63 facts about Japan you probably didn’t know.

It's time to get weird...

By Francesco Jodice - CC BY-SA 3.0

Japan is a country known for its bright lights, innovative technology, and beautiful scenery. But in this article I aim to show you some of Japan’s lesser known facts that prove how truly interesting it is as a country.

On this list you’ll find a couple of facts you may have know, a load of facts you didn’t know, and a few more facts about Japan that will blow your socks off.

Let’s get to it!

1. There are 6,852 islands in Japan

Japan’s territory outlined

Believe it or not, Japan consists of 6,852 islands.

Just look at how far the archipelago stretches out, it’s not just the main island everyone thinks it is.

The five main islands (that you’re likely to visit) are:

  • Hokkaido – Located right at the top of Japan, Hokkaido is the second largest island and is filled with ski resorts and other snow related activities.
  • Honshu – The largest island with Tokyo as the capital.
  • Kyushu – Kyushu is the third largest island and is also nearest to the rest of Asia.
  • Shikoku – Shikoku sits between Honshu and Kyushu and is the second smallest island. It’s also home to the most famous pilgrimage in Japan, but more on that later!
  • Okinawa – The smallest island, but also the most tropical. Visit here if you fancy including a summer beach holiday in your trip to Japan.

2. Marco polo discovered Japan

Do you think I can get one of them if this blog gets popular enough? 😉 …Me neither.

Despite the fact it’s very unlikely he ever actually visited Japan, Marco Polo was the first European to discover it’s existence.

The first people who actually stepped foot in Japan were two Portuguese traders by the names of ‘Antonio da Mota’ and ‘Francisco Zeimoto’, and possibly a third named ‘Antonio Peixoto’ but that’s unconfirmed.

Interested in learning more? I’ve written a whole article on the discovery of Japan.

3. Tokyo is the most populous city in the world

Umbrella, anyone?

I’ve spent a lot of my life walking around the busiest streets in London, and that’s not a pleasant experience.

In Japan, it’s just something you’ll have to get used to, especially around rush hour, in popular tourist spots, or in financial districts.

I’m more of a countryside person to be honest, and even spending a couple of days in the capital can be quite an overwhelming experience.

Having said that, Tokyo’s population (along with Japan’s) has been decreasing from 2018:

YearPopulation
201537.3 Million
201637.3 Million
201737.4 Million
201837.5 Million
201937.4 Million
202037.4 Million
2021 37.3 Million
Tokyo’s declining population, Data from World Population Review

4. Shibuya crossing is the worlds busiest intersection

Must be one of the only places in the world where a road crossing is a tourist attraction!

Turns out that the most populous city in the world has the busiest crossing in the world. Who’d have thought!

More interesting facts about Shibuya crossing:

According to JRAILPASS, over 2.4 Million people cross Shibuya crossing every single day. That’s around 2,500 people every single time!

It’s also played host to multiple famous movies including: Lost in Translation, Tokyo Drift, and Resident Evil: Afterlife.

If you ever find yourself around Shibuya crossing, I urge you to grab a coffee at the Starbucks located in the Tsutaya building.

It’s the perfect place to watch the masses of people cross the intersection whilst you’ll be enjoying a Matcha!

5. You must take off your shoes before going inside someone’s house

take your shoes off in Japan
Fun fact: Traditional Japanese shoes are called Geta (下駄)

Why do you have to take your shoes of in Japan?

Simple!

To stop the inside floors getting dirty.

This is something I’ve done literally my whole life so it’s really no big deal. It’s good manners, and you’ll be asked to do it in any house (and sometimes public building) you visit whilst you’re in Japan.

So if it’s not something you’re used to, start now before your flight to Japan.

6. Japanese trains are the worlds most punctual.

Japan train in front of fuji
The most punctual and definitely some of the most beautiful views on the way.

Public transport ever let you down?

I remember running to school as the bus would speed past me and not even acknowledge my existence. AND it was raining… -_-.

Anyway, enough about my misfortune… Lets talk trains!

Japanese trains are so legendary, the average delay is only 6 seconds.

