Japanese Stereotypes (Guest Post)

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?”

photo1 guest post nobita

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.

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ParcpL6LjB8&feature=youtu.be

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3cX-Eqqfl58&feature=youtu.be

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.

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■Positive  Stereotypes

  • Polite
  • Slim
  • Cute (※especially Japanese girls)
  • Hard-working
  • Kind
  • Respectful
  • Intelligent
  • Disciplined
  • Educated
  • Good at math
  • Good at computer and machine
  • Formal
  • Cooperative, team player
  • Discipline
  • Clean
  • Friendly
  • Rich
  • Punctual
  • Healthy
  • Well mannered

 

■Negative Stereotype

  • Shy
  • Quiet
  • 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
  • Cold
  • Not be honest
  • No smile or laugh at all
  • Computer geeks
  • Too skinny

 

photo2 guest post nobita

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.

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■My personal experience

photo3 guest post nobita

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.”

“..What??”

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.

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■Generalizing can be risky

photo4 guest post nobita

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.”

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■We’re all different

photo5 guest post nobita

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:

bio-photo guest post nobita

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).

 

 

 

About Grace Buchele Mineta

I got into the writing business by accident. Now I live in the countryside near Tokyo with my husband, Ryosuke, where I draw comics, blog, and make videos about our daily life. Contact: Website | More Posts

33 Comments on Japanese Stereotypes (Guest Post)

  1. Shy yes, but I never noticed a lack of laughing. Of course laughing is infectious and I’m always giggling and usually set people off laughing in my solo adventures in Japan.

  2. This is so great, two of my favorite youtubers met each others randomly like that :D And this is so great article! ^^<3

  3. Wonderful article. Yet, from my personal experience, most Japanese people don’t share those beliefs with you, At least not yet. I hope since Japan has become so open to tourism recently, things will change.

  4. Well it’s rare to find ALL the stereotypes in one person, and one shouldn’t assume them about individuals, but in general, I understand why stereotypes exist. Especially when you’re looking from the outside or comparing with your own culture (interestingly enough, this mentality requires making a stereotype of your own culture!)

    If I had stereotypes about Japanese people, well they have stereotypes about me as well. Now I’m used to living here and everyone’s just “people” to me^^

  5. Isabela Silveira // 22 November, 2015 at 8:11 am //

    Great article! I completely agree with everything you wrote. I lived in Tsukuba for one year, and, at first, I thought my friends would probably be other foreign students. After summer vacation, I was so happy because I made 4 of the best, most wonderful, friends I have ever had in my life! And 3 of them are japanese. Each one with a different and great personality! And I don’t even speak japanese fluently… at all!!! I was so embarressed that I couldn’t speak the same language as my best friends. But they were so kind that, even when I was with only my japanese friends, they would make an effort to speak to eachother and me in English.

    • Good for you!! I’m so glad to hear that you got great Japanese friends even though you don’t speak Japanese well.

  6. I can’t get over women just looking at a guy and saying, “Nah, I could never be interested in HIM.”

    Unless he has prominent swastika tattoos.

    • Hahaha. Prominent swastika tattoos are probably the only 100% dealbreaker “no” in my book, as far as judging by a first glance.

      I always found it difficult at sleepovers when everyone would be like “I want a tall guy with blue eyes, what’s YOUR ideal guy?” – and all I’d give were personality traits (funny, quirky, fearless) instead of physical traits (because you can’t help what your born looking like). It used to drive my friends crazy.

  7. Well as a black French woman I am sometimes overwhelmed by stereotypes about me. In Japan I have to deal with how Japanese people view me and also as non black people or non- French people view me. But to be honest I do not really care about people’s opinion as I even stood out in my family . I have always been the weird one haha

  8. the “too cold” “shy” and “don`t laught” stereotype people have obviously never been to Osaka, lol

  9. zoomingjapan // 21 November, 2015 at 6:14 pm //

    That’s a problem everywhere, stereotypes never show the truth and never fit for everyone. Generalizing just makes it easier for people to categorize or understand things.
    I’m a German woman who has lived in Japan for 7 years and don’t ask me what kind of stereotypes Japanese people were throwing at me all the time and pretty much none of them fit.

  10. Looks like that Canadian girl might have missed the chance to meet the love of her life because she was not open to experience something new.

  11. This was fun to read! I like how you point out that not generalizing is hard for everyone, and everyone messes up sometimes. I can’t believe that in this day and age someone would not only refuse to date someone because of their race, but say that right to their face! I’d say you dodged a bullet there. Rude girl wasn’t worth your time.

    • I will have to politely disagree. Sometimes you are just not attracted to people of certain race. You can’t force yourself to be physically attracted to someone

      • I agree. I’m a 23 year old white male living in Chicago. This topic comes up from time to time in my Psych and Sociology classes. I don’t believe I’m racist toward black people, but I’m just not interested in them. There was one girl in high school I kind of like, but it was her personality I liked.

        I can’t force myself to like women who are dark-skinned (not a specific race either, just generally dark) but I can’t talk about because I’ll be deemed racist.

