By Cailey Rizzo
November 11, 2019

Amid reports of bad tourist behavior, a neighborhood in Japan’s Kyoto has banned unwanted photography on roads frequented by geishas.

The photography ban is effective on private roads in Kyoto’s Gion neighborhood, a part of town known for its population of geiko — commonly known as geishas — and their apprentices, locally known as maiko. 

The area’s stone roads, ancient temples and wooden teahouses — and its appearance in films like “Memoirs of a Geisha” — make it a popular place for tourists to visit and take pictures. While walking around the streets of Gion, it is not uncommon to see geiko and maiko in full kimono, on their way to their evening performances, often at restaurants where they entertain customers over a multiple-course kaiseki dinner.

Geishas in Kyoto.
Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

But sometimes these pictures are selfies with geiko, taken without warning and without permission. Tourists can go as far as chasing after geiko and tugging at their kimono in an attempt to snap a photo.

“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.”

The banned area mostly includes the small alleyways off the main Hanamikoji street. Signs have been posted in these alleys, warning tourists that if they’re caught snapping photos of geishas without permission, they face a fine of about $92 (¥10,000), according to NHK News.

Other efforts to curb bad behavior in Kyoto include a smartphone app that sends visitors push notification, reminding them of proper local manners, according to the Japan Times.

The neighborhood council has also begun handing out stickers and bookmarks in English and Chinese that remind visitors of proper behavior when they’re in Kyoto.

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