There are certain elements of Japanese cuisine—or what we think Japanese cuisine is—that have been adopted by the greater culture and made, for better or worse, American. Sushi as we know it may be the most compelling example of this, but it doesn’t stop there. There are matcha lattes at Starbucks, mochi at Trader Joe’s and teriyaki-flavored jerky at gas station mini-marts across the country. Though the greatest compliment to any cuisine may very well be assimilation, when it comes to Japanese food in America, certain things have gotten lost in translation along the way.

It’s true that today, dining aesthetes pride themselves on knowing their shoyu from their shio, tonkatsu from tonkotsu, and yakisoba from their yakitori. The word “umami” gets thrown around casually in mainstream food magazines, and, um, burger chains. The American understanding of Japanese food has expanded since the days when ramen and Nissin Cup Noodles were considered one and the same. But the foundation of so-called knowledge that it’s all being built on could stand some correcting. There are key aspects of Japanese cuisine that we’ve misapprehended from the very beginning, and no one has bothered to set us straight.

The following myths may leave even the most devoted Nipponophiles questioning what they always thought to be true about Japanese food. But the good news is, it’s never too late to learn. Today, we’re debunking some of the most prevalent misconceptions about Japanese food, with the help of these experts:

Elizabeth Andoh, author of six books on Japanese cooking, including two IACP award-winners, An Ocean of Flavor (Morrow, 1988) and Washoku (Ten Speed, 2005), creator of

Hiroko Shimbo, author of The Japanese Kitchen (Harvard Common Press, 2000), The Sushi Experience (Alfred Knopf, 2006) and Hiroko’s American Kitchen (Andrews McMeel, 2013), winner of an IACP award. 

Here are 8 common Japanese food myths, debunked.