For those looking to travel to another planet one day, the odds of that happening are slim to none, especially since space travel is still decades away from being a reality. Fortunately, for those looking to explore another galaxy, there is another alternative right here on earth. It’s called Japan.
The Japanese are known by many for being polite, hard-working, respectful, shy and quiet- until they start drinking- but the Japanese also have another reputation, which is being absolutely bonkers.
Seriously, there is no way we could possibly fit all of the downright ludicrous and absurd aspects of Japanese culture in one article. There are literally thousands of mind-numbingly bizarre facets to cover, and even within a certain category, like game shows or restaurants, there are so many to choose from that we don’t know where to begin.
Instead we’ll try to focus on things that you probably weren’t aware of, or have never even heard of before, and believe me, there is no shortage of the weird, wacky and utterly unique that are found only in Japan.
So, fasten your seatbelt and enjoy the ride. Here are 15 things you didn’t know about Japan that are crazy AF.
We know that you’re familiar with Anime, the popular Japanese cartoons that have gained a worldwide cult following, but have you ever heard of Keijo? Like most Anime, it’s way out there, as are most things Japanese.
Keijo, aka, Hip Whip Girl is an Anime sports manga comics series, which has become so popular that they made a television show. According to Wikipedia, ” the series centers around the fictional women-only sport of Keijo, where players stand on floating platforms and aim to incapacitate or push their opponent into the water, using only their breasts and buttocks. The story follows Nozomi Kamenashi, a gymnast who trains at a keijo school, hoping to become the richest keijo player in Japan.”
14. Real-Life Mario Kart Racing
The Japanese love technology, especially video games. Well, we all love video games, but in Japan they take it one step further. So, if you happen to be in Tokyo and see a few go-karts zoom by, don’t be surprised, it’s just a bunch of Mario Kart fans living out their fantasies, which is also quite common in Japan.
Every month a local go-kart company called Akiba Cart, “allows game enthusiasts to play the popular video game in real life.” These cosplayers dress up in their favorite Mario Kart costumes and race through the streets simulating their favorite video game, much to the delight of onlookers.
You can find all of the game’s characters, from Mario and Luigi, to the gorilla, toad and Princess Peach. It’s quite a sight. That’s why so many bystanders laugh and take pictures as they circle the streets of Tokyo. So Japanese!
Now we all like to prank each other no matter what country you are from, but in Japan they have a popular prank that they’ve been doing for years. It’s called Kancho.
So what exactly is Kancho? According to our good friends at Wikipedia, Kancho “is a Japanese prank performed by clasping the hands together in the shape of an imaginary gun and attempting to poke an unsuspecting victim’s anus, often while exclaiming “Kan-CHO! The word is a slang adoption of the Japanese word for enema.”
You read that correctly. People go around sticking their fingers up people’s rear-ends and then laugh in delight at their pain, suffering and humiliation. The Japanese have been doing this to each other for years and they love it. Nothing like waiting until your friend bends over and then pointing your fingers in the shape of a gun up their rectum.
12. Food That Can Kill You
According to Merriam-Webster, Fugu is “any of various very poisonous puffer fishes that contain tetrodotoxin and that are used as food in Japan after the toxin-containing parts are removed.” It’s not unheard of for people to actually die after eating these lethal, odd looking fish. “Therefore, it must be carefully prepared to remove toxic parts and to avoid contaminating the meat.”
“The restaurant preparation of fugu is strictly controlled by law in Japan and only chefs who have qualified after three or more years of rigorous training are allowed to prepare the fish.”
If you think that’s insane, the poison in Fugu “paralyzes the muscles while the victim stays fully conscious (thus making the effects somewhat similar to those of the nerve agents Sarin and VX); the poisoned victim is unable to breathe, and eventually dies from asphyxiation. Fugu poison is 1200 times stronger than cyanide, and there is no known antidote.”
Dekotora is short for “decoration truck.” It is “a type of extravagantly decorated truck in Japan. Commonly having neon or ultraviolet lights, extravagant paints, and shiny stainless or golden exterior parts, such decorations can be found on both on the exterior and the interior.”
These colorful trucks are a sight to behold. Many countries have vehicles that are unique to their cultures, as cars and trucks are not only used for transportation, but as an expression of an individual’s personality. And while most people think of drifting and drag racing in modified sports cars, they may want to have a look at these crazy Dekotoras. They look like trucks on steroids and acid.
10. Crazy Toilets
Going to the bathroom in Japan can be quite complicated, especially for tourists or people who have never been there before.
There are basically two main types of toilets. First there are the traditional squat type toilets, also known as “Asian toilets”, which are rarely found in North America, and if you do locate one, you’re probably in a really questionable part of town. Then there is the ultra modern toilet, which looks more like the cockpit of the space shuttle.
These modern toilets, which are usually the most common ones, often have dozens of buttons and features that are largely unheard of and very confusing to us Westerners. Flushing the toilet can be a real challenge as you often have no idea which button to actually press. These toilets ” include many advanced features rarely seen outside of Asia. The feature set commonly found are anus washing, bidet washing, seat warming, and deodorization,”according to Wikipedia. There’s also a choice between big flush or little flush, and even a radio, if you feel the need to listen to some music, or a weather report.
9. Kanamara Matsuri
The Kanamara Matsuri, also known as the “Festival of the Steel Phallus”, is held once a year at the Kanayama Shrine in the city of Kawasaki. This ‘penis festival’ basically celebrates the male sexual organ and its fertility. People from all over Japan, along with many foreigners, come to celebrate “the power of the humble penis.”
During the event you can find everything from people dressed in phallic costumes, giant phallic statues and parade floats, candies, food, balloons and anything you can think of shaped in the form of a penis.
