10 Fun-Facts about Japan

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Misty Fujii is a Canadian who moved to Osaka, Japan in 2019 and married her Japanese sweetheart. In 2022 they had a baby and moved to Fukui for the clean country air. She is a DJ who teaches English part time and writes in order to share Japan with the world. She gets excited about collecting vintage vinyl records, food of all countries, travelling and renovating her traditional Japanese house.

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There is no shortage of fun and interesting facts about Japan, especially compared to what you may be used to in your home country. While plenty of things about Japan may surprise and impress you, like fancy toilets or bullet trains, there is so much more to discover! 

If you like to keep learning about Japan, especially some of the more interesting things, read on for 10 of the funnest facts about Japan! 

1. It’s Good Manners to Slurp Noodles 

Growing up, you may have learned that it’s rude to slurp when eating. But, in Japan, it’s the very opposite! In fact, it’s more than socially acceptable, and in a culture known for “reading the air,” it’s a great way to show you’ve enjoyed your meal to the fullest! The louder you slurp, the more you show appreciation to the chef. 

Slurping your ramen, soba, and udon has an added purpose: it helps cool down the piping hot noodles, enhancing your whole dining experience. So, when you find yourself in a Japanese noodle shop, embrace the slurp! 

2. KFC is a Traditional Christmas Meal 

David Kawabata, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 DEED via Flickr

In a quirky twist of traditions, KFC has become synonymous with Christmas in Japan. This unique phenomenon started in the 1970s with a marketing campaign called “Kentucky for Christmas.” The catchy promotion portrayed KFC as the ideal festive meal, and it caught on like wildfire. 

Over the years, the tradition has solidified, and many Japanese families now indulge in a special KFC Christmas feast, often pre-ordering their buckets of fried chicken well in advance. The popularity of this unconventional holiday meal has grown to the extent that KFC outlets in Japan experience incredibly long lines and high demand during the Christmas season.

3. More Paper Used for Manga than Toilet Paper 

Here’s another fact that may shock you – especially when you think about how big the population of Japan is. Over 125 million people need to use the toilet at some point each day, which should result in using a staggering amount of toilet paper. However, the country’s love of manga is next level. This means the country uses more paper to make manga than it does to make toilet paper!

There are no official stats on toilet paper vs manga production. Still, many have guessed this to be accurate, given how much manga is printed every month in a country with fancy toilets. Since most modern Japanese toilets are equipped with bidets, toilet paper is used less despite still being found in bathrooms. Funny enough, unsold manga is often recycled into nothing other than, what else? Toilet paper. 

4. Over 5 Million Vending Machines in Japan 

Japan is well known for its vending machines, and there is roughly one for every 23 people in the country. That means over 5 million vending machines are selling everything you could think of and more in some of the most unlikely locations. Thanks to a low crime rate and a fast-paced society, vending machines are the perfect one-stop shop for many busy people in Japan!

You’ll find drinks, hot meals, toys, cake, alcohol, and more. You’ll find vending machines on almost every street corner, train station, shopping mall, and anywhere you can imagine. On top of Mt. Fuji? Grab a drink from Japan’s highest vending machine! Want some history with your cola? Check out the wooden machines in historic Shimane prefecture. No matter where you go, you’ll be sure to find a vending machine nearby!

5. Japan Imports Over 80% of Jamaica’s Coffee 

Japan’s love affair with Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee is no secret; they have dibs on over 80% of the annual export! But why this exotic bean? Well, it all started with a diplomatic match in coffee heaven in 1964. Japan snagged rights to Jamaica’s Blue Mountain beans, marketed as the nectar of British royals in the ’50s. Fast forward to the ’80s, and Japan sipped up 90% of this liquid gold. Today, they’ve toned it down to a mere 20%, sharing the love (and high price tag) with the rest of us.

6. Most Streets in Japan Have No Name 

This is one fact that forever continues to trip me up! Navigating Japan’s streets is like solving a puzzle. Forget street names. Japan flips the script, starting with the broad strokes of prefectures and narrowing it down to cities, wards, and even districts called Chome. The catch? No street names. While it sounds straightforward, pinpointing a building can be a wild goose chase, as they’re only sometimes numbered in order. So, while the system is logically sound in Japan with deep historical roots, mastering it requires a unique mindset – and maybe a dash of fluency in Japanese wouldn’t hurt!

