15 Facts About Japan You Probably Need To Know

What is it about Japanese culture that’s so endlessly fascinating to the rest of the world?

Perhaps it’s Japan’s 30,000+-year history. Maybe it’s all the unique cultural nuances that developed after millennia of isolated island life. Oh heck, maybe it’s all those bizarre sexual fetishes we keep hearing about.

Whatever it is, many of Japan’s cultural, linguistic, and culinary habits will fill you with shock and awe (plus give you some great conversation starters for the next anime convention).

Here are 15 shocking facts about Japan guaranteed to raise an eyebrow or two:

Japan is an island nation made up of nearly 7,000 islands, 200 volcanoes, and 130 million people.

The Japanese can’t get enough coffee – from Jamaica. They’re so in love with Jamaican coffee, in fact, that they import 85% of Jamaica’s entire coffee crop.

Raw horse meat is a favourite food of many Japanese people. 

Japan has one of the lowest intentional homicide rates in the world at just 0.3 per 100,000 people. Only Andorra, Lichtenstein, San Marino and Monaco are lower with an average murder rate of zero homicides per year. 

People have been living on the islands of Japan for over 30,000 years.

Japan isn’t too keen on immigration. Because of its relatively strict immigration policies, just 1.5% of the population is foreign-born. In comparison, 13% of the United States, 27% percent of Australia, and 83% of the United Arab Emirates are made up of immigrants.

Whale hunting is still practiced in Japan under the guise of “research.” If you’d like to “study” the “research” yourself, just head to the nearest local market. 

Melons are wildly expensive in Japan, where there is a strong culture of gift-giving that often includes “luxury fruit.” In 2014, a rare Japanese Densuke watermelon was auctioned off for nearly $1500. In the West, Toronto grocery stores regularly sell these black watermelons for around $200 a pop. 

Tokyo has the largest fish market in the world. 

While the population of Tokyo is a whopping 13 million (New York City is 8 million in comparison), the population of Tokyo’s metro area is nearly three times that, at 35 million people (!). 

There are over 60,000 centenarians living in Japan. That’s 60,000 people over the age of 100 with a cumulative age of over 6 million! 

A favourite holiday tradition of the Japanese is eating at Kentucky Fried Chicken on Christmas. This is due in large part to a wildly successful “Kentucky for Christmas” marketing campaign that was launched back in the 1970s.

In Tokyo’s Kabukicho District, lactation bars offer shots of human breast milk or the chance to suckle from a real, live, lactating nipple (conveniently attached to a gorgeous young mother, of course). Be prepared to pay $20/shot or $50 for the real thing. 

In Japan, citizens are asked to help fight crime by flinging brightly-colored orange paint balls at perpetrators. The idea is to mark the criminal to make them easier for police to find. 

Japanese vending machines sell everything from sushi to women’s panties. While you used to be able to buy underwear that was supposedly worn by some sexy Japanese college girl, the “used” panties available in vending machines today are just a marketing ploy. 

Have you ever been to Japan? What shocked you the most? Let us know in the comments below.

Rebecca Anne Nguyen is a freelance writer and travel passionista. She blogs about culture, creativity, and consciousness at TheHappyPassport.com.