A fellow anthropologist of Japan, Eyal Ben-Ari, once remarked that anthropologists get 90 per cent of their salaries for exaggerating culture. I have in fact spoken in favour of retaining the concept of culture myself, despite all the scepticism that has been directed against it in recent years (Brumann 1999). Yet, referring to culture requires circumspection and specificity in determining where culture – and specific local and national cultures – ends, lest culture were to become what another Japan anthropologist, Roger Goodman, told me is a ‘lazy term’, posing as an explanation without actually being one. For not exaggerating culture, I have chosen Kyoto, the historical capital of Japan for more than a thousand years. This may appear as a counterintuitive choice: not only is the city the undisputed stronghold of Japanese traditional high culture, but also its residents’ more mundane practices are widely regarded as highly distinctive. Yet still, not everything that occurs in that city is typically Kyotoite, or typically Japanese.