In fact, I’ve even read about a rail company in Japan that apologised for leaving just 20 seconds early. For some reason, I just cant see that happening here in the UK or in the US.

Also, if a train is more than 2 minutes late you’ll receive a stamped letter you can bring to your boss excusing you for your lateness.

Absolutely mad!

But why are the trains sometimes seen to be SO busy? This is why.

7. Square watermelons are a thing

Square watermelon
Square watermelon

Japanese watermelons do in fact sometimes come in the square form you see above.

In fact, even if you aren’t as much of a raving Japanese culture enthusiast as I am, I’m pretty sure you’ve heard of these melons before!

Normally, they’ll used as gifts or souvenirs called ‘Omiyage’ due to their extremely high prices.

You’ll often see square watermelons go for $60 and sometimes that number rises as high as $1000.

But hey, stackable watermelons are probably priceless to some people! Haha!

8. Japan is home to the worlds only underwater post-box

I’m sure that like me you often find yourself in need of an underwater post-box. Daily occurrence, am I right!?

Well, Japan has you sorted!

Susami bay in the Nishimuro district of Wakayama is home to the worlds only underwater post-box.

The postmaster of Susami, Toshihiko Matsumoto, came up with the idea to build an underwater mailbox as a way of attracting more tourism.

Whilst I love this idea (and lets be honest where else would this happen other than Japan??), I’m unsure quite how many people will actually see the underwater post-box.

But hey! Maybe the scuba community will prove me wrong!

9. There’s over 5 million vending Machines

Japan single drink vending machine
Super handy having these bad boys round every corner in Tokyo’s humid summer!

I’m pretty convinced this could not happen anywhere else in the world.

Japan is home to over 5 million vending machines coming in all sorts of shapes and sizes.

This is partly due to Japan’s love of automation but also due to the respect shown to these machines by the rest of society.

I don’t have the figures available, but I would estimate that very few to none of the Japanese vending machines purposefully get damaged each year.

10. Sleeping on the job is happily tolerated

© jonnygleason.com

It’s not just tolerated, it’s sometimes also actively encouraged.

Whilst you or I would be penalised for sleeping at work in any western country, Japan sees it as a positive reaction.

Japanese society is very much about putting other people before yourself which means the majority of workers put the priorities of the company they work for far in front of their own wellbeing.

Japanese bosses see sleeping whilst you’re at work (Inemuri) as a sign of great devotion and dedication to the company.

Clearly you’ve been working so hard you must have fallen asleep!

I discussed Inemuri in a little more depth a while ago, but if you’re looking for the short version it’s basically the practice of falling asleep at work. A phenomenon only found in Japan!

12. Pets outnumber children

pug with hat in stroller
Say… Woof?

Whilst this isn’t unique to Japan (Despite what you may read online), Japan’s relationship with their pets is ‘special’ to say the least.

Take the picture above, for example!

According to the Japan pet food association in 2020 there were 17 Million children under 16, but over 20 Million cats and dogs.

13. Slurping your noodles is polite

Slurping Japanese noodles
A very young me slurping noodles to my hearts content!

But not slurping your noodles isn’t necessarily considered rude.

The main reasons people slurp their noodles in Japan is:

  1. Slurping enhances the flavor of the dish – Taking in air with your noodles oxygenates the food and helps you taste the food better than without.
  2. Helps eat the meal faster – Certain forms of ramen were originally designed as a type of fast food, and slurping may help you finish your dish faster.

That second reason may sound silly, but I remember the first time I visited Japan and I ended up having to eat a giant bowl of ramen on a station platform in the space of about 7 minutes.

It all seemed very normal to everyone else in the group, but to me it was a great way of burning every part of my mouth and getting indigestion at the same time.

Having said that, if you visit Japan or happen to have ramen in the near future give it a slurp and let me know how you find it haha!

…Maybe don’t give yourself a 7-minute timeframe, though.

14. There’s an entire village of foxes

zao fox village
Fox or magical Kitsune?

In the heart of Shiroishi, Miyagi prefecture, and home to over 100 foxes is Zao fox village.

Though it has been dubbed by some as ‘The cutest place on earth’ there’s no denying it’s here for the money.

