The top 10 words to describe Japanese people (according to foreigners)

The top 10 words to describe Japanese people (according to foreigners) Japan Global Marketing Database

TOKYO —

There isn’t a country in the world immune from stereotypes. All people form opinions about places and their inhabitants based on whatever they can glean from the food, tourism, and art of the culture. But not all sweeping generalizations have to be mean and unfounded.

The results on a thread on Madame Riri asking for the “perfect words to describe Japanese people” were surprisingly positive.

Here are the most common adjectives that Westerners chose when characterizing the people of Japan.

#1. Polite

Weighing in at number one was polite, or in Japanese “reigi tadashii.” Everyone has heard of the traditional Japanese bow used as a greeting during any given exchange. Though handshakes are perfectly common in Japan now, they more often than not come with a bow as well (or two or three). To the Western mindset, this style of address already seems much more polite than a simple handshake, high-five, or shoulder clap. Of course, the term “polite” in and of itself doesn’t only have a positive connotation. It’s possible to remain too polite and distant from a person, even if you’ve known them for quite a while.

#2. Punctual

Japan takes its time management very seriously. The Japan Railway (JR) and other connecting subways and train systems are well-known for their incredibly punctual schedules. As such, when there is a delay of even a minute, the whole system gets thrown off. Trains often issue late slips for passengers to take to their employers if their trains get delayed. After all, it leaves a very bad impression if you’re late to work.

#3. Kind

Unlike polite, which can have its downsides, kind is a genuinely positive word. In Japanese, words with similar connotations to the English phrase are “yasashii” or “omoyari no aru,” meaning “thoughtful of others.” One sterling example of this is the custom of bringing a gift (usually food) when you visit another person’s house in Japan. This praiseworthy adjective was the third-most repeated term in the thread. That’s a winning score on anyone’s report card.

#4. Hard-working

A hard-worker or “hataraki-mono” is definitely a common word that classifies a Japanese mindset. In a culture where your job is supposed to take precedence over even your family at times, it’s unsurprising that foreign nationals would latch on to this particular description. There is even a word for “death by overwork” in Japanese (“karoshi”). It’s not uncommon for people to work several more hours after their contractual quitting time and, if you’re not a contract worker, that means that you aren’t paid for that overtime. Even if you have a “haken” (contracted job), it’s still considered rude to leave right on schedule.

#5. Respectful

Another tie-in with polite, respectful or “tanin ni taishite keii wo hyo suru” to loosely describe it in Japanese, is a mainly positive word. However, it can sometimes be associated with distance. With the epidemic of idolization in Japan, it’s also possible to take respect just a bit too far. Many Westerners find the concept of being so respectful to their elders a bit outside the norm. But in Japan, the older you get, the wiser you are considered and the more respectfully you’re treated. You’ll get in big trouble if you use informal language with a person older than you unless they’re family. Even then, some relatives still expect proper formal language befitting of their senior status.

#6. Shy

An overall impression of the citizens of Japan is that they’re very shy people, or “hazukashigariya”. This might be linked to their focus on politeness and respect. It is true that you don’t always hear a lot of outspoken Japanese people, especially tourists in foreign countries, but this might be for a different reason altogether. Many Japanese people worry about their foreign language skills and fear saying something incorrectly in English when they talk to native speakers. Conversation practice has only recently become a staple of English classes in Japan. 

#7. Intelligent

There’s a definite stereotype of people from Asian countries being the brainy cream of the crop. Whether this is factually correct or not wasn’t technically relevant to the survey thread, but it certainly was a nice compliment. The Japanese word for intelligent is “kashikoi.” Incidentally, if you tried to say the katakana pronunciation of smart, “sumato,” that actually means to be thin and attractive in Japanese. Not that they’re mutually exclusive adjectives, but be careful of confusing your Japanese friends by trying to call someone intelligent and accidentally calling them slim and sexy.

#8. Grouping

You know how girls are always said to travel in packs? Same goes for Japanese people, apparently. A word of advice to any aspiring English teachers in Japan is to make lots of group activities. Unlike America, where group work is often disliked because sharing the workload with other students inevitably means that it gets divided unequally, Japanese students thrive off of it. They prefer not to have to voice their opinions alone, but would rather share ideas with their peers and make a group decision. In a class of thirty Japanese kids, not many people want to stand up by themselves and read out of an English textbook. But put everyone in groups of three and make them read it in turns and you’ve got yourself an engaged classroom.

#9. Formal

Tying in with polite, Japan has a reputation for being very formal. This manifests itself in both manner and language. Japanese has many different formality levels depending on who you’re addressing. This can be tiresome for people attempting to learn the language, and it can also lead to crossed wires between friends, especially in the case of foreigners and Japanese people. An American might wonder why their friend still calls them “David-san” when they’ve known each other for a few years. Far from wanting to keep distance between them, the Japanese friend might just be waiting for David to mention that they don’t really need to keep titles between them. After all, without checking first, it can be considered rude to suddenly stop using formal language (an act called “yobisute” or “dropping the name honorific”).

#10. Clean

Many Internet users have seen Japanese tourists pick up trash from around campsites and rest stops even when they didn’t make the mess themselves. This habit and others added the description of clean to the list. Did you know that Japanese students clean their schools by themselves? No janitors, just students hauling trash bags, sweeping the steps, and wiping down the halls with washcloths for a good 30 minutes each day. Most storefront owners sweep up the sidewalks and streets outside their stores, too. Making it your business to keep communal space clean is a distinctly different mindset from some Western countries. Just think of all the gum-strewn, littered streets of big cities in America. 

Overall, the impression of Japan from a Westerner’s eyes is pretty darn good, though perhaps a bit lacking in the relaxed and fun-loving department. My personal word pick for Japan would be focused. Whether it’s staying after school for 3 hours practicing with the baseball club, going to cram schools to get into good colleges, or clocking in extra hours of unpaid work at their jobs, Japanese people seem to find a goal and stick with it. Even in more fun pursuits, Japanese people throw themselves into their hobbies and work with a zeal that is truly commendable, in my humble opinion.

Source: Madame Riri

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The importance of social etiquette in urban Japan

RocketNews24

  • 19

    bicultural

    Oh dear lord, I can already imagine the responses. Remember people, generalization.

  • 14

    Viclovesdrama

    All of this points are true and I am extremely expressed by the dedication some people have but of course the longer you stay in Japan and the more Japanese you can speak, you realise a lot of them are for appearance only and that there exceptions to the rule (sometimes a lot).

  • 41

    kimuzukashiiiii

    Im with..

    11 - Fake. Completely and utterly fake. In the sense that you can work with someone for 20 years and know very little about them, know about what their likes and dislikes are, what makes them tick. They hide their entire individuality in order to fit in to society, and be robot-like workers.

    This whole facade about keeping the social harmony makes for a lot of people hiding their true personalities.

