Kyoto campaign touts city’s sights as ideal honeymoon destination

by Ryo Sugihara

Kyodo

A campaign is underway in Kyoto to attract foreign honeymooners to the city, but to arrange their photo shoots without disturbing the temples and shrines that offer perfect pictures for newlyweds.

“I hope Kyoto will become the starting point for foreign couples,” said wedding planner Hidetoshi Watabe, 47, chairman of a newly launched council promoting Japanese-style wedding celebrations for foreign tourists.

Watabe, a native of the city, used to work for another company but joined Watabe Wedding Corp., a local firm founded by his father, as chairman in April.

For the past decade, Watabe Wedding has fielded occasional phone calls from newlyweds in China, Taiwan and Hong Kong who are interested in having their photos taken in traditional Japanese dress in Kyoto.

“We didn’t really promote such a service, but every year we would get these queries,” Watabe said.

Meanwhile, temples and shrines were filing complaints with the Kyoto Prefectural Government about inappropriate behavior by foreign wedding companies bringing newly-weds to the city.

The foreign companies, usually based elsewhere in Asia, would arrange photo shoots on temple grounds without permission and spend long hours disrupting sites shared with worshippers and other tourists.

In March, the prefectural government, together with entities such as the Kyoto Buddhist Organization and the Kyoto prefectural branch of the Association of Shinto Shrines, established the council to help foreign couples understand the rules surrounding photo shoots in Kyoto. The council also promotes access to the city’s traditional crafts and industries, such as kimono.

Shortly after taking the post as head of the council, Watabe invited journalists and foreign tour companies in Asia to visit the city and learn about suitable photo locations, such as Kamigamo Shrine and Nijo Castle.

“I hope foreign couples can learn about Japan’s tradition and spirituality by taking photos dressed up in a traditional style,” Watabe said.