By all means, visit if you want to but remember it’s tourist attraction, not a sanctuary.

…They are cute though, I must admit!

15. There’s a place where monkeys chill in onsen.

monkey onsen Japan
If I had as much time as these monkeys, this is how I’d be spending it!

By far one of the top three animal attractions in Japan (or at least most well known), Jigokudani monkey park is located in the Shimotakai District of Nagano.

These monkeys descend on the hot springs every day during the winter to help warm them up.

Unlike Zao fox village, this is not a place driven by money. The monkeys are in the wild and free to come and go as they please.

Obviously this means if you do end up going to see them, they may have taken the day of from lounging around in the hot pools.

But hey!

If they’re happy, then so are we!

16. Japan sells more adult diapers than baby diapers

No idea why Anpanman is here, but look how cute he is!!

This is another fact you’ve probably heard of, one that went viral a few years ago.

As of 2016 there were more adult diapers being produced than diapers for babies.

That was over 5 years ago and birth rates have only continued to go down since.

This is an indicator of both declining birth-rates and a high percentage of people over the age of 65.

To understand the severity of this fact about Japan, lets look at the declining birth-rate for the past 8 years:

YearJapanese birth rate per 1000Percent Change
20138.401-0.650%
20148.219-2.170%
20158.038-2.200%
20167.856-2.260%
20177.675-2.300%
20187.493-2.370%
20197.397-1.280%
20207.301-1.300%
20217.205-1.310%
Declining Japanese birth rate. Source: MacroTrends

So is Japan now the oldest country in the world? Let me know what you think!

17. Fake food is a 90 million dollar industry

fake Japanese food
Looks good enough to eat!

I was always taught never to eat in a restaurant that has pictures in the menu, let alone an entire stand dedicated to showing models of the food.

Fake food (Sampuru サンプル) is displayed in cabinets or in restaurant windows as a way to show potential customers what they can expect.

Each meal is made to scale and often looks hyper realistic. It’s the only place in the world something like this happens and you can be sure that if a restaurant has invested in buying these, they care about what they’re serving you.

Asakusa is probably the best place to buy them in Tokyo if you’re looking for a souvenir to take back home. If you cant get out to Japan yet, your best bet is to browse Fake Food Japan.

Fake Food Japan is an online Japanese store that makes fake food for a load of different situations including magnets, phone cases, life size replicas, business card cases, and more!

18. You can’t visit most onsen if you have tattoos.

Hmmm, this one might be a little hard to cover up!

Tattoos in Japan often signify links to the Yakuza (Japanese organised crime). At least, that’s what Onsen owners believe.

Whilst it’s true that members associated with the Yakuza are known for having intricate whole body tattoos, it’s unlikely that 82 year old Barbara from Cornwall is part of the Japanese mafia.

In 2015, the Japanese tourist agency sent surveys to 3,700 onsens including public baths and got back 600 responses. There were two questions asked:

  1. Do you refuse admittance to people with tattoos? 56% refused entry to anyone with tattoos. 31% allowed them entry.

2. Would you accept someone with tattoos if they cover them with stickers? 13% would permit them to enter if covered up.

If you’re considering a trip to Japan take a look at this list by GaijinPot Travel that shows you 30 tattoo friendly onsen in Japan.

And if Onsen bathing isn’t your thing, there are still a lot of relaxing places in Tokyo you can go with or without tattoos!

19. Rice cookers are far more common than ovens in houses, and they sing to you

japanese rice cooker
mmmm, fluffy rice <3

Chances are low that you’ll see an oven on your trip to Japan, even if you stay in a local Airbnb.

The main reason for this is that Japanese cuisine simply does not employ roasting or baking. At least not often enough to have a massive oven, especially with space being at a premium in Japan anyway.

You are however very likely to see either a microwave oven (great for space saving) or a rice cooker (great for convenience)

And lets be honest, the main reason anyone would want a rice cooker is because it sings to you when it’s ready…

20. Japanese toilets are extremely high tech

high tech japan toilet
(Flickr © LHOON) Can I get one of these toilets in the UK? Or even the US? PLEASE!

