Top 10 Adjectives to Describe Japanese People Characteristics

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Have you heard a question from Japanese, asking you “What do you think about Japanese people?”

Being a citizen of Japan, it is hard for them to notice their national characteristics by themselves. In this article, I would like to introduce the most commented “10 Adjectives” to describe Japanese characteristics, by foreigners member from the famous Japan expat forum – Wa-pedia.

See if you have noticed these characteristics from Japanese people. 🙂

Top 10 Adjectives to Describe Japanese People Characteristics

1. Polite
Japanese people are probably the most polite nation in the world. One thing we need to be careful is that, the definition of “polite” differs from country to country. The “polite” mentioned in this article, means the East Asia philosophy based on Confucianism – Social Harmony.

Confucius says:

There is government, when the prince is prince, and the minister is minister; when the father is father, and the son is son. (Analects XII, 11, trans. Legge)

In other words, each person has different social status, depending on the person one is dealing with: as a junior in relations to parent and elder; as a senior in relation to younger sibling, students, and others.

The teaching of social harmony has been preserved well in Japan society, better than any other East Asian countries. (Korea has a strong social harmony culture too, but slightly different with Japan)

2. Punctual
No doubt Japanese people are the most punctual nation in the world. (of course some people are not, but there is a strong social norm of being punctual)

Look at the train in Japan. Being late 5 min in Japan, is like passing a death sentence on many Japanese people. However, there is nothing such a death sentence in Malaysia even though the train is late 1 hour.

3. Kind
Many people give compliments to Japanese as “friendly” & “considerate”. In fact, after living 4 years in Japan, I noticed Japanese people tend to take care of others, before considering themselves.

Even in the academic world of psychology, Japanese mindset (collectivism) is always adopted as a case study in compared to American mindset (individualism).

4. Hard-working
Japan is ranked 12nd in the world at its “longest annual working time”. In fact, there are more over-time working that is not stated in the official document. There Japanese people always give an image of hardworking.

5. Respectful
Japanese has a social norm of “内と外” (the internal and external relations). They tend to show respect and deal politely with the external relationship (stranger).

Even with the internal relations (siblings or friends), they still respects as the idiom teaching says “親しき仲にも礼儀あり” (good manner even between friends).

6. Shy
Japanese people are often pointed as shy. This maybe related to the culture of “Social Harmony”. Of course, there are still many Japanese who aren’t shy to strangers, but the majority of Japanese has the shy image.

7. Intelligent (Smart)
From the westerners’ view, Asian people are somehow considered as “intelligent” and “smart”. For instance, good at math, languages, business or etc.

In my eyes, Japanese people are considered smart because of their “listening skill”. Japanese tends to listen to others carefully before they speak out their mind. The process of listening makes their speech more comprehensive. (of course there are people not so)

8. Grouping
Japanese tend to give priority to a group rather than any individual member. In other words, Japan is a good example of collectivism. It is different from many western countries (individualism) in many aspects.

9. Formal
Because of the social harmony norm, Japanese tend to be formal in dealing with social relationships. Only to their internal relations, they can be a little bit informal. (but still keeping good manner to certain extent)

10. Clean
The toilet in Japan is the cleanest I ever seen in my life. You can hardly find a rubbish can on the street because it’s not necessary. Nobody litters trash on the street.

After the bus trip, you don’t have to clean up the trash on the bus. Because Japanese people will clean u the mess by themselves. Many examples to show that Japanese are clean.


From the research of this article, I realized most of the foreigners have good image on Japan. Beside the adjectives mentioned above, i can think of “Honest” and “Serious”.

How would you describe Japanese with an adjective term?

A Chinese Malaysian, Blogger, Vlogger on YouTube, Tour Guide in Japan. He believes 1 day his videos can bring Japan and Malaysia together. マレーシア華人、ブロガー、YouTubeクリエイター、日本にいるツアーガイドです。いつか自分の動画は日本とマレーシアを繋げる架け橋になると信じています。 Read more ABOUT him.