Disrespectful tourists and the destruction they leave in their inconsiderate wake have struck again as the most famous district in Kyoto, the ancient capital of Japan and home to 17 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, has banned photography in most areas.
If you’ve long held dreams of visiting the jewel in the crown of traditional Japan to take images of geisha and maiko (training geisha) in old-style kimono elegantly walking the quiet, gorgeously lit cobble stone streets then you might want to rethink your plans. As NHK and Japan Today report, the district of Gion, in Kyoto, where almost all of the images you see online are taken, has banned all photography on its streets except for a few major, central thoroughfares. This is not a knee-jerk reaction by any means as residents, shopkeepers, and traditionalists have been forlornly fighting for years to educate tourists on how to behave in this quaint old town that’s a throwback to a bygone era. Unfortunately, tourists have not heeded warnings, or read freely distributed handouts or infographics on how to behave respectfully. Or they have read them but simply ignored them. Well, it’s all come to a sad, grinding halt for photographers. If you are found taking photos in any of the banned areas you will be issued a fine. Apparently, aerial surveillance will also be employed.
This comes on the back of Uluru, the famous giant rock in central Australia (formerly known as Ayer’s Rock) officially banning all climbing as of late October. With news that the ban was being officially enforced, climber numbers spiked. What’s incredible is that people interviewed on the last days before the ban came into force said they knew it was disrespectful but climbed it anyway, or they couldn’t see what the problem was. Is this a symptom of the modern day “me first” mentality, particularly as people document their lives through social media? And are these ever increasing bans just a manifestation of these symptoms? I’d love to hear your thoughts below. Regardless, Kyoto will not be as photographically accessible or attractive as it once was thanks to tourist behavior. Of that we cannot dispute.