That Kyoto resident might want you to notice something other than the fine craftsmanship.

Thanks to the city’s centuries-long connections to traditional art and culture, there’s a common perception that people from Kyoto have a keenly developed sense of aesthetics. So when Japanese Twitter user @da_masu was in Kyoto on a business trip and having a meeting with a potential client, he wasn’t startled when his counterpart mentioned “That’s a really nice watch you’ve got.”

Flattered, @da_masu started to give a run-down of the watch’s features, but in hindsight regrets doing so. Not because he thinks he came off as sounding boastful or materialistic, but because he later came to the conclusion that he wasn’t actually being complimented, and that this was instead another example of Kyoto’s notoriously complex communication style, because when the person said “Nice watch,” what they really meant was:

“This conversation has gone on too long.”

@da_masu doesn’t say how he came to that conclusion, but there’s definitely a sort of logic to the interpretation. If someone compliments your watch, maybe while gesturing at it, naturally you’re going to look at it. That glance should also tell you the time, and so the seemingly benign compliment functions as a way to force you to see what time it is and notice how much of the other person’s time you’ve taken up, indirectly pressuring you into wrapping things up/leaving them alone.

▼ “Yes, it truly is a lovely timepiece. I wonder if they sell ones like it at the store where I buy the files I use to organize all of the other work I have to do?”

While Japan has a reputation for indirect communication, especially when dealing with topic that could lead to a disagreement or conflict, this highly coded compliment/complaint goes beyond what even most Japanese people would ordinarily pick up on, and other Twitter users left comments such as:

“Kyoto is terrifying.”
“It’s like a completely different culture from the rest of Japan.”
“There’s nothing as obtuse as a Kyoto complaint.”
“Seriously. I used to live in Kyoto, and communicating there is a unique hassle.”
“I was walking around Kyoto, and since I was tired my steps were slow. As someone passed me up from behind, they snapped ‘You’re really enjoying the scenery, aren’t you?’”

Of course, the tricky thing, as some commenters pointed out, is that if someone from Kyoto genuinely wants to compliment you on your watch, they’ll also say “That’s a really nice watch you’ve got,” so it really is up to the watch-wearer, on a case-by-case basis, to try to figure out if they have to read between the lines, like when a Kyoto neighbor says they envy you your large group of friends or musical talent.

Source: Twitter/@da_masu via Jin
Top image: Pakutaso
Insert image: Pakutaso
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