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Kyoto residents fed up with ill-mannered photo tourists


People often pose for pictures on the parapet of the Tatsumibashi bridge over the Shirakawa river in Kyoto’s Gion-Shinbashi district. (Ryutaro Abe)
Residents here say tourists’ behavior has worsened, and now normally beautiful views and daily lives are marred by half-naked hikers, trespassing travelers and prolonged photo shoots.
Even photo agencies have recognized the problems created by their customers in the ancient capital, parts of which are constantly swarming with domestic and overseas tourists.
The scenery preservation committee of the Gion-Shinbashi district in Kyoto’s Higashiyama Ward in September signed a memorandum with 36 photo agencies, demanding that tourists improve their manners.
The district, a central government-designated historic buildings preservation area since 1976, is particularly popular among couples who want to take wedding photos before their marriage ceremonies.
According to the committee, comprising residents and shop owners, visitors trespass on the grounds of private homes and break off cherry tree branches for photo props or souvenirs.
Some blow soap bubbles for photographic effects, walk around in skimpy dresses on traditional cobblestone roads, and sit on the bridge parapet for some flashy poses.
“Strangers are entering our places of living without paying any respect to the locals,” said Kanji Tomita, 50, vice representative of the scenery preservation committee. “If no countermeasures are taken, the elegant view of Gion will be spoiled.”
The memorandum stipulates visitors should refrain from changing clothes while on public streets, snap their photos in the morning, in principle, and finish their photo shoots as quickly as possible.
The committee expects the photo agencies will follow the rules and instruct their customers to respect them as well.
The committee has also printed 4,000 copies of a leaflet that introduces Gion-Shinbashi. The leaflets will be sent to the agencies for viewing by sightseers.
The material features color pictures of traditional events from the four seasons to drive home the point that the area is not a “film set” designed for photo shoots.
Residents of Gion-Shinbashi have been working aggressively to protect its time-honored scenery. They even have guidelines about the coloring of electricity and gas meters, mailboxes and other items facing the streets.
But with tourists dampening their efforts, an increasing number of residents now feel “an influx of frolicsome people who simply want to take photos will bring about no benefits to the locals.”
Taro Makimura, 51, a photographer who helped to develop the memorandum, said he takes pictures for up to five to six groups in Gion-Shinbashi a day, and that some of them try to pose in unorthodox ways for better photos.
“We, as workers in the photography industry, have to make efforts to convince tourists that the district is a place of daily living of residents,” he said.  (The Asahi Shimbun)

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