The Japanese toilets are without a doubt the best in the world.

I remember using one in Haneda airport that as well as having a built in wand to clean your bottom, you also had the ability to:

  1. Control the water jet temperature
  2. Control the water jet pressure
  3. Control the temperature of the seat
  4. Use a privacy mode that played sounds of a forest (Volume controllable)

This was of course a very high tech model and not every toilet you find in Japan will be like that.

Some of the older toilets however, may have a sink on top which allows you to wash your hands with clean water before it’s recycled back into the toilet.

Genius!

21. Their game shows are absolutely mad

Remember Takeshi’s Castle?

You know, the one where people run at doors as hard as they can hoping they’re fake?

Well, that’s just the tip of Japanese gameshow iceberg.

From eating chocolate covered shoes, to jumping through stupidly awkward holes in a wall, Japanese gameshows are by far the stupidest and funniest things shown on TV.

My personal favourite is slippery stairs which is why I’ve chosen to use it in this example, but have a little click down the YouTube rabbit hole (or take a look at this article I wrote about Japanese game shows) and I’m sure you’ll find the rest of them.

Painful is an understatement!

22. They fix broken pottery with gold

kintsugi gold repair

Kitsugi is a repair process used in Japan to join broken pottery back together.

The pottery is held together by a mix of lacquer mixed with powdered gold.

The philosophy behind this method of repair is to have the breakage as part of the history of the item rather than signify it’s ending.

If you want to try your own hand at Kintsugi, you can do so with this DIY Kintsugi kit!

23. Japan has the worlds longest life expectancy at 84.3

old man standing on train platform
Hope I can look at smart as this guy when I’m older!

According the the W.H.O, as of December 2020 Japan had the worlds highest life expectancy at 84.3 (combined men and women).

Here’s a quick graph to see how those compare to the most popular countries of the readers of this blog:

CountryCombined Life Expectancy (Years)Position
Japan84.31
Australia83.07
United Kingdom81.425
United States78.540
World Health Organisation, December 2020.

What’s the main reason Japanese people have such a high life expectancy?

The main reason is the average Japanese diet is extremely low in saturated fat, and relatively high in carbohydrates.

Evidence of this can be seen in the BMJ.

24. Gambling is illegal

pachinko japan
By Tischbeinahe, CC BY-SA 3.0,

Although the concept of gambling is illegal in Japan, there are a few exceptions.

Pachinko (the activity you see above) is thought of as more of a hobby or way to pass the time. You’ll find a lot of salarymen (city workers) will spend most of their free time in pachinko parlours. The noise at these places is insane!

Once you’ve won a load of metal balls, the currency the machines reward you with, you’ll take your baskets to one of the staff to have them counted.

At this point you’ll be given a receipt, asked to go to the exchange shop which is normally down the road somewhere and there you’ll be able to claim your winnings.

It’s all a little bit of a grey area within the law but it seems to be widely tolerated.

Other accepted forms of gambling include:

  • Horse racing (Keiba)
  • Bike racing (Keirin)
  • Boat racing (Kyotei)

25. The Yubari melon sold for $22,500

yubari king melon
$22,500 worth of taste? I think not!

Yep, you read that right.

A set of two melons sold for $45k making the Yubari melon the most expensive fruit ever to be sold.

I’ve written a whole article on the most expensive fruits in Japan which is well worth a look if you’re interested!

$1,000 dollar grapes, anyone??

26. Aomori City is the snowiest place on earth

the snowiest place on earth
Anyone wanna build a snowman with me? ^_^

With an annual snowfall of 312 inches, Aomori City in Japan comfortably claims its place on top of the leaderboard as snowiest place on earth.

Take a look at this article I wrote a while ago that explains the crazy reasons that make it such a winter wonderland.

27. It’s where the worlds most famous beef is produced

wagyu kobe beef
By Orlando G. Calvo, CC BY-SA 3.0

I would imagine you’ve heard of Kobe beef, no matter what your food preference is.

Kobe beef is a type of Wagyu beef that comes specifically from the Tajima strain of black cattle in Hyōgo.

The cows must further be raised in a way that complies with the Kobe Beef Marketing and Distribution Promotion Association.