    It happens most in dating, I think, Many guys who marry Japanese women also find, that after marriage, they start to show their true personalities, which are often very unlike the role they played, while dating.

    I know the Yankii type people get a lot of stick in this country, but In my experience, they are the only ones who will actually not hide behind the "Im a majime Japanese" mask, and tell it like it actually is. I suppose thats why Japanese people hate them so much.

  • -12

    Tamarama

    kimuzukashiii

    11 - Fake. Completely and utterly fake. In the sense that you can work with someone for 20 years and know very little about them, know about what their likes and dislikes are, what makes them tick. They hide their entire individuality in order to fit in to society, and be robot-like workers.

    That, it seems to me, is an extremely culturally imperialistic assessment of life in Japan.

  • 12

    tokyo_eiyuu

    10. So true, every morning at 530am when I run I see the legions of old folks walking around with tongs and plastic bags cleaning up trash on the streets. I see old couples walking and picking up trash on their strolls. This amazes me and I am utterly impressed that people pick up trash that they do not generate. I will say that this activity is exclusive to OLD folks only. I have never seen any middle-aged or younger folks partaking in this act, I can only hope the youngins can learn from example.

  • -3

    falseflagsteve

    This top 10 lark sounds more like Japanese think of themselves not what us outsiders do.

    Sounds more like a made up article to me. Number 8 talking about grouping, leave off! A small amount of foreigners in Japan are American and for the most part the don't do much, and how many in Japan are English teachers, erm , those that can't do much else really.

  • 2

    LiveInTokyo

    I'm guessing the respondents were your typical, been-living-in-Japan-for-a-year, wet-behind-the-ears newbies to Japan, still dazzled by the 'culture' etc....

    I'm in complete agreement with you here bilderberg_2015.

  • 1

    papasmurfinjapan

    Actually I think it's a pretty good list. The only one I really disagree with is 10. Clean.

    Japanese tourists pick up trash from around campsites and rest stops even when they didn’t make the mess themselves

    hahahahaha... I have never, not once, seen a Japanese person pick up someone elses trash. Sure I'm sure there are people that do it, but it certainly isn't a national trait.

    Did you know that Japanese students clean their schools by themselves?

    They don't do it because they want to. It's just part of school. It doesn't make them "cleaner"

    Making it your business to keep communal space clean is a distinctly different mindset from some Western countries.

    This is true. Many companies clean up outside their office - but only directly outside their office - and like the students, they don't do it because they want to. It's just part of their job.

    The problem is they can spend all the time in the world making the outside of their company beautiful, but ever had a sales rep come to your place drenched in sweat, with bad breath, and materials wreaking of cigarette smoke? Happens all the time to me. I think sales reps back home make a bit more of an effort to be, or at least, appear clean.

  • 24

    Probie

    1. Polite, #3. Kind, #5. Respectful, #10. Clean

    Whoever said these has never been on a train during rush-hour.

    4. Hard-working

    If you mean, sitting at your desk doing hardly anything during your regular working hours, and then starting work when it gets to overtime?

  • 2

    Daijoboots

    I'm guessing the respondents were your typical, been-living-in-Japan-for-a-year, wet-behind-the-ears newbies to Japan, still dazzled by the 'culture' etc....

    That or your have-gotten-over-the-persecution-complex-and-all-kinds-of-other-mental-ssues-that-may-arise-after-the-first-year. I pity those who seem perpetually negative and use pretty much anything to bash Japan.

  • 0

    jojotoday

    bilderberg_2015AUG. 28, 2013 - 08:27AM JST I'm guessing the respondents were your typical, been-living-in-Japan-for-a-year, wet-behind-the-ears newbies to Japan, still dazzled by the 'culture' etc....

    Spot on... Or just being polite and not giving totally honest answers.

    On the original story, two commenters have written "weird" and "Hentai". Lol. Those would be good additions. As Kimazukashiii mentioned, "Fake" would be another. I'd replace Kind, Intelligent and Polite on the list with those three. Haha

  • 12

    DNALeri

    I would add childish (booms, fads), utterly superstitious (power spots), frustrated (in relations with the West) and gullible (ore-ore scams).

  • 6

    cl400

    Well said kimuzukashiiiii. And fake goes hand in hand with fake-clean. Have you seen how filthy kitchens are in restaurants? Especially busy fast food chains. Classier restaurants seem to be OK but from what I have seen, I sometimes wonder if health inspectors exist here, and if they do, boy are they getting some hefty pay offs to tic all the wrong boxes.

  • 1

    Novenachama

    Some foreigners are not very much aware that Japan was controlled by an autocratic government for a long period of time and became a democratic state relatively recently with defeat in the Pacific War in 1945. Therefore the Japanese had to equip themselves to survive in those autocratic times. As a result the Japanese characteristics are deeply ingrained to the history of Japan and although it is gradually changing, it still underlies in daily life. Therefore it is useful to refer to Japanese history for an overall understanding of the characteristics and development.

  • -1

    JA_Cruise

    again, there is always exceptions to generalisations, but I think we all get the gist of it.

  • 19

    gaijinfo

    #3 Kind

    This is only when other people are looking, and they're trying to maintain their Japanese image. When nobody's looking (e.g. knocking on the door on the toilet, NOT turning off their high beams, not holding open the door for somebody behind them, speaking Japanese about a foreigner when they think they can't understand them) this alleged "kindness" goes out the window.

    #4 Hard Working

    I suppose if you consider staying at the office late just because the boss does, or putting in a lot of effort to pretend to be productive, then I guess that counts. Hard working yes, exceptionally productive, no.

    #7 Intelligent

    Can they take and pass tests? Yes. Can they take existing technology and make it better? Yes. Can they take a blueprint for a complicated product, and build it with extreme efficiency? Yes.

    Can they think outside the box, be creative, and come up with novel solutions to old problems? No.

  • 10

    JSTOKYO

    When it comes to cleanliness (or, rather lack thereof), one just needs to visit a men's public restroom or toilet. I see fewer than one in ten Japanese men wash their hands after using the toilet (even after doing a number 2, or taking a poop). Even then, they usually do not use soap and only run one or two fingers under water for about half a second, just in case someone is looking.

    I think there's a reason why Japanese people do not like to shake hands. They don't trust the cleanliness of the other person.

  • 8

    crustpunker

    Japan takes its time management very seriously.

    I totally agree with this, In any kind of "official" event, work related etc...being 5-10 min. generally early equates to being "on time". When hanging out with good friends, it's perhaps less important to be so punctual because, your Japanese friends all understand that if you are coming from work, than it almost NEVER finishes ON time.

    I wouldn't say that Japanese are good at time management AT ALL. They are very very good at being early/punctual but never ever FINISH anything "on time" (unless you are talking about a train arriving at a platform...usually,I mean, if someone hasn't been pushed or thrown themselves under it...)

