10 Interesting Facts about Japan: The Land of Tradition and Honor

Japan has fried chicken, rabbits and....penis festivals? Well, if you would look at it closer, there is much more to it than meets the eye. Read on to find out!

Japan is a country where history is not just a word but an essential part of life. From the samurai to their involvement in World War II, not all of it has been pleasant, but with a country made up of over 6,800 islands, it’s no wonder there’s so much to see and do.

There’s also a lot of facts about Japan that westerners don’t know about , and there really are a lot of things that make this fascinating place great. From holiday traditions and festivals celebrating fertility, to innovation and hotels opened thousands of years ago, there are many distinct sides to it. All of them are very interesting.

And trust us, there’s no way to contain it all in just one article. And besides, some things are probably better to see in person. Why not read this list, and then consider booking a trip to Japan to see everything it really has to offer? There’s so much more than what you see on TV!

1. The Japanese love KFC… for Christmas dinner


Many westerners commonly think of turkey or ham as a Christmas dinner staple, but in some places, those foods aren’t readily available. And because of a successful ad campaign in the 1970s, the Japanese go absolutely crazy for Kentucky Fried Chicken.

So much so that the company takes pre-orders for their Christmas buckets in October, and families line up around the block to get their food. Because turkey isn’t readily available, fried chicken became the next best thing.

2. Japan has the second highest number of people who are over 100 years old


While the United States may have more folks over the age of 100, a part of the reason is simply because the US has a higher number of citizens. When looking at it per capita, Japan actually has a higher percentage of population over the age of 100.

In fact, they have about 50,000 people who can proudly claim to be a centenarian. The average life expectancy in Japan is 82.9, which is also higher than the United States. Part of the reason for this is their highly efficient health care system and a culture that promotes healthy living.

3. Japan is home to many of the world’s oldest companies, including one that operated for over 1,400 years

Kongo Gumi Co., Ltd was a Japanese construction company which holds the record for being the world’s oldest company operating for a whopping 1,400 years until it was absorbed by another company in 2006. The company could tract its origins to 578 b.c when a skilled immigrant decided to start his own business.

Kongo Gumi was involved with many famous buildings throughout history including the Osaka Castle. And it’s not the only old business from Japan. In fact, many of the oldest companies of the world are in Japan including several hotels opened in the 700s.

4. Japan has the oldest hotel in the world


Nisiyama Onsen Keiunkan is a hot-spring hotel that opened in 705 a.d and according to the Guinness Book of World Records; it’s the oldest hotel in the world, along with the oldest company in the world that’s still open. Yes, it’s still open to the public.

The hotel has had over 50 generations of the same family operating it since it opened, and even the staff boasts of positions being handed down generation to generation. The staff is committed to keeping the hotel going for years to come, and because of this, their unwavering desire to protect the inn has drawn the attention of hotels worldwide.

Oh and did we mention that at one time, Japanese samurai even stayed at this hotel? Almost sounds like something worthy of a special trip just to see, doesn’t it?

5. Japanese trains are some of the most punctual in the world

For many people who rely on the train to get to work, the idea of it never, ever running late is simply unheard of, except in Japan. They take their transit very seriously, and stringent standards are in place to make sure the trains are always on time.

To give you an idea of a typical delay, in 2012, the average delay at Tokaido Shinkansen was only 0.6 minutes. So yes, it’s a matter of seconds. And when trains are running late, even as little as a few minutes, the conductor will apologize for the delay and the company may issue a “delay certificate” for your boss.

After all, no one would ever believe you were late because of a train delay, not in a country like this.

6. You can get away with sleeping on the job

tired woman sleeping at laptop

Not only do Japanese people not mind if you fall asleep at your desk, they actually think it’s a sign that you’re a hard worker. They even have a special word for such a practice – inemuri.

Japanese place a high value on hard work and giving your best, and to them, being tired means you’re pushing yourself to exhaustion. Of course, there are rules to these sorts of things, and the first one is you must sleep upright and look ready to get back to work at any time. And it’s easier to get away with this if you’re the boss.

7. You can drive through a building

Yes, you read it right, through a building. The Gate Tower building in Fukushima-ku, Osaka is a 16-story office building, nothing too special really. Unless, of course, you consider the highway that happens to pass right through the building.

The highway is considered a tenant, like any other office tenant in the building, and it passes between the fifth and seventh floors. The elevator just passes those floors by, in case you were wondering, and the highway never makes contact with the building. It merely passes through it, much like a bridge, and held up by supports.

8. Each spring, there’s a festival where people parade around with large penises

People from all over Japan head to Kawasaki to celebrate the Kanamara Matsuri, otherwise known as the “Festival of the Steel Phallus.” It’s a celebration of fertility, and you guessed it, the penis. It might remind you of one large bachelorette party with people sucking on penis lollipops and buying other items shaped like a penis.

You can even take your photograph next to giant statues of penises. It’s said that the festival originated in the 17th century by prostitutes who were praying for protection from disease. Today, it’s supposed to raise awareness about safe sex and HIV prevention. Sounds like a good time, and a good way to get in touch with history at the same time.

9. There’s a train that travels by floating above the tracks


As mentioned before, the Japanese take their trains very seriously. In addition to their famous bullet trains which are known to travel at speeds of about 320 km/h (or 200 mph), the maglev train uses magnets to levitate above the ground. They appear to float above the train tracks as they whizz by you.

The trial runs had the train going as fast as 500 km/h (or 311 mph) between the cities of Uenohara and Fuefuki.

10. There’s an entire island filled with rabbits

“Rabbit Island” is a 700,000 square-meter estate on the island of Okunoshima, and while the island itself has a grim past, current tourists likely come here for one thing and one thing alone… bunnies… lots and lots of bunnies. Around 300 total.

While the rabbits are wild, they’re so used to humans that it’s not uncommon for them to hop right up into your lap for some carrots or rabbit food. They’re used to the tourists feeding them, and you can even buy rabbit food at the local resort. Prior to being known for its furry residents, the island was used by the Imperial Army to produce the deadly mustard gas.

Rabbits were originally brought to the island as test subjects for the poison, not to be fed carrots by friendly tourists. But after World War II, the facility was shut down and all the rabbits were released into the wild.

Because of the predator-free environment, they quickly multiplied like bunnies do, giving tourists another reason to visit the island. Oh, and in case bunnies aren’t your cup of tea, you can also visit the Poison Gas Museum, but we don’t blame you if you just visit to play with the critters.

Perhaps you’re a little surprised, maybe you’re not. Either way, you have to admit Japan has an interesting past, and there’s no denying that this country will continue being a powerful force even in the future.


About the author

Kristen Duvall

Kristen is a writer of tales both real and make-believe. A Midwestern girl at heart, she currently resides in Southern California with her boyfriend, a Great Dane, and two rescued kitties, one of which is known simply as the KiKi Monster.

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