Japan Today

Japanese kids rate their own country in survey

By Krista Rogers

Last year, Japan was thrust into the international spotlight after Tokyo won the 2020 Olympics and traditional Japanese cuisine was named an Intangible Cultural Heritage by UNESCO (only the second national cuisine after France’s own). With all of this increased attention on the global stage, one Japanese corporation was curious to know what thoughts Japanese children harbored about their own country. Keep reading to find which things about their country Japanese kids liked and disliked the most.

Benesse Corporation (parent company of the Berlitz Language Schools) conducted the survey from Nov 27 through Dec 3, 2013. A total of 1,626 children, ranging in age from elementary school students to high school students, revealed their personal opinions about Japan. All in all, a huge 96.9% of the children responded that they “like” Japan, and 93% are currently happy with their lives.

The “Do you like Japan?” percentage breakdown: I love Japan: 52.2% If I had to choose, I like Japan: 44.7% If I had to choose, I don’t like Japan: 2.7% I don’t like Japan: 0.4%

Next, let’s take a look at some reasons why they liked their home country:

What do you like about Japan?

Qualities of Japanese People

-- Many friendly people -- People are diligent and polite -- Japanese modesty -- People have good manners -- Japanese hospitality is great

Climate/Natural features

-- Abundant nature -- Four definite seasons -- Many places with beautiful scenery


-- Lots of delicious foods -- Japanese food like sushi is delicious

Pop culture

-- Lots of anime -- A plethora of video games

Public order/Safety/Welfare

-- Citizens don’t own guns -- The crime rate is low -- People can live without worrying about their safety

Transportation systems

-- Public transportation is advanced -- Trains are punctual

Now let’s take a look at some things that the children weren’t so keen about their own country:

What do you dislike about Japan?

Qualities of Japanese People

-- Bullying is common -- People can’t say “no” directly -- People can be too serious -- People complain about little things -- How everyone wants to do the same thing as everyone else

Climate/Natural features

-- Many earthquakes -- Many natural disasters such as earthquakes and typhoons -- Houses are cramped -- Too many people sometimes


-- Some people waste food


-- Children must always be doing nothing but studying -- There are many tests -- Schools have lots of strict rules


-- Money means everything -- The wealth gap is terrible -- The state of the economy is bad -- The consumption tax keeps increasing -- Taxes are high


-- Politicians’ childish remarks -- Politicians don’t take their work seriously

Public order/Safety/Welfare

-- The nuclear incident -- Japan still uses nuclear power

International Relations

-- Weak to criticism from abroad -- Tendency to hesitate when foreign countries are involved -- Few people can speak English -- Few opportunities to speak English in Japan

Lastly, here’s the “Are you currently happy?” percentage breakdown:

I’m very happy: 33% I’m on the happier side: 60% I’m on the less happy side: 6.1% I’m not happy at all: 0.9%

The overwhelming cause of unhappy children? Too much studying and lots of hard tests.

Furthermore, the children identified several things that they need to be happy, such as money, family, and friends. Obstacles to their happiness included poverty, being alone all the time, and torn-apart families. Interestingly, when the happiest students were asked to picture themselves at the age of 40, many envisioned themselves being happily married with families more commonly than being internationally famous.

Sources: Hachimakiko, Irorio

Read more stories from RocketNews24 -- 65.5% of Japanese Male Office Workers Have Considered Divorce -- Taboo behavior abroad according to Japanese travelers -- Hafu: Telling the story of Japan’s mixed-race minority

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Abetter better serious of questions would be to ask them if they know anything about any other countries and how Japan compares. My university students often can't find countries on maps - including Russia. They know Japan and the US. Says a lot about the education system here. There is nothing wrong with being proud of your country but you need to be able to critically compare it to other countries. Kids here can't and don't do that for the most part so this poll is pretty useless. Little more than flag waving and with little substance.

-2 ( +16 / -18 )


Kids (and adults) have been told by educators for so long that Japan is 'small' that my university students automatically say 'Country X' when I ask them "Which is bigger: Japan or Country X?" Sometimes Country X is a place like Singapore or Monaco. They are shocked to discover that Japan is actually bigger than Germany and Italy because, as one student said, "Those countries are famous!"

Of course, students have also been told Japan has four seasons because no one actually thinks the Rainy Season is a season, although it interrupts summer. If that is a reason to like Japan, would they be happy living in any country with four seasons (like Germany or Italy?) or dislike living in a country with only two (like Singapore)?

13 ( +16 / -3 )

Series, one better... - JT edit button please!