    It's funny because the article goes on and sez: Its not uncommon for people to work several more hours after their contractual quitting time and, if youre not a contract worker, that means that you arent paid for that overtime. Even if you have a haken (contracted job), its still considered rude to leave right on schedule

    How is that taking time management "very seriously"? lol.

    Perhaps something more like "The Japanese take overtime very seriously and many cannot wait until their contracted hours end so that they can actually begin to start working."

    generalization I know but, that's what we is talkin' 'bout aye?

  • 3

    bass4funk

    I too think this list is a pretty good list on most of them I would agree, although some are are a bit muddled. Of course, you have to put everything in proper context and not over generalize.

    1 and 3. Japanese are polite, sometimes too polite in certain situations it can be a bit of a concern, ex. When you go and buy your food and when you are in a hurry, I prefer less bowing and more running, the second is, customer service is excellent in Japan until you leave and come back, the repeat customer service and attitude needs to change and put more emphasis on caring and not just being polite, because the culture dictates it.

    1. Sometimes I feel that many Japanese want a badge of honor when they say, I love a hardworking person. You're supposed to work hard or when women say, they respect men that work hard. Nothing wrong with hard work, but here it is overkill, on the job is bad enough, but I do feel bad for the kids. They are out all day and late into the night studying and studying, when do they have time to be kids. I'm all for getting good grades, but kids need to have a life as well.

    2. I think Japan has a lot of intelligent people, but this, being a humble society and modest makes it very difficult to tell who is really intelligent or not, if you are the nail that sticks out, you get hammered down. Therefore, we really don't know a persons TRUE personality and intellectual trait. This is something that culturally needs to be changed.

    3. Japan is one of the cleanest countries around, sometimes a bit too clean. I still have yet to find some park benches, so I can rest. I know they don't want a lot of homeless to congregate in the parks, but sitting on a bench now and then won't hurt anyone.

    @flag

    Sounds more like a made up article to me. Number 8 talking about grouping, leave off! A small amount of foreigners in Japan are American and for the most part the don't do much, and how many in Japan are English teachers, erm , those that can't do much else really.

    I thought this thread was about describing Japanese people. I didn't hear anything about it saying making generalizations of Americans and how did Americans become part of this topic. Just sayin.....

  • -1

    lucabrasi

    @bass

    I just found myself agreeing with every single point in one of your posts.

    I need a lie-down : )

  • 0

    80393

    I didn't hear anything about it saying making generalizations of Americans

    actually it did. a couple times. america is usually used as a foil in these articles to make japan seem superior.

    Just think of all the gum-strewn, littered streets of big cities in America.

    Unlike America, where group work is often disliked because sharing the workload with other students inevitably means that it gets divided unequally

  • 3

    papigiulio

    Love the comments of some of the long timers here, I can only agree. :)

  • 1

    DeDe Miura

    The elderly have lots of time on their hands to pick up trash. Also, it's also a regular neighborhood activity with jijikai's... it's not like they want to do it -it's a must. Nobody mentioned how Mnt. Fuji has been so full of trash and garbage that it couldn't be designated as a World Heritage site and only now is a Cultural Heritage site. People dump tons of large trash down the other side of the mountain. I think "fake"is a fitting term... honnei/tatemai.... it's part of the culture. It drives me batty.

  • 5

    OrangeXenon54

    This list is laughable. It should be "Top 10 words to describe Japanese people by weeaboos and Japanese people themselves". Anyone living in Japan longer than a year knows this isn't true and is mostly a facade. Don't get me wrong, there are really genuinely nice Japanese people, but they're usually the ones who are globally self-aware and aren't the unquestionably-loyal-to-their-company types.

  • 20

    warewarenihonjin

    1 Polite

    I don't think so! Spit in a station, long coughing, gargle spit then "ptoo" on a form front of other people. Then don't stand for older or pregnant lady. Cough and sneeze not cover a mouth even in a restaurant.

    2 Punctual

    Only for working time bottom on chair. Working is maybe one hour later. Many times late at a evening meeting, because pretend are so busy. Nonsense I think. Appoint is appoint.

    3 Kind

    Kind is give a seat to elder. Bring a gift to neighbors house is only like a rule. We must do like a ceremony. It is not kindness from a heart, only rule, and exactly no meaning.

    4 Hardworking

    Slow working is not hard working. If so hard worker, why you need so many hours for one day work? Work hard by eight hours, go home and play with kids – or make a kids with wife! Sit in a chair, look at ExCel, be silent in meeting and write a report for nobody will read is not real working. If you are hard worker, you can finish on a time.

    5 Respectful

    If so respectful, why pregnant ladies and elder must stand on a train? Why spit in a form?

    6 Shy

    Are you little girl? Grow up and speak each other. Afraid of others is not adult way.

    7 Intelligent

    Really? Look a TV. Is it intelligent discussing, or document? No, is so childish shout all a time. Can you discuss? No, must only agree, “So desu ne”…what is intelligent? Only follow a rule.

    8 Grouping

    Only if near a foregner, or doing a tour. If all Japanese, all be very silent, and make a distance between people. Even at a pool, ladies lie down all covered in a towel like a dead person! No communication, no group. If a rule says “Please do all together”, all a group must go, like summer festival. But only because is a rule. Usually, with other Japanese, #6 “Shy” is more a custom.

    9 Formal

    One more silly rule. Only pretending.

    10 Clean

    Ha ha ha! Is exactly a joke. If clean, don’t put a finger in a nose on a train. Wash hands after toilet. Cover a mouth if sneezing or stinky yawn. Actually, don’t do stinky yawn! Clean teeth, if so clean people. And don’t spit on a form.

    This article , I think, name should be, “What do Japanese people hope foeigner people think about Japanese”. Exactly so funny!

  • 4

    GW

    Yep a whole lotta tatemae tied to this top ten list, get past that & its a different world.

    The amount of garbage drivers toss in the country is truly sad & yes a lot of those gomi picker uppers aren't so much good samaritans but just conditioned to the task.

    The list was clearly taken by asking "good" foreigners these questions, you know the ones that come for 2weeks & then leave, they clearly never consulted any of us who hang about on jt LOL!

  • 2

    Daijoboots

    11 - Fake. Completely and utterly fake. In the sense that you can work with someone for 20 years and know very little about them, know about what their likes and dislikes are, what makes them tick. They hide their entire individuality in order to fit in to society, and be robot-like workers.

    If I worked with that person or people over twenty years I can assure you I would know them very well. But I wouldn't be so silly as to then extrapolate for an entire population or even other people and say they this and they that. I'm sorry to hear of this personal experience of yours.

  • 2

    papasmurfinjapan

    So true, every morning at 530am when I run I see the legions of old folks walking around with tongs and plastic bags cleaning up trash on the streets. I see old couples walking and picking up trash on their strolls

    Old people do this, yes, but as was pointed out - it's usually part of their community group program, and they'll happily do anything they are told during the designated group-activity hours.

