Japan is known for its methodically plotted anime, mouth-watering food, and innovative technology that leaves the rest of the world amazed. However, the country offers other facets waiting to be discovered. Here are some facts about Japan you might find interesting:
- In Japanese, the name “Japan” is Nihon or Nippon, which means “Land of the Rising Sun.” It was once believed that Japan was the first country to see the sunrise in the East in the morning.
- The Japanese people have a deep affection for the beauty of the landscape. The ancient Shinto religion says natural features like mountains, waterfalls, and forests have their own spirits, like souls.
- Japan has the third longest life expectancy in the world with men living to 81 years old and women living to almost 88 years old. The Japanese live on average four years longer than Americans.
- Japan consists of over 6,800 islands. There are four main islands: Hokkaido, Honshu, Shikoku, and Kyushu. Also, Japan is slightly smaller than the US state of California.
- Japan has more than 3,000 McDonald’s restaurants, the largest number in any country outside the U.S.
- Twenty-one percent of the Japanese population is elderly (over the age of 65), the highest proportion in the world. There are more elderly than there are children in Japan today.
- The Japanese eat more fish than any other people in the world, about 17 million tons per year. Japan is the world’s largest importer of seafood, with shrimp comprising about one-third of the total, about four million tons a year. More than 20% of Japanese protein is obtained through fish and fish products.
- Over two billion manga, Japanese comic books or graphic novels, are sold in Japan each year.
- Sushi has been around since about the second century A.D. It started as a way to preserve fish in China and eventually made its way to Japan. The method of eating raw fish and rice began in the early 17th century. Sushi does not mean raw fish in Japanese. It actually means rice seasoned with vinegar, sugar, and salt. Raw fish sliced and served alone without rice is called sashimi.
- In March 1995, a religious cult spread sarin, a nerve gas, in the Tokyo subway. Twelve people were killed and more than 5,000 were sickened.
- Japan can be a dangerous place. Three of the tectonic plates that form Earth’s crust meet and often move against each other, causing earthquakes. More than a thousand earthquakes hit Japan every year. Japan also has about 200 volcanoes, 60 of which are active.
- Japanese food is very different from food in Western countries. There are lots of rice, fish, and vegetables, but little meat. With little fat or dairy, this diet is very healthy, which helps Japanese people live, on average, longer than any other people in the world.
- The Japanese are famous for their willingness to work very hard. Children are taught to show respect for others, especially parents and bosses. They learn to do what’s best for their family or company and worry less about their own needs.
- During World War I (1914-1917), Japan fought on the side of the U.S., but on December 7, 1941, Japan bombed the United States Navy fleet at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii and the U.S. entered World War II. From 1941-1945, Japan’s military leaders fought against the U.S. and the allied forces. In August 1945, the U.S. dropped atomic bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, killing about 115,000 people. Japan surrendered a few days later.
- Japan is the only country in the world with a reigning emperor. Emperors have no real power, but they are still revered as a symbol of the country’s traditions and unity.
- Japan has around 5.5 million vending machines with one on almost every street corner. There are vending machines that sell beer, hot and cold canned coffee, cigarettes, wine, condoms, comic books, hot dogs, light bulbs, bags of rice, toilet paper, umbrellas, fish bait, fresh eggs, porn magazines, and even used women’s underwear.
- The Japanese have such a low birth rate that there are more adult diapers sold than baby diapers.
- Cherry blossoms (sakura) are Japan’s national flower.
- Yaeba, or crooked teeth, are considered attractive in Japan—so much so that girls go to the dentist to have their teeth purposefully unstraightened.
- Anime, or animated Japanese films and television shows, account for 60% of the world’s animation-based entertainment. Animation is so successful in Japan that there are almost 130 voice-acting schools in the country.
- Ninety percent of all mobile phones sold in Japan are waterproof because youth like to use them even while showering.
- The sole Japanese man who survived the wreck of the RMS Titanic in 1914, Masabumi Hosono, was called a coward in his country for not dying with the other passengers.
- When Japanese people meet, they traditionally bow instead of shake hands, and the lowest bow shows the deepest respect.
- During World War II, Japan bombed China with fleas infected with the Bubonic plague.
- In Japan, Kit Kat candy bars come in flavors like grilled corn, Camembert cheese, Earl Gray tea, grape, and wasabi. The Japanese pronounce Kit Kat like “Kitto Katsu,” which sounds like “You are sure to pass” in Japanese, and so they make a popular gift to students during entrance exam season.
- In Japan, Kentucky Fried Chicken is a typical Christmas Eve feast.
- Many hot springs and onsen (public bath houses) in Japan ban customers with tattoos from entering because the tattoos remind the public of the yakuza, or Japanese mafia, whose members sport full-body tattoos.
- Japanese “love hotels” are short-stay hotels mainly designed for amorous couples and are identified by the presence of heart symbols. They have different room rates: a “rest” rate as well as an overnight rate. An estimated 2% of Japan’s population visits one each day.
- Japanese macaques, or snow monkeys, are the fabled animals that “see no evil, hear no evil, and speak no evil.” The macaques in northern Honshu live farther north than any other monkey in the world.
- It is appropriate to slurp noodles, especially soba (buckwheat) when eating in Japan. Slurping indicates the dish is delicious. It also cools down the hot noodles.
- The Japanese word karaoke means “empty orchestra.” Cabaret singer Daisuke Inoue made a coin-operated machine that played his songs on tape so his fans could sing along in the 1970s, but he failed to patent his creation and therefore never cashed in on his invention.
- In Japan, it is considered rude to tear the wrapping paper off of a gift.
- The Japanese avoid the number four (shi) because it sounds the same as the word for death. Tall buildings do not have fourth floors. Tea and sake sets are sold with five cups. Three or five is the desirable number of guests in a traditional Japanese tea ceremony. As a rule, odd numbers are preferred over even numbers in Japan.
- Geisha in Japanese means “person of the arts,” and the first geishas were actually men called taikomochi and they had a role similar to Western court jesters.
- The Japanese word for a dog’s barking sound is wan-wan instead of “bow-wow.” Japan’s Akita breed was developed in the 1600s and was once called the royal dog because the emperors kept Akitas as pets. The most famous of all Akitas was Hachikō. Legend has it he waited 10 years at the Shibuya train station in Tokyo for his master who had died while at work. A statue of Hachikō now stands outside the station as a tribute to his loyalty.
- The imperial family of Japan descends from an unbroken lineage of nearly 2,000 years. No other royal family in history has held its position for so long. The first Japanese emperor, Jimmu Tennō, ruled about the time of Christ.
- Godzilla, a huge monster resembling a dinosaur, made his film debut in 1954. In Japan, he is known as Gojira, where he rose from the sea, after being awakened by atomic bomb testing, and attacked Tokyo.
- The Japanese religion of Shinto is one of the few religions in the world with a female solar deity.
- Many Japanese babies are born with a Mongolian spot (mokohan) on their backs. This harmless birthmark usually fades by the age of 5. It is common in several Asian populations and in Native Americans.
40. Today, fewer than 200 people in Japan can claim to have both parents with
exclusively Ainu (perhaps the original human inhabitants of Japan) descent. The
Ainu do not possess the Y chromosome typically found in the rest of the Japanese
Sources & References:
Lehnardt, Karin. 79 Interesting Facts about Japan. Fact Retriever. December 17, 2016. Retrieved October 13, 2017, from https://www.factretriever.com/japan-facts.
National Geographic Kids. Japan. Retrieved October 13, 2017, from http://kids.nationalgeographic.com/explore/countries/japan/#japan-gardens.jpg