Borscht, agree. When they find out that Honshu is bigger than the GB, they nearly die of shock. It is very easy to see how poor the education system is when students from all over Japan give the same crappy answers - four seasons, cherry blossoms, we are a small island nation... A poll like this means nothing - more so when clearly the answers were given to them to pick from.

8 ( +19 / -11 )

I recall a Japanese school textbook stating: "Japan's climate is very easy to live in." That was it. No qualification, elaboration, etc. Just a simplistic mind-control statement in the guise of "education."

Anyway, compared to where? Italy, California? If so, wrong! Honshu's climate...where it's as cold as Canada in winter and as hot as Bangkok in summer...is a pain in the neck!

13 ( +18 / -5 )

tmarie and JeffLee, I'll bet neither of you knew you can fit two-and-a-half Japans in my home province of British Columbia. Believe it or not, I shocked several grade five classes with that little tidbit, the last time I was in Japan, and now I get emails from kids who want to know more about where I spend half my time (the other half, of course, being in the land of the rising sun, making fun in geography lectures about the rest of the world they aren't taught in school). And JeffLee, Honshu is nowhere near as cold as most of Canada in the winter. We truly do have all four seasons, too, even in my home town of Victoria, Canada's Garden City. I wonder if you've ever spent any time here.

1 ( +10 / -9 )

Out of the over 200 countries in the world, Japan is something like the 61st or 62nd largest. The weather ranges from tropical in the south to cool temperate in the north. I don't know why Japanese insist on saying Japan is a small country. Yes, it's small compared to the largest 15 or so, but then again, so are most countries. Neither do I understand why they insist on talking about the four seasons as if they are something unique to Japan. Be proud of your country, like tmarie said, there's nothing wrong with that. Just get the facts straight about what it is you're feeling proud.

As for the comments about politicians, I'm sorry to be so cynical, but what kids are reading newspapers or news sites and actually know what politicians are saying or doing? In all my years here, I've found it to be a shockingly apathetic country when it comes to politics. I have a hard time believing the kids polled actually said this. The same goes for the comment about taxes. How do they even know what the tax rates are?

-1 ( +7 / -8 )

Jeremy Paxman wrote an excellent study of English culture and outlined how French children, unlike English children, reeled off a list of predictable, well-drilled platitudes when asked why France is a good country which are not too dissimilar to the responses from the Japanese kids here. They certainly aren't alone. They are just kids and will believe what they are taught without too much critical thought, something Japanese kids are not generally encouraged to do. I find it more shocking when these ideas are carried into adulthood. As mentioned already, I've met adults shocked by the fact that Japan has a population well in excess of any European country and a land mass bigger than most. Perhaps the narrative of a 'small', plucky country ( Japan adores underdogs ) building its way up into an economic powerhouse is very gratifying. I wouldn't take anything away from Japan's incredible achievements, but the underdog beating the odds ( just look at the pride taken in a 'small' Japanese athlete beating those powerful, giant foreigners ) self-image seems to be seen as something worth preserving.

6 ( +9 / -3 )

That was a very interesting article. I would like the same questions asked to the same age groups in other countries as well. I think, if for nothing else, it would be very interesting to look at. Thanks for the article, JT.

7 ( +7 / -0 )

Well good to see the little ones are still being converted to proper worker drones for the future!

To be somewhat fair this goes on in all countries to an extent I mean lots of yanks think the USA is the greatest country on earth, always make me smirk that one haha.

But overall like I have said many times here, glad I don't have kids in Japan & even GLADDER I didn't grow up here.

Kids, then adults have pretty bland lives, suppose for the powers that be like it that way! If they don't know any better then they don't expect much in return!

-5 ( +4 / -9 )

"And JeffLee, Honshu is nowhere near as cold as most of Canada in the winter. We truly do have all four seasons, too, even in my home town of Victoria, Canada's Garden City."

Temperatures right now: Victoria: 10 degrees, Tokyo: 7 degrees. So I'm off-base by suggesting that places in Honshu can get as cold as Canada in winter...eh?

You'll also find that places in central Japan, like Niigata, are right now colder than, say, Toronto...and they also get a heck of lot more snow.

5 ( +9 / -4 )

It is interesting that kids are aware of and dislike 'weak to criticism from abroad,' Because, as we see that although, or more likely BECAUSE they love their country they have pointed some places that they would like to see improved.

In the same sense, I think many long term residents of Japan really like Japan, and therefore want to see some areas improved, but are often met with 'if you don't like it go home'.

I hope that many of these young ones grow up and are not afraid of speak out and promote change for their happiness and the future of their beloved country.

