What Are The 21 Things You Should Know About Japan Before Going There.
We’d like to discuss Japan with you.
You’re in for a surprise whether you’re moving there permanently or just stopping by.
Any westerner‘s mind is bound to be blown by Japanese culture.
It’s a strange, wonderful blend of the very old and the very new.
You’re walking among ancient temples and cherry blossom trees one day and sitting on a talking toilet the next.
There are certain things you must do and certain things you must avoid in Japan, and we don’t want you to get them mixed up.
We’ll debunk some myths, explain some truths, and maybe pique your interest in the Land of the Rising Sun.
Table of Contents
1. Their Population Is Ageing
Japan has one of the highest life expectancies in the world (almost 84 years), which is fantastic.
When you combine that with a declining birth rate, you’ve got a problem.
The number of adults over the age of 65 is rapidly increasing, and young people are not producing enough children to compensate.
Jobs are more vital, and no one has time to consider starting a family.
Over 25% of the Japanese population is over 65, with this number anticipated to rise to 40% by 2055.
That’s a lot of senior people to look after, and there aren’t enough young people to do it.
Then there are the robots.
Artificial intelligence, according to Prime Minister
He wants the number of robots employed in the Japanese economy to treble.
We don’t know what will teach the youth to have more children if not this ominous robotic future.
2. Toilets With Cutting-Edge Technology
Do you enjoy going to the bathroom?
If you answered with a resounding “yes!” you will adore Japan.
Over there, lavatory encounters are showy things.
The ‘washlet’ or woshuretto, or ultra-intelligent toilet, has more functions than you’ll know what to do with.
Water jets, seat warmers, auto-flushes, weighing scales, and a deodorizer are just a few of the amenities available.
Some models even greet you as you enter, lift the lid for you, and play fake flush noises while you’re ‘going.’
To an outsider, they appear to be pricey pieces of equipment, but in Japan, they may be found in nearly all restaurants, hotels, and over half of all houses.
You’ll never want to flush with a manual toilet again.
3. High-Speed Trains
Japan is known for its lightning-fast train service.
The Shinkansen bullet train travels at a blistering 155 mph on average, with a 375 mph record for a Japanese bullet train.
Basically, they don’t enjoy wasting time going somewhere.
For example, the distance between Tokyo and Kyoto is about 320 miles, but if you take the 8:00 a.m. train from Tokyo, you’ll be in Kyoto by 10:20 a.m.
We were going to say “assuming no delays,” but that isn’t quite accurate; the average delay is only 36 seconds.
You know you’re living the high life when you’re sitting on a luxury toilet inside a bullet train.
4. Tokyo Is Enormous
And when we say large, we mean it.
If you superimpose a map of Tokyo’s Greater Metropolitan Area over a map of the United Kingdom, it will span from the top of London to the bottom of Manchester.
It is the world’s most populated metropolis, with a population of about 39 million people.
If that wasn’t impressive enough, Tokyo is also expected to feature the world’s highest building, the Sky Mile Tower (to be completed by 2045, if you can wait that long).
Tokyo is neon-lit and futuristic, with skyscrapers and sophisticated devices, which is why it’s so strange that there isn’t a 24-hour metro system.
That’s right: it’s either an expensive taxi or a nighttime stroll if you want to go home after 1 a.m.
5. The Scenery Is Breathtaking
It’s crazy when you read an article about Japan and all you see is “Tokyo this, Kyoto that.”
Although the cities are impressive, the Japanese countryside is overflowing with beauty.
Almost 70% of the nation is covered in forest, and over 80% of it is hilly, which is just too much to overlook.
The Blue Pond of Biei, the creaking Bamboo Forest of Sagano, and the baby-blue flower fields of Hitachi are just a few of the rural sites you may explore that seem like they belong in a fairytale.
To the north, there are snowy mountains, to the west, sand dunes, and to the south, the beautiful beaches of Okinawa.
There’s so much natural variety that it’ll make your head spin.
When you’re weary of the city, simply head out in any direction and you’ll eventually come across something beautiful.
6. Cherry Blossom Fever
Flowers are a passion for the Japanese.
Particularly sakura, often known as ‘cherry blossom,’ which blooms once a year across the country.
