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The Parthenon

Column: Common Misconceptions


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In Osaka, which is the biggest city in Japan, my life began, and today, my life is in West Virginia. My major is sports management and my dream is to work in the sports industry in the United States. Since I came here, I have been asked about Japan by many people, and found out that many Americans share three common misconceptions: Japanese, anime and tattoos.

First, many people misunderstand Japanese. The first misconception about Japanese is that most Americans believe that Japanese consists of only “Kanji.” The system of Japanese written language is very unique. In addition to “Kanji,” “Hiragana,” “Katakana” and “Romaji” are used in Japanese, with each having approximately 50 alphabets. Moreover, only few foreigners are aware that Japanese and Chinese are different, since Japanese “Kanji” is derived from Chinese, which is totally different.

Second, all Japanese are considered to like anime in the U.S., but this wrong impression is spread out over the world. For instance, finding out that I am from Japan, most Americans always ask me and try to talk about anime, and after I explain that I am not interested, they say that all Japanese enjoy watching anime. It does not happen only in the U.S., almost all Japanese might be confronted with this experience.

Finally, tattoos are related to a “yakuza,” which is a gang. To have a successful career, some people might refrain from getting a tattoo in the U.S. However, Japan is stricter with tattoos than many countries; in many places, such as a beach, hot spring or public place, no one is allowed to show a tattoo. This fact is unknown among many foreigners.

In conclusion, there are many cultural differences that exist between Japan and foreign countries, especially, language, anime and tattoo misconceptions about Japan. Therefore, it is very important to teach accurate information about Japanese culture..

This column was submitted as an assignment for an INTO Marshall writing class.

The instructor, Saba Gebrehiwot, can be contacted at [email protected]

“Common Misconceptions” is a weekly column series that gives students, faculty and staff the opportunity to address common misconceptions and misunderstandings of and about their culture, race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation or gender identiy.

Columns may be submitted to [email protected]

Submission does not guarantee publication.

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