Dispelling Japanese stereotypes

Anime and manga are genres associated with Japan for obvious reasons. They are popular amongst the majority of the local community, in all stages of life. However, it is common to find people wrongly assuming that any random Japanese would be familiar with everything there is to know about its distinctive comics or animations. More often than not, the nation’s cultural creations are forms of selective entertainment. Not many claim to be ‘otaku’, or in other words one who is passionate and borderline obsessive about this Japanese art culture.

When its local cuisine became popular in Western countries during the 1990s, many understood it to be a diet of sushi. Although since then this conception has changed, at times Japanese individuals still find themselves being challenged by those who think they know Japanese food. On top of that, their idea of sushi is rice rolled with seaweed when in fact most locals define it as rectangular-shaped rice with a single seafood topping. There is a great variety of other delicious dishes that one can find after looking past the sushi section in menus.

Mitsubishi, Toyota, Sony and Nintendo. These are some of the huge corporations in Japan that specialise in the manufacture of electronic and technological products. However, the country is not swarmed by IT experts as is relentlessly believed. Believe it or not, computers are a rarity in households and the percentage of locals with good IT knowledge is relatively small. A Japanese student revealed that in terms of education, there is little emphasis on computer-based research, while new technology, even if it is the brainchild of their own country, is not readily or quickly available to the general public.

Then there are the exaggerated archetypes, from overly polite Japanese who bow all the time even when talking over the phone, businessmen who work all night, to ogling high school girls and participants of unusually strange game shows. These impressions are hyped up by media portrayals of the country and are not a realistic reflection of the Japanese community. They are much more than that.

Such stereotypes are constructed when society takes what little they know about another country and magnifies it to mirror its understanding. Once that magnifying glass is broken, you would see that there is a lot to learn about that country. By becoming open to the many different aspects of various cultures, it would then be possible to break the magnifying glass that other countries hold up to ours.


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