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The old and enduring mutual dislike between people of Kansai and Kanto

29 Comments

Many countries breed internal rivalries well short of civil war. In Japan, says Sapio (Sept-Oct) it’s east vs west, Kanto vs Kansai. The word the magazine uses in its headline is kenokan, which the dictionary defines variously as “hatred,” “dislike,” “abhorrence,” “disgust.” Take your pick.

Kanto, to Kansai, is an upstart. Kansai, to Kanto, is hidebound. It’s an ancient quarrel, as befits an ancient nation. “Ancient,” of course, is relative. In Kansai terms, we’re talking 1,000 years and more. Tokyo, by contrast, was still a fishing village called Edo when Nara and Kyoto had risen, declined and slowly sank into the faded grandeur, vestiges of which remain to this day. Edo’s rise to metropolitan status was lightning-swift, following a shogunal decision in 1603 to make it the nation’s capital. It became Tokyo (“eastern capital”) in 1868. Kansai’s slide to backwater status gathered speed.

If Kansai people are resentful, who can blame them? Nara, founded in 710, was Japan’s first city and first capital, an impressive imitation of the Chinese capital Chang’an, then the largest city in the world. Sino-Japanese culture was born here. Its heyday was brilliant but short-lived. In 794, the capital was shifted to Kyoto, then called Heian-kyo, and a whole new phase of Japanese culture began – the Heian Period (794-1185).  Osaka, meanwhile, was the economic hub. Where and what was Tokyo all that time, or even Edo? Nowhere, nothing. The Kanto plain in those years was where Nara- and Heian-Period warriors (such as they were, in these pre-samurai days) pushed barbarian tribes when they became obstreperous.

Lost glory is a painful inheritance. By the mid-17th century, the writing was on the wall. Kansai could cling to its glorious past all it liked. The future was Edo’s.

Kansai never got over its rude displacement, writes International Research Center for Japanese Studies Professor Shoichi Inoue in Sapio.  It’s “a feeling of being left behind, a feeling of helpless anger.” Bad enough that the Tokyo dialect became “standard Japanese,” or that Tokyo culture (such as it is) is pervasive and inescapable. More galling still is Tokyo’s economic dominance. Tokyo’s economy to Osaka’s, says Inoue, is 10 to 1. Even companies traditionally based in Osaka moved their head offices to Tokyo, relegating proud Osaka to branch office status.

There’s an irony at work here. As symbolic as anything of Japan’s postwar rise from the ashes is the shinkansen, whose first run was in 1964, the year of the Tokyo Olympics. The shinkansen, Inoue writes, brought hordes of Tokyo tourists to Kansai. Kyoto and Nara had of course been tourist centers even during the Edo Period (1603-1868), but the numbers now were beyond anything. In the shinkansen age, Tokyo people en masse discovered the ancient charm of ancient Kansai – and, as is the way with Tokyo people, made them their own. Their praise was fulsome. The hordes swelled – swelling Kansai pride in proportion, says Inoue.

Kyoto people are good hosts, as befits their elegant inheritance. And if the elegance conceals a hint of condescension – again, who can blame them?

© Japan Today

©2019 GPlusMedia Inc.

29 Comments
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Kansai people are funnier and friendlier. Hence, why all the comedians come from here.

There is a great video that perfectly demonstrates the difference between the people of the two regions. The video host goes up to strangers, pretending to slash them with an imaginary katana, samurai style.

In Kansai, all of the strangers go along with the charade, and mime being slashed. They immediately get the joke, and are happy to play along. In Kanto, they look at the host like "What are you doing? Do I know you? Are you crazy?" No sense of humor or playfulness at all.

It sums up the difference perfectly.

And, then there's the food. But, that's a much bigger fish to fry.

6 ( +9 / -3 )

Having lived in both for long periods of time, I recall the words of my deceased Grandmother in Law from Tokyo who lived in Osaka after marrying "Tokyo people are cold". She was right on. Most people only live in Tokyo for a job.

5 ( +6 / -1 )

Osaka people are regarded as being warm and friendly by Japanese standards.

That isn’t saying much.

5 ( +9 / -4 )

Kansai is a much nicer place than Kanto. I love big cities, but Tokyo was like being a cog in a machine. No joy in that place.

2 ( +4 / -2 )

Kansai is a much nicer place than Kanto. I love big cities, but Tokyo was like being a cog in a machine. No joy in that place.

Joy is in the eye of the beholder :)

-1 ( +3 / -4 )

"mutual dislike between people of Kansai and Kanto"

Now, now, can't we all just get along?

1 ( +2 / -1 )

One thing that history shows us is that things change.

At its height, Rome had over 1 million inhabitants. For hundreds of years during the middle ages, Rome's population was around 10,000. Today its population is almost 3 million.

In 1870 Los Angles had a population of fewer than 6,000. (imagine real estate prices back then!) Today, it has a population of about 13 million.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

Kansai peole say that Tokyo is "ningen no hakidame"

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

Tokyo is just a huge yet cold but unpleasantly good place to make money with a gargantuan natural and human catastrophe just waiting to happen.

Kansai is just more human, still big. At least there, Kobe in 1993 is still in living memory.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

@seadog538: Kansai peole say that Tokyo is "ningen no hakidame"

Human garbage dump? Never heard that. That is pretty extreme.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Another choice expression that I"ve heard Kansai people use when referring to Edokko is "Ningen No Kuzu"

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Another choice expression that I"ve heard Kansai people use when referring to Edokko is "Ningen No Kuzu"

And Tokyo people call Kansai folks stingy, greedy, whiny, gaudy, shameless...

At least they ain’t shooting each other like LA and NY rappers...

1 ( +4 / -3 )

Kyoto people are good hosts, as befits their elegant inheritance.

