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100 Incredibly Interesting Facts About Japan

by Tom Shu

Last Updated on September 23, 2020 by Tom Shu

I took a trip to Japan for the first time 2 years ago and ever since that trip I have been fascinated with the country!

The culture is incredibly rich, the food is insanely delicious, everyone is so polite, transportation is always on time, and there is so much diversity in terms of geography and culture.

Puffer Fish - Osaka, Japan - June 2019 - Tom Shu-1

Honestly, I could go on and on about how much I love the country because there are so many things that make Japan special to me.

Since then, I have been back to the country 2 more times and each time I visit I don’t want to leave.

I have a dream of one day renting out a little house in Kyoto or Osaka for months at a time and just living there to fully experience the culture. Until then, I’m always planning and looking forward to my next trip to Japan.

Anyways, it’s for these reasons that I started to research and learn more about the country, which is why I created this list of 100 interesting facts about Japan!

 

1.) Japan is Largely Made Up of 4 Main Islands

illustration of the 4 main islands of japan

While Japan is an archipelago with almost 6,852 islands, only 4 islands out of all of them make up the majority of Japan’s land area. The islands Honshu, Kyushu, Shikoku, and Hokkaido account for 97% of the total area of Japan. The main cities like Tokyo, Osaka, and Kyoto are located on Honshu Island.

 

2.) The Greater Tokyo Area is the Most Populated Megacity in the World

Tokyo at Night - witandfolly.co

The greater Tokyo metropolitan area is made up of 3 prefectures and includes the capital of Japan, Tokyo, and has an estimated population of 38.14 million people making it the most populated megacity in the world.

 

3.) Japan has the World’s Second-Highest Life Expectancy

illustration of the life expetancy in japan

Japan is pretty much in a tie with Hong Kong with an average life expectancy of 83.6 years old and 84 years old. Many people attribute Japan’s long life expectancy to its traditionally healthier diet when compared to western countries (think more fish and less red meat, more veggies, and smaller portions) how common it is for people to walk as part of their commute, and culture which places extreme importance on family.

 

4.) 69% of Japan is Covered in Forest

image of a bridge amidst fall colors

When you think of Japan, you probably think of all the different cities there are in the country. Surprisingly the majority of Japan at 69%, is actually covered in forests. I still remember exploring my first forest in Japan in the Mount Fuji area. There was a sign that warned visitors to watch out for black bears and I honestly never thought black bears were roaming the forests in Japan until that moment.

 

5.) There are a Crazy Amount of Active Volcanoes in Japan

image of mount fuji above the clouds at sunset

In total, you can find 110 active volcanoes in Japan! 47 of these active volcanoes are actually closely monitored and watched by scientists because they have erupted recently or because they think there is a chance of an eruption.

 

6.) There are More than 1,500 Earthquakes a Year!

illustration of an earthquake

Yes, you read that right! Since, Japan is located on top of or close to 4 different tectonic plates, the Pacific, North American, Eurasian, and Filipino plates, it is one of the most seismically active locations in the world. Of course, most of these earthquakes are small, tiny earthquakes, that you wouldn’t feel, but large and devastating earthquakes do happen once in a while.

 

7.) The 1923 Kanto Earthquake was the Country’s Deadliest Earthquake

illustration of earthquake hitting temples

Going off of #6, as I was saying big earthquakes do unfortunately happen in Japan. The deadliest earthquake in the country’s history happened on September 1, 1923, and hit at a magnitude of 7.9. The earthquake is estimated to have lasted between 4 – 10 minutes and in total, about 140,000 people lost their lives.

The 2011 Tohoku Earthquake, a magnitude 9.0 earthquake is actually the strongest earthquake to ever hit Japan killing 29,000 people. Since many of the houses in 1923 were made of wood many people lost their lives in the fires that the 1923 earthquake caused.

 

8.) Japan has the World’s Deepest Underwater Postbox

illustration of a mailbox underwater

The deepest underwater postbox is located in Susami, which is a famous fishing town in Wakayama Prefecture and was recorded by Guinness World Records in 2002. The postbox is located 30 feet underwater and since 1999 has collected more than 32,000 pieces of mail.

 

9.) Mount Fuji is a Sacred Place

Mount Fuji Reflection at Sunrise Image #2 - witandfolly.co

Mount Fuji isn’t just the tallest mountain in Japan, it has also been a sacred place in the Shinto Religion since at least the 7th century. The cool thing is that in the Shinto Religion, the Kami (divine person) of Mount Fuji is Princess Konohanasakuya. Her symbol is the cherry blossom.

I was lucky enough to have a chance to visit the Mount Fuji area last year. Although I am not a practitioner of the Shinto Religion, I definitely felt an otherworldly atmosphere and peacefulness as I walked around Lake Kawaguchiko in the shadow of Mount Fuji in the early morning sun.

 

10.) Japanese have a Deep Affection to Nature

image of temple framed by trees

Similar to #9, because of the deep-running spirituality of Shinto Religion in the country, you will find that most Japanese will have a deep appreciation and affection for nature. This is because, in the Shinto Religion, Shinto practitioners believe that everything in nature from rocks and mountains to rivers is possessed by spirits.

 

11.) The Sea of Japan Holds an Abundance of Fish

image of the ocean at sunset

The Sea of Japan has a higher than normal concentration of dissolved oxygen which allows many many different species to flourish in the waters. More than 3,500 animal species which includes about 1,000 different kinds of fish species call the Sea of Japan their home.

 

12.) Its History Dates Back to About 30,000 BCE – 35,000 BCE

Gion Street in Kyoto at Sunset - witandfolly.co

There isn’t too much information available about this period in Japan, but its believed that the earliest hunter and gatherers who made it to Japan were around 30,000 BCE to 35,000 BCE. At this time in history, Japan was connected to the Asian continent by land bridges so it is believed that these earliest humans made it to Japan via the land bridges.

This period of Japan is also known as the pre-ceramic era because the skill and technology of making pottery were not known yet.

