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10 Misconceptions About Japanese Culture Anime Perpetuates

Popular anime have garnered audiences from across the world, but with so many inaccurate portrayals of Japanese culture in these rapidly growing series, it's no surprise that some people have formed warped ideas about what it is really like in Japan. The truth is that stepping one foot into Japan would quickly reveal how Japanese culture is different than anime. It's not all love, quirky hair, and short skirts: there are plenty of anime lies that make people think Japan is way different than it actually is.

Considering the fact that anime is the first introduction to Japanese culture many children have, it's important to set the record straight about what Japan is really like. This list details what anime gets wrong about Japan and why it matters.

  • Wealthy Students Are Driven to School

    Photo: GoHands

    A variety of popular anime portray wealthy or just incredibly popular students driving to school or having servants that drop them off at school. The very first episode of Seitokai Yakuindomo shows Shichijo Aria being driven to school by her maid. While this does help drive the point that Shichijo is an affluent character, it's rather unrealistic considering the strict school policies regarding transportation for students.

    Byron Kidd, founder of Tokyo By Bike, explains that the average school in Japan actually prohibits parents from dropping their kids off at school. Some schools also ban students from driving themselves and therefore don't even provide easily accessible parking for students on school grounds. The average mode of transportation for a student would be to walk to school, ride a bike, or take the train. 

  • Japanese Shrine Maidens Perform Major Spiritual Duties

    Shrine maidens, or miko, are often portrayed in anime performing exorcisms or demon summonings, like Izumo Kamiki in Blue Exorcist. All supernatural exaggerations aside, however, shrine maidens would rarely have such huge responsibilities placed on their shoulders. Shrine maidens typically took care of the mundane duties that came with caring for the shrine grounds, according to Volume I of Lafcadio Hearn’s Glimpses of Unfamiliar Japan.

    These duties ranged from general upkeep to performing ceremonial dances. Tasks like exorcisms were typically left up to the actual priests. 

  • Housekeepers Wear French Maid Outfits to Perform Their Daily Duties

    Photo: feel

    There are tons of housekeepers and servants in Japanese anime that wear adorable, and sometimes unusually risqué, maid outfits when performing daily duties. Outbreak Company's Myucel Foalan is a teenage maid who is seen wearing this kind of French maid-inspired uniform. Even when anime maids are scythe-wielding warriors summoned to kill others in a deadly tournament, like Airi from Queen's Blade, they are still dressed in this type of maid uniform that is nothing like the attire actual housekeepers wear in Japan.

    It turns out that these cute maid uniforms are simply a popular fetish in the island nation, and it has caused a rapidly growing trend of maid cafes for those who hope to see women dressed in these kinds of uniforms. 

  • Japanese Society Promotes Or At Least Tolerates Pedophilia

    Although Japan was one of the last countries to outlaw the possession of child-themed explicit materials, in 2014, it is by no means rampant with pedophilia and child crimes. However, as some critics have pointed out, the concept of moe — that cute, big-eyed look favored in anime and that some cite as indicative of pedophilia and misogyny — is so prevalent in anime it makes it seem the whole country must have a twisted fantasy.

    In 2018, a BBC documentary explored the question of whether pedophilia is a pervasive issue in Japan, investigating a particular phenomenon where underage girls sell themselves as escorts to men. There are purportedly more than 300 "cafes" where teens still in school uniforms hang out, waiting for men to come pay for their time. This seedy underbelly of the Japan sex scene seemingly proves the overwhelming attention to youth, femininity, and other elements anime highlights, it's important to remember that the age of consent in Japan is 18, and these cafes represent a much smaller portion of the population than anime might have you believe.