Buddhist monk who also tends bar says to take complements from Kyoto with a grain of salt.

Kyoto is famous for many things. Even among Japanese people, the city is strongly associated with serene temples, delicious matcha green tea, and elegant geisha traditions.

However, Kyoto also has a reputation for being a place where compliments sometimes shouldn’t be taken at face value. Many argue that the refined politeness of Kyotoites occasionally doubles as a mask to obfuscate far less friendly sentiments, which brings us to Japanese Twitter user @bozu_108, a Buddhist monk who also works as a bartender (which isn’t an entirely unheard of combination of professions).

In a recent tweet, @bozu_108 highlights three phrases that “only true Kyotoits can understand,” starting with:

1. “Your clothing is so fashionable.”

Even if you’re not a hard-core fashionista, it’s always nice to have your outfit complimented, especially when it’s coming from someone who hails from a city with such advanced aesthetics as Kyoto, right? Except, according to @bozu_108, if someone from Kyoto says this to you, what they really mean is…

“Your clothes look weird.”

2. “You have such a kind-looking face.”

Kyoto prides itself on being hospitable and considerate, even by the already lofty standards of Japanese conduct. Therefore, insinuating that a person is kind must be praise of the highest order, right?

Maybe. But @bozu_108’s interpretation is different, and is based on the disconnect between complimenting someone’s intangible personality when discussing their physical features, which leads him to say that the true meaning here is

“You sure are ugly.”

3. “You say such interesting/funny things.”

Specifically, @bozu_108 is talking about the Japanese word omoshiroi, which can refer to interesting, comical, or simply fun things. And since being a good conversationalist is an important social grace, surely this is a good thing right?

It is…unless, as @bozu_108’s claims, the concept you’re conveying is only fresh and comical because it’s outside the bounds of common sense, and the hidden message is:

“Is there something wrong with your brain?”

Now, before you go doubting every nice thing you’ve ever heard on a trip to Kyoto, it’s important to point out that while @bozu_108’s jobs as a monk and bartender give him ample time and opportunity to observe and ruminate on human nature, he himself works and lives in Tokyo, not Kyoto. As such, his translations may not be 100-percent accurate. And, of course, with well over a million people living in Kyoto, there’s a nearly limitless potential for personal variation in attitudes and speaking style, and despite the city’s reputation for baroque obliqueness, there are going to also be times when people mean exactly what they say (because if you really think someone’s clothes look stylish, there’s not much you can say other than “Your clothes are stylish”).

Still, the possibilities @bozu_108 lays out are probably worth considering before you quit your job and move to Kyoto to become a fashion designer or comedian, as are the potentially concealed contexts of being told that you play the piano well or are lucky to have so many good friends.

Source: Twitter/@bozu_108 via Jin
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