 

13.) Jomon Period: The First Society of Japan

illustration of a set of pottery

The first known society in the country happened during the Jomon Period almost 15,000 years ago. They introduced pottery in the Japanese Archipelago and is also where the name of their society comes from. The Jomon cultural sites reportedly still have remains of pottery artifacts and stone-based tools from that time.

 

14.) After the Jomon Period, Came the Yayoi Period

illustration of person weaving

The Yayoi period started in 300 B.C. and marked an end to the Jomon period. People belonging to this tribe happened to be skilled weavers, craftsmen, and excellent farmers. The Yayoi people were more advanced than the Jomon people and are best known as the first people to start to cultivate rice.

Because they were able to farm and cultivate rice, the people of this time started to change from hunter-gatherers to a more settlement style and the population boomed because of this.

 

15.) No-Melt Ice Cream!

illustration of no melt ice cream

Ok, the title is kind of clickbaity as the ice cream will eventually melt, but this ice cream reportedly won’t melt for a few hours. The discovery was accidentally made while the scientists were experimenting with the chemistry in strawberries to assist farmers affected by the earthquake of 2011.

If you need more proof, just check out this short video!

 

16.) The Portuguese were the First Europeans to Visit Japan

illustration of ship visiting japan

The first Europeans to visit Japan were the Portuguese in the year 1543 when they landed at the Port of Nagasaki. This first visit from the Portuguese marked the beginning of the Nanban trade period which lasted from 1543 to 1614.

During this period, the Japanese and Portuguese freely traded goods with each other, and new technologies and cultural practices such as European guns, European armor, and European ships were introduced to Japan.

Another surprising fact from this period is that the Portuguese actually introduced tempura to Japan, which is now one of the most popular dishes in all of Japan.

 

17.) Japan had a Period of Complete Isolation from the Rest of the World

illustration of japan isolated from world

Because of the massive influence that European culture was having on Japan, since first meeting them in 1543, the Shogun of Japan at that time Tokugawa Lemitsu closed off Japan to all foreigners in 1635. During this time, anyone who was seen using European goods would be punished. This law was called the Sakoku Edict of 1635 and lasted over 200 years.

 

18.) A Highway that Goes Through a Building

illustration of highway through building

Yes, you read that right! In Osaka, the Hanshin Expressway goes directly through the Gate Tower Building’s 5th, 6th, and 7th floors. In reality, the workers in the building don’t really notice as the walls and floors of the building are soundproof and the highway doesn’t actually touch the building.

 

19.) Japan has a Word for Death by Overwork, “Karoshi”

image of japanese workers in line for train

One of the first things you’ll notice when you visit Japan is just how hard everyone works, especially the Salarymen and Salarywomen in the big cities of Japan. Every day during morning rush hour, you’ll see men and women in dark-colored suits sardine themselves onto the subway in order to get to work on time.

Then late at night, you’ll see them returning on the subway or at the local bar, half asleep and exhausted from a long day of work.

It’s no wonder why Japan has a term called “Karoshi” which literally means death by overwork.

In April of 2019 new labor laws went into place capping the amount of hours employees can work in a week, so the long hours will hopefully get a little better.

 

20.) One Heck of a Healthy Diet

image of plate of sushi

The Japanese diet is definitely known throughout the world as being one of the healthiest diets. With traditional diets staples that include plenty of rice, fish, and vegetables, people in Japan tend to eat less fatty foods richer in vitamins and minerals. Their diet is one of the factors to the long life expectancy in Japan.

 

21.) The Last Emperor in the World

illustration of an emperor

Japan is the only country in the world with an Emperor. Even though the Emperor of Japan doesn’t hold much power and mostly play a symbolic role, they are still a proud part of the traditions in Japan.

The current Emperor of Japan is Naruhito who took the position on May 1, 2019, after his father Emperor Akihito renounced his throne on April 30, 2019.

 

22.) Japan is the 3rd Largest Economy in the World

illustration of the stock market

You might not think about it when you first think of Japan since its an island country, but it is the 3rd largest economy in the world. It’s pretty incredible to see how fast the country has grown especially since it had to recover from the devastation it suffered during WWII.

If you don’t live under a rock and have driven anywhere recently then you could probably guess that one of the country’s biggest product exports are automobiles with all the Hondas and Toyotas on the road.

 

23.) A Banned Pokemon Episode

illustration of 3 different pokemon

On December 16, 1997, an episode of Pokemon aired in Japan that actually caused 700 children to have medical issues and had to be sent to the hospital. At the most end, some of the kids even had seizures. The reason for so many kids being affected by this episode was the strobe lighting. Plus, at the time, Pokemon was one of the most popular shows in Japan, so many kids were watching the episode which increased the odds of people being affected.

 

24.) The Political Structure of Japan

illustration of a person speaking at a podium

Because of the country’s size, the country has been politically structured into 8 different regions and 47 different prefectures. The prefectures actually go back to the Meiji Period (1868 – 1912), which were created to replace the lands controlled by the Daimyo, the powerful feudal lords who ruled the country before the Meiji Period.

 

25.) Japan is a Country of Varying Climates

illustration of different climates

Since Japan geographically stretches from North to South for such a long distance, the climate in different areas of the country tends to vary by a good amount. The climate in some of the big cities like Tokyo ranges from a temperate to subtropical climate. This means hot summers and mild winters, and 4 different seasons.

On the other hand, the climate across the northern island of Hokkaido is much cooler. The summers are nice and mild, but in the winter the area gets a ton of snow and the temperature often drops below freezing.

 

26.) It is a Hiker’s Paradise

image of mountain layers in japan

Hiking is probably not on most people’s minds when they come to Japan, but it actually has a huge collection of mountains and trails to hike. Plus, because of the geographical diversity of the country, there is a huge selection of different types of hikes to go on. You can challenge yourself both physically and mentally by hiking up the majestic Mount Fuji, hike a UNESCO-recognized series of pilgrimage routes, or go trekking on some of the trails in the Japanese Alps

 

27.) Mount Takao: A Natural Recreation Area Near Tokyo

illustration of mountain with cable car

If you’re spending time in Tokyo, you actually don’t need to go too far in order to get into the mountains of Japan! Mount Takao (高尾山, Takaosan) is located only 50 minutes away from Shinjuku Station and will only set you back about ¥ 390.

