Kyoto Is Implementing More Rules for Tourists — What to Know

Tourists who enter private alleys will be fined.

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The Japanese city of Kyoto is banning tourists from some private alleys in its geisha district.

The city will place signs in both English and Japanese around the area, called Gion, warning tourists to stay clear as well as fine anyone who doesn’t listen, The Associated Press reported. The fine will amount to 10,000 yen ($67.97).

The public streets in Gion will remain open.

“We are going to put up signs in April that tell tourists to stay out of our private streets,” local district official Isokazu Ota told the wire service.

The decision to ban visitors from these blocks comes as the city has dealt with overcrowding and misbehaving tourists, the AP noted.

This isn’t the first time Kyoto has tried to protect geisha, the women who dress up in traditional kimonos and makeup and perform for customers while they dine. In 2015, the city handed out pamphlets warning against “nuisance activities,” which included taking photos of geisha, CNN reported. And in 2019, Gion again put up signs prohibiting photography and warning of potential fines.

“The people taking pictures of the streets of Gion on the main street and the tourists taking pictures of [apprentice geisha] from afar are probably unaware of the rule against photography,” Ota told CNN. “But I think the foreign tourists waiting for [apprentice geisha] to come out in the alleys of Gion’s photography-prohibited areas know the rules but are ignoring them. Even if we warn tourists, it is difficult to get through to them at this point.”

Kyoto isn’t the only area in Japan cracking down on tourists. The local government for Mount Fuji has also voted to impose limits on daily climbers and charge them a fee as well as place new guides on the mountain to manage safety and enforce etiquette.

However, while certain areas in Japan impose rules to deal with overtourism, the country as a whole is courting visitors. To that end, the country is launching a digital nomad program, which will allow foreigners to travel to Japan and work in an effort to expand tourism. The visa will be offered to visitors from dozens of countries and territories, including the United States.

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