15 Cool Facts about Japan That You Need To Know
Japan is an archipelago of islands that is located along the east coast of Asia. It is a popular tourist destination thanks to it’s beautiful temples, amazing food and bustling city centres. Whether you want to hike up the famous Mount Fuji, explore Tokyo city whilst it’s lit up at night or walk through the mysterious Bamboo forest; there is something for every traveller. This country is a dream bucket list destination for many and it isn’t hard to see why! Aside from the amazing culture, incredible wildlife and unique experiences; there are so many other things that make Japan special. Here are 15 cool facts about Japan that you need to know before your visit!
1. Over 80% of the country is mountainous
Around 80% of Japan is covered in mountains which makes it a pretty cool place to explore. There is an area in central Honshu that is known as “the roof of Japan” because the area has so many mountains that are over 3,000m high. Most of the mountains in Japan including the Japan Alps were created by the collision of the continental crust of Asia and the Pacific oceanic crust. This movement caused the land mass to uplift, And helped create Japan as we know it today.
This mountainous terrain is home to over 100 active volcanoes, with some of the most popular being Mount Fuji, Mount Aso and Sakurajima. That number makes up about 10% of all active volcanoes in the world, which is mad! If you are an adrenaline junkie and love wandering up volcanoes then Japan is the country for you.
2. In Japan KFC Is a Christmas tradition
Christmas isn’t classed as an official holiday in Japan, as not many of the population are christian. However, it is still celebrated by plenty of people and one of their Christmas traditions is something you might not expect.
In Japan the tradition is to head to your local KFC to chow down on a ‘KFC Christmas dinner’. Hours of queuing are to be expected and a lot of people even order weeks in advance to make sure. In total it’s estimated that 3.6 million Japanese people follow this tradition every year.
This unique tradition came about thanks to Takeshi Okaware who was the manager of the first KFC in Japan. After the store opened in 1970, Takeshi came up with the idea to see a ‘party barrel’ full of fried chicken at christmas time.
3. Japanese people have one of the highest life expectancies in the world
Japan has one of the highest life expectancies in the world, and is second only to Hong Kong. The average life expectancy in Japan is 84, which is 5 years longer than that of the U.S. Over 28% of the Japanese population are aged 65 and older, which is the highest proportion in the world. Japan also has over 70,000 people in the country that are over 100 years old.
Japan actually has an island that is nicknamed “the island of longevity”. Okinawa is an archipelago made up of 160 islands, located in the east China Sea which is well known for it’s high life expectancy. Many people that live on these islands live past 100 years of age, and there is a very low level of disease here too. The people here live very healthy and happy lives, and it is attributed to the concept “ikigai” which translates to “reason for being” and their healthy diet.
4. There is a rabbit island in Japan
There is a little island in Japan called Okunoshima, which is well known for being full of cute rabbits for you to cuddle. The island is nicknamed rabbit island and has become a popular tourist attraction over the years. It is estimated that there are as many as 1,000 rabbits wandering around the island, and that they thrived due to there being no natural predators on Okunoshima. You can even buy food to feed the rabbits which is pretty cool.
The island is located in the inland sea of Japan and originally has a much darker history. Okunoshima was originally used during World War II to test chemical weapons. During this period workers were given minimum protective gear, which led to many people becoming sick due to the exposure of these gases. Today you can learn all about the island’s history at the Poison Gas Museum
You can only get to Okunoshima by ferry, so make sure to research the ferry times before your trip. The island is roughly 4km in circumference and takes about an hour to wander around by foot. If you are a nature lover, then make sure you head to this spot!
5. The world’s oldest company is found in Japan
Japan is home to the oldest operating business in the world. Kongo Gumi was established in 578 and specialises in the construction of shrines and temples. That means the company was founded only a century after the fall of the Roman Empire! How crazy is that?
The company operated for more than 1,400 years as an independent business, until 2006 when it became a subsidiary of Takamatsu Kensetsu due to financial difficulties. However, even though Kongo Gumi is no longer an independent business, it still continues to operate today just under a different company. They specialise in construction, repair and maintenance of Buddhist temples, so definitely won’t be short of work in this beautiful country.
Japan actually has 6 of the world’s oldest companies, and 1000’s of firms that have been around for over 100 years, although Kongo Gumi was the earliest.
6. The number four is considered extremely unlucky in Japan
The number four or ‘shi’ as it’s known in Japanese, is considered extremely unlucky. It is avoided throughout the country, as it sounds very similar to the Japanese word for death.
When we say the number four is avoided, we literally mean in all aspects. Often buildings in Japan won’t have a fourth floor, and items are often sold in sets of three or five; specifically leaving out sets of four.
7. Slurping your noodles is considered polite
Everywhere else, slurping your noodles may be considered rude or irritating to other people. However, in Japan there is only one way to eat your noodles and that is by slurping them! Slurping noodles in Japan is seen as a sign of enjoyment, and shows the chef that you love their food. It is also said to add flavour to your noodles and cool them down.
As this can be a pretty messy way to eat, bibs are sometimes provided for foreigners when it comes to eating noodles in Japan. Using chopsticks is also something that us travellers may not be used to, so the bib is a good idea if you are wearing your favourite clothes to dine out!
8. Dining solo is extremely common
Japan is known as the solo dining capital of the world. Due to an increase in single person households along with a shrinking population, it has become pretty popular in Japan to request a table for one in restaurants.
