Three Myths About Japan and the Japanese

It’s easy for myths about Japan and its people to flourish, because after all, it’s a foreign country located far away. Well, here’s the truth regarding a few popular misconceptions.

Japan is an exotic locale for most of us, so it’s no surprise that myths about Japan are common in our popular culture. Most (though certainly not all) of these myths are positive ones, which may seem odd at first glance, since we fought a devastating war with Japan just over 60 years ago.

Of course, modern Japan seems to display the same cheerful industrialism that made America itself great. This may be one reason they get such high marks from American observers. Whatever the case, in this article we’ll take a look at some popular myths about Japan and reveal the truth, according to the experts.

Myth 1: There’s very little violent crime in Japan.

One of the myths about Japan that everyone knows is that it’s a much safer country than the United States. Well, maybe so — but not all the Japanese would agree. Some Japanese, and Americans who have lived in the country for many years, tell that many crimes — even violent ones — simply aren’t reported.

Clearly, that would tend to keep the national crime statistics artificially low, which would lead many pundits to declare that Japan is safer than the U.S. It may be, but it’s hard to tell, because we’re not measuring from a level playing field. People are people everywhere, and crime happens in Japan, too.

Myth 2: All Japanese people belong to one cohesive ethnic group.

While the Japanese are a remarkably homogenous cultural group, this myth about Japan isn’t entirely true. Most Japanese are clearly Asian, but not all. Some are descended from Africans or Europeans. Even among the majority Asian population, there are many Japanese of Korean, Chinese, and Filipino descent.

There are also several minority groups, including the Ainu, Ryukyuan, and Hisabetsu Buraku peoples, whose cultures are related to but distinct from the mainstream Japanese. The Ainu are biologically distinct as well, having some Caucasian characteristics most Japanese lack, including beards among the men.

Myth 3: Hiroshima and Nagasaki are still devastated wastelands.

While it would be logical to assume that this myth about Japan is true, given the atomic bomb strikes both cities suffered at the end of World War II, it isn’t. No atomic bomb is lightly shrugged off, but the Nagasaki and Hiroshima bombs were relatively small, and the radiation dissipated.

It’s true that the blasts flattened both cities and killed hundreds of thousands of people — however, it wasn’t long before the cities were rebuilt. Today, both are busy metropolises. Nagasaki’s Ground Zero is in a pretty tree-lined park. Hiroshima’s is in the downtown business district, covered with concrete and tall buildings.

Don’t let these myths about Japan and the Japanese steer you in the wrong direction!