Japanese stereotypes  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

This article specifically refers to intra-Japan stereotypes. For North American stereotypes of the Japanese, see Stereotypes of East and Southeast Asians.

Japan, like any country, has its own cultural norms and stereotypes. Japanese stereotypes is an attempt to catalog these stereotypes and cultural expectations in the hope of understanding them.


In the Western world


Many Japanese action films or American action films set in Japan or featuring Japanese characters often feature the yakuza, who are generally regarded as Japan's version of the Italian mafia. Many "tough-guy" Japanese men are usually suspected outside of Japan as being members of the yakuza or at the very least, having a connection to the said organization, especially more so if they wear tattoos due the yakuza tradition of Irezumi. Some Japanese action stars who have gained international fame, such as Sonny Chiba and Takeshi Kitano, are often remembered for their roles as yakuza members.

Motorcycle gangs

A rebellious youth counterculture, the Bōsōzoku have made waves in Japanese fiction. Great Teacher Onizuka is about a reformed member of such gangs, while Akira begins with a bōsōzoku gang encountering a child with ESP powers. They may draw analogies to the "motor gang" image often associated with the Hells Angels, but the Bōsōzoku have more similarities to the Greaser subculture.

Work ethic

Not a stereotype per se, but a strong cultural expectation of hard work exists in Japan, especially for business-related professions. (see Salaryman.) One instance of this: in the demanding manga industry, the popular artist group Clamp typically works around eleven to thirteen hours in an average day.

Japan's work ethic has actually been known to kill; Karōshi is a phenomenon in which many have been known to suffer heart attacks caused by work stress and excessive overtime, usually unpaid.

Bad Teeth or Large Jaws

Japanese women are often believed to have very bad teeth. In the podcast Josh in Japan the host has stated "Well I mean, it isn't much of a secret... Japanese women... you know... kind of have Ef'ed up teeth." Because of the fact that orthodontics were not readily available in Japan many women have grown up with out any sort of dental correction. Orthodontia is becoming more readily available .

Another physiological Japanese (and east Asian) stereotype in relation to teeth is the "buckteeth" or enlarged front incisors. This assumed physiological trait of enlarged teeth in certain segments of Japanese, with east Asians were studied, also found among American Indians whose ancestry originates from northeast Asia when they arrived in North America about 20,000 years ago. However, the trait was widely exaggerated and made to ridicule both Japanese and east Asians in the same way the "slant-eyes", "bowl hair cut" and "yellow skin" were used as racial stereotypes.


Modern stereotypes of Japanese men depict them as anime, manga and video game enthusiasts with overweight or extremely skinny builds, poorly kept appearance and being neglectful of their hygiene. This stereotype was initiated by the Japanese media itself to deride a portion of their society who are obsessed with certain hobbies that involve scant social interaction such the aforementioned anime and manga but this may also include model building, sci-fi/horror films, computer/programming or even weapons and militaria such as in the case of the military otaku.

The word "otaku" carries a social stigma in Japanese society, largely due the Tsutomu Miyazaki murders and, more recently, the Akihabara Massacre, as it conveys the idea of otakus as dangerous social outcasts whose obsessions with drawn media leads them to misanthropic criminal behavior or ,at the very least, a severe inability to interact socially with other people especially with members of the opposite sex and using their hobbies as means of escape from their lonely existence. The Japanese phenomenon of hikkikomori (young shut-ins) is often viewed as an unfortunate side-effect of the otaku lifestyle.

Sexual deviancy

The popularity of Japanese pornographic media such as Japanese adult film (AV/Pinku eiga), magazines and erotic comics and animation, often with bizarre themes such as hermaphrodites and tentacle rape led to the stereotyping of Japanese males as sexual deviants with disturbing fetishes.

Sexual activities which are common in Japanese culture, such as shibari, guro and bukkake are viewed as disgusting as well as sexist in the eyes of westerners which leads to the negative portrayal of the Japanese in western media. Some forms of sexual fetishism are strongly associated with the Japanese, among them being lolita complex (regarded as pedophilia in the west), panty fetishism and sailor-suited schoolgirls. A widely known stereotype is that Japanese men have small penises.

Japanese females

Japanese women are regarded as shy, and soft-spoken. However a more modern image of the Japanese woman is the one of the playful and bubbly eternal Lolita with their fixation on being "cute". Characteristics of this stereotype include obsession with cute childish things such as plush toys, colorful clothing and accessories and speaking in high-pitched falsettos mimicking a child's voice. This stereotype is further intensified by female J-pop idol singers and the Lolita fashion fad.

In Asia

In China and South Korea, Japanese men are often represented as hairy men who have humorous moustaches, eyebrows and eyelashes. They are also often viewed to have bad teeth.

See also

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Japanese stereotypes" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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