Once upon a time, the center of Japan was NOT in TOKYO but in KYOTO.
Before SAMURAI worriers emerged and became the main players in national politics, court nobles had governed the archipelago together with the Emperor from KYOTO Imperial Palace.
Because of this historical background, the traditional culture built by those court aristocrats still remains deeply inside the city of KYOTO even today and its society is consisting of the KYOTO people who are considered as “privileged” at least by themselves!
More precisely, it is said that those privileged people are living their lives under numbers of implicit and complicated rules.
For example, a custom so-called “ICHIGEN-SAN OKOTOWARI” (No first visitors without invitation) is a typical case of this. Even if you think you want to experience Japanese traditional entertainment in “OCHAYA” (literally “tea house” where you can privately enjoy foods and alcohol playing games with professional ladies like GEISHA or MAIKO), you cannot even enter the OCHAYA without invitation or introduction by somebody else.
Even if you are ready to be very generous and spend lots of money in OCHAYA, you are not welcome without a third party’s introduction.
Exclusive and intolerance toward strangers are the characteristics of KYOTO people.
In addition, “HONNE and TATEMAE” (a difference between one’s words and one’s real intentions) also can be seen everywhere in the KYOTO society.
For example, when you are asked “How long have you lived here in KYOTO?” by KYOTO people, you may answer “I have lived here for more than 10 years”.
Then, the KYOTO people will say “I see, so you are now completely a Kyotoite”
However, it is said that inside of their mind, they never accept you as a Kyotoite even your family has lived there for three generations. They are very proud of their ancient families which have continued several hundred years in KYOTO, so some decades of experience is out of question for them in a sense, which is the “real intention”.
In this case, the correct answer might be “I have lived here only dozen years or so” as they are very sensitive whether you treat the importance of their tradition and long history with enough respect and care.
Another story which indicate the importance to read the meanings behind the words.
When you are invited to someone’s home in KYOTO as a guest, you should not stay there for long time. Especially if the host asks you “Would you like a BUBUZUKE?”, it is a clear sign that they want you to go home.
“BUBUZUKE” means “CHAZUKE” which is a simple Japanese dish made by pouring green tea, or hot water over cooked rice in a bowl. So once you hear the word BUBUZUKE, it’s time to say good-bye!
It is common for KYOTO people to use such indirect expression without saying “Unfortunately we have to say good-bye now since we are busy (or have things to do)”.
Looks wired and a bit scaring even, but such roundabout way to say things was, in my opinion, invented to compromise their wish to live reasonably without wasting times and their consideration not to hurt others.
For KYOTO people, this is the way of self-control with propriety which has developed over 1,200 years based on the ancient court culture.
I don’t mean that all the KYOTO people are like this, but I am convinced that compared to people from other areas of Japan, they have higher proud and noble mind.