Wrong about Japan: Arab News-YouGov survey reveals Arab misconceptions

Wrong about Japan: Arab News-YouGov survey reveals Arab misconceptions
Japan's Emperor Naruhito attends a ceremony proclaiming his enthronement at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo on Oct. 22, 2019. In an Arab News-YouGov poll, 7 out of every 10 Arabs surveyed thought the Japanese emperor has the power to sign laws. (Issei Kato/Pool Photo via AP, File)
Updated 28 October 2019

Wrong about Japan: Arab News-YouGov survey reveals Arab misconceptions

Wrong about Japan: Arab News-YouGov survey reveals Arab misconceptions
  • A total of 3,033 Arabic speakers from 18 countries were interviewed in the survey
  • Many believe the Japanese invented mobile phones and created the personal computer

DUBAI: Nearly half the people in the Arab world believe the Japanese invented the mobile phone and more than a third think they also created personal computers, a new survey suggests.

The Arab News-YouGov poll, which highlights Arabs’ positive perceptions of Japan, has also revealed a number of misconceptions.

Arabs are misinformed about Japan’s executive authority, with 30 percent thinking the emperor has the power to sign laws. An even bigger number — 45 percent — believe Japan has a nuclear bomb.

Based on online interviews with 3,033 Arabic speakers from 18 countries, the poll was commissioned by Arab News as part of the recent launch of its Japan online edition.

Such misconceptions among Arabs were attributed by experts to several factors, including how history is taught, knowledge gaps across generations and the use of technology.

Politics

Ignorance of Japanese politics was also common among the respondents, almost half of whom said Japan was a member of the UN Security Council. Nine percent thought Japan’s military was aligned with North Korea.

Japan’s history of earthquakes and natural disasters, including the 2012 Fukushima nuclear plant disaster, appears to have influenced Arab perceptions. Close to half of the respondents associated Japan with earthquakes, despite its advanced infrastructure for managing natural disasters.

Dr. Theodore Karasik, senior adviser at Gulf State Analytics in Washington, DC, said mobile phones were a useful tool to eliminate misconceptions. “The way Japanese society uses mobile phones provides an interesting cross-cultural reference point regarding use of public space and being better informed,” he said.

And who invented them? That was Marty Cooper, a US engineer, in 1973.