Frivolous Friday: What does Japan think of your country?

Nick Kapur is a U.S. based historian who specializes in modern Japan and East Asia. Recently he created a map of Japanese stereotypes of European countries. The map, which is based on Japanese Google autocomplete suggestions, reveals some interesting stereotypes Japanese people hold about various countries. For instance, they view Sweden as a place with handsome men. I’m single and would love to have a handsome man in my life (though he’d have to be more than just a good looking guy). Perhaps a trip to Sweden is in order one day. Meanwhile, the Japanese apparently think of England as a place with bad food. I’m curious about this one, bc I know nothing about English food (aside from their use of vinegar on fries…yuck). I wonder if there are specific dishes that are thought of as bad. There are also stereotypes that make some degree of sense (looking at y’all Switzerland, Greece, and Italy). And then there are the stereotypes that make me confuzzled. Why is Portugal perceived as weak? France has no fat people? And what’s up with Latvia?

(h/t Global Voices)

Frivolous Friday: What does Japan think of your country?

13 thoughts on “Frivolous Friday: What does Japan think of your country?

  1. 1

    I’m going to approve this comment StevoR, but I haven’t forgotten your history. I’m hoping that you’ve examined the criticism you’ve received over the years regarding your anti-Muslim bigotry and your support for bombing foreign countries, and realized that your previous positions were wrong and anti-thetical to Humanist practices and beliefs. I hope I don’t regret it.

  2. 2

    I just tried entering ポーランド (Poland) into Google Japan and autocomplete gave me “Poland ball”, “Polish language”, “Polish airplanes”, “Poland sightseeing”, “Poland travel”, “Polish tableware”, and “Poland beauties”. Nothing about stupid people. Entering イギリス (England) doesn’t bring up anything about “bad food” or any food for that matter, and while a Japanese novel I once read set in England had some bad things to say about British food, there are a number of English restaurants in Tokyo. I don’t know what this Nick Kapur is doing to get these results.

  3. 3

    looking at y’all Switzerland, Greece, and Italy

    Nah, looking at Italy solely as “Mafia country” or Greece “Financial collapse” is just bad and harmful stereotypes all over again

  4. 4

    BTW, British food has a bad rep all over Europe as well. Probably the combination of serving beer warm, drowning lamb in mint sauce and fish and chips.
    Of course there’s delicious food in Britain and Ireland as well. And in the USA. You got an even worse reputation than the Brits.

  5. 5

    When I was putting the post together, I was thinking “ok, I can see why someone might think this, even if these stereotypes are false and harmful”, but I should have included something in the OP about that. My apologies.

    And in the USA. You got an even worse reputation than the Brits.

    How can that be? We’re the super specialist, most wonderful country on the planet. And we’re better at everything than everyone else. We simply cannot have bad food.

  6. rq

    I am at a complete loss. This is like an X-Files episode waiting to happen, or at least a major campaign in disinformation. Honestly, am I going to have to post some Latvian potato jokes to remedy the situation?

  7. 10

    It’d be nice to know, if you’re dealing with a very small sample size, how many people need to google something for it to pop up on autocomplete. Also, what’s the window that it looks back in? Maybe just one person in Japan googled Latvia in the previous few days, and that’s why they got the odd response; also why Fujimoto got something different when he typed the same thing a few days later.

  8. 11

    Japan is particularly proud of their food, and they are right to be proud. It’s amazingly diverse, delicious, and usually healthy. I say “usually” because there are plenty of dishes that are fattening (ramen, tonkatsu, tempura, karage) and there has recently been a lot of new fast food shops offering “omori” (large portion, often endless) and young people eat out a lot more than the prior generation. But I digress!

    The impression they have of other countries food is that it’s not as good as Japanese food. How could it be, when Japanese food is so amazing? They also feel serving sizes are “too big” and it’s “too oily” when compared to Japanese food.

    They also don’t tend to have experience of eating other cuisines outside of Japan. And, since restaurants featuring British food tend to be pubs and fast-food places, the only British food they’ve eaten is fish-n-chips and shepard’s pie. Because they have no other information, Japanese tend to assume that this is “real” British food, and since that’s all they know, they get the impression all Brutish food only consists of chips and mushy peas and mashed potatoes.

    It’s also fairly typical for Japanese to believe whole-heartedly in stereotypes, and they have a hard time delegating the stereotype from the reality. It’s a kind of cognitive bias, and believe me when I say it’s one that’s very difficult to dislodge, particularly when most people here don’t often come into contact with real live British or Polish or Spaniards who could help break their stereotypes. The Japanede who travel usually stay in tour groups (it’s “safe”) and tend to pack travel to several countries into ten days, which is the amount of vacation time they have. They see a little bit of each country within the safety of their group, and don’t interact with locals or get off the beaten path.

    But a lot of people travel that way, so this isn’t to say this is unique to Japan. I’ve met Americans who asked me if Japanese are allowed to have more than one child, and whether I’ve seen the Great Wall. Sigh.

  9. 12


    How can that be? We’re the super specialist, most wonderful country on the planet. And we’re better at everything than everyone else. We simply cannot have bad food.

    Well, this article on Mad Art Lab comes to mind…
    I don’t even think American food is “bad”, it’s just that you chose to export the worst of it to the world. Mac and Cheese? Count me in (but not the package)! Delicious South West stuff? Yes please!
    The British have the additional problem that most people’s encounter with British food is school trips. Have you ever eaten in a stereotypical school canteen? And being teenagers they don’t have much money to spend it on quality food outside.
    I’ve been to Britain and I’ve eaten delicious meals (OK, most of them were Indian food, but that’s why I like British restaurants), I’ve been to Ireland and eaten delicious food. It actually gets bad whenever they try to do “continental” cooking.

  10. rq

    all Brutish food only consists of chips and mushy peas and mashed potatoes

    Love the typo there. Brings a lot of truth to the statement.

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