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10 Wrong Assumptions About Japan

Japanese people eat sushi everyday, only wear kimonos and the only forms of entertainment they have are anime and manga which every single Japanese person love.

Okay, time to get some facts straight. I hear weird misconceptions about Japan daily and while some of them are true, many of them are horrible wrong. Some of you might just nod while reading this list, thinking of these as no-brainers but many people in this world still believe in many things on this list. After reading this entry, you will at least be sure you aren’t one of those people and you will know a bit more about Japan.


1. All Japanese people eat raw fish everyday

Sashimi and nigiri sushi at a restaurant in Japan

I won’t say that there isn’t a single person who eats sashimi (raw fish) every day but those kind of people are definitely the minority. Many Japanese do love raw fish but they want to enjoy some other delicasies as well. Most Japanese couldn’t ever afford to eat sashimi everyday – it’s expensive! Sushi is actually often considered somewhat luxurious and many Japanese people only eat it on special occasions. If I told a friend I had sushi for lunch, he would probably ask me if I got a raise.

2. Everything in Japan is high technology

I wish this was more true than it is but unfortunately, the Japanese are actually behind some of the world in many things. For example, we have to do everything on paper – even applications for work still have to be written by hand at most places. As a side note: writing an application for work an be a very time-consuming as you have to start again if you make a mistake. Just imagine how much time you will spend writing if you apply to 30 places – that is the number of companies an average Japanese University student will apply. Also, many of those weird high-tech products you might have seen in the internet are actually just as unknown in Japan as they’re overseas. You can find pretty much anything here but that doesn’t mean all the Japanese houses are full of robots and other high-tech applications.

3. Every Japanese person wears kimono everyday

Scenery and people in Asakusa, Tokyo
You can spot 2 ladies wearing summer kimonos (yukata) in this picture but in Japan, you might spend weeks not seeing a single person wearing a kimono.

I think this one doesn’t require much explanation. Most Japanese wear kimono only to very special occasions – if at all. Looking at some survey results, nearly 100% of the population seem to have worn kimono in their life, most to such occasions as wedding parties, graduation seremonies and to seijinshiki, the ceremony of becoming adult. However, there is a very small amount of people who still do wear kimono everyday.

4. All Japanese men are workaholics and all women want to become housewives

Even though many Japanese men are rather serious about working, this doesn’t apply to whole population. In recent years, the number of men who refuse to work long hours has gone up significantly. This is one of the reasons why the marriage rate has decreased as well: some men feel that they don’t want to spend their life working and supporting the family, thus choosing not to marry. As for all the women wanting to become housewives, there are many who want to have a life-long career as well. I have to note that there are, in fact, many women who still willingly leave their jobs to become housewives. Japanese work life is hard especially if you are a seishain (full-time worker with a permanent contract) which is why many women still gladly leave their jobs to specialize in taking care of kids and the house.

5. The only media is anime and manga and all Japanese people love both

Actually, I have barely met a person saying they love anime and/or manga. This might have something to do with the fear of getting labeled as a nerd (otaku) but I’m pretty sure it’s not just that. Every single Japanese person has definitely watched anime in their life and many watch series like Sazae-chan, Chibi Maruko or Doraemon – children’s series watched by the whole family in many households. However, the enthusiastic fans are much more rare than you would think by the sales and the amount of animanga. Also, anime definitely isn’t the only form of entertainment you see when you turn on a tv in Japan – it actually isn’t even broadcast in the tv that often as most channels show mostly drama series and variety programs with comedians and celebrities.

6. Everyone in Japan listens either to girl groups like Perfume and AKB48 or dark visual kei J-rock

Missing AKB48 or Perfume completely can be rather difficult here but missing the groups influenced by the often androgynous visual kei style is a lot more easier. The older generation might not even know what you’re talking about if you suddenly say you love visual kei – and if you say you like Japanese rock music, most will probably think about some more “ordinary” rock bands such as B’z or ONE OK ROCK. You can find music of pretty much any genre in Japan as well and you’ll soon realize that most Japanese are not listening only to those eccentric groups that have made Japanese music known overseas.

7. All Japanese people live in traditional houses with tatami and sleep on the floor

I personally sleep on the floor on a mattress called futon but most of my friends prefer beds and they also have no tatami in their houses. In my apartment, there’s only one tiny room with tatami mats and all the other rooms have a ordinary wooden floor. I have also rarely seen sliding doors anywhere – I think the only places I have seen them are some traditional restaurants and tea houses. Survey results say the same too: more than half of the population sleeps on beds instead of futons nowadays and tatami mats are getting less common as well.

8. The Japanese take religion seriously

Sensoji, Asakusa (Tokyo, Japan)
Quite a crowd lines up to visit a Shinto Shrine in Asakusa at New Year’s Day.

I find this one particularly funny because I feel like Japanese are one of the most unreligious folk I know. Many of the Japanese I have met have the imagine of religion being something scary, like a cult that you can’t leave after entering it once. Most people will also say that they have no religion even though they might officially be either Shintoist or Buddhist. Since many practices originally related to religion have become a very important part of Japanese customs and the daily life of many, it’s often misunderstood that Japan is a very religious nation.

9. You have to wear slippers and special toilet slippers in every house

This is true for some houses but it’s not at all unusual to not wear slippers either. Many Japanese choose to just walk around wearing socks or even barefoot and it’s not considered weird or rude. What is common to almost 100% of Japanese households is that you have to take off your shoes when entering the room – and you are expected to do this in hotels as well.

10. Japanese are weird

It’s true that you can find some pretty weird things in Japan. There are theme cafes like maid cafes and cuddle cafes, weird trends like a double tooth fashion trend (you don’t want to google it) and some groups of youngsters with peculiar styles, such as lolita and ganguro. However, all the things listed above as well as many other things you might find weird are also weird to most Japanese people. If there’s a girl dressed up in a lolita dress, she will be looked at. If you tell a Japanese person you love visual kei musicians, you will most likely get a surprised look. Many Japanese actually don’t want to stand out or be different – they want to be a part of a group. Many of those with a peculiar style or unique hobbies also have the same objective of belonging to something – that something just is a minority in this case. You will be disappointed if you come to Japan thinking that it’s a country where anything different, eccentric and weird is normal and will be more accepted than in your own country. Depending on where you live, it might be the opposite.


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