    But the real test is, if while walking down the street in the middle of town, would they pick up someone elses trash and throw it away? In my experience here, the answer is no. They'll only pick up trash if they have their yellow jackets on and it is the designated trash collection activity time. It's better than nothing, mind you, but "picking up someone elses trash" is not what I'd call an innate Japanese quality.

    It's also often these old folks who then get in their cars, light up a cigarette, and throw their butts out the window of the car while driving.

    As for young people - well they're the ones making the mess, so of course they won't pick it up. Japanese beaches are a good example of young people leaving trash all over the place.

    I suppose compared to other parts of Asia, you could say Japanese are clean though. It's all about who you compare them to.

  • 5

    Tamarama

    Plenty of the 'glass half empty' brigade in full force today I see.

  • 4

    Itaru

    The Japan Railway (JR) and other connecting subways and train systems are well-known for their incredibly punctual schedules.

    I have found interesting article in "Tensei Jingo", editorial column of Asahi news paper around 1950s. It says something like below.

    "As everyone know, operation of Japanese National Railway is terribly inaccurate. None of trains runs on time. If your train arrive 30 minutes late, you are lucky. We should learn from how Americans work. GHQ (General Headquarters for occupation of Japan.) do all business in time. This difference is why Japan made miselable nation." I can not find a copy of article, so wording can be different but something like that.

    I do not have a copy of article now, and translation can be incorrect, but outline is something similar.

    Any way, I can imagine how people were upset about poor operation of JR at that time. And probably I thank United States for contribution to punctuality of Japan.

    Some people would like to find original article. I could not show precise page but it is probably somewhere in "Tensei Jingo" selection volume 1(1945.9-1949.12) or volume 2(1950- 1954). It is quite interesting to compare our self images, between 1950s and now.

  • 7

    papasmurfinjapan

    Plenty of the 'glass half empty' brigade in full force today I see.

    If you disagree with it, refute it with your positive examples. Prove the "Japan-bashing" nay-sayers wrong

    Don't just complain about it.

  • 3

    crustpunker

    @warewarenihonjin

    Kind is give a seat to elder. Bring a gift to neighbors house is only like a rule. We must do like a ceremony. It is not kindness from a heart, only rule, and exactly no meaning.

    Not kindness from the heart, yeah....that is so true. In general. However, in the right situation, I think that in many cases Japanese people tend to be very kind, as long as it's FOR a reason. Not so much kidness for the sake of simply being kind.

    How about to offset the slew of negativity (that i tend to agree with much of) everyone today does one completely random act of kidness, random act of picking up some trash, help someone out. See if it works...then report back in the comments section of this story.

    Go on!

  • 1

    kickboard

    By reading the comments posted here, I think they interviewed the wrong people. Next time they should stop interviewing people on the street and start interviewing people who sit behind their computers and complain all day, because they are the ones that truly understand the Japanese.

  • 7

    papasmurfinjapan

    Next time they should stop interviewing people on the street and start interviewing people who sit behind their computers and complain all day, because they are the ones that truly understand the Japanese.

    Or perhaps the complainers that complain about the complainers, yet really offer nothing insightful to the discussion themselves.

  • 0

    Get Real

    @Itaru-san,

    Great post! Should we blame Deming that things got so boring?

  • 9

    Peter Payne

    And yet, remember that it was Japanese who trashed Mt. Fuji, not respectful foreigners who often seem to love Japan more than its own people do. Seeing that (this was back in the early 90s) made me a sad panda.

  • -2

    letsberealistic

    Here is the original. The Japanese comments are interesting. Perhaps we should post a link back to here for them.

    http://tinyurl.com/o8p5vet

  • 0

    TokyoGas

    10. Clean

    The street/area I live is very, very neat and tidy. Just about every morning the lady next door is sweeping and the surrounding streets look good. My area of the Tamagawa is pretty clean but there are some areas where people have left trash. All-in-all, for my experience, the place is pretty clean.

  • 6

    Jimizo

    Excruciating article. I've read this countless times before or variations on it. This article is a perfect example of one if my gripes about Japanese - a tendency to over-generalise and trot out tired cliches about other cultures. They are certainly not alone in this.

  • 0

    letsberealistic

    1. Clean Only where people live unfortunately. The countryside and nature in Japan is apparently God's dumping ground. Always saddens me to see a beautiful natural environment littered with empty pet bottles and cigarette packs and my Japanese friends are surprised when I pick it up and throw it in a nearby bin.
  • 3

    smithinjapan

    Sorry, but to say "they" are anything is to generalize, bottom line. People are people, and everyone is different.

  • 1

    Novenachama

    It it so common and easy for people to make generalizations about people, culture etc. as indicated by this article. However are they fair, and accurate generalizations? No, it is not always true and their are exceptions. Broad statements or an idea that applies to a group of people or other things are often times generalization that are not entirely true because their may be examples of individuals or situations wherein the generalizations does not apply. Next time you find yourself making an overly broad statement about a topic or group of people, stop and think about whether you are make a generalization yourself. It might serve you well to learn how to take a person at face value and show respect for who they are as individuals.

  • 8

    papasmurfinjapan

    It might serve you well to learn how to take a person at face value and show respect for who they are as individuals.

    This is just a fluff piece that gives expats here a chance to vent... lighten up a little and just take everything with a grain of salt. I think these "jaded expat" posts are great entertainment.

    Now before you cry racism, I'm sure if JT allowed us to talk about our own countries, we'd have just as much, if not more to complain about.

    Just sit back and enjoy the fun.

  • 6

    Aizo Yurei

    I have a problem with #2 & #10

    2 Punctual - Yeah the trains and schedules for city transit are spot on but Japanese people are only punctual when it comes to arriving at appointments and obligations. Japanese are not good at time management at all! No one in any office finishes on time

    10 Clean - Nope. Been on a train? Half the salary guys have horrible hygiene. Mouth is stank, waki smells like tamanegi. (At least in Osaka) The streets are filthy. Cigarette butts and wrappers everywhere. Parks are littered. Elderly doing an extremely half -***ed job at cleaning the train stations, stains from vomit, drinks, and god knows what everywhere and everything is covered in years of dust if it's near the ceiling.

    I'm from the US and it's in no way any better than Japan but these are just myths.

  • 2

    Onsen

    If anyone can read the source, here it is.

    http://www.madameriri.com/2013/08/23/%E3%81%93%E3%82%8C%E3%81%8C%E6%97%A5%E6%9C%AC%E4%BA%BA%EF%BC%9F%E5%A4%96%E5%9B%BD%E4%BA%BA%E3%81%8C%E9%81%B8%E3%81%B6%E3%80%8C%E6%97%A5%E6%9C%AC%E4%BA%BA%E3%80%8D%E3%82%92%E8%A1%A8%E3%81%99%E3%83%94/

    What is amusing is that the title here is different from this article in JT. "This is the real Japanese? Top ten English words that foreigners chose that exactly describe the Japanese" Madame Riri's tongue-in-cheek humour no less.