If you fancy trying a new restaurant but are worried about turning up on your own, don’t be! There is nothing worse than wanting to try a new restaurant or cuisine, and no-one wants to go with you. We feel like this should be a common thing all over the world, so book that table!
9. People are hired as ‘transit pushers’
Using public transportation in Japan is incredibly popular because it is super reliable and nearly always on time. To put this into context about 57% of people living in the capital city of Tokyo get around by using public transport. This causes a big overcrowding issue on trains considering how big Tokyo’s population is and how high the percentage is of people using public transport.
Crazily many of the railways operate at around 199% over capacity which is insane! This causes people to be squished against windows to fit more people inside. To fix this issue, “transit pushers” are hired during rush hour to shove people onto the trains, to make sure more people fit on.
10. The country encounters around 1500 earthquakes every year
Around 1500 earthquakes take place in Japan each year, and the frequency of these natural disasters is due to where the country is located. Japan is located across three very active tectonic plates on the “Pacific Ring of Fire”. The Pacific Ring of Fire is a path located along the pacific ocean that is home to approximately 850-1,000 volcanoes that have been active in the past 11,000 years, and where lots of earthquakes take place.
Japan’s deadliest earthquake occurred on the 1st September in 1923. The earthquake was a magnitude 7.9 and is thought to have lasted between 4 and 10 minutes. In total, it is estimated that around 140,000 people lost their lives.
Japan measures earthquakes slightly differently to other parts of the world. Many countries measure the strength of earthquakes by magnitude, while Japan uses something called the Shindo Scale. The Magnitude measures the strength of a quake at it’s epicentre, whilst the Shindo scale measures the degree of shaking in a certain area, on the earth’s surface.
11. Tokyo is the capital city of Japan and is considered the world’s largest city
The city of Tokyo is made up of lots of different areas, and together they boast an estimated population of over 38 million people, more than the entire population of Canada! This makes it the most populated megacity in the entire world.
As well as the centre of Tokyo; the fringe areas of Chiba, Saitama, Kawasaki, Sagamihara and Yokohama help to make up this huge population. Over time, these areas have expanded until they are now classed as one mega city. 28% of Japan’s entire population lives in Tokyo, which is a pretty big percentage so as you can imagine the city is very busy!
12. Japan has the highest amount of vending machines in the world
Japan has a vending machine for literally everything you could think of. Whether it be batteries, flowers or ramen; you can be pretty sure that you will find it in a Japanese vending machine somewhere.
As a country, Japan has roughly 5 million vending machines. That is the highest density of vending machines in the world! It also means there is roughly 1 vending machine for every 24 people in Japan.
13. Japan consists of over 6,800 islands
Japan is made up of over 6,800 islands, with around 430 of them being inhabited. It is the largest island country in East Asia and the fourth largest in the world. Japan has four main islands which is where most of the big cities are found, and these are Honshu, Hokkaido, Kyushu and Shikoku. Honshu is the largest island of Japan and is the most populated, with the capital city of Tokyo being located here.
Originally these islands were attached to the east coast of Asia, but 15 million years ago, tectonic activity caused the islands to split off from the mainland. This tectonic movement created the Sea of Japan as we know it today.
14. The popular video game series Pokemon originated in Japan
Pokemon is one of the most popular franchises in the world, and continues to grow to this day. Originally it was named as pocket monsters in Japan before it hit the rest of the world. The first video games were released in 1997, and Pokemon video games are still being released today. The aim of the game is to battle your way to the top with Pokemon, and catch all 151 pokemon (or pocket monsters) to complete a pokedex. The trading card expansion of Pokemon and the anime tv show are also massive hits.
On the 16th December in 1997, an episode of pokemon actually caused around 700 children to have medical issues. Some of the children had to be sent to hospital, with some even experiencing seizures. This was because of the strobe lighting in the episode, and as Pokemon was one of the most popular shows in Japan at the time, a lot of children were watching it. Luckily this was only a one time occurrence!
15. The country is home to pretty bizarre festivals
Japan is well known for its festivals, but there are some pretty bizarre ones that take place.
One of the strangest festivals is Hadaka Matsuri. During this festival thousands of men strip naked in public, because they believe it will secure them a fortune filled year. The biggest Matsuri usually occurs in Okayama, where an estimated 9,000 Japanese men gather to strip down.
Another of Japan’s strange festivals is the Kanamara Matsuri Festival – also known as the “Penis Festival” or the ‘Festival of the Steel Phallus”. It occurs on the first Sunday in April every year and is probably one of the strangest sights you will ever see. The male reproductive organ is celebrated throughout the festival and is reflected in candy, decorations and even a parade.
We hope these cool facts about Japan have convinced you to visit this incredible country! If you are super excited to visit Japan, then why not enjoy this beautiful country with us? We have two Japan tours to choose from – the 10 day tour and the 14 day tour. Each one offers unique and incredible travel experiences, with the 14 day tour giving us even more time to visit more destinations. We will show you around the capital city of Tokyo, the temples of Kyoto and show you the most amazing viewpoints of Mount Fuji!
Have you ever been to Japan? If you have, what is something cool and quirky you learnt about the country?
Feeling inspired about your next adventure? Check out our other trips here and use the code ONELIFE15 at checkout to get an enormous 15% off ALL tours in 2021, 2022 and 2023!
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Written By: Abbie Bevan