Japan has been a land of technology and sophistication. Often referred to as the “Land of the Rising Sun,” it has been a base for some of the world’s biggest companies like Toyota, Suzuki, Yamaha, Sony, Honda, and many more. However, the Japanese have a lot of things in store which will surely feel weird and bizarre to you. Here is a list of 10 weird facts about Japan that you haven’t heard.
1. About 98% of people adopted in Japan are between the age group of 20-30 years so that the family business stays within the family.
There is a centuries-old tradition in Japan where people, usually from the business class, adopt an adult male either from within their family or outside. If a family lacked a capable male heir or if there wasn’t a male at all, they adopted their closest male relative or married them to one of their own daughters mainly to keep the business alive.
This practice has been carried over all these years, and today, adult male adoptions stand at a staggering 98% of all adoptions. Many prominent companies like Toyota, Suzuki, Matsui Securities, etc., are run by adopted children. Though this tradition is hundreds of years old, it is expected to be alive and healthy for a very long time into the future.
Due to the aging population, this adult-adoption system plays a vital role in not only keeping the family businesses alive but also plays a balancing role in the economy. Though this tradition of adopting adult males sounds weird, it has been one of the most important factors keeping the centuries-old business companies like Hoshi (founded 781AD) alive. (1, 2)
2. In Japan, there are more than one million people known as “hikikomori” who have completely isolated themselves from society for years.
Hikikomori are people who suffer from acute social withdrawal and resort to extreme isolation from the society. The affected people usually confine themselves to small rooms and have almost no contact with any other human beings. They totally depend on their parents for livelihood and have minimum contact with them as well.
There are hikikomori who been living in this state of extreme seclusion for more than seven years! The reasons for people getting affected by this social phenomenon of self-imposed solitary confinement are different for different people. Two of the major reasons is extreme pressure of expectations from parents and the burden of economic responsibilities. Another main reason is the fear of failure which can again be attributed to the pressure of expectations.
According to a government data, around 540,000 hikikomori of the estimated total of one million are aged between 15-39 years. These people have no friends, eat their food in their rooms, and go outdoors very rarely. They talk very little and are mostly unhappy about themselves. (1, 2)
3. In Japan, death by overworking is so common that they have a word for it, “karoshi“, and there is a separate Karoshi Hotline Network to help people affected by overworking and families of the deceased.
A large part of the Japanese population works for horrifically long hours increasing the number of deaths due to excessive work. Most of these people either commit suicide due to sheer pressure and stress, and many fall prey to strokes. The term “karoshi”, which literally means “death by overwork,” was coined in the 1970s as the number of deaths due to working for extended hours was increasing rapidly.
Some of the victims of karoshi were working as much 110 hours a week, and some for over 4,000 hours a year. As horrible as it sounds, these people were between the age group of 25-60. There was a nurse who died of a heart attack because she had done a 32-hour shift five times in that month.
The main reason for overworking is attributed to Japan’s exponential growth and development without enough working population. Also, the economic recessions resulted in staff cutbacks, without decreasing work, resulting in extreme pressure on the workers. (1, 2, 3)
4. The Japanese government has been hosting speed-dating events in hopes that the result will lead to more children as the country’s population has dropped by more than 1 million since 2010.
Though there are many countries trying to revive their population growth, the Japanese government has stood out and taken a unique step. The government has set up speed-dating services across the countries in a bid to encourage people to get married. Population imbalance and its steady decline have been one of the major problems for Japan. The majority of the population is getting older or is old already.
The continuous decline in child births and the increasingly aging population have resulted in a population drop of over one million since 2010. The main reason for this is that the Japanese have no time for having sex. Most of the population is working over 80 hours a week and some even without holidays. This has resulted in serious health issues among the youth causing sudden deaths. Also, there is a trend against getting married among the youth and this has further worsened the situation.
5. If you visit Japan and see an overwhelming number of people wearing surgical masks, don’t worry, as it is not because of some disease or pollution, but because it has become a fashion trend, a way to keep the face warm, and to avoid interaction with strangers!
Surgical masks production is a multi-million dollar industry, as the trend which started as a health prevention measure has turned out to be an iconic fashion statement in recent times. Though initially marketed for people suffering from various allergies, these masks are now doing multiple jobs like keeping the mouth warm and avoiding any interaction with strangers.
