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The Romanticization of Japanese Culture

*This is an opinionated piece.*

Trigger warning: rape, pedophilia, suicide.

Mt Fuji Japan
Liger Pham / Pexels

You know the kind. The people with their anime shirts and casual use of words like “kawaii”. The type that gets excited about Japanese culture whenever it gets mentioned. And if you don’t, I certainly do know the kind. Because I’m Japanese. And as soon as I mention that my Mom’s from Japan or that I have a Japanese passport, people go wild. 

“Oh my gosh! Do you watch (insert anime)?”

“I’ve ALWAYS wanted to visit Japan.”

“Am I saying this correctly?” 

I’m flattered that people like the culture so much. As someone who was partly raised in Japan, I agree that it’s a really cool place. Everything’s so organized. Culture is experienced differently by everyone, but from what I experienced, I hated it there. I despised it. I still have to go to therapy from the trauma I’ve experienced when I lived there as a child. But every conversation I have goes something like this.

“You were raised in Japan?”


“Oh my gosh, that must have been so amazing! Did you eat onigiri all the time? Wow, I wish I was raised there.”

“Absolutely not.” 

“I mean Japanese culture is just different but it’s great!”

And for those of you who do this, if you’re going to take anything away from this article, it’s that you absolutely have no right to tell someone from a culture, what their culture is like. They have their own experiences. 

sushi nigiri black background
Photo by Kelvin Zyteng from Unsplash

I think that Japanese culture has been heavily romanticized. At this point, I feel like it’s supposed to be some sort of Utopia that people dream about. The weather’s perfect, the food’s great, and everyone is so kind and humble. There are cute Japanese girls everywhere! And the big cities are gorgeous and populated with hip fashionistas. And there definitely aren’t any problems. Never. That being said, these seemingly positive stereotypes are detrimental to Japanese culture and society. When something is put on a pedestal, there is no space for conversation.

But here’s the rundown of Japanese culture. Yes, the food is good. And primarily made by women because a vast majority of the population believes women still belong in the kitchen. The suicide rate is super high due to the crazy work pressure people have to face. A girl at my neighboring elementary school jumped off a building after her teacher yelled at her for not turning in her homework. 

And here’s my main gripe – the pedophilia. It’s obvious. Turn on any of our media and we’ll see animated middle school women with triple D breasts. There are girl groups that stop scouting women when they turn 14 because they’d be too old to be hot. And this is mainstream Japanese media. 

Why are we glorifying this? 

Why are we standing back and watching the consequences hit young Japanese girls while more and more of them get raped, molested, and harassed at ages below 10? Because that’s what happens when the world turns a blind eye and glorifies such a toxic culture. 

People also go on about how disciplined Japanese people are. How do they work such long hours? How are they so academically driven?

Girl covering face with book
Photo by Siora Photography from Unsplash

What if I told you that back in elementary school, many other students and I were physically assaulted over minor things such as getting a B on a test, or forgetting to bring a red pen for grading? My peers would regularly have black eyes from the abuse that they faced and no one even blinked. Looking back at it, it was really messed up. But at my school, it was just normal. 

So, please, recognize that glorified assumptions of foreign cultures are harmful.

Sko Buffs!
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