8 “Facts” About Japan That Aren’t Actually True

Updated on April 18, 2018
poppyr profile image

Poppy is a proofreader and Dragon Age fan. She lives in Tokyo and has two hamsters named Zelda and Hemingway.

Japan is a country of many things. It has one of the lowest crime rates in the world, fantastic cuisine that has gained popularity all around the globe, and a rich history that we can see in its people's traditions, architecture, and festivals.

According to the Business Insider (2015), Japan is in the top 20 list of countries to visit, and in 2017, the country saw an all-time high of over 24 million visitors.

Source

People flock to Japan for its gorgeous scenery, food, sightseeing spots, and unique experiences. However, there are many people who haven't been there yet, and of course, there are also people who don't plan to go. Unfortunately, that doesn't stop them from thinking they know a lot about it!

There are many things I've seen people say on the internet or heard at home about Japan, stated as if they're facts when actually they're slightly wrong or completely off the mark. Here are some things about Japan that people assume to be "facts" when actually they aren't true.

Have you ever been to Japan?

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1. "The Japanese are Extremely Xenophobic"

This is a popular phrase I've heard thrown around a few times. To some extent, I understand why people assume that everyone in Japan is racist - compared to countries in western Europe and the USA, Japan takes in very few refugees. According to the Japan Times, in 2016, only 28 people were accepted under refugee status despite a record high of over ten thousand applicants.

However, despite Japan's strict approach to accepting refugees, the average Japanese person isn't racist towards western people. When I say that, I mean that violent crime towards people based on their race or mocking or abusing western people because of their non-Japanese ethnicity is virtually unheard of.

People actually tend to often take interest in people from other countries and even say that non-Japanese features (typically a longer nose, blue eyes, curly hair, etc) are cute or attractive.

Racism does exist, of course, but compared to the United States, for example, race hate crime is extremely low. Therefore, to label all the Japanese as "extremely xenophobic" is unfair and untrue.

2. "Japan Has the Highest Suicide Rate in the World"

Japan has a reputation for being a country of depressed people stressed out from working so hard that they hang themselves and jump in front of trains by the dozen. Some even state that Japan has the highest suicide rate in the world, which simply isn't true. Visit any website of suicide lists, and although Japan often ranks in around the top twenty, it's nowhere near close to the top. According to Insider Monkey, Japan wasn't even in the top 11 countries of suicide rates in 2016.

Many also assume that the capital city of Tokyo is the highest in terms of suicide, which isn't true either. According to stats-japan, Iwate, Akita, Niigata, Shimane, and Aomori have much higher suicide rates than Tokyo, or even other large cities such as Kyoto and Osaka.

3. "Japanese Food is Really Weird"

If you've ever watched An Idiot Abroad, you might have noticed that Karl Pilkington said he couldn't find any food that wasn't odd and inedible. There is definitely weird food in Japan, don't get me wrong - think live squid, fermented soybeans, and grilled chicken guts - but there is a lot of food here that isn't weird, but is incredibly delicious.

Lovely dishes that aren't weird at all include ramen noodles, high-class beef, tempura (deep-fried vegetables and meat), tofu, katsu chicken, Japanese curry, and winter hot pot. To assume all food in Japan is gross and odd is just small-minded.

Source

4. "Everybody Likes Manga and Anime"

Manga, or Japanese comics, and anime, Japanese cartoons, are one of the reasons why Japan is a popular country to visit. No doubt you might have heard of Pokémon, Naruto, Bleach, Death Note, or Fullmetal Alchemist. These all originated in Japan and are popular local and abroad.

Some travellers are convinced that when they visit Japan, they'll make friends quickly and easily by talking about their favourite programs and comics. While there are people in Japan who do enjoy these shows, it's a relatively small amount. In fact, there's a name for people who love video games, anime, and manga - "otaku" - which is sort of the equivalent of "nerd."

Source

There are people who like these things who aren't really "otaku," of course, but those who assume they will be instantly popular by talking about anime are going to be left disappointed.

5. "Everyone is Super Polite and Never Lets Their True Feelings Known"

The Japanese are very polite, it's true. "Omotenashi," or "hospitality," is incredibly important and you'll find great service even in the most modest of establishments. However, the belief that the Japanese are polite 100% of the time and never show their feelings is just silly.

There are impolite people in Japan, just like the rest of the world. Human emotions aren't hidden, either, although you won't see as much public affection as you might see in the west.

