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Japan: The alleyways of Kyoto's geisha district will be closed to tourists soon

Japan: The alleyways of Kyoto's geisha district will be closed to tourists soon

An official in this western Japanese city said on Thursday that tourists will soon be banned from entering the private alleys in the famous geisha district in Kyoto, as part of its attempt to combat the effects of excessive tourism after the epidemic.

Residents of Japan's former imperial capital have long expressed frustration with the behavior of some tourists, especially in the Gion area, which is home to tea houses where geiko, the local name for geisha, and their young apprentices, maiko, are located.

Last December, the Gion Municipal Council asked Kyoto City to take action against behavior deemed undesirable, such as the harassment of geishas. “Gion is not an amusement park,” they said.

As of April, the council will also ask tourists not to use private streets, Isukazu Ota, a council official, told AFP.

He added, “We don't want to do that, but we are desperate,” noting that signs would be put up to warn visitors.

Gion's main street, Hanamikoji, will remain open to tourists.

According to Mr. Ota, groups of tourists sometimes act “like photographers” when geishas emerge from these narrow streets, which are only a meter or two wide.

Japanese media have also reported incidents such as tourists tearing their maiko kimono or having a cigarette butt thrown into their collar.

Contrary to popular belief, geisha are not prostitutes, but rather entertainers who entertain their clients with Japanese dances, musical performances and games.

Since the lifting of border restrictions imposed during the pandemic, Japan has seen an influx of foreign visitors, and has at times taken measures against overtourism.

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This summer, hikers taking the most popular route to climb Mount Fuji will have to pay an entrance fee of 12 euros, and the number of people will be limited for security reasons.