, overwhelming the small, local population of 1.5million. The number of visitors is expected to continue to rise. 

Also read: Kyoto Creates New App to ‘School’ Rude Tourists on Proper Etiquette

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Alicia Chong
Alicia Chong

Besides dreaming of far-fetched locations, Alicia enjoys training herself and others on ice in figure skating.

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