Once you get there, you can hike up to the summit which is close to 2,000 feet or if you don’t feel like hiking the whole way, you can also take the cable car which brings you halfway up the mountain.

From the top, you can see views of Tokyo, and on clear days you can even see Mount Fuji!

 

28.) The 7th Longest Coastline in the World

illustration of a coastline in a circle

Japan has the 7th longest coastline in the world, just beating out Australia, the United States, and Antarctica in the top 10. In total, the coastline of Japan spans 18,486 miles and includes cliffs, hiking trails, sleepy coastal towns, and some of the largest international fishing ports in the world

 

29.) Kitayamazaki Cliffs: The Most Famous of them All

illustration of a cliff side

The Kitayamazaki Cliffs is a 5-mile section of the Rikuchu Coastline in Northern Iwate Prefecture that has 650-foot cliffs stretched along the 5-mile section. The area is so famous because in 1999 it received first place in the “natural resource: coast” category in the National Tourist Resource Evaluation conducted by the Japan Travel Bureau Foundation.

The best view of the coastline is from the Kitayamazaki Observatory, which has 3 different observation decks at different heights so you can get different views of the coast from one place.

 

30.) There are Epic Gorges in Japan

illustration of a gorge

I definitely did not know this until I started researching, but Japan is home to several spectacular gorges that offer views of cliffs, forests, and nearby waterfalls. While you can go hiking in most of these gorges, at some of the other gorges, you can take a scenic boat ride or sightseeing train through them.

Some of the most famous gorges in Japan include Takachiho Gorge, Kurobe Gorge, and Geibikei Gorge.

 

31.) There are Massive Limestone Caves

illustration of a limestone cave

As I have been saying, the geographical diversity in Japan is crazy! There is actually a huge amount of limestone caves strewn throughout the country and is a great way to escape the summer heat or winter cold since the temperature in the caves stays constant year-round.

These caves were formed millions of years ago and feature natural formations like limestone pools, streams, and underground waterfalls. A couple of the most famous limestone caves in Japan are Akiyoshido Cave, Abukumado Cave, and Ryusendo Cave.

 

32.) You Can Find Beautiful Marshland in the Country

illustration of marshland

Japan has some of the most beautiful marshlands in the world that are especially popular to visit during the autumn months when the leaves change color. Hopefully, one day I can visit these marshlands during the fall colors as you get to see not only the leaves change colors, but also the grass in the marshland. A few of the most popular marshlands in Japan are Oze National Park, Senjogahara Marshland, and Kushiro Marshland.

 

33.) Nachi – The Tallest Waterfall in Japan

Nachi Waterfall - witandfolly.co

Standing at a height of 133 meters, Nachi Falls is the tallest waterfall in Japan and is located in Nachikatsuura, Wakayama Prefecture. It is ranked as one of the three most beautiful and greatest waterfalls in Japan and is also part of the Kumano Kodo pilgrimage which I mentioned in #26.

 

34.) The 2003 Pet Boom of Japan

image of a dog jumping with mouth open

Starting around 2003, pets became more and more popular in Japan and by the year 2009, there were close to 6 million more cats and dogs than children in Japan.

This boom also has a reported dark side, though, as many people who were not 100% ready for a pet in their life decided to get one, and then shortly after decided the pet was too much and gave it to a shelter.

Because of this in 2010 a reported 500,000 dogs were put to death in public animal management centers in Japan.

 

35.) Japanese Trains are Extremely Punctual

image of shinkansen in japanTrains in Japan are so punctual that it’s scary! At the same time, it makes me wonder in awe how they do it because there are so many different train lines that run throughout the country on a given day. In fact, in 2017, the Tsukuba Express line between Tokyo and Tsukuba made global headlines when the management of the train line apologized publicly for leaving the station 20 seconds early.

 

36.) Japan has Sand Dunes

illustration of sand dunes in a circle

Yes, surprisingly Japan also has a dune, which means they pretty much have everything you would ever want in a country! All jokes aside, the largest and only dune in the country is the Tottori Sand Dunes which is 9 miles long and 1.5 miles wide.

Over 2 million visitors come here annually to explore the dunes. There are also other activities here to take part in too like sandboarding, paragliding, camel rides, a museum to visit, and even taking the chairlift up to an observation deck.

 

37.) Hikikomori – A Population Who has Withdrawn from Society

illustration of person sitting at computer

There is a population of mostly men in Japan, known as Hikikomori who have completely withdrawn from society and for the most part, haven’t left their rooms for at least 6 months to 1 year. In the 2016 Japanese census, they counted about 540,000 people who would be considered Hikikomori, but it’s hard to say because most of these people tend to want to stay under the radar. Even though the term is Japanese, there are Hikikomori in other parts of the world too, like the US, Brazil, and Oman.

 

38.) There was a Ban on Dancing After Midnight

illustration of silhouette of different people dancing

Interestingly, there was a ban in Japan on dancing after midnight or 1 am in bars, clubs, and other public venues that lasted from 1948 to 2015. This law was first put into place during WWII because many of the dancing venues during the US occupation of Japan was actually a front for prostitution.

 

39.) The Country has a Huge Number of Onsens (Hot Springs)

illustration of monkey in hot spring

Because of Japan’s geographic location and its volcanic activity, the country has about 2,300 Onsens to choose from located all around the country. It is said that the water from these hot springs can treat a variety of things including rheumatism, hypertension, fatigue, and chronic skin conditions like eczema.

I was lucky enough to have stayed at a ryokan in the Lake Kawaguchiko area so I got to experience a private Onsen while I was there. Hopefully, I can make it to some other Onsens on my next visits to Japan as I’ve always wanted to try the ones in Hakone out.

 

40.) The Oldest Onsen is 3,000 Years Old

illustration of an onsen bathhouse

Dogo Onsen located in Shikoku Island is the oldest Onsen in all of Japan with a history of more than 3,000 years. For all you Miyazaki fans, it is said that Dogo Onsen is the inspiration for the famous bathhouse in the movie Spirited Away.