6 ( +7 / -1 )

I think the results were pretty much dictated by the answers they had to choose from, they were steered towards the +ve.

If they had to write on their own who knows what would have happened

1 ( +3 / -2 )

Wow! The kids nailed it! My thoughts on Japan exactly.

1 ( +4 / -3 )

Wonder why they didn't have navel-gazing as an option... Japan really excels there.

-5 ( +4 / -9 )

—Abundant nature

What does this mean? Surely every country does apart from a handful of city states. Having lots of nature sounds like one of those things that gets drummed into the population from a young age. In terms of scenary, it has a fraction of the diversity that you get in other countries - Honshu looks pretty much the same wherever you are - either plane or mounatin.

—Four definite seasons

Yes, they are pretty defined. However, Japanese sometimes think that this is unique, but there are plenty of places in the US that have similar extremes. Europe also has four seasons. However, Japan's seasons are not all that great, unless you are one of those weirdos that thinks that summer humidity is wonderful.

Actually Japan has five seasons - they forget "tsuyu" the rainy season. Is it spring or is it summer? Neither really, that is why it has its own name!

—Many places with beautiful scenery

Japan has quite nice scenary, but not spectacular (apart from Mt. Fuji). It is a bit samey, and many of the nice bits are covered in concrete.

2 ( +7 / -5 )

The original Japanese survey is here. It seems that many of the responses were free rather than steered. http://benesse.jp/blog/20140106/p2.html

In my survey of Japanese and American students' future expectations, American expectations are found to be unrealistically unique (famous, rich, medal-winning) whereas Japanese are found to be unrealistically normal with few expecting achievement or tragedy. As it children responded in the above survey, the happy life in Japan is to live normally (「人並みな生活を送ることができる幸せ」を自らも求めていることがわかります。)."The American dream" is to unusual achieve success.

8 ( +9 / -1 )

Traditional Archery in Japan is common with many clubs at schools, wards.

Common sight to see kids carrying bows.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

"A total of 1,626 children, ranging in age from elementary school students to high school students, revealed their personal opinions about Japan."

One challenge statistical design may address, Japanese culture is devoted to pleasing the group or fitting in. How is it possible the poll concludes a 'dislike' for —"Politicians’ childish remarks" and —"Politicians don’t take their work seriously"?

How is it possible in a culture of respect, especially for institutional norms, politicians are viewed in anything but a positive light?

In a similar vein, a dislike for —"The consumption tax keeps increasing" and —"Taxes are high" seems well beyond the actual experience of 1,600 odd grade school to high school students.

Unsurprising however, in a poll sponsored by a language school" —"Few people can speak English" and —"Few opportunities to speak English in Japan" are also among the dislikes.

As Robert De Niro famously said in Ronan, "The map is not the territory."

It is well and good to understand a population of any age with statistical research. The question arising from this "map"? The range of questions are far too broad for the subject groups' actual knowledge and experience. Politics and taxes are hardly the specialty interest of 7 to 18 year olds.

It may also seem a bit self serving when the business interests of the sponsor are strongly supported by the subject group result of a desire for 'more places to speak English'.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Ignoring all the debate for a moment, I am glad that so many people said they were happy. That makes me happy too.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

tmarie - My university students often can't find countries on maps - including Russia.

Are they American?

-2 ( +4 / -6 )

I mean, isn't it the same for any well developed nation? I doubt any kid from America, England, France, Germany etc. DON'T like the country they live in considering they don't have any experience living in other countries. I was raised in the U.S. if they asked me this question, I have no choice but to say Yes because the US is my home and it's the only country I'm accustomed to despite it's advantages and flaws

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Very intresting!! I really adore Japan and have such a deep respect for the culture!! All the bad things I already knew and every place on earth has some problems!! I like it!!

0 ( +2 / -2 )


The fact that the majority of kids state they are happy IS encouraging. However, since most Japanese have nothing to compare to "happy" is a relative term. I know when I mention to kids here that in most Western societies school breaks are just that (ie. no homework) and that weekends are for free time (not to be in uniform heading to school for club) many wish that they could live elsewhere.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

▼ What do you dislike about Japan?

Qualities of Japanese People

—How everyone wants to do the same thing as everyone else

Yes, but the "adults" would tell you that this is "culture"! That Japanese people are unique and homogenous and everyone does the exact same thing, always!

—Schools have lots of strict rules

This too. Culture. If you don't like it, then leave Japan!


—Politicians’ childish remarks —Politicians don’t take their work seriously

LOL they are thought of as childish even by children...

0 ( +1 / -1 )

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