There’s nothing quite like taking a lantern-lit evening stroll down the moody, stone-paved streets of Kyoto’s Gion neighbourhood. Lined with 17th-century traditional wooden buildings that house restaurants and teahouses, it’s an understandably popular tourist spot. It is here you are most likely to catch sight of Geisha, Japanese women who don traditional dress and entertain with storytelling, singing and dancing. While it can be exciting to suddenly be confronted with such rich tradition, tourists are now being asked to refrain from taking pictures while in certain areas of the neighbourhood.

A Geisha walks through Gion at night
Tourists have been asked to be more respectful in Gion © James Gabriel Martin

According to Japan Today, a collection of residents in Gion have banded together to implement a ban on photography on private streets in the neighbourhood. So while it’s still ok to snap some images on the main street of Hanami-kōji for example, private side streets where residents access their homes are now off limits. The new regulations were introduced on October 25, and see the areas being monitored by cameras. A ¥10,000 (approximately $90) fine is also in place, should tourists break the rules. 

Yasaka Pagoda in Kyoto
Kyoto enjoys an understandably strong reputation as being a top place to visit in Japan © James Gabriel Martin

Kyoto has long been working to implement a structure that will lead to both tourists and locals alike having more positive experiences. Complaints about visitor misbehaviour have been alarmingly frequent in the last few years, even leading to the city releasing an etiquette guide aimed at educating tourists on the proper behaviour in Gion. 

It includes five golden rules, namely, don’t stop in the middle of the street, don’t touch the paper lanterns or sit on the inuyarai bamboo fences, don’t enter private properties, don’t smoke on the street and do not take images of Geisha or Maiko (Geisha in training) without permission. The guide also calls attention to barriers called kekkai, that signal the area behind them are private property, asking tourists to please refrain from venturing beyond them.

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