In 1994, this was the first public bathhouse in Japan to be designated as an Important National Cultural Asset and in 2009 it was award 3 stars by the Michelin Green Guide for Japan.

Visitor Tip: The renovation of Dogo Onsen started in January 2019, so the 2nd and 3rd floors are closed. The 1st-floor Kami-No-Yu area is still open, though.

 

41.) Onsens in Japan were Discovered by Ancient Hunters

illustration of a warrior standing next to onsen

It is believed that the hot springs of Japan were first discovered by ancient warriors and hunters. According to legend, as these hunters tracked the animals they wounded, they would often see the animals head towards these hot springs because the animals knew the power of the Onsen’s water to heal their wounds.

 

42.) Only 1.7% of Land in Japan is Pastures and Grassland

illustration of grasslands

When you think about it, this isn’t really that surprising, yet it surprised me. I would have thought the Japanese countryside would have more grassland, but because the country is so mountainous, forested and the cities so developed, pastures and grassland only make up a small proportion of the country’s geography.

 

43.) Only 12.7% of the Land is Okay for Agriculture

illustration of farm land

Related to the above, since Japan is largely covered by mountain ranges and volcanoes (68% of Japan), there is not much land for farming and only 12.7% of the land is okay for agriculture. Most of the land that is able to be farmed is found on the coasts of the island or in the river valleys between the mountains.

 

44.) The Shinano River is the Longest River in Japan

illustration of a river with mountains in the background

While there are many many rivers in Japan, most of them are shorter. The Shinano River on the other hand at 228 miles, is the longest in the country, which is located on Honshu, the main island in Japan. At a length of 228 miles, this river has about the same length as the Severn River of England, which is the longest river in Great Britain.

The river’s source is from the Japanese Alps in Mount Kobushi and from there it flows into the Sea of Japan.

 

45.) Lake Biwa – The Largest Lake in Japan

illustration of a lake at night with shrine in the lake

The largest lake in Japan is Lake Biwa. A freshwater lake located in Shiga Prefecture and just to the northeast of Kyoto. The lake covers an area of 258.8 square miles which is huge when talking about Japan, but when you compare Lake Biwa to other large lakes in the world, it’s actually quite small.

For example, the Great Salt Lake in Utah covers an area of 1,800 square miles and the Great Lake Superior covers a whopping area of 31,700 square miles!

The name of Lake Biwa is believed to have been established in the Edo period because of how closely it looked like the Japanese instrument called the Biwa.

 

46.) One of the Lowest Unemployment Rates in the World

image of many people walking across a street crossing

Although the work-life balance in Japan isn’t the best, the country does have one of the lowest unemployment rates in the entire world. The current unemployment rate in the country is 2.4%, which isn’t so low when you compare it to Cambodia and Qatar which have an unemployment rate of 0.30% and 0.60%. However, when you compare it to the world’s largest economies like the US, China, Germany, and the United Kingdom, you get a sense of how low it is.

Unemployment Rate in the World’s Largest Economies

  • Japan 2.3%
  • China 3.67%
  • United States 3.8%
  • United Kingdom 3.8%

 

47.) Isewan Typhoon – The Most Devastating Typhoon to Hit Japan

illustration of a typhoon over the earth

Every year many typhoons do hit Japan, but the most devastating in the country’s history is the Isewan Typhoon of 1959 which cost more than 5,000 lives. The typhoon is also known as Super Typhoon Vera and it is actually the third most deadly natural disaster in Japan during the 20th century.

Only two other natural disasters, the Great Kanto Earthquake in 1923 and the Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake claimed more lives.

 

48.) Great East Japan Earthquake – Most Powerful Earthquake to Hit Japan

illustration of an earthquak with a falling building

The Great East Japan Earthquake is also known as the Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami. Although this natural disaster wasn’t the biggest earthquake that hit Japan when looked at by the number of lives lost, it was the most powerful in terms of magnitude.

The Great East Japan Earthquake struck on March 11, 2011, at a magnitude of 9.0 and it was reported to be felt all around the world.

After the earthquake was over, more than 120,000 buildings had been destroyed and the estimated damage totaled about $199 billion.

 

49.) Oldest Company in the World Until 2006

illustration of two different shrines next to each other

Kongo Gumi Co. Ltd, an Osaka founded and based construction company that specialized in building Buddhist temples was actually the oldest running company with over 1,400 years of history before it was purchased and absorbed by the Takamatsu Construction Group in 2006.

It’s crazy to think about, but the company was founded in the year 578 AD and took part in building some of the most famous buildings in the Osaka and Kyoto area, including Osaka Castle and Hōryū-ji in Nara. 

 

50.) Japan has the Shindo Scale for Measuring the Strength of Earthquakes

illustration of a seismic scale

Another interesting thing about earthquakes in Japan is how they measure them. While many parts of the world will report on the earthquake’s magnitude, Japan reports the strength of the earthquake using what’s called the Shindo Scale.

Here’s the difference. Magnitude measures the strength of the earthquake at the epicenter of the quake, but the Shindo scale measures how strong of an effect the earthquake was felt based on the location. Here is what the Shindo Scale looks like.

 

51.) The Land of Vending Machines

illustration of 3 vending machines next to each other

I’m not exaggerating when I say that you can buy pretty much anything from a vending machine in Japan! In total, there are about 23 vending machines for every 1 person in Japan and you can buy vegetables, ramen, eggs, toys, and even cars from vending machines there. That equals nearly 5 million vending machines in the entire country!

 

52.) Japan Just Legalized Gambling Casinos

illustration of 3 different pachinko machines

While gambling was illegal in Japan for several years, on July 20, 2018, it was legalized in the form of gambling casinos. Even though gambling was illegal for that long of a time, people in Japan were still able to “gamble” in the form of Pachinko, which looks like the craziest game of pinball you can ever play. To get around the illegal gambling law, at the Pachinko Parlor, you would trade in metal balls that you win for some sort of token and then take a short walk to a location nearby to trade in that token for cash.