Only then can it earn the title of Kobe beef.

28. They feed cows beer

Japan feeds beer to cows
They probably have a better diet than any of us…

Some Wagyu beef cows are fed beer to help stimulate their appetite and also massaged to help release stress.

A few people think this toughens up the meat and therefore leads to a sub standard product.

But hey, if the cow likes it I’m all for it!

29. Deer walk the streets of Nara freely

deer next to vending machine
Give us a kiss!

About 30 minutes outside Osaka is a place called Nara.

Hint: Take the Kintetsu-Nara Line for some spectacular views!

What’s so special about this place you ask? Deer wander freely around the entire city.

Exit Nara station, turn right, and prepare to be overwhelmed by bowing deer vying to get your attention.

A while back I interviewed Yoko Ishii, someone who’s made it their career to photograph these creatures in Nara!

30. It’s home to the Kanamara Matsuri

Kanamara Matsuri

Japan has thousands of Matsuri (festivals) every year (in fact no one knows quite how many), though some are a little more… unusual than others.

The Kanamara Matsuri in Japan celebrates both male and female fertility in a pretty bold way, as you can see above.

Held each year in April, this is bound to be one of the strangest celebrations in the world, right?!

31. The fortune cookie was made in Japan (19 century Kyoto)

japan fortune cookies

Contrary to popular belief, the fortune cookie was in fact made in Japan.

It’s a little bit like solving a riddle to find out where they originally came from, but one researcher in Japan is confident she can prove that once and for all these little fortune telling delights came from Japan.

Take a look at this article in the New York Times to find out more.

32. One of the Pokémon episodes caused seizures and was banned

banned pokemon episode japan
Seems team rocket blasted off a bit too high this time!

“Dennō Shi Porygon” was the name of the Pokémon episode that got banned after viewers complained of:

  • Seizures
  • Convulsions
  • Temporary blindness
  • Dizziness
  • Headaches
  • Blurry vision

This is the link to the video if you’re so inclined to watch it.

WARNING, it can cause seizures, duhh!

33. KFC is eaten on Christmas

KFC Japan
Seems turkey took a step back in Japan…

K.F.C is extremely important to Japanese culture, especially around Christmas time.

Around 3.6 Million families in Japan celebrate the Christmas season by grabbing a bite to eat at KFC.

Why do they do this you ask?

Takeshi Okawara, the countries first KFC manager, overheard a couple of foreigners saying they missed having turkey for dinner.

Takeshi decided to market a ‘Party barrel’ of chicken around Christmas time in the hopes it would be an acceptable substitute for people.

Soon after, this campaign was adopted nationwide. The rest is history.

34. Japan is home to the worlds oldest company – Kongō Gumi (1,428 years)

Kongō Gumi

Japan is home to the world oldest independently operated business in the world, Kongō Gumi, a Japanese construction company specialising in carpentry.

It was founded in the year 547, that’s 1443 years ago.

Unfortunately the company fell on hard times around 2006 and had to be parented by the Takamatsu Construction Group.

So whilst the company is no longer operating independently, it’s nice to know the worlds longest operating company is still alive and well today.

35. There is an island where no woman has ever set foot

Okinoshima
Copyright © National Land Image Information (Color Aerial Photographs), Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism

Just off the coast of Fukuoka is the sacred island of Okinoshima.

What’s so special about the island, you ask?

The island is completely off limits to women and has been since it’s existence.

The island is home to only one priest for ten days at a time who prays and guards against any unwelcome guests.

Don’t expect to put this onto your Japanese itinerary though, because you won’t be able to go! 😉

Hint: But do sign up to the newsletter and receive your free Japanese bucket list!

36. It has futuristic architecture

Nakagin Capsule Tower ^

From a highway that goes through a building (I’m not kidding), to a kindergarten (Yochien) built around a tree, Japan’s futuristic architecture is innovative, fresh, and constantly pushing the boundaries of what is and isn’t possible.

Bored Panda has a great article about Japanese architecture, check it out here, but be sure to come back. Pinky promise!?

