"Out of control" behavior: Kyoto bans tourists from Geisha district

After too many tourists have behaved like idiots, Kyoto's Gion district announced a ban on visitors entering the narrow backstreets where geisha work and train. This decision, effective in April, aims to shield geisha and maiko (trainee geisha) from disruptive tourist behaviors, such as unsolicited photography and physical harassment.

Despite regulations, tourists have relentlessly pursued geisha and maiko to snap photographs, often without consent. This includes waiting in photography-prohibited areas and ignoring local customs and rules, touching and pulling the kimonos worn by geisha, obstructing geisha's paths, demanding poses for photos, pulling their hair ornaments, and flicking cigarette ash on them.

There have been instances of tourists entering private properties uninvited to take photographs or touch the traditional lanterns hanging outside. Tourists have obstructed streets by lying down or standing in the middle to take selfies, often while dressed in rented kimonos. In one case, a tourist threw $10,000 and a room key at a geisha.

Isokazu Ota, Gion's representative, said the ban was necessary because visitors were ignoring existing photography bans. "Even if we warn tourists, it is difficult to get through to them," Ota told CNN. This sentiment was echoed by Peter Macintosh, a Kyoto-based expert on geisha culture, who told The South China Morning Post that the situation was "completely out of control… They put up signs a few years ago saying photographing the geisha was banned, but it has no legal standing, and everyone just ignores it."