30 Unusual Things that Exist in Japan

Visiting Japan might seem like going to an alien country! The country’s art, traditions, architecture, crafts, and culture are quite unique. The island country is submerged in a cultural ice bucket. From finding cartooned versions of everything to a permanently fixated smile on everyone, Japan can show you a galore of things, phenomena, and norms that may not feel normal to you. An unsuspecting tourist will be amused, enthralled, delighted, and awed by the technical wizardry, rich culture, spatial conundrums, and contradictions found here. Here is a compiled list of 30 unusual things that exist in Japan. 

1. Blue traffic lights are used instead of green in traffic signals in Japan.

Blue traffic light
Traffic Light in Japan. Image credit: Shutterstock

When visiting Japan, if you find a blue traffic light instead of green, do not think that something is wrong with your vision! While for the rest of the world, green light means “go” and a red light means “stop,” in Japan, blue is used instead of green due to a strange language quirk. The reason for this is the fact that “midori”, the word for “green” in Japanese, did not exist until the 8th century. Traditionally, the color “ao” or “blue” was used to refer to both blue and green! (source)

2. In Japan, if a working day falls in between two public holidays, then it becomes an additional holiday by law. 

Public Holidays in Japan
Image credit: Shutterstock

The Japanese are quite hard-working people, but they also know how to have fun and give time to their families. According to the “Act on Public Holidays,” implemented in 1948, a working day falling in between two public holidays automatically becomes a holiday by default. This additional holiday is also known as a “Citizen’s Holiday.” (source)

3. In Japan, smart, washlet toilets or “washlets” have features that even a very luxurious toilet won’t have.

Washlets of Japan
Modern high-tech toilet with electronic bidet in Japan. Image credit: supawat bursuk/Shutterstock.com

The Japanese people are super-clean and efficient. Their smart, washlet toilets or “washlets” are only proof of that. It is normal to find a toilet equipped with a smorgasbord of features including temperature controls, perfumes, noise-covering sounds, and more! These futuristic toilets put other toilets to shame. The Japanese are “super-sophisticated” people even while exercising their daily bathroom rituals. (source)

4. Drainage canals in Japan are so clean that they even have koi fish swimming in them.

Koi fish in drainage
The drainage canal in Japan is so clean they even have fishes in it. Image credits: Imgur via reddit.com, Shutterstock

In most cities, drainage canals are the last place to expect thriving wildlife. But in Japan, everything is possible! The drainage canals in the city of Shimabara on Japan’s Kyushu Island are so clean that they are home to hundreds of pretty koi carp fishes. The volcanic activities of Mount Unzen resulted in an earthquake in 1792.

The tragic disaster triggered an abundance of freshwater springs. As a result, clean water began flowing in the city’s gutters. Koi fish need extremely clean water to survive. Their survival in these gutters is proof of the water quality. These fish further beautify the street gutters. This distinguished area is an example of the Japanese culture of harmony between man and nature. (1, 2)

5. Japan’s manhole covers are beautiful.

Japan's Manhole covers
Sewer cover in Osaka (Image to the left), Manhole cover in Fuji. Image credits: u/SpaceMasala/reddit.com,  u/TheHouseOfBreads/reddit.com

When in Japan, do not waste time on your phone while walking on the streets! You might miss little pieces of art that are literally everywhere! By everywhere, we even mean the manholes! The Japanese are so fond of art, beauty, and cleanliness that they have converted black metal manhole covers into beautiful pieces of art. Hinode Suido is the largest manhole manufacturer in Japan, producing almost 200 manhole covers in a day. (source) 

6. In Japan, “inemuri” is accepted and appreciated. It is the practice of sleeping in between work, meetings, or classes.

Inemuri
Image credit: Flickr via elespectador.com

Inemuri,” is a Japanese term that can be translated as the practice of sleeping in between work, meetings, classes, or in public. Sleeping at work is considered a sign of dedication to one’s work. It means that the person has stayed up late doing work or worked to the point of complete exhaustion. It is not only excusable but also appreciated. (source)

7. In Japan, you will find vending machines that sell everything.

Vending machine
Wide variety of fortune cookies to religious charms vending machines located near Kofukuji Temple. Image credit: cowardlion/Shutterstock

You might have used a vending machine selling chips, snacks, or drinks, but have you ever come across vending machines that sell a new pair of underwear, a mask, hot and fresh pizza, a bouquet of flowers, and much more? Well, in Japan, you can find one just around the corner! Not only are they significant in making everything easily available to the people, but they also give a great side-business opportunity. (source