6. "Japan is Insanely Expensive"

Many people say they're put off visiting Japan because of how expensive it is. Although it's true the flight to Japan from countries outside Asia can get pricey, Tokyo and beyond isn't actually that expensive compared to other popular cities.

Statistics on Numbeo show that Tokyo is (mostly) cheaper than New York, London, and Los Angeles. Prices shouldn't deter you from visiting Japan, as you may find it's about the same price, or even cheaper, than your home country.

7. "Everyone Works 15 Hours a Day and is Always Exhausted"

I have to laugh when people online and at home claim they know everything about the Japanese workforce. As in any country, the type of job people have depends on the hours they work.

A businessman will often work until the evening and do overtime sometimes late at night, but this is nowhere near the majority of the population. The work ethic here is really good, though, and often people will work overtime, sometimes clocking in over twelve hours in a day.

I understand where this stereotype comes from, because now and then a news story crops up about people dying from overwork. However, if you're hoping to work in Japan one day, don't stress about having to work fifteen hours a day as there are plenty of laws in place to protect people from this.

Source

8. "Everyone Wears Masks Because of All the Pollution"

It is true that when you're out in the city, you'll sometimes see people wearing what look like surgical masks. You can buy these masks at any convenience store in the country.

But why? Many people often ask me if it's because of pollution. Japan is actually a very clean country; even large cities like Tokyo enjoy blue skies on a clear day. People wear masks in Japan if:

  • They have a cold. If they're coughing and sneezing but still have to be out for work or school, they wear a mask to avoid spreading their germs.
  • To protect themselves from others' germs. Some people, especially those who have to ride crowded trains or visit busy places, are worried about catching colds or other contagious diseases from others and so wear masks to protect themselves.
  • Because of hay fever. Many Japanese people suffer from hay fever in spring and masks can protect their noses and mouths from flying pollen.

They don't wear masks because of pollution!

Think before you accept a stereotype as fact! Although all of these six common misconceptions do come from some truth, they're far from accurate. Japan isn't perfect by any means, but there are a lot of great things about the country too. Don't let these common misconceptions deter you from visiting!

Questions & Answers

    © 2017 Poppy

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    • newbizmau profile image

      Maurice Glaude 5 months ago from Mobile, AL

      Poppy,

      I may have been searching the Hiltons of Japan and got that idea. Hilton's here in the United States are not always the more expensive option or always considered luxury. I will add that over the years they have improved their image and standards and may now be considered that but they weren't always. Thank you for the conversation.

    • poppyr profile image
      Author

      Poppy 5 months ago from Tokyo, Japan

      Thank you, Ram :)

    • Ram Ramakrishnan profile image

      Ram Ramakrishnan 5 months ago

      Generalization is both a bane and a boon. Lucky, wise, or both, are those who apply it to appropriate situations and benefit from it. I was neither nor lucky until now about my understanding of Japan. Your page has altered that situation and I do hope to visit your country some day.

    • poppyr profile image
      Author

      Poppy 5 months ago from Tokyo, Japan

      Hi Maurice! Hotels are pretty affordable here. If you’re on a budget, capsule hotels and hostels such as Khaosan can be as little as a few thousand yen per night. Ryokans (traditional inns) and high class hotels such as the Hilton are of course much more pricey.

      Like western hotels, you can find good deals on price comparison websites.

      Japan Info has some articles on hotels by area.

    • newbizmau profile image

      Maurice Glaude 5 months ago from Mobile, AL

      Wow, you cleared up a few misconceptions I didn't realize I had. For instance, I believed that larger western style hotels would be more expensive in Japan. I'm not exactly sure where I got that idea from. I've always been interested in visiting Japan and may have found that by researching the cost. I noticed you only mentioned flights. Will you elaborate on hotels in Japan?

    • poppyr profile image
      Author

      Poppy 5 months ago from Tokyo, Japan

      Thanks, Flourish. Stereotypes exist for a reason but that reason is usually close-mindedness and taking something small and blowing it up to seem huge and then state it as fact.

    • poppyr profile image
      Author

      Poppy 5 months ago from Tokyo, Japan

      Yeah! Some people can be close-minded, unfortunately. Of course, he's never been to Japan.

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 5 months ago from USA

      I’ve never considered visiting Japan but I’ve heard some of the stereotypes. I enjoyed your setting the record straight.

