In recent years, overtourism has been a looming problem in Japan especially in the extremely popular cities of Kyoto, Nara, and Tokyo.
Compared to Tokyo, Kyoto still maintains its old-world charm with pebbled streets and machiya, traditional wooden houses, can be seen almost everywhere. Kyoto’s Gion district is well-known among tourists as one of the few places in Japan where you can definitely spot a geisha or maiko.
Hanamikoji Main Street (photo above) is open to the public and you can take photos freely here but many roads lead off it which have private residences. Usually, there will be a sign with the following characters “私道” and most Japanese probably avoid entering these streets.
However, since the signs are only in Japanese, many foreigners ignore them and enter private roads taking photos of residences. Clearly an invasion of privacy, the local residents’ association has decided prohibit photography on private roads starting October 25, 2019.
A fine of 10,000 yen will be placed on anyone violating the rule or taking photos without permission. Three years ago, there were already cautionary boards but it seemed to have little effect and tourists continue to disturb private property. Make sure to keep an eye out for these characters where ever you go in Japan “私道”.
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