7. Japan Consists of 6,852 Islands 

From some of the largest in the world to some of the tiniest – Japan is home to a total of 6,852 islands! While most of the population lives across five islands: Hokkaido, Honshu, Shikoku, Kyushu, and Okinawa, there are more islands than anyone could likely visit in a lifetime here. The majority of the remaining islands are mostly uninhabited and incredibly remote. And as for the 416 remaining islands that have people on them? Most still have a population under 500! 

Nagasaki is the prefecture with the most islands, where you’ll find 971, including Iki, Tsushima, and the Goto Islands. And you may be surprised that even Tokyo is home to 330 remote islands, some of which make for excellent day trips. Once you realize just how many islands Japan has, it suddenly makes the country seem way bigger! 

8. Japan Grows Square Watermelons for Easier Stacking 

toyohara, CC BY-NC 2.0 DEED via Flickr

You may have heard rumors of strangely shaped and expensive fruit in Japan, which are true! One of the most famous examples is square watermelons: a fruit, luxury gift, and stylish status symbol. Tied with bows, these geometric wonders can fetch over $100 USD in Japanese stores. But what’s the secret? There are no special seeds, just regular melons grown in boxes to shape them.

The square sensation took root in Zentusji, Kagawa prefecture. Although the 1980s get credit for the square watermelon boom, horticulturist-artist Tomoyuki Ono had a lightbulb moment in 1978. His “molding process for a natural fruit” involved transparent frames shaping melons like edible Tetris blocks, thus making them easier to stack and store, as mentioned above. Initially hitting Tokyo markets at $20 a pop in 1979, these pricey produce pals were more about aesthetics than taste, harvested early and often paraded as decorative gifts.

9. Service Robots are Everywhere 

MIKI Yoshihito, CC BY 2.0 DEED via Flickr

Does it come as a surprise to anyone that Japan is a world leader regarding robots? Starting with Astro Boy in the early 50s, Japan has released many comics, movies, and animations about these tech-savvy sidekicks. From high-tech manufacturing floors to everyday interactions, Japan’s relationship with robots extends far beyond sci-fi dreams, representing a pragmatic and futuristic approach to societal challenges. 

Here, you’ll find robots in various roles, from working in hotels, making contactless deliveries, serving food in restaurants, on assembly lines, and in manufacturing plants, providing healthcare and even companionship! Japanese robots are just as necessary as cool in a country with a rapidly aging population and a shrinking labor force. 

10. Virtual Pop Stars Exist

In the realm where pixels meet pop, Japan takes the stage with virtual pop stars. Hatsune Miku, the OG virtual diva, isn’t just a hologram; she’s a cybernetic siren belting out hits and melting hearts in equal measure. Despite lacking flesh and bones, these pop stars manage to capture the imaginations of fans with their digital allure. Take Hatsune Miku, for example – despite being a holographic Vocaloid; she could rival real-life pop stars in accomplishments. She’s sold out stadiums worldwide, modeled for Vogue magazine, and starred in commercials. Incredible for a voice and body totally rendered by computer! 

Japan’s virtual pop revolution isn’t confined to a single sensation. From blonde twins Kagamine Rin and Len, adorable 18-year-old girl Kaf, and virtual boy band Strawberry Prince, there is no shortage of pretend pop stars to idolize. But why? Well, one reason is that when pop stars aren’t human, they have no flaws and can’t get caught up in any scandals. While some may think it’s strange, Japan’s virtual pop idols prove that an artist doesn’t haven’t be human to be loved!

Did any of these fun-facts about Japan surprise or amaze you? 

Japan Wonder Travel Tours 

Japan Wonder Travel is a travel agency that offers guided tours throughout Japan. 
From private walking tours to delicious Food and Drink tours, we can help you organize the best tours just for you! If you want to explore Japan and learn more about the history and backstories of each area you are visiting, our knowledgeable and friendly English speaking guides will happily take you to the best spots! 
In addition, we can provide you with any assistance you may need for your upcoming trip to Japan, so please feel free to contact us if yu have any questions or need some help! 

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Explore the most lively and popular fish market in Tokyo and try some of the local’s favorite street foods and sake with one of our friendly and knowledgeable English speaking guides! 

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Tokyo 1–Day Highlights Private Walking Tour (8 Hours)
There’s no better way to explore an area than taking a tour with a knowledgeable local guide. You will have the chance to learn about the history and interesting background stories of Tokyo, as well as discover some hidden gems which can be hard to do without a guide.

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Mt. Fuji Day Trip Bus Tour from Tokyo
Experience the breathtaking views of Mt. Fuji by visiting the highlights of the area on our guided sightseeing bus tour! Departing from Shinjuku in central Tokyo, you can travel comfortably to all of the best spots in the area by bus.

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