The United States ambassador to Tokyo is known for not mincing his words. What has surprised, however, is his target: folks back home.

"I have a message for all the experts back in Washington: You don’t know Japan today,” Rahm Emanuel, a former White House chief of staff under President Barack Obama, said in January, citing advice he was given before taking his post about the need to tread slowly and softly. "Their predictions of what the future of Japan would be were myths. Japan has busted every one of those myths.”

I usually avoid the Tokyo embassy scene but reached out to Emanuel because his take resonated. One of my great frustrations is with how Japan is perceived from the outside, leading to what I have called a "comprehension gap” that reduces the country to stereotypes, or simply ignores it.