Another weird reason for a large number of women wearing the masks is that they are too lazy to put on makeup. In a country like Japan where you are always expected to be dressed up and have makeup on as a woman, a surgical mask is a very convenient tool to avoid unwanted criticism for no makeup!
As they have become a fashion statement, these masks now come in a variety of colors and patterns. So, you can have a matching mask with your outfit every day. They also come with different fragrances. (1, 2, 3)
6. In Japanese, “yaeba” means teeth, especially the upper canines which are uncommonly crooked. Strangely enough, they are considered attractive in Japan, and hence many girls go to the dentist to have their normal teeth made crooked purposefully!
It may look like a vampire’s teeth, but the Japanese have become crazy about it! This weird fashion trend has been in Japan for quite a while where crooked teeth are linked to youthfulness. Dentists have women of all ages coming to get their teeth reshaped.
“Yaeba” literally translates to “double tooth” which has been viewed predominantly as a flaw all over the world. However, people in Japan think that this gives the girls a unique cuteness. The Japanese men have become very fond of this imperfect look and find it very attractive. This is also a reason why women are paying hundreds of dollars to have their normal teeth modified.
7. Female toilets in Japan are equipped with a unique device called “Sound Princess” which creates the artificial sound of a flush as many Japanese women feel embarrassed about others hearing the noise of urination.
Sound Princess is a device that prevents auditory embarrassment among women while urinating. In the past, to prevent others from hearing the sound of their urination, women used to flush the toilets continuously wasting huge amounts of water. An entire campaign was run to stop women from wasting water, but nothing worked.
To tackle this problem, a device was introduced in the 1980s which created an artificial sound of a toilet flush and gained instant recognition. Since then, almost all new public women’s toilets have been built incorporating these devices and many older ones were also upgraded. The device works with a push button or a simple wave of the hand.
8. There is a Japanese form of art called “kintsugi” in which people repair broken pottery with powdered gold lacquer in order to glorify the scars or cracks rather than hiding them because they want it to be a part of history instead of being a mere disguise.
Often referred to as the “art of precious scars,” kintsugi has been a part of the Japanese culture since ancient times. It is similar to the Japanese philosophy of wabi-sabi which encourages the embracing of the flawed and the imperfect. It teaches that the broken earthenware must be displayed with pride.
Traditionally, the Japanese value the marks of wear on an object by its use over time. This has led people to keep things even when they break, and it has become a common rationale. Kintsugi has, therefore, become an important part of Japanese culture.
9. The Naki Sumo Baby Crying Contest is a contest in Japan where wrestlers compete to see who can make a baby cry first, and this has been in practice for hundreds of years.
Most of the parents in the world always want their children to smile and laugh all the time, but there’s a contrasting scenario in Japan. People here present their infants in a festival called “Nakimo Sumo” which is more of a competition, where sumo wrestlers compete to make them cry. But this isn’t because the parents don’t love their babies!
Actually, this weird and bizarre practice is in line with an ancient Japanese proverb “Naku ko wa sodastu” which means “crying babies grow fat.” It is also believed that the wailing of babies drives away demons that cause harm! Though this could never be proved, the tradition has managed to survive for centuries.
This annual festival takes place at the Sensoji Temple in Tokyo, where children are paired with the wrestlers who try to make them cry. The wrestlers hold the babies on a stage and use different ways like making scary faces or wearing bizarre masks or even stamping and yelling to make them cry. The wrestler who succeeds in making their kid cry first wins the contest. (1, 2)
10. An indoor farm in Japan can produce crops 2.5 times faster than fields using LED lights, and it produces 10,000 heads of lettuce each day, where a traditional field produces around 26,000 heads a year.
Japan has always been a land of innovation, but this is just from another world. A physiologist in Japan has transformed a semiconductor factory into the world’s largest indoor farm. For the ever-increasing food demand, this could be the best answer and a proven one.
With the size of half of a football field, this isn’t just another indoor gimmick. Around the globe, millions of tons of food are wasted every year creating a shortage of food in many places. With this system of farming, more food can be produced in less time with less money. So, with this mode of farming, you wouldn’t require a lot of farmland, or pesticides as an indoor room is mostly pest free.
The main motive of the thought behind this technology was to reduce organic waste at the source and increasing production in a cost-effective way. And with 10,000 heads of lettuce being produced every day, it is safe to say that they have succeeded to a certain extent. (1, 2)