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Things to know

Things to know about Kyoto


The Japanese spoken in Kyoto is a distinctive dialect, which may be a little difficult to understand if you have just started learning Japanese. While standard Japanese is universally understood, it is not uncommon for locals to reply in dialect even when spoken to in standard Japanese. If you don't understand, just politely ask the person to repeat what they say in standard Japanese (標準語 hyōjungo) and they will usually oblige. The Kyoto dialect is similar to the Osaka dialect, with a lot of shared regional vocabulary, but unlike the rough-sounding Osaka dialect, is typically regarded as being very elegant and gentle compared to standard Japanese.

As Kyoto is a very touristic city, staff at most of the major hotels and tourist attractions have a functional command of English. Outside of that, English is generally rarely spoken. Other foreign languages such as Italian, French, Korean or Mandarin may be spoken by some staff at the main tourist attractions due to the large number of tourists speaking those languages.


Kyoto's city planners way back in 794 decided to copy the Chinese capital Chang'an (present-day Xi'an) and adopt a grid pattern, which persists to this day in the city core. West-east streets are numbered, with Ichijō-dōri (一条通, "First Street") up north and Jūjō-dōri (十条通, "Tenth Street") down south, but there is no obvious pattern to the names of north-south streets.


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