April 13, 2024

Kyoto: An army of tourists must be protected – News


Guests are no longer allowed access to certain alleys – too many traditional Japanese artists have been harassed in the past.

what is he talking about? In the Japanese city of Kyoto, tourists will not be able to access certain streets and alleys from April. This is because foreign guests frequently attracted negative attention when interacting with Japanese geisha artists. Kyoto – a city with a population of about 1.4 million – received about 40 million visitors from home and abroad in 2022. The streets and historic districts of the city are very busy – and every tourist wants to take home a souvenir photo – preferably a photo of a geisha.

What exactly is a geisha? A geisha – in Kyoto called a geiko – is a traditional Japanese artist. Contrary to popular belief in the West, she is not a prostitute. Geisha are perhaps the most iconic symbol of Japanese culture. Elegant and carefully groomed women entertain, dance, serve drinks and mingle with the crowd. The most famous geisha district of all is in Kyoto: Gion.

Tourists are running after an army, and some travelers have been attacked.

What is maiko? A young woman is called a maiko when she is training to become a geisha. This occurs around the age of 15 to 20 years. The “apprenticeship” lasts up to six years, after which they can become an army officer. The maiko's mission is to bring the banquet to life through song and dance in the Gion district of Kyoto and other Hanamachi areas. They also show their skills in tourist restaurants.

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Maikos entertain tourists in the Gion district of Kyoto. Traditional dances and music are the focus.

Reuters/Toru Hanai

What do tourists do? Geisha and maiko live in historical areas of Kyoto – such as the Gion area. Accordingly, in the eyes of many tourists, it is a particularly suitable photographic subject. “Tourists are running after them, and some travelers have even been attacked,” says Katrin Erdmann, ARD's Japan correspondent. The narrow streets are often crowded with tourists and geishas can no longer pass through to get to work. Many tourists do not even realize that people live there and that they live on traditional residential streets.

Concerns about young geisha

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The measure to protect geisha and maiko in Kyoto is also aimed at preserving the attractiveness of the profession of Japanese artists. Because fewer and fewer young women want to train to become militarists. “If word spreads that minors are afraid of aggressive tourists, it is not good advertising for the profession,” says ARD correspondent Erdmann.

What is a ban? For several years there have been signs in affected areas of Kyoto asking people to behave respectfully towards geisha and maiko. “But that did not help much, which is why new signs have now appeared asking tourists not to enter private streets anymore,” the ARD correspondent said. Anyone who does not comply will be fined the equivalent of 55 francs. The authorities justify the ban by saying that women, some of whom are young, are subjected to excessive pressure due to the “siege” by tourists.