I generally agree with what Hafez Adel had to say about stereotypes. I think that above all else, it’s important to understand and think critically about the stereotypes people have both about Americans and about the rest of the world, because frankly, they exist everywhere. It’s true when Adel says we know less about each other than we initially thought. You can’t truly understand a different culture or country without being there and talking critically with those who live there.
When asked if studying abroad has caused me to reconsider stereotypes, my answer is that it hasn’t really. Before coming to Japan, there was this idea that was talked about with friends and even family that this country was super-technologically advanced, in a far greater way than the rest of the world. Technology is really not as great as foreigners think, and definitely causes misconception for those who think it’s true. While yes, there are incredibly innovative things going on here, there are still national issues like wifi and the advent of new communication in smart phones and smart appliances. You’ll see hundreds and thousands of people daily still using flip/analog phones. The wifi and general Internet connection has been an issue for years, and I recently learned in my East Asian Visual Media course that the government is aware and has been trying to fix this for over a decade now. Another stereotype that exist here might be that everything is completely off-the-wall crazy and hyper “kawaii” (cute). Despite the few eccentrics you’ll see wandering the late night streets of Shinjuku or Akihabara, Tokyo isn’t as wild as some may think. Nothing is completely over-the-top unless you’re looking for over-the-top (in which case go directly to the Robot Café). Taking your shoes off everywhere is something I reconsidered as I got here. It really isn’t everywhere, mainly just in homes, apartments, and some restaurants. There was also this notion I heard that everyone here is considerate, polite and very conscious of personal space. It’s true that there’s an overall sense of politeness compared to Americans, but in terms of personal space, feel free to forget about it. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, the train system (especially in the morning) will group you with hundreds of other people in a shoulder-to-shoulder sardine tin of a transportation shuttle. As I’ve also mentioned, this proves Japanese cultural and social unity.
Something that I really appreciate in my Visual Media course for bringing up is that many of the stereotypes found within Japanese culture are formed by popular culture. This includes manga, anime and foreign depictions of Japan. For example, why do we as Americans think Japan is so technologically advanced? One reason is because of the industrial postwar push for all things television, media, appliances and the reinvigoration of the culture. This stems way back to the 1960’s and ‘70’s, when you had a push for science fiction and the creation of the mecha-genre in anime and manga. Stereotypes form from history, which is why it’s so important to not just look at a different country’s culture and society at face value. You need to look past these and really think critically about what’s going on in order to, as Adel says, understand those complex cultural patterns.
I had to do some online research when thinking about stereotypes the Japanese people have about Americans. In most places, I found that many think of Americans as having a default western image, that of rich, overtly prideful people who overindulge. I think not only this country, but others around the world can agree with this notion of Americans, including the sense of a materialistic obsession with things like money, unimportant luxuries and food. I think that, similarly to both Adel and others who visit countries other than their own, you don’t necessarily see the whole picture until you step into that country.
The image I’m choosing to use for this assignment is something you may have seen before. It’s an image clip from a Saturday Night Live skit that makes fun of “weeaboo’s.” These are people who are overly obsessed with Japanese culture to the point that most things they talk about are wrong, they’re pronunciation of words are wrong, and they often come across as racist. The skit isn’t funny, so in this case I’m not recommending you watch it.