Japan, with a population of roughly 126 million, is an island nation in the Pacific Ocean with high-rise-filled cities, imperial palaces, mountainous national parks and thousands of shrines and temples. Once believed to be the first country to see the sunrise in the morning, Japan is a land of wonders and surprises at every step. Whether it was a natural disaster or man made, Japan has been through it all and thrived! All this could be only achieved with the strong values and rich culture the country has to offer. Here is a list of 20 interesting facts about Japan that you probably didn't know about.
• In Japanese, the name “Japan” is Nihon or Nippon, which means “Land of the Rising Sun.” It was once believed that Japan was the first country to see the sun rise in the East in the morning.
• Japan has the third longest life expectancy in the world with men living to 81 years old and women living to almost 88 years old. The Japanese live on average four years longer than Americans.
• Japan consists of over 6,800 islands.
• Home to 33 million people, the Tokyo-Yokohama metropolitan area is the largest populated metropolitan region in the world.
• Japan has more than 3,000 McDonald’s restaurants, the largest number in any country outside the U.S.
• Japanese director Akira Kurosawa’s film The Hidden Fortress was the basis for George Lucas’ famous film Star Wars.
• Each spring, Japan has a festival that celebrates both the penis and female fertility called Kanamara Matsuri, or “Festival of the Steel Phallus.”
• Twenty-one percent of the Japanese population is elderly (over the age of 65), the highest proportion in the world. There are more elderly than there are children in Japan today.
• The Japanese eat more fish than any other people in the world, about 17 million tons per year. Japan is the world’s largest importer of seafood, with shrimp comprising about one third of the total, about four million tons a year. More than 20% of Japanese protein is obtained through fish and fish products.
• Over two billion manga, Japanese comic books or graphic novels, are sold in Japan each year.
• More than 5 billion servings of instant ramen noodles are consumed in Japan each year. Chef Momofuku Ando invented the first instant “chicken ramen” in 1958.
• Sushi has been around since about the second century A.D. It started as a way to preserve fish in China and eventually made its way to Japan. The method of eating raw fish and rice began in the early 17th century. Sushi does not mean raw fish in Japanese. It actually means rice seasoned with vinegar, sugar, and salt. Raw fish sliced and served alone without rice is called sashimi.
• Japanese Kobe beef is famous worldwide for its succulence and taste. The Japanese cows this beef comes from receive daily massages and, in summer, are fed a diet of saké and beer mash. True Kobe beef comes from only 262 farms in the Tajima region, of which Kobe is the capital, and each of which raises an average of 5 of the animals at a time. In the United States, Kobe beef is called Wagyu beef.
• Japan has around 5.5 million vending machines with one on almost every street corner. There are vending machines that sell beer, hot and cold canned coffee, cigarettes, wine, condoms, comic books, hot dogs, light bulbs, bags of rice, toilet paper, umbrellas, fish bait, fresh eggs, porn magazines, and even used women’s underwear.
• Japan has the second lowest homicide rate in the world, but it also home to the spooky “suicide forest” Aokigahara at the base of Mt. Fuji. It is the second most popular place in the world for suicides after San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge.
• The Japanese have such a low birth rate that there are more adult diapers sold than baby diapers.
• Cherry blossoms (sakura) are Japan's national flower.
• Japanese ganguro (“black face”) fashion was started in the 1990s and has young women tanning their skin as dark as possible, bleaching their hair, and using extremely colorful makeup in contrast to the traditional Japanese pale-skinned, dark-haired standard of beauty.
• The world’s shortest escalator is in the basement of More’s department store in Kawasaki, Japan; it has only 5 steps and is 32.8 inches (83.3 cm) high.
• Yaeba, or crooked teeth, are considered attractive in Japan—so much so that girls go to the dentist to have their teeth purposefully unstraightened.