That was what people would tell me when I said I was thinking of leaving Kyoto to move to Tokyo. I had a few friends there and I was curious to see what it would be like to live there. But the natives of Kyoto repeatedly would tell me that there was nothing good to eat there. In the whole city, I’d ask incredulously? And they’d assure me that was the case. Have you ever heard anything more ridiculous?
It wasn’t just the food. I had been studying kouta and learning to play the shamisen. When I asked my sensei if she could recommend a teacher in Tokyo so that I could continue, she said there weren’t any. Again… in the WHOLE city? Seriously, this rivalry was kind of overplayed. I thought.
You cannot disregard the differences between these two areas. Tokyo is in Kantō and Kyoto is in Kansai. There are different dialects, different foods, and even different electrical frequencies, i.e. you need a converter for some appliances. To this day.
Nonetheless, I brushed all this off and made the move. And spat out the broth the first time I had soba in Tokyo. It was awful. Shioppoi! It just tasted wrong. It turns out my washoku tastebuds had been formed in Kyoto and that was that. Even after years of living in Tokyo I could not tolerate the way food was seasoned. I wanted to go back to Kyoto and stuff my face with delicious food.
And it wasn’t just the seasoning. During my first summer in Tokyo, I went into a cheap Chinese joint and ordered reimen. I got a blank stare in return. Turns out that you call cold noodles hiyashi chūka in Tokyo. So even the language was a little different.
And my shamisen teacher was correct. There were no teachers for my particular ryū of kouta.
I think I speak a fairly standard Japanese at this point, but put me in the room with some folks from Kyoto and my speech patterns change. Because yokareashikare Kyoto is where I started my life in Japan.
- kouta – 小唄 literally small song. Short songs that are accompanied by shamisen. Very traditional
- shamisen – 三味線 three-stringed Japanese instrument
- Kantō – 関東 the Eastern area of Japan
- Kansai – 関西 the Western area of Japan
- soba – 蕎麦 buckwheat noodles
- shioppoi – 塩っぽい salty. Shio alone is salt.
- washoku – 和食 Japanese food, i.e. not Western or Chinese
- reimen – 冷麺 cold Chinese noodles in the Kansai area
- hiyashi chūka – 冷やし中華 same as above, but this is what they are called in the rest of Japan
- ryū – 流 style or school, You have different ryū in tea ceremony, karate, flower arranging, etc. People are very loyal to their ryū.
- yokareashikare – 良かれ悪しかれ “for better or for worse”