Japan is one interesting place. There is so much to do in the land of the rising Sun that if you decide to visit the country that has gifted the world so many things like anime and futuristic robots, you will never run out of things to do. It might not be one of the largest countries on Earth, but Japan certainly has a population that defies its diminutive size. For example, in the capital alone, Tokyo, there are more than 9 million people. Not many cities on the planet can put up a fight against those numbers. And while such massive figures could mean a lack of stability and something that could throw a country into chaos, Japan is still standing, and it is standing firm.
The Japanese are a disciplined and honorable people. That is one of the main reasons why the country has succeeded in evolving despite the many bumps it has hit along the road. But we are here to talk about something more interesting. A lot of people might be thinking about visiting this great nation, especially because the Tokyo Olympics are just around the corner. Those are going to be games to remember for a long, long time to come if everything goes according to what the folks in Japan want. But if you decide to travel to the other side of the globe, the games won’t be the only reason you should do that. Like we said before, Japan is an interesting place. Weird, but interesting nonetheless. Sometimes weird can be good, and other times, it can be just weird. Either way, we found 15 little facts about Japan that will surely spark your curiosity and make you consider visiting the land of the rising Sun.
15 Cat Island
Believe it or not, Pokémon are not the most famous creatures in Japanese culture. As a matter of fact, there is a place in Japan where cats rule. We are talking about an island east of Fukushima named Tashirojima. This island became known as “cat Island” because of the sheer number of felines that have taken residence in the place. In case you were not aware, there is a part of Japanese culture in which people believe that cats are good luck animals. We don’t know what they think happens when a black cat walks past one of them in a Friday the 13th, but there is a solid chance that something like this will happen to you if you decide to visit Tashirojima.
Another interesting fact about the cats of this island is that the inhabitants believe that keeping the cats is inappropriate. Hence, the animals are allowed to roam free around the island. Nevertheless, feeding them and taking care of them doubles your luck. So, make sure to bring some treats if you decide to go.
14 Capsule Hotels
This has become a classic feature of Japanese culture by now. In the introduction of our article, we talked a little bit about how Japan has a population that is almost too massive for its size. That is especially true in places like the capital, Tokyo. But if there is one thing the Japanese are amazing at, it is turning adversity into a strength. What do you do when you don’t have enough space for everyone to live in houses or apartments?
Easy, you just build hotels where visitors can sleep in capsules. We don’t think that there is anything that saves more space than these facilities. Not only are these practical spots, but they are also excellent options for tourists who don’t want to spend a lot of money in expensive hotel rooms. For example, there are hotels in which you can get a capsule for a night and spend less than 50 bucks.
13 The "Forest"
Suicide is a peculiar aspect of Japanese history and culture. From the honorable samurais who put their honor above their lives and followed all of the sayings in the Bushido code–even the ones that said they had to take their own lives in case they dishonored their vows and families–to regular people who don’t see a way out of whatever problem they have in life, suicide is a terrible, but not all that uncommon, custom in this nation. If you need an example of that, there is a place by Mount Fuji called the Aokigahara Suicide Forest.
This would be the place to visit if you were one of those people who like creepy places. There is no lack of accounts of supernatural activity in the area. And that is not surprising at all, given that hundreds of people have gone into that forest and have taken their own lives. Remember, we just talked about the place. But if you ever want to go there, you go at your own peril.
12 Japanese Dracula?
If there is one thing people in this great nation can be proud of saying, it is that they have some of the most creative minds in the world. And the thing is that the Japanese don’t really need to come up with their own stuff; they are also great at putting their own spin into myths from other lands. One of the most famous mythological creatures is the vampire. People either love or hate vampires. There are those who love the glittery new vampires that were made famous by a movie that shall remain nameless, but there are also the old school Dracula-style blood drinkers that haunted people’s nightmares.
This particular café in Tokyo decided that the second option would be the best to attract new customers. And for better or for worse, we have to admit that this is arguably one of the most interesting restaurants we have ever seen. Everything is vampire-related in there. Even the food comes inside coffins while the drinks are always red.