 

53.) There is A lot of Fake Food Being Sold in Japan

illustration of different japanese foods

Outside almost every Japanese restaurant, you will find a fake version of the food served by that restaurant or even an animated version of dishes served at the restaurant. Well, you have to buy these fake food items somewhere, right?

That place is Kappabashi Street in Tokyo and here you can find everything you would need as a restaurateur including pots, pans, utensils, knives, and yes, a huge selection of fake food!

 

54.) Japan Birth Rate is Lowest it’s Ever Been

illustration of a decreasing birth rate

Japan’s birth rate has actually hit its lowest point since the country started recording this statistic in 1899, which means the population is in a decline right now. According to the country’s National Institute of Population and Social Security Research, about 127 million people are living in Japan. Because of the historically low birth rate, the population could drop below 100 million by 2049.

 

55.) People in Okinawa Live Much Longer than Most

illustration of beach resort

Okinawa actually has one of the highest rates of people living past 100 years old than anywhere else in the world! To be exact, for every 100,000 people who live in Okinawa, 67 people live to be over 100 years old. Many people believe the reason for Okinawan’s long life span is their diet and the importance of friendship between the people on the island.

 

56.) Slurping Noodles is a Sign of Appreciation

image of a person picking up noodles with chopsticks

One of the first things any parents tell their kids while eating is to chew with their mouths closed and to eat quietly. Yes, the Japanese also think eating loudly is disrespectful, but that’s not the case if you’re eating noodles!

Slurping up your noodles is the norm and you can definitely expect to hear a bunch of slurping if you visit any ramen, soba, or udon shop.

Soba used to be common street food, so it is said that the practice of slurping up noodles came from people grabbing a quick bite to eat at these soba carts. Many people also claim that slurping up the noodles makes them taste better.

 

57.) One Of The Biggest Seafood Consumer In The World

image of vendor at japanese market holding up lobster in each hand

Eating about 6% of the world’s fish harvest, Japanese is one of the biggest consumers of seafood in the world. The only country that has a higher consumption of seafood in China. In total, this equals to about 60 lbs of seafood consumed by each person every year.

 

58.) Naps are Encouraged in Japan

illustration of a sloth sleeping on a branch

This doesn’t mean that you can just take a nap whenever you want during the workday, but napping at work is definitely acceptable in Japan as its a kind of sign that you have been working yourself into exhaustion.

If you have been to Japan before, then you’ll know that a lot of people nap in public, especially while on the train. All this napping is probably because Japanese workers are known to get a little amount of sleep every day (less than 6 hours).

 

59.) People Love Having Christmas Dinner at KFC

image of girl standing in front of kfc

It sounds crazy when you first hear it, but almost 3.6 million Japanese have KFC for Christmas dinner. This is all thanks to the manager of the first KFC in the country Takeshi Okawara, who thought up of their famous marketing campaign to sell a Christmas Fried Chicken barrel to the people in Japan!

At the time, not many people celebrated Christmas in Japan and there wasn’t much of a Christmas tradition, so with the help of the marketing campaign, KFC became the tradition. That is one hell of a great marketing campaign!

 

60.) Japan is one of the Safest Countries in the World

image of akhihabara area in japanI think this is pretty well known, but in case you didn’t know already, Japan is one of the safest countries in the world.

As I have been saying, we have visited Japan multiple times now and have walked around the streets at all times of the day and have never felt unsafe.

From a statistical perspective, according to Numbeo.com, which is a consolidation of information collected from surveys of visitors to the website and has been used as a source by many international newspapers and magazines (BBC, Time, New York Times, etc.), Japan has a Safety Index score of 80.43, which is pretty much as safe as it gets!

 

61.) No Shoes Allowed Inside

image of sandals on a welcome mat

One thing is for sure. Before entering any Japanese house, you will most likely be asked to remove your shoes and will be given a clean pair of indoor slippers to wear. Like other Asian countries, it is considered customary and much more hygienic to remove your shoes before entering someone’s house.

What makes Japan unique is that you’ll also see this happen at restaurants and even in some workplaces. In Japan, it is deemed rude to wear shoes inside a house.    

 

62.) There are Musical Toilets in Japan

illustration of a musical toilet

One of the most unique things in Japan are the high tech toilets you will find in the country. Not only do these toilets automatically warm the seat up for you, but they also wash your bottom and can play music to drown out any unwanted noise! When we were in Japan almost all of the toilets were these high tech toilet types so you have a good chance of running into one.

Not all of them were able to play music, so I wish you the best of luck in finding one!

 

63.) Square Watermelons in Japan

illustration of a watermelon wall paper

Leave it to Japan to make fruit such an extravagance. While people across the globe have watermelons, the Japanese have created square melons in addition to the regular watermelons.

The square watermelons are primarily used for decoration and as gifts and can have as high a price tag as $100. The crazy thing is that they don’t just specialize in square watermelons. They also have heart-shaped watermelons, larger than average watermelons called Godzilla watermelons, and explosively delicious watermelon called dynamite watermelon.

 

64.) There is a Penis Festival in Japan

Yes, you read that right. The first Sunday in April every year is the Kanamara Matsuri festival which is also known as the Penis Festival and also known as the Festival of the Steel Phallus.

Legend has it that a very very jealous demon used to live inside the vagina of a goddess who bit off the penises of her first two husbands. The next guy who tried to win the goddess over did not let the story of the demon scare him away. This guy was a blacksmith and his plan was to trick the demon by forging a steel phallus.

It worked!

When the demon went to bite off the blacksmith’s penis, it got a mouth full of steel and the demon’s teeth were broken off. The blacksmith eventually won the goddess over and the rest is history.

 

65.) Eating Raw Meat is Extremely Common

illustration of a piece of sashimi

Most people know about the Japanese love for raw fish weather that be in the form of nigiri or sashimi, but did you know that the country also has other raw meat dishes that are served in restaurants that are not fish? Some of these dishes include raw chicken sashimi (torisashi), raw deer sashimi (shikasashi), and raw horse sashimi (basashi).

