Rude tourists in Japan get schooled on local etiquette

Kyoto residents complain that tourists chase geisha down streets for photos, are loud and disruptive at night and ignore local customs.

The charming, historic, temple-filled Japanese city has always been a travel hot spot, and its number of visitors keeps growing. More than 53 million tourists flooded Kyoto’s narrow streets in 2017.

The up-tick in bodies has also overloaded the bus system around tourist sites, leaving the vehicles too packed for locals to use.

So, as of Monday, officials are educating tourists about proper Japanese etiquette via messages to their smartphones, the New York Post reports.

Tourists in Kyoto are being schooled on etiquette. Picture: istockSource:Supplied

A pilot program around Kyoto’s famous Hanamikoji street in the Gion district, considered the birthplace of the geisha, is designed to placate residents, according to the South China Morning Post.

The rules, which are in both English and Chinese, ask that visitors refrain from taking pictures of geisha — elaborately and traditionally dressed women skilled in singing and playing instruments — without permission.

Many of the rules concern the city’s geisha. Picture: istockSource:istock

They also include instructions not to touch lanterns and warn tourists to walk on the sides of the street instead of in the middle. The messages also explain that a barrier, called a “kekkai”, denotes private property.

The new etiquette reminders — from the Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Ministry in co-operation with the Kyoto government — are sent via a tourist-information app that can be downloaded on smartphones. Some visitors rent or borrow mobile devices from their hotels, and those come with the app so that users will automatically receive the information until December 8 when the pilot program ends.

Tourists have misconceptions about geisha. Picture: iStockSource:istock

Tourists should remember that geisha are not paid by the tourism board, and when they are spotted in the street, they are usually on their way to work, according to Avi Lugasi, founder of travel company Windows to Japan.

“Geisha are aware that they are a special and unique aspect of the Japanese culture and subject to interest, so it is a part of their lives, but people need to respect them, too,” Mr Lugasi told CNN in 2014. He suggested tourists take their photographs from the side or back and stay out of the geisha’s path.

Kyoto is one of Japan’s most popular destinations for tourists. Picture: iStockSource:istock

“Tourists have had a huge positive impact on local businesses and we believe that their experiences are helping to promote Kyoto around the world,” Kei Tamura, Kyoto-dwelling director of tour company Cerca Travel, told the South China Morning Post.

“But, on the other hand, there are people here who say it has already gone too far, that there are simply too many tourists in the city and the local infrastructure cannot cope.”

This article originally appeared on the New York Post and was reproduced with permission

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