You'll Be Amazed and Shocked by These 19 Facts About Japan

Posted Mar 28, by Greg Porter

Japan's been ruled by the same family since 660 BC!

The Imperial Family, officially known as the Imperial House of Japan, is the extended family of the reigning Emperor of Japan. They take on the official and public duties of the government. Other family members of the Emperor perform social and civil duties unrelated to the governmental affairs. The duties of the Emperor are passed down to his children and their children and so on. 

The Japanese monarchy is the oldest continuous hereditary monarchy in the world. The current Japanese monarchy began with the legendary Emperor Jimmu in 660 BC. Since then there have been 124 recognized monarchs, including the current reigning emperor. However, there isn’t any actual genealogical evidence of relationships or even the existence evident of the first 25 emperors.

The current emperor is Emperor Akihito who has reigned since 1989. The succeeding emperor is based on birth order of boys. Akihito was the eldest of 5 boys and succeeded his father, Hirohito.

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A baseball team in Japan is believed to be cursed by KFC founder Colonel Sanders.

 

The Curse of the Colonel, as it’s called, is an urban legend that KFC founder Colonel Sanders placed a curse on the Japanese Kansai-based Hanshin Tigers baseball team. The curse was apparently placed on the team because the Colonel was angry that one of his storefront statues was mistreated.

The Hanshin Tigers are considered the permanent underdogs of Nippon Professional Baseball, but fans still always flock to the stadium. The Tigers have only won one championship, in 1985. That was the year the curse was cast. Apparently the team were so excited over their win that they tossed a statue of Colonel Sanders into a river. It’s been said that they would never win another championship until the statue was recovered.

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When the Emperor told his people that Japan was surrendering in WWII, almost no one understood his Classical Japanese dialect!

When Emperor Hirohito broadcast his surrender order to the Japanese people on August 14, 1945, almost no one could understand his dialect.

The “Jewel Voice Broadcast” was the radio broadcast during World War II in which Japanese Emperor Hirohito announced to the Japanese people that the government had decided to surrender. The announcement came following the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the declaration of war against Japan by the Soviet Union.

The speech was notable for a few reasons, one being that it was the first time in history that an Emperor of Japan had spoken directly to the common people.

The problem was that almost none of them could understand it. The reason why is because he was speaking in a style of Classical Japanese that few ordinary people knew. In addition, he didn’t outright say “Japan has surrendered,” but that the government was accepting the terms of the Potsdam Declaration.

This made many people unsure if Japan had surrendered or not. The poor audio quality also added to the confusion. In the end, someone had to translate for the emperor to make it clear.

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In Japan they have square watermelons.

They get square watermelons by growing them inside of square glass cases. That way they can fit easily into an overcrowded refrigerator, and you can stack things on them.

Square watermelons are expensive though (10,000 yen or about $82). Compare that to regular round watermelons which cost about $15-20 in Japan.

The square boxes they're grown in are the exact dimensions of Japanese refrigerators, which means they fit perfectly. At $82 each, these square watermelons probably wouldn't be too popular in the United States. Our solution for a lack of refrigerator space? Smaller, seedless watermelons.

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If you commit suicide by train in Japan, your family may be charged up to $12,000!

Japan has one of the highest suicide rates in the world, somewhere around 7th or 9th highest in the world in the last few years. It's widely considered a national issue, because it's the leading cause of death among men aged 20 to 44. 

It doesn't help that culturally, suicide is considered a morally responsible action in certain cases. The economy, depression and social pressure are some of the highest reasons for suicide. 71% of suicides were male in 2006.

Jumping in front of a train is a popular way to end your life in Japan. It's considered to be practical and nuisance free to the person's family. However, it isn't for the train companies. A person committing suicide can slow down traffic for a few hours. 

To dissuade people from doing this, train companies have begun implementing certain measures to lower the number of suicides. One is fining the decesed family members. They can be charged up to 1 million yen, or $12,000. They've also begun installing blue LEDs in stations, which can have a claming effect on jumpers. Another method they've begun testing is having station doors that contain people until the train arrives. 

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A new fashion trend in Japan: Inject saline solution into your forehead and shape it like a bagel!

