Kyoto: The capital full of sarcasm


Is Kyoto a comfortable city to live in? When foreigners say they want to live in Kyoto, I always imagine it. Actually among Japanese people Kyoto is famous as a very closed city.

What Kyoto became a very closed place was because of its culture; it is the sarcastic Kyotones.

The most sarcastic people in Japan

We have a culture called “Honne and Tatemae”. Maybe if you read this blog, you already know it as a custom that what we say and what we feel are different.

However also for us who use this high level of conversation custom, the Honne and Tatemae of the Kyotonese is not understandable.

Do you doubt me? OK, let’s look at some examples.

“Oh is it okay? For Onobori San It’s a very new taste,isn’t it?”

It’s a memory I cannot forget. When we traveled to Kyoto with my family, we went to a restaurant that a travel magazine presented as a very traditional and good restaurant.

Actually it was true, all the dishes are great and artistic. Well, my father said to a cook, “Sir, it’s great. I never ate Japanese cuisine like what you cook.” The expressionless cook replied, “Hmm… For Onobori San is a very new taste, isn’t it?”

Onobori San is an insult word to indicate crude peasants. Noboru is a verb meaning To go up, and we use To go up to indicate to go to the capital. So Onobori San is an insult word to indicate people who come to the capital.

We are from Tokyo, it is the current capital, and the time when Kyoto was the capital of Japan ended 150 years ago, that’s why my father said ungratefully “Look! It’s Kyotones!”.

They have pride that Kyoto was the capital for 1000 years, and they say that even culturally Kyoto is still the capital.

The sales clerk who showed me only expensive things

2.8号豆香炉 吉田屋 - 九谷焼通販 陶らいふ-和食器九谷焼の販売専門店

Really the case of the cook is very easy to understand that he said sarcasm. But usually Kyotones’ sarcasm is very complicated, we even think that we are praised. When I went to an incense store, I experienced it.

This store is very elegant and has a museum of traditional incense. One day I came across this one and went in out of my curiosity. Really, their incense was very good quality, just smelling one I could imagine that I would have become an aristocrat, and at this time a clerk said to me;

“Good morning Sir, have you come to our store to buy the incense?”

“Ah.. hmm I didn’t think I wanted to buy a specific brand, but your incense is amazing.”

“Haha Thank you sir, well for example how about this Censer? It’s made of a traditional Nagasaki pottery.”

It really was a very elegant censer, engraved an elephant and a peacock, and the ceramic color is very white like the skin of the goddess.

I thought it was impossible to buy. But the sales clerk showed me several other expensive censers. So I gradually felt it was weird because there is no reason to show these expensive ones to a boy in jeans.

“Ah.. hmm they are very elegant but…”

When I said it like that, I noticed his intention. He wanted to tell me “Here is not the place for you, muchcho. Look at the price of incense burners, and go home.” Then there was no longer any need for me to stay there, I fled smiling from this tent.

I always doubt that Kyotones
is telling me the truth like that or insinuating something to me.

Also on the internet his sarcasm is very famous.

アスペルガー滋賀県民に京都の皮肉は通じない | あかねのアスペルガー人生
“It’s very good”= Aha So? in Kyoto

Kyoto sarcasm makes many Japanese memes on the Internet. If you google on the internet you can come across many typical sarcasm. I show you some examples.

assorted silver colored pocket watch lot selective focus photo
Photo by Giallo on

Ah, you have a good watch!

You talk a lot, look at your watch. How many minutes went by for your boring talk?

Where are you from? You’re so lively!

Shut up, peasant!

In conclusion, I don’t want to live in Kyoto as a domestic immigrant. …. Osaka is more cosmopolitan and better.

What do you think? After knowing the shape of real Kyoto, do you still want to live in this city?

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