Japanese Cultural Exploration: Take a Hint in Kyoto, Difficult Communication Skills Even for Most Japanese People

Kyoto language is too difficult even for most of the Japanese people

Japan is basically a monolingual country. Most Japanese people can’t even speak English. In other words, we can communicate only in Japanese anywhere in Japan, but there’s one exception: It’s Kyoto. As most of you may know, it’s the ancient capital of Japan. No offense if you are a big fan of Kyoto, but Kyoto people are often said to be snobbish and still believe Kyoto is the center of Japan.

This is a stereotypical idea many Japanese people outside of Kyoto have in their minds, and I’m sure it’s generally truthful. Making matters worse, their language is too difficult even for most Japanese people outside Kyoto. It’s not about their accent or dialect, though I admit their accent and dialect are most beautiful. In Kyoto, we’re always and strictly required to understand the implication of their words. Let me give you some examples.

Concealing true intentions is ancient wisdom for Kyoto people to survive

If your kids are running around in a restaurant in Kyoto, the restaurant staff might smile at you and say “They are so cheerful.” Don’t you ever reply like “Yeah, they’re so excited about coming here in Kyoto.” The staff means “Shut them up!” Even if you wear a cheesy shirt, Kyoto people would smile gently and say “You look good no matter what you wear.” The real intention is “Aren’t you ashamed of yourself?”

I’m not blaming Kyoto people here but respect their culture on the contrary, though I don’t think I can survive there. The long history of Kyoto has created such a profound culture. According to a theory of historical science, concealing true intentions is ancient wisdom for Kyoto people to survive through many struggles that had repeated over time in the power center of Japan.

It's a scene of our final product inspection. An inspector is seriously checking a dining chair.

The high context communication supports the artisan culture

Kyoto language is an extreme example, but it’s true we are required to read between the lines in communication in any place in Japan. For example, “I’ll go if I can” means “I’ll never go.” “Let’s go for a dring sometime soon” is a way of saying goodbye. That may be difficult for people in many other countries and cultures, but this is what we always do here in Japan, an almost mono-cultural country. The good point of this high-context communication here is we can convey detailed nuances more easily. That also contributes to a technique transmission in the furniture making industry, I’m guessing.

2020/09/02 By Shungo Ijima

Source: https://www.neverendingvoyage.com/things-to-do-in-kyoto-japan/