Coronavirus Chased Off Tourists—Locals Don’t Want Them Ever Flocking Back

Coronavirus Chased Off Tourists—Locals Don’t Want Them Ever Flocking Back

Coronavirus Chased Off Tourists—Locals Don’t Want Them Ever Flocking Back

KYOTO, Japan—The bustle of tourists has disappeared from this ancient capital—only to be replaced by dissension over whether they should ever be welcomed back.

Mimiko Takayasu, 80 years old, is proprietress of a century-old tea house where geisha entertain wealthy Japanese with traditional music and dance. Until the coronavirus pandemic, the streets of Gion, Kyoto’s high-end entertainment district, were packed with amateur paparazzi trying to get snapshots of apprentice geisha called maiko.

“All of Gion was turned into a visitor attraction, like an amusement park, and maiko were treated like Mickey Mouse,” Ms. Takayasu said.

She said she doesn’t want tourists around even after the pandemic eases. Others in Kyoto, however, say their livelihood depends on restoring the pre-pandemic tourist trade.

The debate is playing out in some other cities, particularly in Europe, where the current quiet has sometimes inspired a desire to return to the days before cheap air tickets allowed the masses to flood the globe’s cultural centers.

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