8. Subcultures & Street Fashions
The most popular of these, or at least known to the outside world, is cosplay, which is ” the imitation of anime characters via the use of costumes and props.” The Japanese love to dress up in extreme fashion, almost similar to what you’d see in the Hunger Games, and there are so many different groups and themes these days. The street fashion/subculture has really exploded over the last few years.
Here are some of the cast of characters you’ll find walking the streets of Japan these days:
-Lolita: Young girls. Includes many subcategories like gothic, punk, classic, sweet, and kodona (“boystyle”).
-Gyaru and Ganguro: Girls dressed up in ” brightly colored outfits, mini-skirts, and tie-dyed sarongs, bleached hair, a deep tan, fake eyelashes, black and white eyeliner, bracelets, earrings, rings, necklaces and platform shoes, girly-glam style, wigs, fake lashes, fake nails etc..”
7. JK Business/Enjo Kosai
The Japanese take this school girl theme a little far at times. In fact, it’s quite extreme and prominent. Okay, let’s be honest, it can be found all over the place in Japan.
JK Business is “the practice of compensated dating with adolescent girls. The abbreviation JK stands for joshi kōse and means high school female student.”
According to Wikipedia, Enjo Kosai is “compensated dating and is the practice of older men giving money and/or luxury gifts to attractive women for their companionship or possibly for sexual favors. The female participants range from school girls to housewives.”
You put these two together and you have a whole bunch of shady things going on. And while there is an entertainment side to the industry, there is also much darker one, that is largely being ignored and allowed to operate by the government.
Not only are there neighborhoods with these girls lining the streets for business, but there are also many all-girl groups like SNH48 and Akishibu Project who perform songs to their loyal, adoring, adult male fans, who pay tons of money just to ‘talk’ to them after shows.
6. Seijin Shiki
When you turn 21 years old in the United States you are legally allowed to drink alcohol. Usually you have dinner with family and friends, and then go out and get wasted. Well, in Japan, when you turn 20 years old, the entire country celebrates with you.
Seijin Shiki is a national holiday known as “the coming of age day”. The celebration is “held annually on the second Monday of January. It is held in order to congratulate and encourage all those who have reached the age of 20 years old over the past year, and to help them realize that they have become adults. Festivities include coming of age ceremonies held at local and prefectural offices, as well as after-parties among family and friends.”
The women dress up in fur-type kimonos with bright colors (of course), and the new adults are now allowed to vote and more importantly, drink alcohol. The entire country shuts down for a day and has another reason to get trashed.
5. School Rules
There’s a long list of rules and behaviors found in Japanese schools that you probably won’t find anywhere else in the world. These rules have helped shape the characteristics we find in Japanese culture today, from the disciplined, honest and hard working, to the street fashion.
There are some janitors in schools, but the students are forced to clean themselves. You heard that correctly. Also, girls are not allowed to shave their legs or wear makeup, as they need to focus on school work and not their appearance. Relationships and dating are also banned since they are considered a distraction,
4. Crazy Prank Shows
While we’re on the subject of pranks, the Japanese have been doing these prank shows for decades with no signs of stopping. Ashton Kutcher and his hit show Punk’d have nothing on these deranged pranks that the Japanese absolutely love.
According to my Japanese friends, they have toned down the intensity of the pranks over the years, but they keep coming up with new ideas to ensure that they maintain that unique level of craziness.
Surely you’ve seen some of the videos online or on television, with the most recent ones of people dressing up like dinosaurs and scaring the living crap out of people on the streets, or in their offices. They also love any pranks involving ghosts and basically anything extreme. There are so many, we don’t know where to begin, but we definitely suggest you check some out. It’ll be worth your time.
3. Insane Game Shows
Speaking of extreme shows, the Japanese also take game shows to a level that we don’t even think is legal in most countries. If you haven’t seen the Saturday Night Live skit with Chris Farley on a Japanese game show, we recommend you have a look.
The Japanese do a masterful job at combining everything from the weird, the sexual, and the most intense, to make you wonder what exactly in the hell is going on. Take AKBingo for example, where young girls from the group AKB48 do wild competitions with the losers doing things like attaching tubes to their mouths and trying to blow live insects down each others’ throats.
2. Themed Restaurants
Japan has by far the biggest collection of the most ridiculously bizarre restaurants you can imagine. There are so many, that it really has become part of the culture, attracting millions of locals and tourists every year.
You can find almost anything that comes to mind, including robots, owls, ghosts, vampires, erotic maids, eating off naked women, reptiles, a fully automated waiter-less restaurant, an airplane themed restaurant, and the list goes on and on.
At the Modern Toilet restaurant, patrons sit on toilets and are served food in mini toilet bowls instead of plates.
The robot cabaret is a visual masterpiece that includes robots and erotic dancers that make you feel like you’re tripping on magic mushrooms, but our favorite is the prison themed Alcatraz where you are handcuffed and led to your cell and have to bang a stick against the prison bars to summon the waiter/prison guard, and every once in awhile there is an attempted breakout with sirens going off and a prisoner running around trying to escape. It’s nuts.
1. Food That Is Still Alive
Forget raw food like sushi. How would you like to be served food that is still alive? In Japan, you can order a meal that is still breathing, or that can literally start crawling.
Ikizukuri, or Ikizukuri means “prepared alive”. The fish is “prepared with only three knife cuts by the chef. They are usually presented with the head still whole so that customers are able to see the continuing gill movements.” So basically, the meat is cut from the body, with the heart still beating and the fish is still alive and breathing, barely. The sashimi dish can also be prepared with live octopus, shrimp and lobster. The animal is served alive with cuts of its own flesh on top. Bon Appetit!
Oh Japan. What a country!
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