11 The Firefly Squid
Japan is such a peculiar place that even the animals that live there are fantastic. Only found in the Western Pacific Ocean, the firefly squid is an example of an amazing animal you can hardly find anywhere else. Most specifically, these stunning creatures can be found near the Toyama Bay. What makes these animals special is that they have a bioluminescent feature in which their tentacles light up and emanate a beautiful blue light. This happens because the tentacles are filled with tiny organs called photophores, which are responsible for producing the light.
Usually, humans would not be able to see the squids very often since they live at depths that go from 600 to 1200 feet. Nevertheless, in the Toyama Bay, there is a canyon that conducts the water and everything else from those depths to the surface, providing the people with the chance to witness the spectacle of the firefly squids near the surface.
This is not something you are going to read in travel catalogs, nor is there a specific place in Japan you need to visit in order to learn a fundamental lesson. Much on the contrary, you could go to every single school in the country and you would learn an easy and valuable lesson that the Japanese teach their children very early. A lesson many Westerners would probably find a bit weird.
The common practice here is that Japanese schools do not have janitors or people who clean the halls, bathrooms, or classrooms. No, the people responsible for cleaning up after the children are the children themselves. It sounds easy when we talk about it, but just try to go into any western school and tell the students that after classes are over, they cannot go home until they finish cleaning the entire place. There would be riots, and we can nearly guarantee that even more and more kids would pretend to be sick to avoid going to class.
We talked a little bit about how the Japanese are great at putting their own spin into myths from different cultures, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t have interesting legends of their own. One of the perks of visiting Japan is that you get to learn a lot about one of the most interesting cultures on our planet. Out of the many creatures ingrained in Japanese mythology and folklore, the weirdest one many people can easily research and learn a little bit about is the Kappa.
No, this is not one of the letters of a fraternity or sorority at your school. This is actually the name of an ancient Japanese monster. The kappa is supposed to be a demon that lurks near rivers and takes the form of a small child in order to lure its victims to their doom. Its true form is usually depicted as somewhat of a mix between a turtle and some kind of amphibian. It’s fascinating. You should check out a little bit about Japanese folklore if you are into legends.
8 Your Warehouse
Some of the coolest things about Japan are actually the buildings and how creative owners manage to transform their businesses to attract more and more people in some of the most peculiar ways one could come up with. Your Warehouse (Anata No Warehouse) is one of those places that we found while doing research for this list, and we cannot wait for an opportunity to visit.
Usually, when people go to arcades, they are looking to play video games. All you want to do is spend hours and hours playing the most varied games you can possibly find. More often than not, folks don’t even pay that much attention to their surroundings when entering an arcade. That is not a problem in this place. Made to look like an inner-city from some kind of cyberpunk dystopian future, as soon as you walk through those doors, the games will undoubtedly not be the only thing picking your attention.
7 Hadaka Matsuri
Like we said many times, and probably will keep saying until we are done with this article, the Japanese are an interesting people. In what other corner of the world would you find a festival in which more than 9,000 naked men participate in every given year? Yeah, this is not a joke nor a vacation in a nudist beach. We are talking about a legit festival named Hadaka Matsuri, in which thousands of naked men roam about temples seeking purification and hoping the tradition will bring them good luck for the following year. In their defense, people are not really completely naked during the festival. The guys are usually wearing a traditional Japanese loincloth which, for Westerners, could very much be about the same thing as being naked.
Nevertheless, if you check out videos of the festivals, you cannot see a single person who is not having fun in one of the things. So, we guess this could be a tourist attraction for some people. Your call.
6 Cooking Is An Art
Cooking is an art pretty much anywhere in the world. If you go to France and you are someone who loves cuisine and learning new things, you could have a blast. The same thing could be done pretty much anywhere else in the world since every single place has its own little secret about food. However, few places have chefs who dedicate more than a decade of their lives in order to learn how to prepare one single ingredient.
A delicacy in Japan, the blowfish, might just be the hardest ingredient to prepare in the world. Why? Because if you get just a little bit wrong in the preparation of a blowfish, you could kill one of your customers. Yes, they say it takes more than a decade of intensive training to become a blowfish chef. We don’t know if we would risk eating one of these things considering the risk, but you have to appreciate the guys who spend more than 10 years learning how to cook them.
