In April I had the chance to visit Japan for my very first time. I am not going to lie, I was a bit hesitant at first because I had heard mixed reviews about Japan, but have always wanted to see the cherry blossoms. I check to see when they were in bloom and low-and-behold it was the same time I had booked off time for vacation. A sign? I think yes! So for the next few posts I will be doing a segment called #ErinDoesJapan which you can also see on Instagram.
To start off, I thought I would go over some stereotypes of Japan that were posed to me before I visited, as well as some preconceived notions I myself had about Japan. Face it, there are stereotypes for every country and we have our own opinions of some places before we even go. It is, unfortunately?, a fact of life and one I welcome as an American, just because I have heard it all when it comes to American stereotypes *insert Flag and country music blasting.*
1. No one speaks English in Japan. Nothing is written in English. Hope you speak Japanese.
Yes, I was told this before and heard variations on multiple occasions. I know how to say, “Hello, Goodbye,” and “Thank you very much
Mr. Roboto” and that is about it! Luckily, I was traveling with my friend Emiko has has lived in Japan and knows a bit of Japanese, so I thought I was good to go. And I was! Why? Because I found English to be much
more prevalent than I originally thought! The Tokyo and Osaka subway/JR stations definitely have English signs. Maps – yep, just ask a worker and they will give you an English version. Menus – okay, maybe not all but most do! Yes, we definitely got lost and our patience may have been tested, (Sorry Emiko!) but in the end people, maps, and Google got us to where we needed to go. While maybe not as many people speak English as other countries I have visited, saying you will not survive in Japan without knowing Japanese is so FALSE.
2. Everyone in Japan dresses up as dolls, anime characters, video game characters, rockabillies, etc.
When I said I was going to Japan, a few guys gave me a few winks and a nudge, nudge, asking, “You know what they are into there right?” *sigh* But there is this entire subculture there of cosplay and dressing up, in these amazing and fascinating outfits. However, unless you are spending a Sunday in Harajuku, Tokyo, you are more than likely not going to catch a glimpse of anything like this. Sorry fellas, this one is FALSE. Now, if you asked my if I saw Disney-themed things, well that is another story…
3. The Japanese are OBSESSED with Disney.
Um, first of all, who isn’t?! But, I think the Japanese take it to a whole ‘nother level, and I love it. There are two Disney parks in Tokyo – Disneyland and Tokyo Disney Sea. I have heard that things can get ridiculously crowded – as in lines could be 4 hours long – and that during peak times, they have to turn people away! Yikes! A friend once told me she only got on four rides during one day. Considering the park is open some days from
8:30-10:00, WOW. So when I read online that I had to make a game-plan (don’t worry, I will write up my game-plan for you later!) I thought it was a joke, but still I followed it and so glad I did. I actually was sprinting through this park, and if you know me I don’t run. Tons of people were dressed up as characters or wearing shirts, dresses, hats, shoes, pants, glasses – yes glasses – that are sold in the parks. It was my kind of place. Keep on rockin’ it Japan, this one is TRUE!
4. The people are so polite and will always bow to you, so practice your bowing!
Well..people are people, wherever you are in the world. Some are extremely kind and polite, while others aren’t. This is true for Japan. I met some of the most amazing people during my trip, thanks to Emiko, and they truly made my experience a hundred times better! I also met people who pushed me (hi Tokyo subway!) and ignored us when we asked for help. That’s okay! That will happen anywhere. Now for the bowing thing, I may
have bowed more than anyone did to me and I had more deer bow to me than people! This isn’t to say it doesn’t exist, because it is certainly an important part of Japanese culture, I just didn’t experience it as much. I also happen to apologize for any and everything so maybe that is why it seems that I bowed more…
5. The Japanese hate Americans, so don’t say you are American.
Anywhere I go, people tell me not to say I am American, because everyone “hates us.” Every country has a troubled past and if we hate another country for their history and beliefs and refuse to visit as a result, then almost no one would be able to travel! By getting yourself out there, traveling, experiencing another country, you can make a difference on how the world perceives you and your nationality. I have changed quite a few peoples’ minds about Americans whilst traveling, we aren’t all so bad *again, cue flag waving and country music”. That being said, when I started talking to an older Japanese gentleman outside of Senso-Ji Temple, Asakusa, Tokyo I was a bit hesitant to tell him where I was from. He showed me some pictures of a bombed area and asked if I knew what it was. It was the spot where the Temple was and he was born just days before it was destroyed. He grabbed my hand and told me thank you for visiting his country and he has no ill-will towards any American, hoping we all can learn from the past and get along. It’s something I will never forget. Wherever you go, there will always be those who don’t necessarily like where you come from, but that doesn’t mean it is the majority. I was treated with nothing but respect during my time in Japan, so, for me, this anti-American sentiment is FALSE.
I know there are more, but I thought this was a short, fun list to share with what I have experienced. Can you think of anymore, or think I got one wrong? Let me know in the comments below, and stay tuned for more #ErinDoesJapan!