Now that pandemic restrictions have uniformly been eased around the world, many countries have opened their borders, including Japan. Some of you may be raring to visit the Land of the Rising Sun to partake in its great scenery and even greater food. We tend to think of Japanese people as a homogeneous race. They are typically described as serious-minded, polite, earnest, kind, and diligent, among others. But the Japanese themselves don’t think so. They are of the opinion that Japanese hailing from one prefecture will differ significantly from their counterparts in another prefecture. This belief is so widespread that a term, “kenminsei”, has been coined to denote the characteristics of people who come from a particular prefecture. So how are Kyoto people like?
Kyoto was once the capital of Japan for more than a thousand years. Its tradition and prestige are being recognised in how it has the nation’s highest number of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Besides landmarks, Kyoto is also a city that is steeped in traditional craftsmanship. Many Kyoto people are loyal to their hometown as they feel a strong sense of duty to carry on the time-honoured techniques that have been painstakingly passed down from their ancestors. This sense of pride is manifested in how they carefully curate their exquisite products and services and floor you with their dignified hospitality. One word describes Kyoto people best: cultured.
In Japanese culture, there is this concept of tatemae (what one must say publicly) vs honne (one’s true feelings). Nowhere is this more apparent than in Kyoto. Kyoto people are famously known for displaying empathy and consideration of people’s feelings, so they will hint at things in a roundabout way. For instance, instead of requesting guests to go home directly, Kyoto people will offer you ochazuke (green tea with rice), hoping that you will get the hint and take your leave. You are not really meant to eat that ochazuke! Hence, if you are not used to how Kyoto people communicate, it will be challenging for you to discern their true feelings.
However, Kyoto people throw off their mask when it comes to work. Fiercely dedicated to their work, they will not hesitate from pointing out others’ mistakes sternly. This is perhaps attributed to how strongly they feel about serving their customers to the best of their ability. Ironically, because of their pride, Kyoto people do not like it when others surface their errors openly. Sounds like workplace relations are a tad tricky to navigate in Kyoto!
In short, Kyoto people are warm and friendly but are hard to get to know on a more personal level.