 

66.) The Number 4 is Unlucky in Japan

illustration of the number 4

Just like other countries in Asia, the number 4 is considered unlucky in Japan because the pronunciation is very similar to the word death. In Japan, the number 4 can be read “yon (よん) ” or “shi (し)”. The Japanese Kanji for death is “shi (死)”, so you can probably tell how close they are to each other now.

 

67.) Nôgaku Theater – An Intangible Cultural Heritage by UNESCO

image of a theater performance in japan

Nôgaku Theater originated in the 8th century when various performances were brought to Japan from China. Nôgaku is actually made up of two different types of performances, a lyric drama “noh” and the comic theater “kyōgen” Nôgaku has been so popular in Japan that it is one of the major influences in Kabuki and Japanese puppet theater.

 

68.) Specially Grown Fruit is Considered a Luxurious Gift in Japan

image of fruit which has won an award

Like I was saying before about the square watermelons, Japan takes growing fruit to a whole other level. There are of course the standard fruit you can buy at the supermarket at a reasonable price, but then there are specialty fruits.

When I mean specialty, I mean super exclusive, authentically verified, hand-picked, and hand-grown fruit.

One piece of these types of fruits can cost hundreds if not thousands of dollars and I’m talking US dollars! Some of the most exclusive specialty fruits in Japan include the Aomori Apple, Mikan Mandarin Oranges, Ruby Roman Grapes, Yubari Melons, and Binjinhime Giant Strawberries.

 

69.) Black Cats are a Good Luck Charm

image of a few maneki neko on a shelf

In many countries seeing a black cat might be considered unlucky, but not in Japan! In Japanese culture, a black cat passing your path is deemed as a sign of good fortune. One of the best examples of black cats is the Maneki-Neko figurine, which I’m sure you have seen before. Even though many Maneki-Neko is white, they also come in black too!

 

70.) There are Cuddle Cafes in Japan

illustration of two people cuddling

More and more Japanese are finding it harder to date as people focus on their careers first. Because of this, some entrepreneurs have found an in-demand market for cuddle cafes, where you can visit, lie down by a partner, and pay for being able to cuddle them.

They are meant as a way to relax and reduce stress from the professional working life in the big cities of Japan.

You pay for the amount of time you want to cuddle and can even pay extra for additional services like staring into each other’s eyes for a certain amount of time, being able to lay your head in the other’s lap, and pillow talk.

 

71.) ASIMO – The Famous Robot of Japan

illustration of a robot speaking

Japan is known for its development in technology, especially robotics. One of the most famous inventions was the development of ASIMO (Advanced Step In Humanoid Ability).

This is a humanoid robot that was created by Honda during the 2000s and was so famous it even played football with President Obama and danced for Chancellor Angela Merkel.

You can currently see this robot as a display in the Miraikan Museum, Tokyo, Japan. Sadly, because of increased competition in the robotics field from around the world, Honda announced that it was ending the ASIMO program in 2018.

 

72.) Kids Get Taught How to Clean in School

illustration of cleaning at school

Yes, for all of you who struggle to make your bed in the morning, every day in Japanese schools, the kids and the teachers will clean their school together! The cleaning time in school is called “osouji jikan” お掃除時間 and is a time when everyone works together to help keep the school clean. How cool is that!

 

73.) The Tasty and Unique McDonald’s Menu in Japan

image of mcdonalds menu in japan

Now, when I’m in Japan, the last thing I want to do is eat McDonald’s with all the other yummy food choices around. If you do get the craving, though, the menu in McDonald’s in Japan is one of the most unique.

Japan has more than 3,000 Mcdonald’s, which is the highest concentration of the fast-food chain outside the US. Like in other countries McDonald’s also localizes the menu to Japan, but the Japanese menu has to be one of my favorites. Some of the top items include chocolate fries, mega muffins, shrimp fillets, and Teriyaki burgers to name a few.

 

74.) Sushi: A Common Staple Since 2nd Century AD

image of sushi in japan

Sushi has been a part of Japanese Culture since the second century. It began as a way of preserving fish in China and slowly made its way in Japan. In Japanese, Sushi doesn’t refer to raw fish. Instead, it means eating rice with seasonings of vinegar, salt, and sugar.

What’s interesting is that the first “sushi” from China didn’t really look like the sushi we know today. Instead, it was a salted fish that was wrapped in rice which was how they preserved the fish. When the fish was eaten, the rice was thrown away.

By the Edo Period, though, the Japanese had created a dish that is more similar to the sushi we see now in which you ate the fish and rice at the same time.

 

75.) The World Famous Kobe Beef

illustration of raw beef

Japanese Kobe Beef is famous across the world for its incredible succulence and irreplaceable taste.

What makes the meat so unique is the breed of cows it comes from and how much care goes into taking care of the animals. It is said they are fed beer to help them live a happy and stress-free life and given massages to help them from cramping.

If you’re ever thinking about ordering or buying Kobe Beef, there is one thing to keep in mind as some people get Wagyu and Kobe mixed up. Wagyu actually means Japanese cow. So what that means is that all Kobe is Wagyu, but not all Wagyu is Kobe because there are very strict grading standards that must be met for it to be Kobe Beef.

 

76.) The Shortest Poetry in the World was Created Here

illustration of writing poetry

Haiku poetry is the shortest form of poetry in the world and was first developed in Japan. Its origins can be traced back to the 9th century. A Haiku is made up of 3 short lines that total 17 syllables. The first line of the Haiku is 5 syllables, the second is 7 syllables and the 3rd line is also 5 syllables. It’s also considered more than just poetry and a way of looking at the world.

 

77.) Highest Number of Nobel Laureates In An Asian Country for Physics

illustration of nobel prize

11 of the 27 Nobel laureates in Japan contributed to the field of Physics. This makes them the country with the highest number of Nobel Laureates in an Asian country.

 

78.) Japan and Russia are Still Not Technically at Peace

illustration of a peace treaty between japan and russia

Surprisingly on paper, Japan and Russia are still at war with each other. During the last month of WWII, Russia declared war on Japan and the two countries still have never signed a peace treaty with each other to officially end the war.

