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Kyoto creates infographic to show tourists how to visit politely

24 Comments
By Scott Wilson

With thousands of temples, beautiful gardens, geisha and maiko (geisha-in-training), and more history than you can shake an encyclopedia at, Kyoto is the place to be when visiting Japan. So with so many tourists from around the world crowding into the city, a few are bound to step out of line.

Thankfully TripAdvisor Japan created a handy infographic showing how to politely visit Kyoto. Kyotoites are understandably protective of their city and its cultural and historical treasures, and some will not hesitate to correct you if you’re doing something rude or wrong. So to be sure that everyone is on the same page, here are a few simple rules to keep in mind when you visit this wonderful city.

A lot of the rules are simply covering the basics, such as no smoking outside designated areas, not bringing your own food or drink into a restaurant, and not taking photos too close to the train tracks.

However there may be some others that surprise you. Each rule has an “akimahen” rating (“akimahen” meaning “don’t!” in Kyoto dialect) which goes on a scale of one disappointed face to three really angry faces. Here we go!

Don’t smoke or litter! The ancient kami (gods) are watching you!

Not smoking or littering is considered a common courtesy around the world, but with so many historical landmarks and UNESCO world heritage sites around, it is especially important to keep the great outdoors of Kyoto as fresh and clean as mother nature made it.

As far as tipping goes, it is usually frowned upon in all parts of Japan. But if you really want to let someone in Kyoto know that you appreciated their service, a simple okini (pronounced like “oaky knee” and meaning thank you in Kyoto dialect) would be a perfectly nice gesture.

Speaking from personal experience, if you are unable to ask an elaborately dressed maiko for a picture, snapping a quick photo in stealth mode from a respectful distance is also an option. But don’t blame us for any finger-wagging that may ensue.

Bicycle laws in Japan have become a lot more strict recently, especially in Kyoto where the streets are very narrow. It’s a very popular city to bicycle in, and they can’t have drunken cyclists leaving their bikes all over the place or there would be chaos.

Not standing in line in an orderly fashion and making chefs sad are problems that are increasingly cropping up in the news in Japan. It takes only a few incidents to ruin things for everybody, and no one likes the taste of chefs’ tears in their food, so let’s be courteous of other people, people.

Many buildings and artifacts in Kyoto are centuries, sometimes thousands of years, old, so it is very important to prolong their life as much as possible. Touching them or taking pictures with the flash on can damage artifacts, so it is essential to pay attention to all signage when sightseeing.

Removing your hat and sunglasses may seem strange at first, but this is one of the etiquette rules that isn’t about preservation, but making sure no one feels uncomfortable. Japan is just coming around on allowing hoodies up during the day, but sunglasses and hats are still signs of shady behavior and can make some people feel uneasy.

So what do you think? Do you agree with Kyoto’s rules of etiquette? Or does it make it seem like too uptight a place that you’d never want to visit?

Source: TripAdvisor Japan

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24 Comments
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Removing your hat and sunglasses may seem strange at first, but this is one of the etiquette rules that isn’t about preservation, but making sure no one feels uncomfortable. Japan is just coming around on allowing hoodies up during the day, but sunglasses and hats are still signs of shady behavior and can make some people feel uneasy.

Before preaching to the tourists about this lame "tradition", ensure that the Japanese follow it first. It isnt polite to point fingers at others when your "own" can't seem to follow the "rules" themselves.

14 ( +20 / -6 )

sunglasses and hats are still signs of shady behavior and can make some people feel uneasy.

And wearing a surgical mask isn't?

32 ( +34 / -3 )

What happens when strict Muslim women in full Burqa visit?

Not smoking outdoors seems a little odd. Perhaps not smoking at religious sights?

5 ( +8 / -3 )

"drunken cyclists leaving their bikes all over the place" Is that really a problem? When I was last in Kyoto, about ten years ago, I watched police scrupulously examined bicycles parked in front of various businesses. Lots of bicycle theft or expired bicycle registrations, maybe?

Ask for sunglasses... If it's sunny, I'm wearing them. The locals will have to deal with it.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Many Japanese men smoke in your face, spit and pee where they want, so I find this so hypocritical.

16 ( +18 / -2 )

@Tessa Sugerical masks are for the prevention of spreading diseases; they're usually not perceived by the common Japanese person as shady, unless it's dirty and written on. (Which is associated with fashion, or bad behavior.)

-7 ( +4 / -11 )

Props for wanting to educate or explain some of Japan's quirks to foreigners...but some are pretty much common sense. Personally as a tourist when I don't know the rules I typically just watch what other tourists are doing and go with that. (if they seem to be removing hats, I will too)

When in Rome, right?

3 ( +4 / -1 )

As far as tipping goes, it is usually frowned upon in all parts of Japan.

This is a common myth, tipping in certain forms is a common practice here. As a few examples, customers chartering tour buses often tip in Japan, as do guests at ryokans (Japanese inns). Heck, even doctors take tips in Japan, a practice that would be highly frowned upon in many other countries.

Tips in Japan are often referred to as 'kokorozuke' (心付け) and placed in a special envelope before being handed to the recipient.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

"Not smoking or littering is considered a common courtesy around the world, but with so many historical landmarks and UNESCO world heritage sites around, it is especially important to keep the great outdoors of Kyoto as fresh and clean as mother nature made it."

Somebody needs to tell this to the Japanese first before telling others not to do it.

"Speaking from personal experience, if you are unable to ask an elaborately dressed maiko for a picture, snapping a quick photo in stealth mode from a respectful distance is also an option. But don’t blame us for any finger-wagging that may ensue."

