In Kyoto, it is still possible to glimpse a geisha gliding past Gion’s wooden machiya buildings, her scarlet-stained lips and enigmatic air typifying traditions kept alive since Japan’s imperial era. The accompanying crush of tourists thrusting telephoto lenses and swinging selfie sticks in her direction, however, is a rude reminder that this is 2018.

When not harassing women on their way to or from work, the more than 50 million visitors (domestic and international) who visit Kyoto annually are busy misbehaving in other ways. According to an October 20 article in The Asahi Shimbun, the daily lives of the city’s residents are “marred by half-naked hikers, trespassing travellers and prolonged photo shoots”.

A recent report in The Sydney Morning Herald added dive-bombing into onsen, wearing shoes in tatami rooms and carving names into the bamboo groves of Arashiyama, a popular spot on the outskirts of Kyoto, to the growing list of terrible tourist comportment.

In an attempt to combat such behaviour, business owners and residents of Kyoto’s Gion-Shinbashi district have established a “scenery preservation” committee, signing a memorandum demanding that tourists mind their manners. “If no countermeasures are taken, the elegant view of Gion will be spoiled,” Kanji Tomita, vice representative of the group, told The Asahi Shimbun.

The committee’s directive targets shutterbugs in particular, stipulating, among other things, that they should spend less time posing and not change outfits in public. This comes as an addendum to an etiquette manual compiled by the Kyoto Convention and Visitors Bureau, which warns against cycling while under the influence of alcohol, littering, smoking outside designated areas, hassling geishas, cancelling restaurant reservations at the last minute and tipping.

Unfortunately, a polite poster and a group of aggrieved inhabitants will do little to remedy the city’s issues with overtourism. Nor will Japan’s aggressive tourism targets; the country hopes to reach 40 million international arrivals by 2020 and 60 million by 2030. In 2017, it welcomed 28.7 million visitors from overseas.

“The key is to disperse crowds in crowded times, crowded areas or crowded seasons,” Kyoto Mayor Daisaku Kadokawa told Japan’s public broadcaster NHK this month. The city’s tourist board is experimenting with measures to ease congestion, including opening attractions earlier to promote morning excursions, making less-frequented areas more appealing and advertising Kyoto as a year-round destination with more to offer than sakura (cherry blossoms) and koyo (autumn leaves).

The national government, too, seems to be taking overtourism seriously. The Japan Tourism Agency has launched a survey into the effects of too many visitors, which, it hopes, will highlight ways in which travellers and residents can coexist in harmony. If not, “Tokyo is aware that the numerical targets may not be met if a backlash from residents diminishes tourist satisfaction”, reported Kyodo, on October 15.

Autumn colours in Japan are glorious. Here’s the best place to see them

In the meantime, perhaps it would be best to steer clear of Kyoto’s packed pavements, particularly if you’re dressed in kimono and obi. Destinations Known recommends following the foliage forecast and taking the train out of the city.

In an attempt to combat such behaviour, business owners and residents of Kyoto’s Gion-Shinbashi district have established a “scenery preservation” committee, signing a memorandum demanding that tourists mind their manners. “If no countermeasures are taken, the elegant view of Gion will be spoiled,” Kanji Tomita, vice representative of the group, told The Asahi Shimbun.

Try Mount Koya, a Buddhist retreat three hours from Kyoto, or Shoshazan Engyo-ji Temple, in the hills above Himeji, for peak koyo, without the crowds.


Asian destinations on “best of” lists

The end of the year is but a speck on the temporal horizon, which means it must be time for a proliferation of “best of” lists.

Condé Nast Traveler’s readers’ choice awards were quick out of the starting blocks, on October 9, with the Philippines’ Siargao, Boracay and Palawan scooping the top three spots in its best islands in Asia list, followed by Langkawi, in Malaysia, and Bali, in Indonesia.

Despite being out of action for six months, Boracay’s White Beach also achieved second place on TripAdvisor’s recent round-up of the best beaches in Asia, behind Agonda Beach, in Goa, India. Anyone who has ever spent time on Agonda will surely lament its inclusion here, as will those familiar with Ngapali (No 3), in Myanmar; Radhanagar Beach (No 4), on Havelock Island, in India’s Andaman and Nicobar Islands; and PhraNang Cave Beach (No 5), in Thailand, which are all noted for their peace and tranquillity … qualities that will probably soon be in short supply.

Meanwhile, Lonely Planet is looking ahead to the new year with its picks for the hottest countries and cities to visit in 2019, courting some minor controversy along the way. British newspaper The Independent reports that in two of its top destinations, Sri Lanka and Zimbabwe, violence and threats against women have recently been recorded.

Also representing the region is Indonesia, while the cities list includes Shenzhen (No 2), in China, and Kathmandu (No 5), in Nepal.


Tourist plays third wheel to a pair of monkeys’ business in Bali

Bali’s monkey forests offer visitors the opportunity to get up close and personal with their simian inhabitants, usually long-tailed macaques in search of a tasty treat. However, on a recent trip to Sangeh Monkey Forest, to the west of Ubud, one tourist got a little too close and rather too personal with a pair of mating monkeys.

A female macaque climbed onto the woman’s lap, after she’d sat down to pose for a photo, and was promptly followed by a male, who wasted no time in getting down to monkey business.

A tour guide interrupted the intimate moment by distracting the coupling couple with food – and the mortified tourist looked thoroughly relieved the ordeal was over.