It all begins in January at Japan’s southernmost tip and goes upward in a large pink wave, not reaching the northernmost islands until May.
People used to congregate under the trees for hanami (‘flower viewing’) celebrations, sipping sake and appreciating the colours hundreds of years ago.
Today, there is a lot of love for this shade of pink.
Every brand comes up with a cherry blossom-flavored variant of their product.
We could go on and on about Starbucks’ sakura coffee (the magnificent Sakura Strawberry Pink Mochi Frappuccino), Asahi’s sakura beer (Cherry Blossom Banquet), sakura KitKats, sakura ice cream, sakura Pepsi, cherry-blossom-and-butter crackers, and so on.
Meteorologists work in teams to determine when the cherry blossoms will bloom and broadcast their predictions on television.
It’s wacky, pink, and Japanese all at the same time.
The flowers, on the other hand, have a sorrowful undertone to them; they only live a week before floating away to their deaths.
Sakura is the quintessential Japanese symbol of life’s beauty and transience.
7. It Is Quite Secure
Over there, people aren’t as interested in crime as they are in the United States.
Perhaps the annual cherry blossom season simply relaxes everyone.
Although the Japanese language has a word for ‘crime’ (hanzai), what is the point of it?
Over there, drug use, gun violence, and homicide rates are all thankfully low.
According to the Global Peace Index 2017, Japan is the world’s 10th most crime-free country, which is remarkable for a country with 127 million inhabitants.
Tokyo was also voted the safest city in the world by the Economist in the same year (and Osaka third).
If you’re searching for a rush from violent crime, Japan is not for you.
8. Tattoos Are Frowned Upon
Do you think your tattoos are attractive?
Japan, on the other hand, does not.
You’ve ruined a gift from your parents if you’ve permanently marred your body with ink.
That is, in essence, the traditional Japanese mindset.
They respect their elders, and a large inky flower up your left forearm isn’t the way to show it.
Furthermore, in Japan, tattoos are associated with criminal activity (yes ok, they do have a little bit of crime).
Not only did the Japanese employ tattoos to identify criminals, but members of the Yakuza, Japan’s organised crime syndicate, also wear full-body tattoos.
They may appear frightening, but they are actually legal and are regulated and overseen by the Japanese government.
Some criminal organisations even have company logos and retirement plans.
Tattoos, on the other hand, are strictly prohibited.
Above all, someone with a tattoo is not permitted to enter an onsen.
That may not seem like a big deal until you see how incredible onsens are.
9. The Incredible Onsens
Natural hot springs (called onsens) abound in Japan, and they’re fantastic.
Being a volcanic country has many drawbacks, but it also offers some beautiful beaches.
Many onsens are located in picturesque rural communities, allowing bathers to relax in the hot water while admiring the scenery.
It’s a peacefulness unlike any other.
However, on the less calm side, you and everyone else must be naked.
Tattoos are not permitted, and there is no way to conceal them.
To be considered a genuine onsen, the water in the hot spring must be at least 25°C, so don’t waste your time swimming in one of those sad 24°C-want tobe-onsens.
10. There Isn’t A Lot Of Time Off Around The Holidays
There is a lot to see and do in Japan, but there isn’t enough time to accomplish it all.
When it comes to vacation pay, the working class has been dealt a bad hand.
A popular Japanese strategy is to retire at 65, live for another 20 years, and spend all of your time in onsens.
In Japan, full-time employees are only guaranteed a minimum of 10 days of paid vacation (although it grows with service).
Furthermore, according to an Ipsos Global research, only 35% of Japanese workers use their entire vacation allowance.
There are 16 days of public holiday, although this has the disadvantage of putting everyone on vacation at the same time.
In the nicest venues, this means higher pricing and larger crowds.
In the 1970s, Japan felt compelled to coin the term karoshi, which means “death through overwork,” and which is still a major issue today.
Saint-Works, a nursing-care company in Tokyo, mandates all of its employees wear purple capes that display the time their shift ends so they don’t forget to clock out.
People in Japan work hard yet neglect to return home.
11. Golden Week
The week of April 29th to May 5th may seem insignificant to you, yet it is the longest holiday time of the year for the Japanese.
