Updated: Sep 18, 2020
1) It's a 3rd world country
While the term, "third world," might represent a bit of an outdated concept, a surprisingly high number of people think of Japan is just that. Westerners who are not as familiar with Asian countries tend to confuse Japan with other less developed nations.
Comically enough, our second misconception is this:
2) It is extremely technologically advanced
If I had to guess, I would assume more people think this over it being a still-developing country. Many people think Japan is chock full of robots, high- speed trains, and talking toilets.
While it does indeed have all of these things, Japan actually relies heavily on ATM's, fax machines, most trains don't travel at light speed, and it actually has quite a few of these dreaded squat toilets:
"When I first arrived in Japan,... one of my colleagues explained it as, 'Japan is a first world country that relies upon a lot of third world solutions'.”
3) Technology is crazy cheap...
Not exactly. The range of things that are cheaper than in the US is pretty broad. But, overall, your iPhone or iPad are going to cost close to the same.
You know what is cheap in Japan though?
Disney Movies. Yup, you can find them legally at the hundred yen store (dollar store)!
4) People in Japan eat dogs...
While dog meat is sold openly and legally, the vast majority of Japanese people do not consume dog meat. You'd be more likely to see people eating dog in some areas of South Korea, China, or Vietnam.
5) Japan and China are basically the same thing...
A lot of westerners tend to rope China and Japan into the "Oriental" category and basically see them as one and the same. This quote pretty much sums it up:
"Someone I know knew I loved Japan and she bought me a book. It was on China. [She said], 'I know it says China but Japan and China are the same thing, really'"
6) That Japan is full of...ladyboys.
While not technically PC, Japan is not actually full of "ladyboys" at all. The word "ladyboy" refers to transgender or transexual people, that are much more common in countries like Thailand and the Philippines. On the contrary, Japan is extremely conservative and even somewhat homophobic/not as accepting of LGBTQ populations as a whole. They seem to be progressing in this area, but most foreigners would probably agree they have a long way to go.
7) The water is radioactive...
There is a tentative plan in place to release water from the Fukushima Nuclear Plant into the ocean over the next ten years. However, all harmful nuclear elements have been removed from the water through chemical processes, leaving only Tritium.
Tritium has never been found to harm humans or the environment, and the assumption that it would involves being exposed to massive amounts of it.
So if you're wondering if it's safe to swim during your time in Japan, the answer is yes!
8) Everyone in Japan loves anime
If you're an anime lover looking for a magical place where you'll never get called a nerd, Japan is probably not the answer.
While there are tons of character cafes and shops selling anime-related merchandise, the majority of people are not SUPER into anime. There is actually a negative term for people who watch it obsessively...otaku.
Don't fret though, Japan is still probably the best place to find die hard fans! It's just not as widespread as one might think. `
9) Whale and dolphin are popular Japanese meals
While you can find these in specific places throughout Japan, it is not very common. In the past, both types of meat were consumed out of necessity. They were considered relatively low quality meats, and are currently not very coveted.
The people most likely to eat it are the elderly in search of a nostalgic experience, and those who just want to try whale meat. Click here to read about things more commonly eaten in Japan.
10) The food and drinks aren't to be trusted
I don't know how many times I've heard people say they were going to get sick eating in Japanese restaurants or even getting things from the vending machines!
This was absurd to me, considering I would trust Japanese restaurants over restaurants pretty much...anywhere else.
Side note: You should be as excited as that monkey to try out the vending machines :D
11) Japan is really expensive
As with anything else, you can make it cost as much or as little as you like. Overall, I have found three major expenditures can actually be pretty cheap in Japan!
You can get an entire bowl of noodles for less than a Starbucks coffee at some places, and full dinners for about $5 in cheaper chain restaurants.
Many street food vendors also sell crazy cheap food...like you can get a decent helping of the BEST yakisoba for just $2!
Convenience stores are another way to get some super cheap, healthy options.
Higher end restaurants and foods are still going to be expensive, but there are cheaper (and still delicious) options everywhere!
B) AirB&B's and hotel rooms
Sometimes you can find these as low as $40 or $50, and you're not even going to get mugged in the parking lots!
C) Domestic Flights
Many Japan Airlines flights out of Tokyo are as low as $60. For $10-$20 more you can even upgrade your economy seat to business class (on some flights)!
So while Japan is not as cheap as Thailand, it is definitely a lot cheaper than places like the U.K. or Switzerland!
Hopefully, this has helped clear up some of the misinformation floating around :D Japan is a great country to visit! It is clean, extremely safe, and still an epic adventure!
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