37. Coffee is far more popular than you’d think

Pictured: Onibus coffee, one of Tokyo’s best and most popular boutique coffee spots!

For a country with history steeped (pun almost definitely intended ;)) in tea, you’d be surprised to know Japan has an almost equally interesting relationship with coffee.

Japan has an extensive network of boutique coffee shops and cafés all over the country.

Interested in finding out more? Take a look at this article.

38. Home to over 10,000 love hotels

Interesting themes, but great prices!

Fancy having a waterslide in your room? Check!

Jacuzzi? Check!

Massive bed? Check!

All for a reasonable price? Not normally, but Japanese love hotels can do it all and won’t break the bank!

Built to give people either a rest stay (4hrs) or a night stay (overnight), they’re a great alternative to Airbnb’s or chain hotels.

39. Over 300 limited edition kit cat flavours

Kit Kat - Cafe Latte Flavor

Yep, I’m not Joking.

Japanese snacks could rival any country and win as far as I’m concerned.

They always seem to be experimenting with flavors and textures, pushing the boundaries of what is and isn’t possible.

And sure, sometimes that might mean something like wasabi flavoured KitKats, or marmite flavor squid (i made that one up..), but every once in a while they come across something that’s absolutely jaw dropingly good.

40. They have tiny cars

They’re tiny, they’re slow, and they’re tax efficient.

What more could you want?!

Only problem being, the crumple zone is more than likely going to be your forehead…

But why are Japanese cars so small and boxy? This is why!

41. Most people sleep on the floor

japan futon on floor
^ This is literally my perfect bedroom

When you go to Japan, you’ll have the option to sleep on a western style bed. I urge you to try a futon if your health allows it.

It’s a remarkably grounding experience and in my opinion it’s pretty comfortable, too!

These are the reasons Japanese people sleep on the floor. I would write them all down here but it’s a very long post as it is!

42. They have capsule hotels

A little like love hotels in their uniqueness, capsule hotels were originally built for businessmen who needed a room at a moments notice for a very cheap price.

Here a five of the best in Tokyo that you should definitely consider booking a room at!

Don’t expect five star luxury, expect a capsule like you see above! That’s it!

43. Four is an unlucky number

Are you superstitious?

When counting as a number, 4 has two pronunciations in Japanese:

Yon

Shi

Whilst they technically mean the same thing, ‘Shi’ is also the same word used for death. Because of this similarity, the number 4 is often pronounced ‘Yon’.

You’ll also find that number hospital’s will not have rooms with a 4 and many buildings will skip level 4 because of this negative connotation.

44. It has surprisingly good surf

Shonan beach Japan surfing
People surfing in Shonan under mount Fuji © Philip Cotsford/Flickr

I mean, you don’t even need to like surfing to realise how beautiful the above picture is.

Japan is not often associated with the best surf conditions in the world, but it’s more than capable of hosting the Olympic event as we’ve seen in 2021.

As far as I’m concerned, surfing in Japan is an absolute bucket list activity!

45. 67 percent of Japan is forest

Aokigahara – Yamanashi Prefecture

For a country that we frequently see busy cities, bright lights, and technology, Japan has a very green secret.

Well over half of Japan is lush green forest. This is due to its mountainous landscape and uninhabitable areas.

46. 14 percent is agricultural land

Nothing quite like home grown veg!

This number tends to fluctuate from 14%-20%, but the point is it’s tiny. Compare this to England’s 70% and you can start to see why vegetables and fruits are so expensive.

One main reason for this is that a large amount of Japanese land is mountainous making it not fit for growing any types of food.

Ronald Dolan wrote in his book ‘Japan: a country study‘ that up to 70% of Japan is mountainous meaning the entire population of Japan is concentrated to around 27-28% of what’s left.

That’s one why Japanese cities are so packed!

47. People withdraw from society

By Francesco Jodice – CC BY-SA 3.0

A nation wide phenomenon known as Hikikomori where people are shut in there houses (or in extreme cases, their rooms) for years on end. People may seek withdrawal from society for a number of reasons like social anxiety, personality disorders, or perhaps depression.