To an Osaka person, the only thing worse than someone from Tokyo is someone from Kyoto.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Rivalries, jealousies, etc like this exist in just about every country. From what I have seen and experienced, albeit limited as far as Kansai is concerned, it does seem as if Kansai is cooler. The people here in the Tokyo area of Kanto are mostly uptight and cold. I wish I had actually lived in Osaka for a while so I could really see the differences but it was really telling when my house was built and I got to meet someone from there.. The house next door was completed about a month after mine and the wife saw my Japanese mother-in-law (at the time she had no idea the woman was my mother-in-law), speaking with me in front of our new house. I was shocked when she came right up to me first and introduced herself. Usually, the Japanese person goes straight to the other Japanese. Later, my wife said she must be from Kansai. Bingo! We became really good friends and anywhere she saw me she would stop and talk. I was embarrassed because my conversation at the time was good, not great, but I loved her for being so cool. Made start seeing there are differences in people from different regions. Funny thing is the husband is fromTokyo and he barely ever spoke to me. Just reinforces that point, I guess.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

I’d guess less than half of the Japanese people I know who live in Tokyo are from Tokyo.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Don’t care one bit, every time I go to Tokyo, I wanna come back to Kansai.

Nobody from Tokyo is even from there. A mass of people who don’t know each other and can’t wait to retire and go back.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

Kyoto people are good hosts...

Thats a good one! I think if you are an uptight rich (Japanese) person that wants to do tea ceremonies and the like yeah. Otherwise Kyotoites are the most uptight, disliking of foreigners (and other Japanese) people that I’ve met here yet.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Although I was born and raised in Tokyo, I've always liked Kansai people more. They are more personable and outgoing. Tokyo people appear more cold and aloof to me. Even as a kid, I loved the Tigers and hated the Giants.... (my opinion) Tigers fans are loyal to the end and passionate, whereas Giants fans are just arrogant (you had to be around the 70s and 80s to understand what I mean).

4 ( +4 / -0 )

To an Osaka person, the only thing worse than someone from Tokyo is someone from Kyoto.

I lived in Kansai for 10 years and that is so true. I heard plenty of stores about how Kyoto people would set up passive aggressive etiquette tests for new arrivals and then delight in watching them fail.

Since leaving Kansai I have come to think that Osaka people are not as hilarious as they believe. Most Japanese comedians aren't funny and most of it is formula, so "all the comedians are from Kansai" is an empty boast. However, for Westerners, the warmth and relative directness of Kansai people make it a good first stop. I may not have taken to Japan had I first come to Tokyo.

Regarding the baseball, the Giants walked Randy Bass at every at bat to save Sadaharu Oh's home run record. That's on a level with the Australians bowling the last ball underarm.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I've had good experiences with people from Osaka, but I've also heard from Japanese people that discrimination against other Asian ethnicities is strongest there. Whereas Tokyo may be cold, but I meet non-Japanese people from Asia working normal jobs nearly every day, and it rarely seems to be a big deal.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I use the rivalry to teach students about the difference between San Francisco and Los Angeles.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Agree 100%

Kansai people are WAY friendlier than their Kanto counterparts.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Kansai anytime over Kanto!!!!!

2 ( +2 / -0 )

oh but in US they are all Nihonjin...no more difference :)

0 ( +0 / -0 )

What is with all the negativity about Tokyo? Tokyo has everything and is loads of fun with lots of friendly people. You just have know where to look to find what you like. Give it a try!

0 ( +2 / -2 )

@gokai_wo_maneku

I think this kind of 'rivalry' is mostly nonsense driven simply by the fact that Tokyo is Japan's preeminent city/region, just as the article describes.

You see the same kind of nonsense in reference to London vs. Manchester or the South vs. the North in England. It's little more than a manifestation of an inferiority complex (or the love of the supposed underdog). 'London/The South/Tokyo/Kanto may have the money/opportunity, but Manchester/The North/Osaka/Kansai has all the heart'. If Osaka was the economic capital of the country, what people currently describe as endearing directness and 'honesty' would start to be considered as rudeness and disrespect. Tokyo's supposed aloofness/coldness would be spoke of as 'consideration for others'.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

I've lived in both Tokyo and Kansai for years and I don't buy this "Osaka people are friendlier - Tokyo people are cold" nonsense.

I've found plenty of Kansai people just as dead and uncaring as the people in Tokyo. On the other hand, I've met plenty of friendly and funny folks in Tokyo.

Don't believe the hype.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

SpeedSep. 30  08:05 am JST

I've lived in both Tokyo and Kansai for years and I don't buy this "Osaka people are friendlier - Tokyo people are cold" nonsense.

I've found plenty of Kansai people just as dead and uncaring as the people in Tokyo. On the other hand, I've met plenty of friendly and funny folks in Tokyo.

Don't believe the hype.

I guess it really is a matter of perspective. Even still, I have experienced friendly staff in Tokyo and Osaka at department stores and shopping malls. I do agree with you on this. However, most of my time in Tokyo, I usually sense of being helpful to a degree that they have to be helpful, whereas in Osaka, I do sense people go out of their way, even if it does not always have positive results. If they apologize, I've always thank them for their kindness. I also appreciate the JR and Nankai staff for trying whatever second language they can and try to speak. I think people do remember these gestures, whether it be big or little. Just the kindness in itself is thanks enough for me.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Same in the UK - the North/South so-called divide. It's a load of old pony - there's friendly and unfriendly folk wherever you go. Same goes for my own country of origin. Some people always have to have an enemy, a feud, a spat.

We live in difficult times (i.e. most of history), we should endeavour to consign stereotypes to history and communicate without malice.

Have a good evening all. I don't believe a word they say about you ;-)

1 ( +1 / -0 )

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