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Kyoto geisha district bans tourists from private alleys due to over tourism.

Photo-Yahoo News UK

The Gion district in Kyoto, renowned for its iconic geisha culture, is implementing measures to address overtourism by restricting access to private alleys, responding to concerns raised by local residents. As part of these efforts, visitors will be prohibited from entering private lanes within the district, aiming to curb instances of disruptive tourist behavior, particularly in areas frequented by geisha and their apprentices, known as maiko.

Residents of Kyoto have voiced longstanding frustrations over the impact of tourism on their community, with the Gion district bearing the brunt of such issues. In December, a council representing Gion residents urged city authorities to address the matter, emphasizing that their neighborhood should not be treated as a mere tourist attraction. Instances of tourists disrespecting cultural norms, such as damaging traditional garments worn by maiko or invading their privacy, have heightened concerns among residents.

In response to ongoing challenges, the council has opted to take a proactive stance by enforcing restrictions on tourist access to private alleys, starting from April. Isokazu Ota, an executive member of the council, expressed the necessity of these measures, citing the urgency of the situation. Signs will be erected to notify visitors of the ban, signaling a concerted effort to manage tourist behavior and preserve the integrity of the Gion district.

While access to public thoroughfares, like Hanamikoji Street, will remain unrestricted, the decision to limit entry to narrower private streets reflects a desire to protect the privacy and dignity of the district's residents and cultural practitioners. Ota highlighted the intrusive nature of tourist behavior, particularly likening it to intrusive paparazzi tactics when geisha traverse the alleys. Previous attempts to mitigate disruptive behavior, such as implementing fines for unauthorized photography, have proven insufficient in addressing the root causes of overtourism.

The Gion district's struggle with overtourism is emblematic of broader challenges faced by popular tourist destinations in Japan, exacerbated by the surge in tourism following the relaxation of pandemic-related restrictions. In response, authorities are exploring various measures to manage visitor numbers and promote responsible tourism practices. For instance, plans to introduce a fee for hikers ascending Mount Fuji aim to regulate foot traffic and ensure the sustainability of the iconic landmark.

By taking proactive steps to address overtourism, the Gion district seeks to strike a balance between preserving its cultural heritage and accommodating visitors' interests. As tourism continues to play a significant role in Japan's economy, sustainable management practices are imperative to safeguarding the unique cultural identity and well-being of local communities.

March 8, 2024 3:38 p.m. 6672

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