  12. Hadley it happens too often that people judge other only due to the stereotypes they know…sure some stereotypes can be applied to rather many people of a country but in the end it is just terrible to “dislike” or “refuse” others due to some stupid ideas you might have I your mind

  13. Thanks for the wonderful piece Nobita! It’s true that all of us, as humans, feel the need to “group” or categorize everything – including people, unfortunately. The really good thing about today’s globalization is that it’s so much easier to get to know individuals instead of ‘groups’ – my grandparents and parents barely knew anyone of another culture & if they did, it was people that were trying to acclimate to the US so they didn’t emphasize their home cultures (which was really too bad).When I went to college, I met so many people of different colors, ethnicity, and culture. It was WONDERFUL. There are lingering stereotypes, but I think they are being slowly eroded over time as more and more people meet and become friends. It’s harder to believe stereotypes when you actually know someone! I don’t think stereotypes will ever go away, but I have hope…. It’s people like you & Grace & Ryosuke that are speeding the erosion of stereotypes – keep up the fight and know that there are so many people out here that are with you!

  14. OMG!!! I loved this! Thanks Grace and Ryosuke for featuring it. Arigatou.
    I have heard a lot of Stereotypes here in the USA about Japan and Japanese. I am slowing turning people around about Japan, the people, the culture and the Food.

    People look at me and ask have you been to Japan? I am like nope but one day I will be and I will stay there! The look on their faces is in utmost shock, then they ask why and I spend about 1-2 hours of their time explaining why I love Japan and want to live there.

    After that they seem content and then tell me that they too want to visit Japan now, because of what I have told them. Not once did I mention Really anime except for Hayao Miyazaki movies that I have and that I watch them in Japanese to help me with my learning.

    I also tell them I love my country but my heart and soul belongs to Japan, and it has been that way since I was very little. They are like “since you have never been there, how do you know?” I have to reply because I just do…..It’s a feeling that has been deeply rooted in me for years and has never gone away.

    I fully believe you can’t judge a person on how they look or stereotype someone because everyone is unique! And yeah Grace caught herself a lively one in Ryosuke,but he is himself Captain America/Poop Hat in all. He always makes my daughter and I laugh when we watch him and Grace’s videos. And we Have their books too. Grace is the calm to Ryosuke’s liveliness, they are a perfect match. And one day I will find mine, but until then I will live my life with my daughter and enjoy everything that life has to offer and dream of going to the country my heart and soul yearns to be in…..Beautiful Japan.

  15. Self-reflection is something everyone should do! Kudo’s to you for being open-minded :) They should teach kids in school more about this subject. The media wants you to believe stereotypes because it is controlled by politics :(

  16. Richard A. // 20 November, 2015 at 3:37 pm //

    Here’s one note about stereotyping a Japanese person: At the World Square Dance Convention in Seefeld, Austria some years ago, after a break in the dancing one afternoon, my wife and I walk out onto the floor as new squares are being formed at the beginning of a new series of calls, or “tip”. Into my corner of the square comes a couple who seem clearly to be Japanese. They are sharply dressed, in understated elegance; he looks every bit the gentleman and she every bit the lady, makeup carefully applied and not a hair out of place in her coiffure (as Grace has often commented in her blog posts regarding Japanese women and their appearance). Considering the international flavor of the event, as the lady steps into place to become my “corner” I reach deep into my (then) fifteen-word Japanese vocabulary, come up with “konnichi wa” and speak that to her. No response but a blank stare. Thinking that perhaps she didn’t hear me, I repeat “konnichi wa”, but again receive only a blank stare, although she does seem to know I spoke to her. Wondering if perhaps I had misjudged their nationality, I ask “Nippon-jin des ka?” Still a blank stare, so I finally break down and ask in plain English “You are Japanese, aren’t you?”, to which she replies in clear American English: “Yes, but I’m from Los Angeles”. Punctured that balloon! Turned out they were (are) fourth-generation resident American citizens, and spoke no Japanese at all. Just goes to show . . . . . .

    If you really want to be stereotyped, try getting old.

  17. Those Canadians!

  18. Watched few of his videos and just had to subscribe
    He got great videos!

    • tsubasaoji // 20 November, 2015 at 9:51 pm //

      Wow, thank you so much for saying so!! I was pretty worry about my English and how non-Japanese people react.

      Your words makes me happy!!

  19. This is a great post!
    But interesting timing because I was JUST talking about this with (my bf) Ryosuke. We were watching Grace and Ryosuke’s video about the Chichibu temples and he realized how different their personalities were. He can be quiet and reserved unless talked to while Grace’s Ryosuke is (at least in the videos) quite playful and really, really talkative/energetic.

    Coming from Miami myself we have a large population of hispanic (Cuban, Colombian, Puerto Rican, Domincan, Venezuela, Argentina, etc) people and they also bring a whole different look on people’s pesonalities.
    The same works for the usual ‘stereotype’ of asian/Japanese people.

    I feel like despite what we may look like–there are all kinds of people and each one is different because they are who they are not what skin type/where they were born/etc.

    Funny that Nobitaさん tried speaking English to a white girl and turned out she was Japanese. :)

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