A study in 2018 estimated the total amount of people suffering with Hikikomori in Japan to be around 613,000 between the aged of 40-64. This obviously doesn’t account for the younger demographic that are likely to be heavily influenced by media and technology which means the total number of Hikikomori throughout Japan is likely to be in the millions.

48. There is an entire island of rabbits

Yep, sign me up for a ticket!

Just off the coast of Hiroshima is a small island called Ōkunoshima, home to hundreds of rabbits!

Why is Ōkunoshima so overrun with rabbits?

The main reason people think the island is overrun with rabbits is because the island was a gas weapon testing facility during WWII, leaving all it’s test subjects (the rabbits) behind. Though this is a possible reason for the nearly 1000 rabbits that inhabit the island today, experts have claimed they were euthanized before the program was shut down.

The other possible reasons for rabbit island (or perhaps rumours) are:

  1. A few rabbits were brought over and set free by a British couple in the 1970’s
  2. Rabbits were released by a nearby school in the 1970’s

Whatever the case, if you’re looking for an interesting and unique holiday experience when you go to Japan, Ōkunoshima should be on your list!

49. There is also a cat island

Not quite as well known as Okunoshima, Ao Island is a small island in Ozu where cats have literally overun the entire area.

With Aoshima filled with elderly citizens, estimates are that these feline friends of ours outnumber people by as much as 36:1

So, if bunnies aren’t your thing take a trip to Aoshima instead!

50. …and a sheep island

sheep island Japan
These look the cutest, for sure!

But what if rabbits and cats really aren’t your thing?

Take a trip to Yagishiri, where Suffolk sheep once again outnumber the locals on the island!

51. There’s a desert

tottori sand dunes japan
Sahara Desert, is that you?…

Well… more some dunes than desert. But it’s still cool!

On the coast of Tottori sits a two kilometre beach full of sand dunes (called the Tottori Sand Dunes). It’s honestly like you could be anywhere in the world, but it’s southern Japan!

They also offer camel ride and have a sand sculpture museum.

Turns out you could definitely have your summer holiday in Japan! That’ll make it way easier to convince your family to take a trip there 😉

52. The earthquakes are intense

earthquakes in Japan
By matanao – 私, CC BY-SA 3.0

The country might be built and equipped to handle over 5000 earthquakes every year, but that doesn’t make them any less devastating.

Out of those 50,000 earthquakes that happen each year, around 160 of them go above a magnitude 5 meaning they have the potential to cause some life changing damage.

I remember the first time I went to Japan and felt my first earthquake.

Granted it was nothing like what would have caused the image above (more of just a rumble, really), but was a little bit of a surreal experience. Though, to everyone else it seemed like just another Monday.

53. It’s an incredibly safe country

Despite the earthquakes, Japan is an incredibly safe place to live and visit.

Crime rates are always far lower than the US and most of Europe, so you shouldn’t feel worried when coming here on holiday.

Of course, crime does still happen here, mainly in the bigger cities though. I’ve walked around most parts of Tokyo in the middle of the night and not once have I felt threatened, scared, or uncomfortable.

In London that’s a different story…

54. The woman who inhabits an island with scarecrows

This is a cute one.

There’s an elderly woman who lives on Nagoro Island and spends her days creating dolls of previous residents that have lived in her village.

To put it into perspective there are now more dolls than people, which is actually a little sad.

It shows once again how the Japanese population is declining and this is heavily felt in more remote corners of the country.

In fact, I remember reading one article that stated they were selling houses for as low as $100 in these countryside villages in an effort to repopulate dying areas.

There are a few other reasons for such a low price, but I’m unsure Japanese people have the inclination or desire to move somewhere with little job opportunities and away from the places they know and love.

I on the other hand, will consider it 😉

55. The shopping malls go up

malls in japan go up

We’ve already talked about the limited space in Japan, and this is one effect of that.

If you walk through any big city, you’ll notice lots of the building have signs all the way up them noting each business on an individual floor.

I remember searching out a Japanese language book shop and I ended up searching for hours as I forgot this was how most businesses operated. Unfortunately this time there was no sign and only after guessing which building it was located in did I take the elevator up to the 8 floor.