5 Fallout Japan
If you are a fan of the Fallout video game series, there is a good chance that Japan has a perfect place for you to visit. Now, while there are sites in Japan where radioactive fallout has happened and still affects certain regions, that is not what we are talking about here. What we are talking about is a place where all of the residents have to wear gas masks every time they leave their homes. As weird as it sounds, this has nothing to do with biological weapons or nuclear waste. The residents have to wear gas masks at all times because right in the center of the island, there is an active volcano that erupted a little over a decade ago.
During the eruption, massive quantities of poisonous gas were released into the atmosphere, and in order to stay safe from the harmful effects of the gas, the residents take the extra caution of always wearing their gas masks while outside.
4 The Island Of The Dead
The real nickname of this place is The Ghost Island, but we thought The Island of the Dead sounded more interesting for the title. Word choice aside, this is arguably one of the most interesting places in Japan. The island of Hashima was once home to a thriving community that enjoyed the perks of having a coal mine nearby. The island was inhabited and lived off the massive coal mining facility that was active all the way from 1887 to the 1970’s. During that period, the number of people in Hashima surpassed the 5000 mark.
Unfortunately for the coal miners, however, Japan was one of the first countries to really consider shifting its primary energy source from coal to other outlets like oil and nuclear. The result was that the once-thriving community of Hashima abandoned the island, which is now home to one of the most terrifying ghost towns in the world. Luckily, tourists can still visit the island by taking boat tours that stop there.
3 Fox Town
At the beginning of this article, we talked about an island that was ruled by cats. Most of that had to do with the fact that in Japanese culture, cats are considered sacred animals that bring good luck. Well, they are not the only creatures that fit the bill. Another type of animal that thrives in a place due to the fascination Japanese folks have with them are foxes.
Known as some of the most cunning creatures in the animal kingdom, foxes have a special place where they can live in Japan. The location is called the Miyagi Zao Fox Village, a special spot where more than 100 foxes get to live their lives without worrying about anyone trying to hunt them or anything like that. The village is located somewhere between the towns of Fukushima and Yamagata. Another interesting fact about this village is that it has a lot of allusions to the Shinto deity Inari Ōkami, most commonly known as the God of Foxes, a spirit supposed to bring prosperity and success to its followers.
2 THE Festival
What is the one thing that could be weirder than the festival of semi-naked men we told you about earlier? Probably a fertility festival in which a bunch of priests carry around a 96-inch-long, 620-pound giant wooden p*nis. What? Don’t you believe this really happens?
If that is the case, we strongly encourage you to save some money and head to Komaki, a town north of Nagoya, on March 15th of any given year to witness the Hōnen Matsuri. We are not kidding, this is for real and has been happening for as long as anyone can remember. This religious celebration is a Shinto custom where folks count their blessings and thank their gods for the many blessings they received with a bountiful harvest. If watching these people carrying a giant wooden "you know what" around is not enough to pick your interest, we should probably add that there is an all-you-can-drink sake open bar for those who participate. Not so bad, right? Let the celebrations begin.
1 Vending Machine Mayhem
If none of the places and customs we have talked about so far convinced you to give Japan a shot for your next international trip, let us give you the icing on the cake. It might seem weird to imagine that someone would want to visit a country all the way across the globe so that they could check out a vending machine. But, vending machines in Japan are not just that. These machines are more of a reflection of Japanese culture that really could not be any more amusing. The stuff you can find in vending machines in Japan get to the point of being ridiculous.
There are vending machines that sell rice. Some machines are there to sell flowers, some of them sell books, and there are even normal ones that sell snacks (weird snacks, but snacks nonetheless). However, if you look hard enough or walk by the right street, you could find vending machines that sell umbrellas and things like that. Oh, let us not forget the vending machines that sell fresh food like lettuce. And better than everything else, there are vending machines that sell cars. Yes, this is for real. Anyone down for the Olympics? We’ll see you there.