It’s in the words, it’s in the air, it’s in the history: the differences between life in Tokyo and life in Kyoto may be endless, but here are 10 to get us started. Which one would encourage you to make the move (or stay)?
1. It’s all about that Kyoto-ben
Kyoto has its own –ben, or dialect. It’s a more lyrical and idiosyncratic version of Tokyo’s standardized Japanese. Under Kyoto–ben intonation, for example, the final syllables of both arigato and gozaimasu are raised. Kyoto shares some Kansai regionalisms — like okini (thank you) — with neighbors like Osaka, but Kyoto-ben is differentiated from them by a soft, somewhat feminine air.
The Kyoto dialect even adds an extra level of politeness via the use of the auxiliary verb haru. It’s more polite than regular, familiar language but not as stiff as the respectful keigo (polite honorific Japanese). It goes like this: instead of Doko e ikimasu ka (Where are you going)? a Kyoto-ite would say, Doko ikaharimasu ka? or perhaps break it down further to Doko e ikaharun desu ka?
2. Winters are colder
Wedged in between mountains as it is, Kyoto is more than 1,000 meters above sea level and consequently much colder in winter than Tokyo, which sits at a low 40 meters above sea level. Kyoto’s average temperature for January 2018 was just 3.9 degrees Celsius compared with Tokyo’s 4.7. The gap spread further in February: 4.4 degrees vs 5.4 degrees. Still, as Kyoto-ites will tell you — that’s way better than summer.
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