Again, I have pictures snapped of ME all time, visiting temples or shrines, observing local customs, etc. People get a kick out of a foreigner doing those things and not-stealthily take my pic without asking. Occasionally they do, and of course it's fine, and I don't mind at all even if they don't ask, but the point is if this is considered rude the it's another example of the pot calling the kettle black, and then some!

"So what do you think? Do you agree with Kyoto’s rules of etiquette? Or does it make it seem like too uptight a place that you’d never want to visit?"

No, because it's just a bunch of bull from a pompous city that thinks it's crap smells nicer. I happen to think it is the most beautiful city in Japan on a number of levels, and love it, but this kind of 'rule book for foreigners' being put out when Japanese themsevles are the biggest breakers of the rules is absurd. Almost as absurd as the whole "Kyou-yasai" scam; that the vegetables in Kyoto are so different and better (and therefore so much more expensive).

Yubaru: "Before preaching to the tourists about this lame "tradition", ensure that the Japanese follow it first. It isnt polite to point fingers at others when your "own" can't seem to follow the "rules" themselves."

Exactly! But point this out and you are automatically relegated to the 'angry face' section of Akimahen. haha. It's set up so that no matter what you say or do the locals are above you and are right.

8 ( +13 / -5 )

but this kind of 'rule book for foreigners' being put out when Japanese themselves are the biggest breakers of the rules is absurd

Can I get an AMEN!

How about "three angry faces" for the obasans who use their cell phones while sitting in the priority seats on the train?

10 ( +11 / -1 )

I thought it was in Kyoto that has a sign in Japanese that asks you to not smoke but the English says "No, smoking". Hilarious use of a comma for fans of Eats, shoots, and leaves.

If you want gaijin to be able to use slippers, start buying larger sizes. Most of the time if there's a problem it's mainly because Japanese expect foreigners to be Japanese when they are sizes not available in Japan to begin with. No one can help you. While I've been able to get around issues It makes for an uncomfortable stay at times

5 ( +6 / -1 )

I generally find Kyoto to be more arrogant and unfriendly compared to Osaka. People in Kyoto just don't go the extra mile, customer-service-wise the way Osaka-jins do. I just have a less good time there as the people seem more uptight and pompous. Of course, there's plenty of nice people everywhere. Still, Osaka is just much more genuine and friendly. I find Japan is pretty rude with smoking, so I do't know why they would be lecturing tourists about that. I'm also not getting what the problem is with hats and sunglasses. Is this a "thing"? What buildings are thousands of years old? Aren't they mostly reproductions or re-built structures? To be honest, I don't find Kyoto to be beautiful, although it has some beautiful spots for sure, and I definitely don't find it to be relaxing. Too much bustle and overcrowding.

3 ( +6 / -3 )

but sunglasses and hats are still signs of shady behavior and can make some people feel uneasy.

That's just straight up stereo-typical Japanese nonsense. Call it what you want, profiling etc.

Sorry, but when I'm outdoors in public . . . especially during the warm months, I will never remove my sunglasses and cap.

0 ( +3 / -3 )

It really riles me that in a country with quite strong sunlight, society frowns on the use of sunglasses. Considering the damage such sunlight can do to the eyes you think they'd be promoted.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

I hope TripAdvisor Japan didn't copy that design from someone else.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

It would give tourists a much better idea of what to expect while visiting!

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

What happens when strict Muslim women in full Burqa visit?

What kind of Muslim would visit a Pagan holy site?

5 ( +5 / -0 )

So are they going to tell all the grannies with their huge visor hats that it is rude as well. Or all the old men that wear their flip shades and Gilligan hats. What they call "manners" is actually common sense and I have seen locals in my 20 years here break these "manners" far more than tourists.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Locals break these "manners" far more than tourists.

We have to consider the fact that locals outnumber non-Japanese by a ratio of... a lot. Discounting for this and if you still find more Japanese transgressors, then they are real hypocrites.

As for sunglasses, just state that your eyes are not as strong as Japanese eyes. This will immediately win the locals' understanding as Japanese people are quite familiar with the argument "wester's lighter colored eyes are not as strong as dark brown eyes against the sun." You will get a sympathetic nod and some will even be pleased to be reminded of this purported Japanese strength.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Tessa, loved your pointing out of the masks LOL!!

HarryG, yep that poster looks rather familiar LOL!

And this article.............well I was hoping for something a bit interesting, insightful, but these akimahen bits are rather lame, boring, sure gaijin tourists are up to more no good than these little bits haha!!

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

As for sunglasses, just state that your eyes are not as strong as Japanese eyes. This will immediately win the locals' understanding as Japanese people are quite familiar with the argument "wester's lighter colored eyes are not as strong as dark brown eyes against the sun." You will get a sympathetic nod and some will even be pleased to be reminded of this purported Japanese strength.

Yes! This always works for me! Sometimes, you just have to throw "logic" (whatever that means) away, and approach them from their level.

0 ( +3 / -3 )

What kind of Muslim would visit a Pagan holy site?

At a wild guess, I would say a Muslim who happens to want to see the sites of the world. Just like the rest of us.

That is, of course, if they have time between bomb-making, burka-wearinga and being the evil boogie man to simpletons.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

****When did you last see a tourist gargling at a public water fountain, or pointing at a group of Japanese and calling out, "Aa,Nihonjin da"?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

By sporting a hat and sunglasses almost around the year while living in Kyoto few years back, I never had any problems with the locals. If there ever was anything that might have made Japanese people feel uncomfortable around me, it was then my stature and strongly built appearance.

If possible, I would provide here a photo of me sitting in a train, surrounded by natives who absolutely didn't give a **** about what I was wearing.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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