They call it Bagel Head, and it's exactly what it sounds like. A technician injects saline solution into your forehead, then presses his or her thumb in the middle to make the bump look like a bagel. The transformation is only temporary, as your body absorbs the saline solution. 

Check out a video of this below, and click the next button to see more examples of this bizarre trend!


Japanese style curry was originally considered a Western food in Japan as curry was introduced to Japan by the British.

Curry is one of the most popular dishes in Japan today. Most commonly it is served in three main forms: curry rice, thick noodles, and kare-pan. Curry rice is typically what is called curry. Japanese curry utilizes many different vegetables and meats. The base curry vegetables are onions, carrots, and potatoes. 

The base meats most often used are beef, pork, and chicken. Curry was first introduced to Japan during the Meiji era, which lasted from 1868 to 1912. The British, who then had India under their administration, first brought the dish over. The dish became popular very quickly as a “western” food, and by the 1960s it became so popular that it was available for purchase in supermarkets and restaurants. 

Today, it has been so widely consumed that it is considered a national dish. It’s since spread to South Korea, which happened during the period of time that Korea was under Japanese rule in the early 20th century. Most Japanese restaurants in South Korea serve curry. So prevalent is Japanese curry today that if you have a local Asian supermarket, you can no doubt find some instant curry there. 

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A popular brand of jeans in Japan called, Prison Blues, are made by prisoners here in the US!

A 1930 federal U.S. law was passed that prohibits importing goods made by prison labor. However, the reverse is not true. Oregon built a 47,000 square foot facility to begin making jeans and exporting them to other countries. The brand, Prison Blues, is made by prisoners in the Oregon penitentiary system. 

The prisoners have to fill out an application and go through an interview before they are hired. In 1997, Oregon made it a law that every prisoner had to have a job. At Prison Blues, prisoners are paid between six and eight dollars an hour. 

The program has been criticized, but ultimately it has grown into a strong business. Prisoners who get in trouble while at work or are fired aren’t punished beyond that within the prison. Much of the money they make goes toward room and board, as well as restitution. 

The jeans have grown into an entire apparel line. They’ve become quite popular in Japan and are sold in 250 stores in the U.S. They are also sold in Italy and Germany. 

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Japan’s favorite pizza topping is eels!

Pizza is a favorite food for people all over the globe, but each country has their own way of making their pizza a little snazzier. While people from the United States prefer pepperoni or sausage, people from different countries don’t shy away from making very different topping choices. 

One of the most interesting and specified topping choices is from Japan. In Japan, they love to add eels to their pizza, and another seafood: squid! You might also find a little Mayo Jaga on their pizza, which is a mix of mayonnaise, potatoes, and bacon. Here are some other interesting topping choices from other countries: 

  • If you want a pizza that tastes like a barbecue try the Outback. In Australia, a favorite pizza choice is shrimp, pineapple, and barbecue sauce. It would make for a very sweet and salty pizza! 
  • Another really interesting topping choice comes from Pakistan where curry is often added to pizza. For a unique flavor and break from monotony, curry would make a nice, and possibly spicy, addition to a pizza. 
  • And, finally, if you’re looking to be healthy, look no further than Brazil. In Brazil, rather than heavy meats or greasy bacon, they add green peas. Picture: 

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Japan launched a spacecraft that landed on an asteroid and successfully returned to Earth.

Called Hayabusa (meaning Peregrine Falcon), the unmanned Japanese spacecraft was launched on 9 May 2003. Developed by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), its goal was to return a sample from a small asteroid called 25143 Itokawa near Earth. It only took two years for Hayabusa to reach Itokawa.

When it arrived in mid September 2005, it studied the asteroid’s shape, spin, topography, color, composition, density, and history. It was two months before it actually landed on the asteroid and gathered samples, though. It took five years for it to return to Earth, though. It didn’t reenter until 13 June 2010.

Hayabusa wasn’t the first successful visit to an asteroid, but it was the first to return to Earth with samples. Galileo and NEAR Shoemaker (both by NASA) had visited asteroids before. Hayabusa was also the first spacecraft designed to land on an asteroid and take off again. Though it was intended to only be a brief landing, Hayabusa sat on the surface of the asteroid for 30 minutes.

