4 Japanese Regional Stereotypes

4 Japanese Regional Stereotypes

Peter Leonard

Every country has a habit of compartmentalizing regions of itself into certain personalities. In my native U.K., the South-West are seen as being as nothing but farmers and the Scottish are thrifty with their cash! Of course, such stereotypes are easily debunked, but they are fun and interesting nonetheless.

So what about Japan? What regional Stereotypes exist here? Who are the thrifty, the outspoken, the beautiful? Read on…

1. Osaka people are down-to-earth and speak their minds.


A classic one, this: whole sections of TV shows frequently demonstrate this supposed trait of the outspoken Osakan. Compared to most of Japan, a country known for being a largely shy and reserved nation, Osaka people are the nation’s extroverts. They are wonderful, salt-of-earth people who are also smart with money, preferring to mend and make do old things rather than buy new.

2. Akita women are beautiful.



Photo: あめまん on Pakutaso
To be honest, wherever you go in Japan you will always see people on the cutting edge of fashion. The Japanese love looking after and presenting themselves as well as possible, but women from Akita, in the northern regions of Japan, are regarded as the cream of the crop. The concept of the ‘秋田美人’ (Akita Bijin, the Akita beauty) is said to be a mix of the excellent diet (Akita Komachi rice is nationally renowned) and the fewer hours of sunlight Akita receives, exposing the the skin to less of those damaging UV rays.

3. Niigata women are stronger than their male counterparts.


This ties into the previous one. Niigata, like Akita, is another prefecture on the north coast of Japan, and likewise takes the brunt of the weather in winter, particularly snow and strong winds. In Niigata, this gave birth to the phrase “Niigata ni sugi to otoko wa sodatanai”, which means “In Niigata, neither cedar tree nor men can grow.” Those heavy snowfalls and howling winds mean that the cedar tree, a fairly ubiquitous tree in the Japanese countryside, struggles to grow in Niigata. And Niigata women, also of pale skin due to the weather, are said to symbolise the snow itself, while the men are the cedar trees that wither under their power.

Fascinating, huh? And while this author would like to restate that I think stereotypes are mostly gross generalisations, I can’t help but feel there’s a grain of truth to this one...after all, my wife was born in Niigata!

4. Nagoya is a place of invention.


Japan’s third largest city has long been viewed as an industrial powerhouse, bolted between the Kanto and Kansai regions like a conductor between the two. Huge swathes of Nagoya are devoted to the automotive, aviation and R&D industries: most famously, Toyota is headquartered in Nagoya. As such, this city has a reputation for having an inventive, hard-working population who love to build things. It’s something like a chicken and egg situation: did the factories of Nagoya pull in the skilled and the clever? Or was it the skilled and clever who started the factories in the first place? Regardless of the answer, Nagoya is a place that is proud of its own productiveness, and rightly so.

There are many more, and the Japanese love nothing more than to discuss regional differences - in fact, it gets a surprising amount of mileage on TV shows these days. Whatever the truth may be, it’s nice to know that even Japan, a country famed for being homogeneous, has a huge variety of personalities to offer!