The main reason for this is a dispute over the Kuril Islands, which is a chain of islands between Russia and Japan.

 

79.) The Crazy Flavors of Kit Kats You Can Find in Japan

image of kit kats at a store in japan

In most countries, you wouldn’t think twice about Kit Kats, but not in Japan! In Japan, your regular Kit Kat candy bars are available in crazy flavors like grilled corn, Earl grey tea, or camembert.

They are also considered a top gift for a student during the entrance exam. Ever since traveling to Japan for the first time, I’ve always made it a point to try out as many different flavors of these Kit Kats as I can. So far my favorite flavors have to be the Cherry Blossom or Azuki Bean flavor!

 

80.) 3rd Biggest Producer of Cars in the World

illustration of manufacturing cars

Japan is one of the largest producers of automobiles across the globe losing only to China and the US in total unit production. With that said, Toyota, the Japanese car company is the largest automobile manufacturer in the entire world.

When the company was first founded in 1924, by Sakichi Toyoda, it was actually in the textiles industry as Mr. Toyodo invented the Toyoda Model G Automatic Loom. The car division was actually started in 1933 as a division of the textiles company, Toyoda Automatic Loom Works and the rest is history.

 

81.) The Land of Hello Kitty

Hello Kitty - witandfolly.co

Hello Kitty was first created in Japan during 1974 as a famous plastic coin purse. Currently, there are at least 20,000 different Hello Kitty products in the worldwide market.

What’s crazy is that because of its continued popularity, as of 2019 it is the second highest-grossing franchise of all time. Some other franchises it has beat out to earn the 2nd spot include Winnie the Pooh, Mario, and even Star Wars!

 

82.) Japanese Macaques are Part of Fables

image of a baby japanese monkey

If you have ever heard the famous maxim of the three wise monkeys “See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil” or have seen the maxim in the form of carvings or statues, it’s origin is actually from Japan.

The original three wise monkeys is a carving over a door of the famous Tōshō-gū Shrine in Nikko, Japan. The monkeys themselves are the common Japanese Macaque, which is the same as the snow monkey which you would see bathing in the hot springs of Nagano!

 

83.) Sumo Wrestling: A History Of 1500 Years

illustration of a sumo wrestler

In Japan, Sumo Wrestling has a history of more than 1,500 years. The wrestlers here have an average weight of 300 pounds and are trained in the Heya rooms handled by former champions.

The younger wrestlers are conventionally required to clean and care for the veteran wrestlers. The most interesting part to me about Sumo Wrestling is that it’s actually a Shinto ritual that is supposed to help bring a bountiful harvest and honor the spirits!

 

84.) Japan has an Island of Rabbits

Rabbit on Okonushima Island in Japan picture 2 - witandfolly.co

I didn’t believe there could be an island full of rabbits until I visited this place myself! Okunoshima Island is a small island in Hiroshima Prefecture that is just that; an island full of rabbits!

During WWII the island was a manufacturing site for poisonous gases and unfortunately, they tested these gases on rabbits. After WWII ended, the rabbits escaped and the descendants of these test rabbits are the ones you see on the island now a day.

It’s estimated that about 1,000+ rabbits are living on the island now. I can tell you from first-hand experience that they are friendly and for the most part are not scared of humans. Just look at these furry faces that we hung out with while we were there!

 

85.) The Etiquette of Bowing

a person bowing

In Japan, bowing is deemed as the most traditional and culturally appropriate form of social etiquette.

Here, bows are classified into three categories, namely the formal, very formal, and informal. While the formal bows are made at a shorter angle of 15 degrees, the very formal ones involve bending at an angle of 30 degrees. Here, the deepest bow signifies more respect.

 

86.) The Interesting and Short-Lived Ganguro Fashion Trend

image of fashion magazine

Like many fashion trends from around the world, Ganguro was one of the most famous Japanese trends that spanned from the mid-1990s to 2000.

As part of the trend, young women tan their skin to a very dark color and bleach their hair to a blonde and orange hue. They also used vibrant makeup in really unusual ways. The most popular area to see the Ganguro fashion trend at that time was in the Shibuya and Ikebukuro districts of Tokyo.

 

87.) The Shortest Escalator in the World

illustration of a short escalator

Japan has the shortest escalator in the world! It can be found in the basement of More’s Department Store in Kawasaki. The escalator only has 5 steps that are 32.8 inches in height. 

 

88.) Crooked Teeth are Considered Cute

image of a cure mouse brushing teeth

There is actually a form of crooked teeth called “yaeba” which is when people have that fang type of look or snaggletooth that is considered cute in Japan. It is actually popular enough that some dental clinics offer a service to make your teeth look like this.

 

89.) Japan has the Busiest Train Station in the World

image of a busy train station in japan

Tokyo’s famous Shinjuku Station is the busiest train station in the world. Almost 3.6 million people use it daily, which is a mind-numbing amount to think about. What is even more staggering is the amount of train usage when you look at Japan as a whole. Out of the top 51 busiest train stations in the world, only 6 are not in Japan!

 

90.) Origin of the Name of “Japan”

image of fuji from shinkansen

In Japanese, the term Japan refers to Nihon or Nippon. This further refers to the Land of the Rising Sun’. The country was given this name as it was believed to be the first country to witness the rise of the sun since it was known to be located east of China.

 

91.) The World’s First Novel Was Written Here

image of a girl sitting in front of a wall of books

The Tale of Genji is considered one of the greatest novels ever written in Japanese literature and it was also the world’s first novel. It was written by a Japanese woman by the name of Murasaki Shikibu. It is said that some of the emotional inspiration behind the book was due to the loss of her husband, which impacted her greatly.

 

92.) Tsunokakushi – Bride’s Traditional Headdress for a Wedding

illustration of a shrine in japan

In traditional Shinto weddings, the bride wears a special headdress made from a rectangular piece of cloth called the Tsunokakushi. The symbolism of the headdress is that it covers the bride’s “horns of jealousy, ego, and selfishness”. In other words, its a sign of submission of the bride to her husband to illustrate that she will be an obedient and good wife.