Because it encompasses four public holidays, most people take a couple paid holidays before taking the entire week off.
Many businesses have accepted this and have shut down for the duration.
Showa Day, Constitution Day, Greenery Day, and Children’s Day are the days.
That much time off work may sound appealing, but it also implies that all domestic vacation places will be incredibly crowded.
If you despise crowds, you should probably stay at work during Golden Week.
Because of the Emperor’s probable abdication, a ten-day Golden Week is expected in 2019, but no one knows for sure.
Calendar producers are understandably irritated because they have no idea what to do, therefore they are putting pressure on the government to make a final decision.
We can only image how frustrated they are.
12. It Is Acceptable To Sleep Anywhere
The entire world is your bed in Japan.
Nobody will bat an eyelid if you sleep wherever you choose.
People over there work so hard that it’s only fair that they get to sleep whenever they want.
Inemuri is the proper term for it, which means’sleeping while present.’
In essence, you’ll find individuals napping wherever they choose in public, from department stores and restaurants to park benches.
It’s also fairly usual at work, as long as you stay upright when sleeping (like you have any control over that).
Fake-sleeping has unfortunately become a popular activity in Japan, which further adds to the confusion.
It’s known as tanuki neiri, which translates to “raccoon dog slumber.”
Some employees act as if they’re sleeping to show their bosses how hard they’ve been working.
Yes, there are some flaws in the inemuri system.
13. Unspoken Guidelines
The major issue with unspoken norms is that no one will tell you what they are.
Everyone around you will think you’re a really offensive stupid if you start breaking one in public, and you won’t know why.
We’d want to save you the embarrassment by laying out some of the ground rules right now.
First and foremost, do not be excessively noisy in public, particularly on trains.
When travelling by train, avoid making phone calls, having loud discussions, or blowing your nose.
If you’re nearby making a racket, people can’t obtain their Japanese tranquillity.
If you don’t want to insult the workers, don’t leave a tip in restaurants.
When entering someone’s home, always take off your shoes.
If you ever get someone’s business card, take it with both hands and read it for a few moments before putting it away.
Finally, slurping your noodles noisily is OK.
It may sound disgusting, but silent eating will almost certainly attract more attention.
Slurp, slurp, slurp!
14. Karaoke Is A Way Of Life
Imagine staying in a hotel with a karaoke machine in every room.
Karaoke boxes are a type of chamber that may be found all across Japan.
Enter a karaoke bar, tell them how many people you’re bringing and how long you’d like to sing, and they’ll show you to your room.
You can dress up, regulate the lighting, and place drink orders over the phone.
For those who don’t like singing, some rooms have a box of modest instruments (such as a tambourine or maracas).
“No, it’s fine, I’ll just play the maracas,” they can say when it’s their turn to sing.
These karaoke establishments can range in size from massive 100-person rooms to singing in a hot tub.
Some people take it so seriously that they engage professional coaches to help them.
Office workers enjoy spending hours after work at karaoke clubs, so if you want to make friends with your new coworkers, you should start practising right away.
15. Be Well-Versed In Japanese Pop Music
Regular blasts of synthetic, overproduced Japanese music, or J-pop, will make your new Japanese life complete.
This type of music has yet to find a true audience in the West, although it is extremely popular in Japan.
The most of it is performed in Japanese (with the exception of the occasional cool-sounding English word), and each song is accompanied with a painstakingly choreographed, high-budget music video.
J-pop has a glitzy façade, but the reality is far more difficult.
Before joining a boy-band or girl-band, pop hopefuls must go through years of intensive training in their teens.
The jimusho (management agencies) take control of their lives, and they don’t have much freedom.
Minami Minegishi, a member of the popular J-pop band AKB48, got into a lot of controversy in 2013 when it was discovered that she had a boyfriend.
She shaved her head in retaliation and released a teary-eyed apology video to her supporters.
Minegishi was permitted to remain in the band, although she was relegated to a junior position (there are over 90 members).
Is it certain that you desire to be a pop star?
16. All Of Your Teeth Are Stunning
There’s a set of folks that think it’s fantastic if you have crooked teeth.
It’s the Japanese, of course!
Rather than having their teeth straightened, young women in that country prefer to make their teeth a little more quirky.
