4 Common Myths and Misconceptions About Japan

  • My colleagues often ask me things about Japan, some of the questions are insightful, but some contain some misconceptions about the land of the rising sun. I will go through some of the things I have been asked and show how Japan is much more surprising than many people think!

    1. In Japan, they only eat raw fish

    This is one of the myths that I hear a lot, especially when I say I am visiting Japan. People often act shocked and say “But what will you eat, there is only raw fish!”. Now it may be true that sushi is a widely popular and very successful export product from Japan, but traditional Japanese cuisine (和食, washoku) is so much more than that. In fact, Washoku is now held on the UNESCO list for the Intangible Culture Heritage of Humanity. You could write thousands of words on the cuisine of Japan, but other common popular dishes in Japan include not just sushi! If you visit Japan why not try; ramen, noodles served in broth; sukiyaki, meat and vegetables cooked at the table in a rich soy sauce; tempura, seafood, meat or vegetables coated in a light batter; or natto, fermented soya beans which divide Japan on whether it is nice or nasty!

    2. All people in Japan are short/skinny

    Well, ignoring the fact that this is a huge stereotype of an entire nation, it is also wrong! Like any other country Japan is filled with people of all shapes and sizes, obesity may be at lower levels than in some Western countries but that does not mean that everyone is skinny or short. If you take the time to explore Japan you will get a truer sense of the diversity that exists in this country. The same answer can be said for other misconceptions such as “everyone knows martial arts” or “all Japanese work in companies for life”.

    3. Japan is very expensive to visit

    I will have to forgive myself for having this misconceptions at one point in time, before I had ever been to Japan. Yes property prices in Tokyo are high, but the same can be said for any large city such as London or Paris. This myth is left over from the bubble economy Japan experienced in the 80’s where the yen was high and business was strong. Since then, although the economy has recovered, Japan has remained a reasonably priced country to visit. You should find it easy to visit on a budget, and even if you have more expensive tastes you may find it to be much less expensive than you first thought!

    4. All Japanese love manga

    Again this is not surprising to find that many people think this about Japan, some of the most recognised cultural exports of Japan, such as sushi, kimono and manga, leave people believing that that is what Japan is all like. However, just like in any country, people in Japan have different tastes and likes. So, yes, some people in Japan may love watching anime and reading manga, but equally others will not. The same can be said for many issues, such as people in Japan do not always wear kimono or only eat raw fish!

    There are many more myths and misconceptions about Japan and it can be really fun to discover for yourself everything that Japan has to offer… you may be surprised!