    And the real source is here.

    http://www.wa-pedia.com/forum/threads/24720-10-adjectives-that-best-describe-your-image-of-the-Japanese-national-character/page2

    The word I would choose would be "insular mentality". Hardly surprising if you think about it.

  • 2

    John Occupythemoon Daly

    Fad-Lovering "THIS IS THE BEST THING EVER... until the next best thing ever". "Some famous person on TV said they lost weight by eating crayons and creosote, so I must go out and buy all the crayons and creosote I can find at the local store!"

    Probie, I just snorted all over my keyboard. Thanks for that.

  • -2

    cleo

    I'm sure if JT allowed us to talk about our own countries, we'd have just as much, if not more to complain about.

    The point being that JT does not encourage posters to engage in cultural/racial stereotypical generalisations about other countries - probably because posters from the countries under fire would rightly take umbrage. Sad that people feel the need to vent in this way about their neighbours.

    Smitty is spot-on.

  • -4

    cleo

    Hey I can laugh, papasmurf. Life is fun. I just don't see much laughter or fun going on in the sad lives of the people who feel the need to make a point of dissing whole groups of people on account of their nationality.

  • 6

    bass4funk

    @cleo

    The point being that JT does not encourage posters to engage in cultural/racial stereotypical generalisations about other countries - probably because posters from the countries under fire would rightly take umbrage. Sad that people feel the need to vent in this way about their neighbours. I just don't see much laughter or fun going on in the sad lives of the people who feel the need to make a point of dissing whole groups of people on account of their nationality.

    You know, you and the other usual suspects are toooo funny. If we point out flaws and things in the Japanese lifestyle that is either strange or annoying to us, we are Japanese bashers?? But when there is a thread on Anything that has to deal with the US, it's a justifiable, meaningful and critical debate?? Amazing. Everyone is fair game and that includes Japan. By the way, might I ad, unlike the vitriol that you post about the US, I don't see anything here that is nasty, rude, over-hyped or disrespectful. That should make you feel good. I'm having a good time and so should you.

    • Moderator

      Readers, please stop sniping at each other.

  • 6

    papasmurfinjapan

    I just don't see much laughter or fun going on in the sad lives of the people who feel the need to make a point of dissing whole groups of people on account of their nationality.

    That's because that is what this entire article is about. You expect them to write feel-good posts about how wonderfully perfect the locals are? The article is grossly incorrect in its depiction of real Japanese people. Posters here are simply telling it as it is.

    If you have something to add, be it positive or negative, then go ahead. Please. You are no different than posters dissing the Japanese you know - your own negativity is merely projected on other posters rather than the locals.

    • Moderator

      Readers, no more Japan bashing on this thread please, and do not bicker.

  • 9

    sandiegoluv

    This is by far the biggest nonsense I have seen a long time. What were the foreigners given? A list of ONLY ten things? I don't consider these to be Japanese attributes at all. When people ask me to describe Japanese people I always say one thing, "People are people". You have so many good, hard working honest people here and so many nasty, foul, abrasive and arrogant, snot-nosed people just like in every other country. I don't care where you are. You will find good people and bad ones as well. Polite ones and rude ones. PEOPLE ARE PEOPLE and these generalisations are nonsense at best.

  • 0

    cleo

    When people ask me to describe Japanese people I always say one thing, "People are people". You have so many good, hard working honest people here and so many nasty, foul, abrasive and arrogant, snot-nosed people just like in every other country. I don't care where you are. You will find good people and bad ones as well. Polite ones and rude ones. PEOPLE ARE PEOPLE and these generalisations are nonsense at best.

    Yes.

  • 2

    bass4funk

    I hope that these comments will apply to ALL future posts and to ALL cultures and countries.

  • 3

    mrkobayashi

    I agree with the list ... IN GENERAL. Of course there are exceptions. There always are.

  • 2

    slumdog

    The only word that can be absolutely used to describe Japanese people that is not up to individual interpretation is:

    Japanese

  • 3

    Piotr Gierszewski

    Politeness is one thing, and being sincere is something else. Politeness which is a formality is not sincere at all. You may hate someone but still you act politely because you are in the sphere of life which requires being polite (to use the Japanese terms). It's something that a person from western society wouldn't do. Western people usually think that if someone is polite that means he is a caring, loving person and his or her intentions are nothing but good. It's not the case in Japan though, because it's more like a daily routine. I think people are a bit hypersensitive about this in Japan. If someone breaches this law of politeness even a bit, the insulted person is obliged to protect own honour by either self-defence or revenge (and in extreme cases by ending own life). According to Forbes, Russia, France and Great Britain are on the other scale of politeness and are considered the rudest nations in the world. Still they are able to maintain a stable society without a rigid etiquette. Social contacts aren't very nice but people feel less stressed and scared.

  • 0

    Get Real

    Polite - a Jehovah's Witness yesterday complimented my manners when declaring "kaette itadaitemo kekkou desu." Hard to top that. Punctual - common sense. Don't steal people's time, and value your own, too. Kind - a complete stranger here once loaned me a car for a few days. Hard working - yeah, but do a cost benefit analysis, and work to live. Respectful - so is usted, vous or Sie substituted for tu or du. Shy - ehhh? yada! or is it not wanting to lose face? Intelligent - no more or less than anyone else, but Japanese do hate a smart arse. Grouping - to Americans, yes. To Indonesians, Japanese are individualistic. Formal - Californians might say that of New York? Clean - goes with the climate..

  • 1

    felix88

    Look at all the comments! What described in the article are just in honeymoon phase probably. Every country and people has their up and down, surprise, is it eleven already?

  • 3

    sandiegoluv

    Something more positive: after the earthquake and tsunami in northeast Japan many here commented how stoic the Japanese were; there was no rioting or looting and people calmly waited in queues for supplies. I think in many countries all hell would have broken loose.

    Great point and very true!

  • 0

    Marilita Fabie-Fujisawa

    Warewarenihonjin: I concur!

  • 1

    Thunderbird2

    For once I have to agree with a Moderator: why do threads like this always end up with people who live in Japan attacking the native population? Take a look at your own habits and personality before generalising.
    Rant over.

    The Japanese people I know are all pretty much as the list - apart from shy. They are totally open with me, whether I'm with them in Japan or talking to them long distance.

  • 2

    Jonathan Harston

    err... I sweep and weed the pavement in front of my house in the UK. It's just common sense. I don't see why I should live behind a pile of rubbish. Surely doubly so for shops. I can't understand how shop keepers are happy to have their customers scared away by weeds growing up the front of their building.

  • 4

    Blacklabel

    Yeah sounds to me like what we are told that we are supposed to think about Japanese. Doesnt much match what I have actually seen here over the years.