    • DanieleRobbers profile image

      Daniele M Robbers 5 months ago from Clearlake

      Oh that is horrible.

    • poppyr profile image
      Author

      Poppy 5 months ago from Tokyo, Japan

      There will always be stereotypes, unfortunately. Just yesterday a friend at home said that Japanese people were all emotionless robots. I had to correct him.

    • DanieleRobbers profile image

      Daniele M Robbers 5 months ago from Clearlake

      I didn't get to finish other comment but maybe if more people like yourself set out to correct these misconception than stereotypes will lose there strength

    • DanieleRobbers profile image

      Daniele M Robbers 5 months ago from Clearlake

      I h I could afford to travel I have met so many wonder people from all over the world though. It is amazing the stryrotypes we hold about other countries and that they hold about us maybe

    • poppyr profile image
      Author

      Poppy 5 months ago from Tokyo, Japan

      Haha well in that case it would get expensive :P

    • poppyr profile image
      Author

      Poppy 5 months ago from Tokyo, Japan

      Good point, I forgot to put that one on here. There is some technology, but there are still a lot of very old things too such as fax machines and old phones!

    • poppyr profile image
      Author

      Poppy 5 months ago from Tokyo, Japan

      :) thanks Rosa

    • I Am Rosa profile image

      Rosa Marchisella 5 months ago from Canada

      Great article :D

    • EricFarmer8x profile image

      Eric Farmer 5 months ago from Phoenix Arizona

      Interesting article. I have heard of some of these stereotypes before. I am curious about one thing I don't see on here. Is it true that Tokyo is a very high tech city? I know some movies, TV shows, and games tend to do a Neo-Tokyo theme and have the city look very futuristic.

    • TheAlexisChantel profile image

      Alexis Chantel 5 months ago

      I love this article. It's very interesting, but I'm afraid it still doesn't convince me to visit just because, if I went, I fear it might be expensive to me just because I'd probably want to get way too many souvenirs haha.

    • poppyr profile image
      Author

      Poppy 5 months ago from Tokyo, Japan

      Nagano is way too cold :( I lived there for a year and a half haha.

      Come to Tokyo!! :D

    • Wanderingteacher profile image

      Julia Rose 5 months ago from Japan

      I’m hoping to go to Tokyo and Nagano during Winter break but we’ll see.

    • poppyr profile image
      Author

      Poppy 5 months ago from Tokyo, Japan

      Hi! Yeah it’s pretty affordable compared to other first world countries, to be honest. Thank you for commenting!

    • Renderbug profile image

      Adrian Bridges 5 months ago from Prince Edward Island

      "Japanese food is extremely weird." BAHAHAHAHA! Yeah, because chicken cutlets paired with rice and salad are soooo weird. -_- When I can make a decent amount of common Japanese foods in my Canadian kitchen, the food is not that weird.

      And as for everything in Japan being expensive... I was browsing apartment rentals the other day and say some impressive 1K apartments in Osaka that were between 40,000 and 50,000 yen a month. Some even lower than that, and not very far from train stations, either. I even saw a 1DKR for under 60,000! Not the lowest prices I've seen, sure, but far from the highest, especially for a major city.

    • poppyr profile image
      Author

      Poppy 5 months ago from Tokyo, Japan

      Thank you, Cedric! I appreciate your comment.

    • poppyr profile image
      Author

      Poppy 5 months ago from Tokyo, Japan

      Yeah exactly! I’m in Tokyo and there’s no way I’d get a place like this for this price in any British city haha. Thanks for commenting, Julia.

    • poppyr profile image
      Author

      Poppy 5 months ago from Tokyo, Japan

      It is! It would be great if you could visit sometime.

    • CYong74 profile image

      Kuan Leong Yong 5 months ago from Singapore

      Very sensible write-up addressing some of the myths that have choked Japanese tourism for too long. Well done.

    • Wanderingteacher profile image

      Julia Rose 5 months ago from Japan

      I could never understand why people think Japan is so expensive. Even the most expensive area is still a little cheaper than my home town in Florida. I live in Kitakyushu and my rent is about half of what it would be in Florida and mine is considered on the expensive end.

    • Coffeequeeen profile image

      Louise Powles 5 months ago from Norfolk, England

      Yes, I agree. People can be very stereotypical about certain cultures and countries. Although I've never visited Japan, I would love to. It's such a beautiful country.

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