Fun Facts About Japan
Japan is one of the most interesting, exotic and densely populated countries in Asia. This country is also a world leader in the area of technology and commerce. Many Americans share a love of the most popular icons in Japanese culture, such as Hello Kitty and Godzilla.
Japan is an island country, however, you might be surprised how many islands belong to Japan. Here are some interesting facts from National Geographic, Japan Guide.com and Tokyo Top Guide about the geography, economy and culture of Japan:
- Japan is comprised of four main islands, Honshu, Hokkaido, Kyushu and Shikoku. There are over 4000 smaller islands that also belong to Japan.
- About 80 percent of Japan's population is located on the biggest island of Honshu.
- Over 70 percent of Japan is rugged, mountainous country. Only about 18 percent of the land is suitable for settlement and these areas are the narrow coastal plains where Japan's largest cities are located.
- Tokyo is the world's largest urban area with a population of 36 million people.
- Japan is located in the Pacific "Ring of Fire", an arc of seismic and volcanic activity that lies along the border of the Pacific tectonic plate and has over 1500 earthquakes annually.
- In 1923, an earthquake occurred in Tokyo that killed 143,000 people.
- March 11, 2011, an earthquake with a magnitude of 8.9 (the largest to ever hit Japan) struck with an epicenter just 373 kilometers from Tokyo.
Being an island nation with intensely rugged terrain, Japan has few natural resources and relies on importing goods like food, wood and oil. Other interesting facts about the economy of Japan include:
- Yen is the currency in Japan. In 2011, 82 yen equaled one dollar. Coins come in one yen, five yen, ten yen, 50 yen, 100 yen and 500 yen. Bills come in 1000 yen, 2000 yen (rare) 5000 yen and 10,000 yen.
- Japan has the second largest economy in the world, after the U.S.
- Japan is known as the "Land of The Rising Sun."
- Japan is one of the top three exporters of manufactured goods in the world.
- Japan's top export is automobiles, followed by electronics and computers.
- The most important agricultural crop is rice.
Home life in Japan is very different than what Americans are accustomed to. For example, when entering a Japanese home, outside shoes are always removed and slippers are put on. The homeowner will provide guests with slippers.
- Taking a bath in Japan is more about soaking the body and relaxation. Before getting in the bath, you are supposed to rinse your body first with a washbowl. You then soak in the bath with really hot water. When it's time to clean, get it out of the tub, soap and rinse your body, then return for a final soak. The bathwater is reused by all members of the family.
- Toilets are never located in the same room as the bathtub.
- Meals in Japan are served on low tables with everyone sitting (or kneeling) on floor cushions.
- Several entrées are served with everyone sharing from each dish. When moving food from a shared dish onto your individual plate, you use the opposite end of your chopsticks or the provided serving chopsticks.
- Using chopsticks properly is considered good table manners.
- When meeting or greeting someone in Japan, people bow to each other in place of shaking hands.
- If you want to thank someone in Japan, the tradition is to give them a gift such as sweets or sake. It is tradition to use both hands when giving or receiving a gift.
While tradition and etiquette are very important aspects of Japanese culture, so are Japanese superstitions. When you read some of these and think to yourself how ridiculous it sounds, don't forget Americans have superstitions that are just as strange.
- In America, the number 13 is considered bad luck or sometimes even evil. In Japan, the number four is considered unlucky, possibly because it is pronounced "shi", which is the same word for death. The Japanese avoid giving gifts in sets of four. Some buildings in Japan skip having a fourth floor, similar to American buildings not having a thirteenth floor.
- Another superstition the Japanese have in common with Americans is the belief that black cats crossing in front of your path may bring you bad luck.
- The Japanese do not sleep facing north because that is how bodies are laid out.
- It is believed if you cut your nails at night, you will not be with your parents when they die.
- Some people in Japan use their shoe to predict the weather. If a shoe thrown up in the air lands on its sole, it will be a pleasant day. If the shoe lines on its side, there will be clouds that day. If the shoe lands upside down, rain is on the way.
- It is tradition at a Japanese funeral to stick chopsticks into the rice that is placed on the altar, therefore, you should never stick your chopsticks into your rice bowl when eating.
- It is believed you should hide your thumb if a funeral car passes by.
- This is perhaps one of the strangest superstitions. It is a bad idea to lie down right after eating because you will become a cow.
A Unique Country
Japan is a country rich in tradition, culture and rugged, beautiful landscapes. This country also has some of the most amazing metropolitan areas in the world, such as Tokyo. Americans love Japanese culture as much as the Japanese love American culture. While the two cultures are vastly different, it's not hard to also find many similarities.