  • 11

    justbcuzisay

    I can't speak for every one else, but the reason these articles kinda get me worked up, is that most of these traits are common to decent people the world over. I would say the percentage is similar in any of our own countries. What upsets me, is that when I exhibit these traits( except shy, or group behavior) I am labeled as 'Japanized' I think this is very rude to me, as well as my mother and teachers who worked hard to install these values in me. I admire that many Japanese are also this way, but please do not tell me that these traits are not my own.

  • 0

    sandiegoluv

    Now, THAT I can agree with.

  • 0

    JoiceRojo

    I would replace #3 Kind with "Fake Kind" and #4 Hard working with "Workaholic"

  • -2

    avigator

    Extrovert when it comes it involves a conversation with a foreigner. Like when somebody asks you a question that you should answer but then one of the Japanese is the one who answers it for you.

    Repeaters like in Kurikaeshi.

  • 5

    RedMars

    Daytime - straight! Night time - weird!

    Daytime - Normal! Night time - Strange!

    Daytime - Male Night time - Gay / Shemale

    Daytime - Well-Groomed Night time - Punky

    Daytime - decent! Night time - Gruesome!

    Daytime - Serious Business! Night time - Funny (Monkey) Business!

    There you go, need more than 10 ???

    Daytime - I love Japan Night time - I love Japan too

  • 3

    iskysong

    Redmars, nice collections!

    You forgot to add:

    Daytime - Discipline !

    Night time - Lunatic !

    Daytime - Obedient !

    Night time - Bizarre !

    Daytime - Black and White !

    Night time - Colourful !

  • 0

    only one

    VAIN- why do they always have to compare themselves with China. be happy in who you are. outer beauty is more important than the interior. REGIMENTED- have been disciplined in the military way since they were children and explains the lack of individual thinking and how they follow the herd

  • 0

    kjbfinite

    We really enjoyed visiting Japan. We got lost and everyone was very polite and helpful. I will always remember the warmth and consideration. Friends and family visit Chicago only to have wallets stolen and taxi cab drivers overcharging .... yes, most people are wonderful in Chicago but good luck having someone walk you to your destination. It would never happen

  • 0

    toshiko

    Nice 10 items, It does not have followings,

    Argumentative,
    Pushy
    Opinionated Outspoken

    some more, I;d bet. Not all of us fit to stereotyping of Japanese.

  • -4

    Kyle Alpert

    The only one I disagree with is 'Intelligent', which to me denotes a certain type of quick-thinking or opportunism, more closely associated with the word KANINGU ('cunning'); KASIKOI is something quite different...

    But then, this might be what many here describe as being 'fake'. Most Japanese are simply trying to manage the situation or people around them. Its not 'they are fake', its more like '(to them) you are not real'... >

  • -6

    A Realist

    bilderberg_2015Aug. 28, 2013 - 07:49AM JST

    6 should be, to put it politely, "socially awkward". 'Shy' describes little girls of five years-old, not adults, for cry out out loud! #1, #3 & #5 should be followed by "...if they're dealing with another Japanese person."

    Huh? Shyness is a recognized psychological disorder in all ages and is a real problem for many people, it is not restricted to 5 year-old girls or any age or gender. Being "socially awkward" is not the same thing, that is just not knowing how to act in social situations. It is estimated that about half of adults of every nationality are shy to a certain extent. I cannot fathom why your comment got so many "likes."

  • 2

    msmahumane@gmail.com

    It becomes very difficult to agree on those attributes because some people move around in the world with their own yardstick to measure everybody else. Anything different from their home measures is bad.

  • -3

    wasabizuki

    @11. FAKE. Perhaps no one wanted to get to know you. Their loss right? And yet this can be applied to anyone of any ethnic background. You probably aren't the type who gives off any sign of reciprocal altruism.

    As for 1-10 being surprising? Author must have had bad company or is bad company. I find 1-10 to not only be true for Japanese but also Americans, British, Egyptian, Pakistani, Indian, Vietnamese, Hispanic, Africans, Northern European, Russian, Taiwanese and ofcourse Canadians. Do I know everything about them? Obviously not but I do know them beyond a casual acquaintance pertaining to things we both share in common, are interested about, how old and how many kids they have. We don't dwell on differences or areas we disagree on. I do know some Asian coworkers who will say I hate Japanese in my face when their country loses to Japan or when a Japanese little league team wins a championship. Sucks for them. As long as you are sincerely 1-10 to others they will reciprocate it. If you are always guarded it sticks out and they will be the same to you. Sometimes you have to peck at the armor to get them to open up. And sometimes it's not worth your being to get them to.

  • 1

    Francis Urquhart

    I could write at great length about this article but if I do, I might just as well write an article!

    What I will say is that it is very easy to generalise about the Japanese because they all think, act and react in the same way. Being so highly predictable opens them right up to stereotyping. It's not something they, or anyone else should really be complaining about when they have created their own hive mindset.

    I think the more cynical comments come from people who have stayed in Japan (frankly) too long! I stayed well over 10 years, and should have left sooner. I think the longer you stay, the more conversations about your country of origin, natto and chopsticks you have, and the more apparent it becomes that the 'magic' ain't what it seemed for the first 5 years! Certainly the attitudes to this whole Fukushima thing have left me feeling baffled.

    My advice to anyone considering a stint in Japan is: go for the usual 2 to 5 years - on the JET Programme if you can - enjoy it, soak up the surroundings and the culture, climb Fuji, sit in onsens, go to Kyoto, marvel at the efficiency of the train system, then...go home, taking your good memories with you. If you stay longer you run the risk of seeing behind the mask and never - don't ever - seek out Internet forums where people talk about and bash Japan (those are the ones who have been there too long) because it will feed your cynicism and you'll start to notice even more annoying things!

    That said, I pine for certain Japanese things every day!

  • -1

    toshiko

    I realize thse are expressed by gaijins, So, I will write some that I watch as a Japanese who understand what poliete mannered Jaqpanese do while bowing to gaijins. Kageguchi (bjckering), Smiles and talk each oher "Kono gaijin-wa baka-tare" and agree each other. 9Tese foreigners are stupid". There are more. Especia;;y none=English speaking Japanese.
    \Two face experts.

  • 3

    Francis Urquhart

    An interesting point, especially coming from a Japanese person, toshiko. The two-facedness is something really annoys me about the Japanese, I am sorry to say. Many people are two faced in the world - maybe we all are to some extent and it certain situations. I am sure I have been in my time. BUT and here is the big 'but' in other cultures it is regarded as a bad thing; in Japan it is regarded as acceptable and even commendable. I was on an airport bus in the UAE a couple of years ago. The young Japanese woman cupped her hand and said something to her mother - obviously about me from the way she was behaving, even though I couldn't hear what it was. You should have seen the horror on the young woman's face when I told her mother, in perfect Japanese, to hold on to the ceiling straps lest she fall over when the bus starts moving. Serves her right. What was that thing about Japanese people being polite again?