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Monks in northern Japan once practiced self-mummification.

Sokushinbutsu were Buddhist monks who caused their own deaths in a way that resulted in their mummification. If is believed that many monks in northern Japan attempted the act, but only between 16 and 24 mummifications have been discovered to date. 

For 1000 days, a monk would eat a special diet consisting only of nuts and seeds while taking part in a rigorous physical regimen; this stripped him of his body fat. For another 1000 days, he ate only bark and root and began drinking a poisonous tea which caused vomiting, a rapid loss of bodily fluids, and made the body too poisonous to be eaten by maggots. 

Finally, he would lock himself in a stone tomb no larger than his body where he would not budge from the lotus position. There was a bell within the tomb, and ringing it would alert everyone outside that the monk was still alive. Once the bell stopped ringing however, the tomb would be sealed. 

The other monks would wait another 1000 days and open the tomb to see if the mummification was successful. If so, the monk was immediately seen as a Buddha and put in the temple for viewing. If not, he wasn’t considered a Buddha but he was still admired for his dedication and spirit. Today, the practice has been outlawed by all Buddhist sects and the entire country of Japan.

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There's an island in Japan that once had a population density of 216,264 people per square mile but is now completely abandoned.

 

The whole island of Hashima is an abandonded ghost town. Until 1974 the island was a coal mining facility bought by Mitsubishi in 1890. It now has huge concrete buildings that are completely abandoned now and a sea wall. They actually built Japan’s first large concrete building with nine stories. 

They also built a block of apartments in 1916 to house all the workers, most of whom were forcibly recruited from Asia. South Korea claims that there were 500 forced Korean workers between 1939 and 1945. 

The 15 acre island reached its population peak in 1959 with 5,259 people. That translates about 216,264 people per square mile for the whole island. In the 1960s, petroleum took the place of coal mining on the island. Coal mines were shutting down all over the country in the 1960s. 

Mitsubishi officially closed the mines in 1974 and the island became barren of people. Now it is justly called Ghost Island. After being closed for 35 years, travel was made possible to Hashima again in 2009. Today the island is becoming increasingly popular, especially with ruins enthusiasts. 

The housing remnants represent the period between the Taisho era and the Showa era. The island hasn’t been maintained, though, and some of the buildings have collapsed and others are about to collapse. Some exterior walls have been repaired recently, though.

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Space Invaders was so popular, it created a coin shortage in Japan.

This classic game was released by Taito to the unsuspecting Japanese public in 1978. The game had a simple premise: aliens were getting close to your planet, and you had to shoot them all before they reached you. 

Space Invaders is considered one of the most influential games of all time, because it basically created the genre now known as "shooters," which are popular to this day. The game was so popular upon release, that Japan suffered a nation-wide shortage of 100-yen coins. In fact, they had to increase coin production to keep up with demand!

It was brought over to the US in 1980. By mid-1981, $1 billion of quarters had been gobbled up by the game. That number doubled by the end of 1982. This made it the highest grossing entertainment product ever at the time. 

Shigeru Miyamoto, legendary creator of Mario and Zelda, considers Space Invaders a revolutionary game in the industry, because it generated a level of interest for videogames that wasn't there before. 

What games would you consider revolutionary or influential in your life? Let us know in the comments!

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Japan is constitutionally forbidden from participating in wars. There is no Japanese military.

To be fair, there are the Japan Self-Defense Forces, but those forces are only used for peacekeeping missions when deployed outside of Japan. Officially, the country has no military. 

Especially if you live in the United States, a country that spent between 1 and 1.4 trillion dollars on its military this year, this idea might seem really strange. Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution elaborates on the decision: 

ARTICLE 9. Aspiring sincerely to an international peace based on justice and order, the Japanese people forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as means of settling international disputes. 

Italy has a similar clause in its constitution, but reserves the right to self defense in the event of an attack. You might be wondering how effective such a clause would be if Japan were ever attacked. Since World War II, shortly before the constitution was adopted, Japan has not gone to war or had the incentive to. 

