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Kyoto’s Geisha district fights back against overtourism

Kyoto’s Gion district, renowned for geisha culture, combats overtourism by restricting access to private alleys, imposing fines, aiming for sustainable tourism that respects its historical essence and residents’ quality of life.

Kyoto, Japan’s ancient capital and a magnet for tourists, is taking a stand against unruly visitors in its famed geisha district, Gion. The district is known for its narrow, picturesque alleys lined with traditional teahouses, where geisha entertain with music and dance.

However, the surge in tourism has brought unwelcome side effects. Tourists crowd the streets, following tour guides for extended periods and disrupting the peaceful atmosphere. This has led the Gion district to close off some private alleys to pedestrian traffic. Signs will be posted in both Japanese and English, informing visitors that these are private roads and trespassing is not allowed. Fines of up to 10,000 yen (approximately $70) will be implemented.

This move reflects a growing frustration with “overtourism” in Kyoto. While tourism is a significant economic driver for Japan, the residents of Gion feel it’s come at a cost to their quality of life. Gion’s appeal lies in its preserved historical character, and the constant crowds disrupt this delicate balance.

Before the pandemic, complaints about overtourism were rising steadily. The pandemic offered a reprieve, but now visitor numbers are bouncing back to pre-pandemic levels. Over 22 million tourists visited Japan last year, and estimates suggest this year’s numbers could surpass 2019’s record of 31 million.

The residents of Gion have made their feelings clear: Kyoto is a living city, not a theme park. They yearn for a return to a more respectful and sustainable form of tourism where visitors can appreciate the district’s beauty without compromising its tranquility.

Co-Founder & Chief Editor - TravelDailyNews Media Network | + Articles

Vicky is the co-founder of TravelDailyNews Media Network where she is the Editor-in Chief. She is also responsible for the daily operation and the financial policy. She holds a Bachelor's degree in Tourism Business Administration from the Technical University of Athens and a Master in Business Administration (MBA) from the University of Wales. She has many years of both academic and industrial experience within the travel industry. She has written/edited numerous articles in various tourism magazines.