Tip: If you’re going to Japan and searching out a specific place, remember the likelihood of it not being at ground floor is very high!

56. They have regular Pikachu parades

We already know Japan loves Pokémon, but did you know they love it this much?!

I could have embedded the really informative and sensible video that would have given you an understanding of why this event regularly happens, but instead I decided to go with a song that you’ll never be able to get out of your head. Enjoy! ^_^

57. Japan was once shut off to the world

kimono on ancient Japanese street

Japan wasn’t always a tourist destination like it is now. In fact, from 1639-1853 Japanese citizens weren’t allowed out of the country and foreigners weren’t allowed in.

This was called ‘Sakoku 鎖国’ meaning ‘Closed Country’.

I could write an entire post on this but in short, Japan imposed Sakoku to ‘Protect’ itself and it’s citizens from outside religious influences from countries like Spain and Portugal.

And for a time, it worked. The country experienced political stability, internal peace, and huge growth in their economy. But like all things, it wasn’t without it’s struggles. Take a look here if you’re interested in learning more.

58. Cat cafes are a thing

cat cafe japan

Fancy enjoying a cup of Japanese coffee with a feline friend? Well in Japan, you can!

And don’t worry if cats aren’t really your ‘Cup of Coffe ;)’ Japan also plays host to a plethora of other animal based drinking establishments:

  • Owl bar
  • Hedgehog cafes
  • Penguin bar
  • Snake cafes
  • Bunny cafe
  • Micropig cafe
  • Dog cafe

So pretty much any animal you can think of, Japan has a café for you!

59. Maid cafes are also a thing

maid  in tokyo
By Gdore – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0

But maybe animals just aren’t your thing altogether, and that’s ok too!

Introducing the world famous, Maid cafés of Japan!

Do you love being put on a pedestal and being worshipped so much so that it becomes massively awkward? Well this is probably the place for you!

Women dressed in maid outfits will serve you drinks and food with a laugh and a smile and pretty much make you feel like you’re the only person in the world.

I’ve never personally been into one of these because of all the cringeworthy videos I’ve seen of them, so I don’t intend to either.

But if this sounds like your thing, go for it!

60. They have the Hadaka Matsuri

Hadaka Matsuri
By CES – CC BY-SA 3.0

Another weird festival in Japan is the Hadaka Matsuri.

This is an event that happens all over Japan with the biggest and most popular of the lot happening in Okayama with around 9,000 people.

Festival goers turn up wearing a fundoshi loincloth and celebrate for prosperity and fertility together.

Fun fact: Sometimes participants won’t wear any clothes at all for the festival, though this is a rare occurrence.

61. School children regularly clean their school

Maybe I would have enjoyed school more if my classroom looked like this!

Japan is an extremely clean country, and one reason for this is that responsibility and pride are taught to Japanese citizens at a very early age.

Schoolchildren regularly clean both their classroom and school building, and rarely have help from outside cleaners (though it does still happen).

If you’re interested in finding out more, this is the article for you!

62. It’s home to a 1200km pilgrimage through Shikoku

By Lencer – own work, details

I love a good hike, but even this might be a stretch for me!

As you can see from the map, there are 88 temples on the island of Shikoku and each one of them should be visited to complete the polgrimage.

Some people chose to use public transport, others use cars, and some even walk the entire distance.

If walking is something you would consider, you can expect to dedicate 6-8 weeks for completion!

Want to know more? Take a look at the Shikoku tourism website to plan your trip.

63. Sazae-San is the worlds longest running cartoon

With over 2,500 full length and 7,500+ short episodes, Sazae-san is the worlds oldest and longest running animated show.

New episodes are still being made to this day!

Conclusion:

Well, there you have it! 63 facts about Japan that you probably didn’t know. This has taken me a really long time to write and research, so I would be very grateful if you shared it with friends or family that love Japan.

I hope you enjoyed the article (if you made it this far, well done!) and let me know in the comments below which one was your favourite, or maybe you know something I don’t!

またね! ^_^

Jonny Gleason

Photographer, Magazine owner, Matcha drinker. One of these is definitely the most important, just unsure which...

Instagram: @jonny.gleason

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