  • -2

    sfjp330

    Francis Urquhart Aug. 30, 2013 - 03:07AM JST The two-facedness is something really annoys me about the Japanese, I am sorry to say. Many people are two faced in the world - maybe we all are to some extent and it certain situations. I am sure I have been in my time. BUT and here is the big 'but' in other cultures it is regarded as a bad thing;

    The implications of this though mean that in Japan, silence, humility and introverted traits are considered weak and undesirable in American culture. Americans appear to act like we know everything and appear to want everyone around us to know that too. So in order to have such unique interests represented, speaking your mind and speaking up are very important. Which most of the time takes the form of loudness, aggressiveness, arrogance and even outright crazy. Maybe Japanese people do not want to be like the Americans.

  • 1

    Alex80

    in other cultures it is regarded as a bad thing

    It's simply like human beings are. Everyone wears a mask according to the situation. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Persona_(psychology)

  • 0

    Jaymann

    1. self obsessed.

    should pretty much sum it up.

  • 0

    ambrosia

    kjbfinite: yes, most people are wonderful in Chicago but good luck having someone walk you to your destination. It would never happen

    Probably because most people in Chicago can simply explain it to you. Streets in Japan can be hard to explain but at the same time, in my experience, most Japanese are also crap at explaining directions.

    As for the rest of it, I've had people in Chicago, strangers, drive me to where I was going after I asked how to get there and had my wallet returned, with all its contents, when I lost it in a Chicago department store. I've had my bike and underwear stolen, my brother had his car stolen, a friend had racist crap painted on his front door and my friend had her camera stolen - all in Japan. And if you think taxi drivers in Japan don't rip you off, that mostly amounts to your having no idea where you're going and their being pretty sure you don't. Yes, Chicago is more dangerous than Tokyo but there's no need to be naive about the realities of Tokyo either.

  • 1

    gazztastic

    On reading this article I was ready to come in here and throw down some "truth" (in my opinion at least). I was gonna be all like "Aww yea you is wrong article!! Let me tell you something!!" I do agree with a lot of the comments on this page(more so than the information in the article) but the question was "What do foreigners think of Japan?" I think the implication was those who do not live in Japan, and people who were largely ignorant of Japan and only had their stereotypical information to go on.

    Those of us who live in Japan know that it's far from perfect, but then nowhere is, and we can sometimes be confused and outraged by how they do some things (I am sure I'm not the only one who has gone on a cursing rampage when an ATM was "closed" because it was after 11:30pm as if it has a wife ATM and some little ATMs to go home to). But we still live here, still suffer through a lot of the stuff that annoys because there is usually a good reason to stay here. I know I have never felt safer walking down a street than I do here. But I also know that when I hear the word "gaijin" followed by not so suppressed laughter a sharp pang of rage shivers through me. So it has its good and bad points. And I think if we think back to before we came to Japan we will find that we pretty much thought all of those things in the article, if not exactly as they are described here then in some form or another.

  • 1

    Francis Urquhart

    @ sfjp300 and Alex 80 Yes, those American traits annoy me too, but then again, I have met a lot of nice Americans who don't act or think that way. How many Japanese people think the same way and act the same way whether they want to or not? It's part of the culture to be two-faced and sneaky. I use these words based upon my frame of reference. As a Japanese I might see it differently. Dare I mention a certain harbour on a certain island here, or would that be taking things too far?

  • 1

    Tessa

    My advice to anyone considering a stint in Japan is: go for the usual 2 to 5 years - on the JET Programme if you can - enjoy it, soak up the surroundings and the culture, climb Fuji, sit in onsens, go to Kyoto, marvel at the efficiency of the train system, then...go home, taking your good memories with you. If you stay longer you run the risk of seeing behind the mask and never - don't ever - seek out Internet forums where people talk about and bash Japan (those are the ones who have been there too long) because it will feed your cynicism and you'll start to notice even more annoying things!

    Yes, this! And I want to add, for the love of god don't marry and settle here.

  • 1

    Francis Urquhart

    Oh don't get me started on Japanese women! If the way foreigners who don't know Japan see the Japanese is misconstrued, multiply that by 10 for the perception of the Japanese lady. OMG!

  • -1

    Skeeter27

    Perhaps I have lived here too long, but generally speaking I cannot agree with this survey. I know this is a general feeling however, I feel it lacks accuracy... But the comments from readers do give me something to laugh about... Thank you!

  • -1

    sfjp330

    Francis UrquhartAug. 31, 2013 - 01:25AM JST How many Japanese people think the same way and act the same way whether they want to or not? It's part of the culture to be two-faced and sneaky. I use these words based upon my frame of reference.

    You sound like you had bad experience being rejected living in Japan. In Japan, awareness of how personal actions impact others seems to be a weak point for Americans in general. This translates to the perceived ignorant persona Americans abroad present. Americans come from a cocoon where we are made to feel that the world revolves around us and they pride ourselves in being a "melting pot" of cultures, identities and backgrounds. Americans are not very knowledgeable about the plights and issues or even existence of other cultures unless they fall under the American radar. But then when Americans go abroad, they appear to act like we know everything and appear to want everyone around us to know that too. Reality is they know very little of other cultures.

  • 0

    Francis Urquhart

    @sfjp330 You know I'm not American, right? Yes, bad experience, but I wouldn't call it 'rejection' as such. I overstepped the mark in my ignorant, and somewhat arrogant, gaijin ways and I got the 'treatment' for it. OK, that's part and parcel of the Japanese experience if you find yourself in that situation. What I'm saying, with regard to the article we're commenting on, is that these nice, positive traits in the article don't jive with the reality of Japan as I saw it. There are a lot of good things about Japan and the Japanese, even if many of them are facades. But there are also a certain number of bad things (again, speaking from my frame of reference, and that of similarly-minded others on here) that the stereotypical view doesn't see. Even though I accept that being in a foreign country it is my responsibility to understand that things are different, rudeness by my standards, is still rudeness!

  • 1

    toshiko

    Frances: When I am with Americans, often Japanese who do not know I speak in broken English think I don't understand their backtalk. I usually let it go but when they talk nasty on my daughters, from top of my head, I yell with my perfect insulting Japanese. They get scared of me because my age Japanese women are submissive if they are still alive. That is why I know their insulting conversations against foreigners.

  • -2

    sfjp330

    @Francis UrquhartAug. 31, 2013 - 05:54AM JST

    I don’t blame the Japanese people, and they do live in a environment that is probably the most inflexible. Most people in Japan are just following the incredible rigid system that allows for little or no bending of the rules. I don't think there is never any intention of malice or annoyance. And there is never any lack of politeness or friendliness on the part of Japanese people. But like yourself, I find it is a false or insincere friendliness that is obviously right out of line of the Japanese training manual. In other countries, friendliness is by no means guaranteed when you walk into a shop or restaurant but when you do find it, it tends to be genuine and sincere.

