4 Myths about Japanese Culture

Despite enjoying Japanese culture to deeper extent than other countries, Taiwan still has its shares of myth held against Japan. Part of the reason is in Japan itself: we are the world's sloppiest nation when it comes to explaining who we are, what we do, and why we are the way we are. Here are some of the myths I have heard over the years. Let's see if they are true.

Japanese are horny.

False. I know, I know. Where did the word Bukkake (be careful, Wikipedia has gone NSFW) come from? It means "splash over your face" in Japanese. Who invented the tentacle rape (don't ask me)? If you go to any of the 100 adult entertainment shops in Taipei, 95% of the 10,000 DVDs sold are from Japan. But hey, lies, damn lies and statistics are on our side. The Japanese enjoy the least amount of sex, people, according to Durex.

Then what explains the amount of Japanese adult entertainment? What's true is that we (1) tend to over-divide a category and (2) almost all industry in Japan is saturated. Over-detailed and over-competitive; a deadly combination of two tendencies have driven the Japanese adult entertainment to an extreme, and as a consequence, fueled underground economies all over the world.

Japanese companies are not a great place to work.

True (from what I still hear from my friends). Each time I have high hopes for Japanese companies getting open to the world, a news like this pops up. The road is long…

(Taken from the merger of Lehman Brothers and Nomura, a Japanese investment heavyweight)

Lehman bankers encountered a different work culture at Nomura. One team of Nomura traders, for instance, sang a company song at morning meetings.

Asked about the training sessions for new hires, a Nomura spokeswoman said that both sexes were taught business etiquette, and the men and women were trained separately for logistical reasons.

Some Nomura managers interpreted strictly the company's dress code for women. They told women joining from Lehman to remove highlights from their hair, to wear sleeves no shorter than midbicep and to avoid brightly colored clothing, according to several people who joined from Lehman. Several women were sent home from the trading floor for dressing "inappropriately," these people say.

Japanese love eating whales.

False for Japanese in general, true for some old people. Whale was once considered valuable source of protein, and because we have enough meat now, whaling is a dying profession, reserved for old generations who eat for nostalgia. Full disclosure: I ate whale meat a couple of times with my granddad, and it does not taste good as meat (good for us after all).

A documentary called The Cove sheds some light on Japanese fisherman slaughtering dolphins. The fact: all Japanese on my network, including myself, learned we eat dolphins thanks to that film.

Ninja still exists.

False (I'm sorry). I mean, I thought that was a universally accepted truth until I talked with a Taiwanese acquaintance several months ago who told me "Of course they still exist, don't they?" It's all because of Kosugi Sho and his Carolco Ninja series. Damn you. In one of those films, titled Nine Deaths of the Ninja, his character is called Spike Shinobi (=spikey Ninja in Japanese). It is beyond salvation.

I saw a movie Ninja for the first time when I was 6, in Enter the Ninja, where Franco Nero plays a modern Ninja in white outfit. (If you wear a bright white costume in a bright sunny day, doesn't it discredit the whole point of being a secret agent?) Below is the trailer, but you can see the whole film on YouTube. Enjoy when you have nothing to do in a Sunday morning.