8. Capsule hotels are compact accommodations offering a clean bed to rest.

Capsule hotels
Capsule Hotel Beds in Kyoto, Japan. Image credit: Shutterstock

Capsule hotels in Japan literally take “compact” to the next level! These are cheap and cozy accommodations in the middle of crowded cities. The sleeping pods offer a clean, comfortable, and no-frills stay for those who are just seeking a place to crash. The first capsule hotel, “Capsule Inn Osaka,”  opened in 1979 in Osaka, Japan. These are very cheap accommodations usually priced between 18 to 37 USD per night. (source)

9. In Japan, it is common to find “love hotels” that provide much-needed privacy.

Love hotels
Love hotels Blon Mode and Style A with people walking on narrow alley lane street of Kabukicho at night in Tokyo. Image credit: Andriy Blokhin/Shutterstock

Japan’s infamous “love hotels” are unique and mysterious places charging prices per hour for a couple seeking privacy. Japan is way too crowded and to find some peace and seclusion is quite rare here. Tiny apartments and noisy neighbors can dampen your desires to bring someone home for a romantic escapade. Love hotels solve these issues, allowing discreet moments for intimacy and privacy. (source)

10. Kotatsu tables are eclectic-heated tables and blanket combos to help survive the Japanese cold in an energy-efficient way.

Kotatsu tables
Japanese Kotatsu Table with Heated Blanket. Image credit: manofmany.com

Most Japanese homes do not have a central heating system or insulated walls. But as the weather in winters gets too cold, the Japanese have come up with brilliant energy-efficient ideas to survive the chillness. “Kotatsu tables” provide an electric-heated table and blanket combo to anyone seeking a comfortable and cozy time to nap or refuel or both! (source)

11. In Japan, you will be amazed to find the stunning rice paddy art displayed on rice fields.

Rice paddy art
Ukiyoe art on a paddy field in Gyoda, Saiatama, Japan. Image credit: Picturesque Japan/Shutterstock

Originating from the town of Inakadate in Aomori, the rice paddy illustrations are natural art displays done on paddy fields between June and October. This trend was first started as a promotional campaign for a brand of rice, which then was adopted by many other towns in Japan. These rice paddy illustrations are made by manually planting different colored strains of rice to form artful pictures when viewed from a height. (source)

12. Japanese cute, themed trains spice up your travel.

Theme Train
Hello Kitty Shinkansen, the cutest bullet train service. Image credit: MMXeon/Shutterstock

In Japan, you can find themed versions of transportation. The themed trains in Japan depict decor, color, and activities taken from a particular cartoon, concept, place, movie, or pop culture. These trains add to your travel fun. The Genbi Shinkansen train in Japan is filled with installations that take inspiration from the surrounding scenery of Niigata. Similarly, the Toreiyu Tsubasa train offers a footbath and viewing window to devour the gorgeous scenery of Yamagata and Fukushima in ultimate comfort. (source)

13. Anime cafes and restaurants are quite a hit amongst the Japanese.

Theme Cafe
Pikachu plushy sitting at a table in the Pokémon Café in front of a plastic dish. Image credit: Hannari_eli/Shutterstock

The Japanese love their anime and manga cartoons. You can find Pokemon, Hello Kitty, Sailor Moon, One Piece, Doraemon, and other anime character cafes all over Japan. These are inspired by Japan’s favorite franchises. These cafes take the theme inspiration to the next level by offering cleverly designed cakes, drinks, pancakes, ice cream, and other delights imitating the colors and styles of different characters. (source)

14. Two Valentine’s Days are celebrated here.

Two Valentine’s Days
White Day cake. Image credit: Mersy/Flickr via Wikimedia.org

Japan has got not one but two Valentine’s Days. The second Valentine’s Day complements the original one and falls a month later on March 14. It is also known as the “White Day.” While women give chocolates on February 14, men return the favor on White Day, as a general rule. They also have a tradition of “giri choco,” which means “obligating chocolate,” in which they hand over cheaper chocolates to coworkers and friends on the same day. (source)

15. In Japan, you will find some limited Kit Kat editions, bespoke only to this island country.

Kit Kat editions
Bags of Kitkats including special cherry blossom (sakura) flavor in a supermarket. Image credit: Ned Snowman/Shutterstock

The Japanese love their Kit Kats. This delicious chocolate wafer cookie comes in some very unique avatars in Japan. The original ones are coated in milk chocolate in between thin waters, while in Japan, you will find some strange Kit Kat flavors such as sake, wasabi, matcha green tea, and others. (source)

Also read: 10 Weird and Interesting Facts About Japan

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