That means for 65 years, Japan has proven that a military isn’t always necessary for settling international disputes. What’s interesting, though, is that Japan still allows other countries to have military bases on their soil. Japan is not unique in its lack of military. For the full list, check here.


Japan broadcast their own version of The Truman Show!

A struggling comedian, Nasubi, in Japan went to a casting call for a type of TV show. He was told that he had to live in an empty apartment filling out and sending in magazine sweepstakes cards. 

Once he won $10,000 worth of sweepstakes, he would win the show and they would air a segment of it on TV giving Nasubi more fame. Instead, they stripped him naked and locked him in an apartment furnished with pens, a cushion, a coffee table, and postcards. 

It took Nasubi 2 weeks to win his first prize, a jar of jelly! He later was able to win a bag of rice, but had nothing to cook it in. He ended up putting water in a can and some rice in it and cooked it next to the stove burner. He ate ½ a cup of rice a day. He lost a lot of weight and the network aired the highlights of each week in an hour segment on Sunday nights without Nasubi’s knowledge. 

After 10 months, Nasubi won a bag of toilet paper. He also won a TV, a bike, a tent, and more food. It took him 10 months to reach $10,000 in prizes. Instead of ending the game, the network flew him to Korea where he had to the same thing until he made enough in prizes to buy his airplane ticket back to Japan! 

Finally, after another 5 months he was able to make it back to Japan. Nasubi spent 15 months butt naked and in complete isolation. It was finally revealed to him that they’d been broadcasting his situation the whole time. 

He had become a hot celebrity and made a lot of money during the show from his journal that was made into a book, a noodle commercial made from footage of him eating, and more. 

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Women’s bathrooms in Japan have a device used to simulate the noise of flushing a toilet

If this sounds extremely strange, that’s because it is, at least for western culture. Know as the “Sound Princess” when translated into English, this device was first introduced in the 80’s and has since spread to almost every public women's rest room in Japan. 

Why exactly is this necessary? Many Japanese women are self-conscious of being heard going to the bathroom by other women so they would flush continuously. This action wasted such copious amounts of water that it became a problem. 

Instead, the Water Princess was introduced to save water. When a button on the Sound Princess is touched, a loud artificial flushing noise will be made.

Estimates say that up to 20 liters of water are saved each time the device is used. Even so, many women believe it sounds too artificial and like the good old natural sound of a flushing toilette. 

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In Hiroshima, there are permanent shadows caused by the intensity of the nuclear blast when the bomb was dropped.

Hiroshima was an event that left both the emotional shadows of tragedy and also permanent physical shadows on the landscape of Hiroshima, Japan. These shadows were created by the great force of the nuclear weapon. 

Thermal radiation travels in a straight line, which means that when it is blocked by an object it creates a shadow. These shadows still exist around Japan today. For example, the picture shows how a wheel blocked some of the radiation and created a shadow against the nearby wall. 

This was a very common occurrence across Japan. Sometimes, there were shadows left of people, but no bodies found. This resulted from the extreme heat of the explosion which vaporized the bodies, leaving the shadows behind.

The shadows are a unique occurrence from the nuclear explosion and they remain even after many years. These shadows stand by as a reminder of a horrific moment in history. They serve as a reminder of the value of human life. 

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There’s a forest in Japan famous for suicides!

It’s called Aokigahara, or the Sea of Trees and every year nearly 100 people hang themselves among its dense trees. The forest lies at the northwest base of Mount Fuji and because the trees are so densely packed, there is a renowned absence of animals or wind, resulting in an eerie silence. 

The forest has always been linked with demons and death throughout Japanese mythology. Every year, usually around March, people walk into the forest with a rope and little else to find a tree to end their life. The forest is so densely packed however, that the government has admitted there are most likely many bodies that are never found. 

In 1960 the novel “Nami no Tō” consisted with two lovers ending their lives in the forest and ever since suicide rates have skyrocketed. The government has begun placing posters in both Japanese and English throughout the area urging people to reconsider; yet many do not. Every year the government sends a search body of police to find the hanging bodies and has ceased publishing the figure to deter others from following suit. 

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