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.
▼ “But officer, what if I’m just drunk on life? No, I’m not leaving my bike in the road. It’s just resting!”
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!
▼ Is taking a photo of an incoming train or shinkansen really worth losing a limb or two?
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?