It’s known as ‘double tooth’ (or yaeba), which sounds a little like an ancient pirate’s moniker.
Wonky teeth are a sign of youth, despite the fact that it may appear weird.
There’s even a girl group (TYB48) made up exclusively of people with snaggletoothed teeth.
To make it look like you have child-like fangs, go to a dental clinic in Japan and have artificial canines placed on top of your real canines.
People mostly desire a ‘crowding’ of teeth in their mouth.
It’s a wonderful concept.
17. They Adore Cats
Consider the thing you adore most, and then multiply it by 1000.
That’s how much Japanese people adore cats.
It’s possible that it’s even more.
They treat their cats as if they are fluffy royalty, and the cats don’t seem to mind.
It’s a one-way connection, which the Japanese are perfectly content with.
Cat cafés are well-known in Japan, but have you ever heard of cat cemetery or cat islands?
Cats outnumber humans six to one on Aoshima, Japan’s southernmost island.
Over a hundred cats patrol the neighbourhood like they own it, living in abandoned homes.
If robots don’t take over all of Japan’s jobs, cats will.
A haughty feline named Nitama was appointed stationmaster at Kishi train station in Wakayama a few years ago.
The stationmaster is required to wear a hat, and Nitama was supposedly hired because she “doesn’t mind wearing a hat.”
Imagine being hired just because you don’t mind wearing a uniform.
18. Animal Cafés
It is quite important to eat and drink in the company of cute animals over there.
When there’s an adorable creature starring at you, a cup of coffee and a slice of cake tastes twice as nice.
Japan still has the best cat cafés in the world, such as Tokyo’s Kichijouji Petit Mura, which is set in a miniature fantasy castle, but it doesn’t end there.
There are dog cafés if you prefer fuzzy company with a little more love added in.
RAAGF, which stands for “rabbit and grow fat,” is a bunny cafe.
Check out Harry, a hedgehog café in Tokyo, if you want to trade your fur for spikes.
The Penguin Bar Ikebukuro in Tokyo contains a little family of four penguins that you can’t touch but can certainly admire as you drink.
Similarly, in the goat and snake cafés, there must be some distance between the guests and the animals, although we believe this is probably for the best.
19. They Eat A Fish That May Kill You
With its huge eyes and huggable body, the pufferfish may appear cute, but it will kill you.
That’s correct, fugu (‘river pig’) is one of Japan’s most expensive delicacies while being extremely toxic.
The fish is like a giant bundle of toxins 1000 times stronger than cyanide.
Before chefs may legally cut stuff up in their kitchens, they must first obtain a formal licence.
Then, for the opportunity of eating it, insanely courageous eaters will spend upwards of £70.
Many customers have complained that fugu is bland and has a texture comparable to chicken, thus it doesn’t appear to be worth the risk.
On a dish, a tasteless and expensive death.
20. Earthquakes Occur
There are a lot of them.
Every year, about 1,500 earthquakes strike the country.
You barely get beyond one wobble before the trembling starts all over again.
Japan is situated in the Pacific Ring of Fire, which sounds as exciting as it is.
Around 90% of the world’s earthquakes happen along this massive fault line, meaning Japan has more earthquakes than it can handle.
In the country’s recent history, certain horrible events have occurred, such as the 9.0 magnitude earthquake that killed over 20,000 people in 2011.
Fortunately, the Japanese have become adept at anticipating disasters, and many of their metropolitan structures feature elaborate anti-earthquake designs.
The Shinkansen bullet trains are the most impressive; when a quake strikes, a train travelling at 187 mph can come to a halt in less than 300 metres.
21. There Are Three Alphabets In Japanese
Wait until you hear about the alphabets if you think Japanese is difficult to learn.
There are three of them: kanji, hiragana, and katakana, and you must first master each of them before you can fully comprehend the language.
Hiragana has the same number of letters as the Latin alphabet, which is 26.
Katakana includes 46 letters, making it slightly more difficult to read but still accessible.
Once you’ve mastered these two, you’ll only need to learn kanji, which is only 2000 letters long.
Although the shorter alphabets are used for grammar and kanji is utilised for concepts, they are all equally important.
If all of this seems like too much work, you may always rely on sign language and smiles.
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