Tuesday, 7 April 2009

Geisha Peeping!

Photo ©Hiroshi Yamauch-All Rights Reserved.

How awful! The New York Times has an article on how Kyoto, the historic and former imperial capital, is attracting hordes of tourists wanting to photograph the geisha and maiko, who, with their "elaborate dress, white-painted faces and stylized gestures, exercise a special allure for Western imaginations as the seeming embodiment of Japanese tradition."

Further on in the article, I read that a record 927,000 foreigners spent a night in Kyoto in 2007, a substantial growth over the preceding year. On the other hand, the estimated number of geisha is only 1,000 to 2,000, as compared to 80,000 in the 1920s.

I'm saddened, but not surprised, that the Kyoto residents, and the geisha, are now complaining that tourists with cameras are aggressive, and even "ambush and surround the young women for close-ups. Sometimes, they say, the tourists block their way, pull their sleeves, and at times have even caused them to trip over."

On the other hand, I'm not fussed by the fellow in the above photograph. He's maintaining a reasonably respectful distance from the two geisha, and I don't see that as harassment. However, I can imagine the behavior of tourists with small compact cameras wanting to get close-ups on the geisha faces! Disgraceful.

The article is authored by Miki Tanikawa.