Tourists criticised for standing in front of traffic and treating the traditionally dressed women like objects.

For many international travellers to Japan, the traditional city of Kyoto is high up on their list of must-see places. However, as the city deals with overcrowding due to its burgeoning popularity, locals are becoming more and more irate with the bad behaviour of overseas tourists.

In fact, the behaviour of foreign visitors has become such a sore point with locals that TripAdvisor Japan even created a handy infographic showing how to politely visit Kyoto back in 2015.

The problems addressed in the awareness campaign included points like “Take your shoes off before stepping on tatami” and “Don’t cancel restaurants at the last minute“, but one of the most important issues addressed was “Be polite when asking maiko for pictures“, with a blurb that read:

“Maiko wear kimonos as part of their job. Please refrain from stopping them and coercing them into taking pictures with you. They may sometimes be in a hurry, so do not bother them or grab them by their kimono sleeves.”

The kimonos worn by maiko and geisha are incredibly expensive, and their responsibility to arrive on time for appointments with high-paying clients is especially important to their work.

None of that seems to matter to many foreign tourists when they spot one of these traditionally dressed women on the street, however, as this TV report shows.

Shared online by Twitter user @tamaki_nisimura, who works in the inbound tourism sector, the video shows foreigners running after a maiko, desperate to take a photo of the woman without asking her for her permission, and carelessly obstructing traffic in the process.

The commentary from the morning TV presenters focussed on the fact that these were foreign tourists taking photos and running into traffic. However, the Twitter user who posted the clip says she doesn’t think the tourists themselves are necessarily at fault, as she thinks the real evil is tours that promote “geisha spotting”. She also believes there needs to be more education surrounding the issue so that locals and foreign tourists can co-exist harmoniously.

Her stance divided people online, with one user pointing out that signs like the one below already exist in Kyoto to remind tourists to watch their manners.

The tweet brought out a variety of comments from both side of the fence:

“They should have something about the rules and correct etiquette on the plane to Japan so that people know what to do when they enter the country.”
“This is the government’s problem. They need to put countermeasures in place to prevent this sort of thing from happening.”
“If Kyoto wants to promote its image as a city with maiko and geisha, they should do something to protect them.”
“Even if you ask overseas travellers to watch their manners they won’t care. All they care about is getting a photo for social media.”

“If tourists want to see a maiko so badly, they should make a reservation and pay for it.”
“These women aren’t objects or sightseeing spectacles to be gawked at.”
“Maiko are usually minors so you have to be especially considerate of them.”

Kyotoites are protective of their city and its cultural and historical treasures, which include the longstanding maiko and geisha tradition. However, with so many Japanese travellers now avoiding Kyoto, and growing backlash against foreign travellers due to overtourism, perhaps both local authorities and tourists need to work together to create a better experience for everyone.

What do you think about the current state of tourism in Kyoto? Let us know in the comments section below!

Source: Twitter/@tamaki_nisimura
Featured image: Twitter/@tamaki_nisimura
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