 

93.) The Meaning of “Banzai”

illustration of person yelling banzai

When you hear the term Banzai, you might think of the term used by the Japanese during WWII, but really nowadays its most often used as an equivalent to hip hip hooray in the English language.

For example, you might hear a sports team shouting banzai after they won an important game or a corporate sales team yelling banzai before a big sales day.

 

94.) The Subtle Art of Haragei

illustration of people talking

In most western countries, what you say is what you get and we’re pretty direct with what we are talking about. In Japan, though, there is a subtle way in how people will imply what they are thinking or how they are feeling without actually saying it.

This subtle interpersonal communication style is called Haragei, which actually translates to “stomach art”. It’s pretty hard to describe, but when you visit Japan you will know what I’m talking about here.

For example, the Japanese really do not like to say no, so if there is a situation where they want to say no, they might say “that will be difficult” or “I’ll try my best”.

 

95.) Fugu – The Poisonous Blowfish

illustration of puffer fish

Fugu is an extremely poisonous blowfish that is also a delicacy in Japan. I’ve been thinking of trying the dish out ever since seeing an episode on the Simpsons where homer eats Fugu, but I have yet to work up the guts to try some.

It is so poisonous and potentially dangerous that Japanese law requires chefs to be trained for at least 3 years and to pass a series of exams before they can serve it to the public. It is said that the emperor and his family can’t consume this fish either because of how dangerous it might be.

 

96.) Ringing of the Bells on New Years Eve

image of a kyoto shrine shot through the leaves

Every year on New Years’ Eve in Japan, the temples will ring their bells 108 times to welcome in the new year. To do this, many temples will start ringing their bells before 11 pm and will ring them 107 times leading to midnight. Then they will ring the bell 1 more time to welcome in the new year. Now that’s a way to celebrate! This Buddhist ceremony is called joya no kane (除夜の鐘).

 

97.) Bugaku and Gagaku: Oldest Tradition of Dance and Music

image of a theater performer in japan

Bugaku is a traditional dance that was performed for Japanese elites in the imperial courts, and gagaku is the music that goes with the dance. This is the oldest known court music and dance combination in the world. Before WWII, this combo of dance and music was only seen by the Japanese elites and was only opened to the public after the war happened.

 

98.) Baseball is by Far the Most Popular Sport

illustration of a baseball plaque

Baseball was introduced by the American Horace Grant in 1873 and since then it has become the most popular sport in Japan. Nowadays, Japan has one of the most successful professional baseball leagues in the world and has produced talented ballplayers who did very well in the MLB like Ichiro Suzuki, Hideki Matsui, and Hideo Nomo.

 

99.) Osaka Castle Used to Be Black and Gold

Reflection of Osaka Castle at the Japanese Garden - witandfolly.co

In the early days of Osaka Castle, the exterior was actually painted in black and inside the castle, you would find a variety of decorations made out of gold and silver. Now in the 21st century, Osaka Castle’s exterior is white and you will find a wonderful museum inside of Osaka Castle.

 

100.) Godzilla is in Shinjuku!

image of shinjuku at night with godzilla

In Shinjuku, you can find a giant Godzilla head over Toho Cinema which makes for a cool photo especially if you’re a fan of the movie! There is also a Godzilla statue outside of Toho Studios, and an even bigger statue near Yurakucho Station if the one in Shinjuku wasn’t enough for you.

 

Conclusion

There you have it! 100 of the most interesting facts about Japan and almost 10,000 words later we’re done!

This has been one of my most ambitious articles to date and took me close to a month to research and write so I hope you enjoyed it.

If anything, what I want you to get after reading this is to realize just how interesting of a place Japan country Japan really is.

Along the way, I realized that I could have easily spent my entire life finding new things about the country I love because there are just so many different layers to the country.

Like I said at the beginning, if you think I have missed anything, just let me know and I’ll get it added to this masterpiece right away :).

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18 comments

Anonymous September 30, 2020 - 8:26 pm

this really helped me with my school assignment.

Reply
Tom Shu October 1, 2020 - 12:56 am

I’m glad it helped you with your assignment! Have a good rest of your school year too 🙂

Reply
immy October 6, 2020 - 4:43 am

This was actually quite interesting, I made a project on Japan and this helped me a lot.

Reply
Tom Shu October 8, 2020 - 12:19 am

I’m glad the article helped on your project!

Reply
Anonymous October 9, 2020 - 6:13 pm

hey im using this for a school project, and i was just wondering when this was published. Thanks.

Reply
Tom Shu October 10, 2020 - 10:37 am

Thanks for your question and for using the article! It was published in August of last year.

Reply
Ashleigh Mechem October 21, 2020 - 10:36 am

In your opinion, is it easy to change cultures? I´m american but I dislike my culture/country.

Reply
Tom Shu October 21, 2020 - 11:38 pm

Hi Ashleigh, that’s a good question. I think anyone is able to adjust to a new culture if they’re open to it. I think that’s why you see so many people who are thriving in countries that they didn’t grow up in.

Reply
Dax October 21, 2020 - 11:41 am

Kool

Reply
Tom Shu October 21, 2020 - 11:38 pm

thanks!

Reply
Anonymous October 21, 2020 - 6:42 pm

im gonna use this for my project

Reply
Tom Shu October 21, 2020 - 11:36 pm

Awesome! Good luck with your project

Reply
Anonymous October 23, 2020 - 5:32 am

laughed my rear off when i saw the penis festival. still really useful btw. thanks

Reply
Tom Shu October 23, 2020 - 9:41 am

haha you’re welcome and I’m glad you enjoyed the article

Reply
tang October 23, 2020 - 8:50 pm

really helped my project in school, im so lucky to find this.

Reply
Tom Shu October 24, 2020 - 10:47 pm

I’m glad it could help and good luck with school!

Reply
stream dynamite October 25, 2020 - 4:28 am

this really helped me w my school project !! thank u sm 😀

Reply
Tom Shu October 26, 2020 - 12:13 am

of course! I’m glad the article helped and good luck with the rest of your school year!

Reply

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