Saturday, 11 February 2017

13 seriously strange facts about Japan

Whenever a country spends a long period in isolation, it tends to get, shall we say, quirkier. The most extreme examples take place over millions of years and affect the land itself, since ancient creatures and plants survive there long after they've died off everywhere else. Australia is famous for this phenomenon, especially around here as it's home to unique animals like the koala and kangaroo. Moreover, it's home to the world's only living egg-laying mammals like the echidna and the duck-billed platypus.

However, this solitude doesn't have to last so long for a nation to develop some unusual traits. In 1639, the ruler of Japan forbade almost all contact with the outside world following a period of bitter rivalry with Europeans and intrusion from their missionaries.

This isolation lasted over 200 years before it was finally broken when four American battleships showed up in Edo Bay and demanded to trade with Japan. Ever since, western nations and Japan have had a profound influence on each other and often trade ideas, styles and art forms. While this history affords Japan a unique perspective on the ways of the world, it also likely influences behaviors that the rest of us sometimes have a difficult time understanding. So many of us look at trends over there with bewilderment and the idea of Japan as a "weird" place is a popular one in our society.

So with that in mind, let's look at 13 interesting facts about Japan that may seem hard to believe in most other places. Yet if you look closer, you may find that some of them make more sense than you thought.

1. Some hotels give you just enough room to sleep.

These are known as "capsule" hotels and a guest's "room" often amounts to one of the narrow tubes pictured below. They were invented to give Japanese workers a place to sleep if they were too tired to go home but can offer some of their own charms to visiting tourists. This is especially true if you're traveling on a budget since it typically only costs $30 to sleep in a capsule hotel.

2. At Christmastime, KFC is the place to be.

Thanks to a successful 1974 commercial promoting "Kentucky for Christmas," Japanese locations can boast two-hour lineups filled with people trying to get the restaurant's special Christmas chicken dinner that comes with cake and champagne.The enthusiasm is particularly unusual because only about 1% of Japanese citizens identify as Christian and Christmas isn't a national holiday in Japan.

3. Some Japanese women are intentionally giving themselves crooked teeth.

Known as yaeba, this beauty trend prizes the "impish cuteness" that occurs when the molars crowd the canines and push them forward. The look is a signature of pop music group TYB48 and their popularity has inspired women of all ages to spend between $210 and $540 per tooth to attach artificial canines to their teeth.

4. The number four is considered deathly unlucky in Japan.

This is because the Japanese word for "four" is very similar to the word for "death," so some buildings in Japan don't have a fourth floor. This is especially true for hospitals, where patients are never kept on that floor.

5. On the island of Miyake-jima, you need to carry a gas mask at all times.

This is due to the island's central volcano, Mount Oyama, belching toxic sulfur dioxide every 20 years. The gas never seemed to completely go away, and at least one-third of the island is completely off-limits because of the thick gas in the air.Residents living elsewhere are warned by sirens whenever they need to put their masks on.

6. It's considered acceptable and even desirable to nap at work in Japan.

This doesn't mean workers are encouraged to slack off. In fact, it has to do with the long hours, incredibly hectic schedules, and little sleep that many Japanese workers have to deal with.If someone falls asleep at work, which is called inemuri, they're considered a model employee because they're exhausted to the point of passing out from working so hard. Despite this, they still made an effort to show up for work and attend business meetings so their employer considers them reliable.

7. A whopping 32,000 Japanese citizens just turned 100 this year.

This brings the total population of those aged 100 or over to 65,000, which is only 10,000 less than the United States. Longevity is prized in Japan and those who have achieved such a long lifespan are awarded a silver sake dish on September 19th every year.However, there are now so many citizens older than 100 that the Japanese government will now give them silver-plated dishes rather than the more expensive pure silver ones. This decision comes in the wake of a $2.1 million price tag for taxpayers after 59,000 elders received the prizes in 2014. Yet, there's another problem that makes Japan's aging population so worrying.

8. A large percentage of the population has stopped having sex.

About 45% of Japanese women aged 16-24 and 25% of men of the same age "were not interested in or despised sexual contact." This has a lot to do with the conservative business culture of Japan clashing with its more career-driven modern female population. No matter how out of date it is, these women are still facing pressure to conform to the traditional model of the working husband and the stay-at-home wife.Worse yet, many Japanese families can't afford children unless both parents work. However, raising a family and working at the same time is almost impossible under the hectic work schedules expected in the business world there.So, many young citizens have no interest in getting married and starting families as a result.

9. Store owners and police use large versions of paintballs to catch criminals.

These colored balls are meant to be tossed or shot at escaping thieves or their vehicles to improve the chance of an arrest. While these color balls have led to some arrests, the problem is that clerks only had the presence of mind to actually throw the ball in 3% of cases examined.

10. Until last year, dancing in clubs after midnight was illegal in Japan.

The ban started in 1948 when dance clubs were often a front for prostitution. While the law has long been considered out of date, outbreaks of crime in the late 2000s led enforcers to take it seriously and arrest DJs and dancers so they could check them for drugs.However, the ban was finally lifted last year partially because politicians wanted to prepare Tokyo for the festivities of the 2020 Olympics.

11. Japan is home to the world's oldest businesses.

The very oldest is a family-run hotel famous for its hot springs called Nisiyama Onsen Keiunkan, which opened back in the year 705. The second oldest is another hotel called Hoshi Ryokan, established in 718. Sake brewer Sudo Honke has been around since 1141.

12. Japanese students are responsible for cleaning their own classrooms.

It's commonly believed that this means Japanese schools don't have janitors, but let's not forget that a school needs to be maintained as well as cleaned.

13. About 70% of Japan is made up of mountains.

Unfortunately, this also means that Japan is host to about 100 active volcanoes because it's positioned on a danger zone known as the Pacific Ring of Fire.

(Source: Diply)

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