  • 1

    80393

    sfjp- youre way off base. these qualities you ascribe to all americans dont apply to myself or any of the people i chose to spend time with in america. do some people act that way? yes, in every country all over the world. for you to say these are american traits is ignorant, and a bit rude, also. maybe the people you associated with were like that, and that wouldnt surprise me. birds of a feather..

  • 0

    Francis Urquhart

    @sfjp330 I could go on a lengthy rant about my bad experiences in Japan - and don't get me wrong here, I had a LOT of very good experiences, it's just that the bad experiences ruined what for me was the utopia that Japan seems to be for a lot of visitors like I once was. It's disappointment as much as anything: a kind of betrayal, but that betrayal only happens when you see Japan and the Japanese in a false light - the very light that the 10 points in the article exemplify. I can say with absolute certainty that malice was intended by a couple of the backstabbers I encountered; perhaps others just had to follow suit. And what I said about rudeness, well look at the example of the young woman on the bus. She made what she thought was a sneaky comment about me, and it was for I didn't hear it, but when she became aware I spoke Japanese she was mortified thinking I had understood what she had said. I didn't even hear it, but she wasn't to know. She threw up her hands to her mouth and gasped. So she obviously knew she was being rude, but to be caught out was another thing. One would hope there are basic traits of respect between all human peoples. So sorry to burst your bubble but: 'And there is never any lack of politeness or friendliness on the part of Japanese people.' This simply isn't true! My realisation of the attitudes of the Japanese was one of the reasons I left. I was planning to spend my life there, but that coupled with an ever-decreasing salary, and ever-increasing workload and the prospect of living in a country that just no longer really cares where it;s going. Well...that was my illusions shattered!

  • 1

    toshiko

    80393: I completely agree with you. Francis: I believe you of your experience when I Japamese encounter situations in which I lose temper that never happens in USA.

  • 0

    only one

    People from every country carry the burden of the history and hence the cultures of the countries in which they were born. The amount of cultural burden which they carry varies from person to person. Japan is a country in which individual values have been supressed for hundreds of years for the sake of the group. What has emerged as a result is a person who has much of the values which are described in the article above. This individual is not a natural person in which there is no difference between the external and internal. This individual openly acts as a responsible member of society to get acceptance and various rewards but inwardly may have values which are actually on the contrary. The greatest trouble I have with Japan is that the gap between the outward individual and inward individual is so great. Many of the traits described above may be true but there always seems to be a very big BUT to each one.

  • 2

    Kabukilover

    Here are my ten words.

    1. Diligent. This is not simply working productively or working hard. It is letting people know how hard you are working. You have to have the right facial and body movements to show you are sacrificing your life for your institution but are still calm and easy-going.

    2. Sincere. This goes along with diligent. You do your very best to show your heart is in the right place. Customer service is great in Japan. Love affairs are sticky.

    3. Generous. You go into debt to please an honored guest.

    4. Stingy. Japanese are money savers. Watch how spending drops when the consumption tax goes up.

    5. Racist / Ethnocentric. Sorry about this one. But bigotry exists, though usually mildly (like not wanting to your daughter to marry a foreigner). The ugly harassment of Koreans in Okubo, Tokyo is exceptional. That the counter-demonstrators outnumber the bigots shows that there many right-minded Japanese out there.

    6. Sleepy. Especially university students in class. It has been pointed out how Japanese can doze off anywhere.

    7. Trusting. A corollary to the above. Japanese sleep on trains without worrying about being robbed. They consistently leave handbags and briefcases at their tables when getting coffee at Starbucks. A benign view of human nature or humility (who'd want my stuff anyhow?)

    8. Reckless. There is nothing worse on Japan's expressways than BMW, Benz, Lexus and Audi drivers, except for truck drivers and cheapo car drivers. Jag, Bentley and RR drivers are consistently very good, however. Volvo drivers are good most of the time. People like this have nothing to prove because they are rich or horribly dull, like those of us who drive Volvos. The people who got Japan into WWII were bad drivers. Abe is a bad driver.

    9. Homebodies. Few Japanese are adventurers. Most prefer group tours when going abroad. Even going to a different part of Japan is an exotic experience.

    10. Monolingual. Enough said on the failure of English education in Japan.

  • 0

    akoppa

    You can make a 10 words list describing a given nationality and you will always complain the list if you compare them with other nationalities. But people are people and in any case you can make a 10, 20 or 100 antonyms' list to describe any people in the world.

  • 0

    Eric Roth

    This article shows both the appeal and peril of vague and sometimes true generalizations. As somebody with limited experience of Japan, I found the article an interesting addition to my readings on teaching English in Japan. Thank you for sharing this illuminating list - and even more fascinating comment section.

  • 0

    JTDanMan

    " In Japan, feudalism ended only one-hundred and forty-five years ago." Those ten words explain why Japan is a formal, hierarchical, group-oriented society. Throw in ten more words -- "the Tokugawa village system with collective punishment" and "Meiji Japan meritocracy" -- and you got most all you need to know why Japanese individuals tend toward values which reflect that kind of society: hard-working, competitive, honest in in group social matters and yet deeply private on personal/out group matters.

  • -2

    Mitch Cohen

    The comments in this article are far too harsh, and perhaps they are in response to an overly positive, glowing endorsement of Japanese people by this article. Whether they are 'fake' in their politeness and sincerity is not that important IMO. They are generally polite, respectful, and pleasant.

    Also it's worth remembering that Japanese people in Tokyo are not entirely representative of the Japanese population at large, in the same way that New Yorkers aren't entirely representative of Americans. I live in Sydney, where people can sometimes be high strung and pretentious while most Australians are laid back and down to earth.

  • -1

    Ludwig Deck

    As a foreigner (France), my opinion of Japanese people as a whole looks very much like those ten points. thank you for the article. All the Japanese I ve met were polite, kind, respectfull, bright, clean. Nevertheless, those ten points needs another important one...Creative! Japanese are so creative! And I would also gladly add kawaii!

  • 1

    Tess de la Serna

    In the Philippines, still today, elementary and high school students clean their schools and do the gardening. No janitors. We also clean the streets in front of our houses or small stores. Big businesses don't do it though. We must have gotten this from the Japanese during WWII when they occupied Philippines for 4 years. But Japanese are exceptionally clean, polite and hard working people. I wish Filipinos are like that.

  • 0

    Sean Curtis

    I've just come back from my first visit to Japan and I was so shocked at how kind people were and the way they interacted with each other. It was quite a pleasant experience especially after living in Dubai for 4 yrs having to deal with other cultures I won't mention. I can see that there is truth in all these comments but the truth is. The way Japan and it's culture made me feel was beyond any other country in have travelled. Regardless if it was fake etc. I am hands down impressed with the respectful nature of the Japanese and I can only hope that the world will follow in their footsteps.

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