This week’s guest post is by fellow blogger and YouTuber Nobita. I first met Nobita when he interviewed Ryosuke and I for his blog (you can read the interview here – it’s in Japanese). Since then, we’ve run into him a couple times in Tokyo. He writes:
Just a few days ago, I did a street interview to a variety of foreigners in Tokyo to ask “What kind of stereotypes do you have for Japanese people?”
For a while, I’ve been curious about how foreign tourists really think about Japanese people. There are a lot of rumors and reputation I’ve heard from TV or websites, but I really wanted to hear what people really thought, face to face.
The videos below are the result.
Remember both of the videos above are just a very small sample. Actually I asked 43 people from 13 countries for 2 days.
I also did a street interview and wrote down the results. And the below are the positive and negative stereotypes people told me.
- Cute (※especially Japanese girls)
- Good at math
- Good at computer and machine
- Cooperative, team player
- Well mannered
- Conservative (※can be good)
- Too much work
- Too strict
- Close mind
- Too serious
- Stressful (because of their too much work)
- Can’t speak English well
- Less straightforward
- Not be honest
- No smile or laugh at all
- Computer geeks
- Too skinny
This is quite funny for me, because most of them don’t really apply to me. Not only me, but they don’t seem to apply to my friends and coworkers either. Stereotypes, even popular stereotypes, are often wrong. With the stereotypes listed above, I can find a lot of exactly the opposite of Japanese people.
When it comes to “Shy” which most foreigners had in their mind for example, more and more Japanese people are getting to express their thoughts recently. For example, think about Japanese YouTubers, celebrities, and game show people. In Tokyo, YouTubers are quite famous and idolized nowadays.
Another example, for regular people (non famous people) is Halloween. Halloween has become quite popular in Japan recently and many Japanese people wear crazy costumed and dress up. They are very creative and loud.
I don’t think shy people would do those kind of things.
Another good example is Grace’s husband, Ryosuke. Do you think Ryosuke is shy? Do you really think he’s too serious and no smile at all?
You must know as well as me Japanese stereotype isn’t really true. We all know that.
But, sometimes we forget that unconsciously.
■My personal experience
When I studied in Canada 2 years ago, I met a very nice Canadian girl in my school. She was extremely gorgeous, so I intentionally took the same class as her and tried to become close friends.
After a few weeks later we’ve met, I finally did ask her to go on a date. Obviously it took me a lot of courage to do that. I was so nervous and scared a lot!
And she said “Oh, I don’t think so. Sorry.”
“Why? You said nothing special on this weekend, right?” I asked.
“Because you’re a Japanese. Honestly I’m not interested in Japanese.”
It took me 10 seconds to input her words into my brain properly, but honestly I couldn’t figure it out what’s going on at all. I tried to think she’s just joking, but seemed it wasn’t at that time. I totally didn’t know what to say. Just shocked a lot..
I didn’t understand her way of thinking. For example, if earlier I had said something rude to her and she thought I was a bad person, then I would understand if she refused my request to go on a date. It’d be definitely my fault and I can know that it was because of my bad personality.
But if the reason someone doesn’t want to date you is because of something you cannot chance at all, no matter how hard you try (in this case, because my race is Japanese). That is hard to understand for me.
After a couple month later, her close classmate secretly told me why she refused me. The girl thought because I am Asian, I’m not funny, not open-minded, too serious, and always studying. It was her idea that I wouldn’t like to hang out with anyone and would be a bad boyfriend. On top of that, she even thought because I was Japanese, I like Anime and manga so much, which she thought was weird.
It was hard for me to hear someone have so many stereotypes about me because I am Japanese and Asian and decide she didn’t want to date me because of those stereotypes.
■Generalizing can be risky
I think generalizing is sometimes OK. For example before you come to Japan, you can assume our tradition, food, culture, habits, or something like that. In that way, you can adapt yourself to a new country easily.
But generalizing all people is risky, because people are all different. And generalizing stereotypes can end up hurting someone accidentally – and can make you lose out on friendships and experiences. No matter how often you hear from websites or TV shows about stereotypes (both positive and negative), you shouldn’t believe them 100%!
To be honest with you, I also often generalize people. I’m trying to stop generalizing so much, but it is hard.
When I started street interview for my YouTube channel, I asked a white girl, “Do you have a 3 minutes to spare?” assuming she speaks English of course. But turned out she can’t speak English at all. She is a native Japanese who was born and raised in Japan.
I was so ashamed about what I said and apologized a lot. She was very kind, so seemed she didn’t care at all, but I really really felt bad. Because what I did is exactly the same thing people did to me when I lived outside of Japan, thinking like, “every Asian person must be Chinese so we should speak Chinese to them.”
■We’re all different
We all know we shouldn’t generalize people, but accidentally do so. It’s easy to generalize with stereotypes, especially because media and TV shows exaggerate stereotypes all the time. These TV shows make fun of stereotypes and trick us into believing them, without actually seeing it ourselves.
Always remember: each person is unique and totally different. Each person has different family and personal history, so obviously has different personality and preference, even if they are from the same country. Remember your high school years, were you the same as everyone else in your school?
What if Grace assumed Japanese men are too shy, too serious, not funny at all, and didn’t think about dating at all? What if Ryosuke assumed American women are too straightforward, too scaring, and too self-assertive? Maybe if they believed these stereotypes without challenging them, they would not have fallen in love. Then maybe the cutest couple in this world would never have existed, which would make me so sad.
I really feel sorry for the people who assume stereotypes about people before they talk with us, and decide not to hang out at all. I don’t want you to have both positive and negative stereotype until you actually get to know about the person!
About the author:
My name is Nobita, a native Japanese guy who was born and raised in Japan. I’m a web designer / blogger in Japan. I LOVE JAPAN!!! My YouTube channel, “Find Your Love in Japan” is quite new. It’s basically street-interviews about Love
and Japan. I can find my love, hopefully!! I also have a blog here (but it’s all in Japanese).