National

Kyoto gives foreign tourists a polite push on manners

Kyodo

Tourists from overseas at a popular sightseeing spot in Kyoto are being reminded of etiquette via their smartphones in a pilot project that began Monday, after local residents complained about behavior such as taking pictures of geisha and their apprentice maiko without permission.

The test took place around the Hanamikoji street in Kyoto’s Gion district, where teahouses and other historic buildings are clustered. Visitors who have installed a tourist information app or carry mobile devices rented out by hotels and inns automatically received information about local manners in English and Chinese.

Tourists were also asked not to enter private property when they approached the designated district.

The project, which will run through Dec. 8, was launched by the Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Ministry in cooperation with the Kyoto Municipal Government, after local residents urged the municipality in March to remind tourists to show good manners.

The ministry and the city will evaluate the effects of the project in improving tourists’ behavior using images captured by cameras installed on the streets and by surveying local residents.

In a questionnaire regarding tourists’ behavior that covered a group of local residents, bars and restaurants in August and September last year, members reported seeing visitors “sitting and lying on the streets to take pictures” and “foreigners chasing maiko into stores while holding a camera.”

Unauthorized entry into homes as well as property damage was also cited by residents in the survey. Such disturbing acts by an increasing number of visitors have been frequently observed since around five years ago, according to the group.

While the project is underway, personnel who can speak foreign languages will patrol the area and remind tourists of etiquette if they see disrespectful behavior. Posters are also being put up to raise awareness.

“We’d like to study what steps are effective in dealing with problems stemming from differences in customs,” a Kyoto city government official said.