31 interesting facts about Japan

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From an annual penis festival to the world’s highest density of vending machines, these are the most interesting facts about Japan.

Interesting facts about Japan include the sacred Mount Fuji
Interesting facts about Japan include the sacred Mount Fuji (Shutterstock)

Fast facts

Official name: Japan
Population: 124 million
Area: 377,915 sq km
Capital city: Tokyo
Major languages: Japanese
Major religions: Shintoism, Buddhism
Time zone: UTC+9 (Japan Standard Time)
– Source: CIA World Fact Book

Interesting facts about Japan

1. Japan is an island nation located in Eastern Asia in the North Pacific Ocean.
– Source: Britannica

2. Japan is made up of four main islands: Hokkaido, Honshu, Shikoku and Kyushu as well as a further 6,848 smaller islands and islets.
– Source: CIA World Fact Book

3. Japan is located on the Ring of Fire, an arc of active volcanoes and earthquake epicentres bordering the Pacific Ocean. A tremor occurs in Japan around every five minutes and each year there are up to 2,000 earthquakes that can be felt by people – the densest seismic network in the world.
– Source: Reuters, US Geological Survey

A map of Japan and east Asia
Japan is located in Eastern Asia (Shutterstock)

4. Japan has been inhabited for around 30,000. Originally, its main islands were connected to Siberia and Korea by bridges of dry land which allowed people to migrate across on foot.
– Source: Ono, A. (2014) Modern hominids in the Japanese Islands and the early use of obsidian. UNESCO: Paris

5. Japan followed a policy of national seclusion known as sakoku (literally “closed country”) for over 200 years from the 1630s to 1867. During this time, foreign nationals were barred from entering Japan, Christianity and international travel were forbidden and relations and trade between Japan and other countries were severely restricted.
– Source: Britannica

6. Adopted in 1870, Japan’s flag features a red disc on a white background. The red disc – called Hinomaru – denotes the sun, a traditional symbol of Japan. The white represents purity and honesty.
– Source: Wanderlust (2021) Flags, Capitals and Countries of the World: The Complete Handbook. Wanderlust Press: London

Japan's flag flying against a deep blue sky
Japan’s flag (Shutterstock)

7. Japan’s name means “where the sun originates” or “Land of the Rising Sun”. In Japanese the name is Nippon or Nihon. The English word for Japan comes from the Chinese name for the country “Cipangu”.
– Source: CIA World Fact Book

8. The capital, Tokyo, was originally known as Edo, meaning “estuary” in Japanese. In 1868, its name was changed to Tokyo meaning “eastern capital”.
– Source: CIA World Fact Book

9. Tokyo is considered the world’s largest city with 37 million residents in the metropolitan area and 14 million in the city proper.
– Source: The Economist

A night shot of  Rainbow Bridge in Tokyo, Japan's capital city
Rainbow Bridge in Tokyo (Shutterstock)

10. At just 1.34 per 100,000 people, Japan has one of the lowest birth rates in the world with the number of births consistently falling since 1973. Experts have suggested that by 2065 the country’s population could drop to about 88 million.
– Source: CNN, The Independent

11. At 84.2 years, Japan has the world’s second-highest (after Hong Kong SAR) life expectancy.
– Source: World Bank

12. As such, Japan is considered a “super-aged” nation, meaning more than 20% of its population is older than 65.
– Source: CNN

Two elderly Japanese people in a street
Japan has an ageing population (Shutterstock)

13. Around half the world’s zippers are made in Japan. Founded in 1934, the Yoshida Kōgyō Kabushikigaisha – YKK – company produces around 7 billion zippers a year.
– Source: The Smithsonian

14. With over 5 million, Japan has the highest density of vending machines in the world – one for every 23 people.
– Source: Busines Insider

15. Japan has an annual penis festival. Dating from the 17th century, the Kanamara Matsuri (Festival of the Steel Phallus) sees a 2.5m (8.2ft) tall pink penis paraded through streets, vegetables carved into suggestive shapes as well as penis-themed paraphernalia such as lollipops and lucky charms sold.
– Source: Lonely Planet

A pink penis is paraded through crowded streets
The Kanamara Matsuri (Shutterstock)

16. In 2012, a “cuddle cafe” called Soineya (sleep together shop) opened in Tokyo. Patrons pay around 3,000 Yen ($23) for a twenty-minute cuddle.
– Source: The Independent

17. Japan is home to many of the world’s oldest companies. Kongo Gumi, a construction company founded back in 578, is believed to have been the world’s oldest business surviving over 1,400 years before it went into liquidation in 2006.
– Source: BBC Worklife

18. Busy trains in Japan (particularly in Tokyo) employ “pushers” known as oshiya. Attendants were employed to physically push people onto packed trains at busy stations. Since 2000, the practice has become less widespread due to improved congestion.
– Source: New York Times, CNN

19. Japan’s national sport is sumo wrestling. The sport, up to 2,000 years old, sees near-naked wrestlers weighing on average 136kg (300lb) – but sometimes up to 272kg (613lb) – try to knock opponents down or out of the ring – known as a dohyō.
– Source: Rough Guides, National Geographic (video)

Two sumo wrestlers in Japan
Interesting facts about Japan include its national sport, sumo wrestling (Shutterstock)

20. Japanese melons can cost over $100 USD. Known as “high-end fruit”, a single melon can sell for upwards of 15,000 Yen ($120), a bunch of grapes for 8,000 Yen ($63) and premium white strawberries for 3,000 Yen ($23) each.
– Source: The Guardian

21. Japan has 25 properties inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
– Source: UNESCO

22. The most famous of which is Japan’s most sacred mountain, Mount Fuji. At 3,776m (12,388ft), it is the country’s highest peak. Around 300,000 people climb Mount Fuji every year.
– Source: Lonely Planet

Japan’s most sacred mountain, Mount Fuji, at sunset
Mount Fuji (Shutterstock)

23. Japanese scientists created a completely organic way to make ice cream retain its shape and not melt for up to three hours.
– Source: Condé Nast Traveler

24. In 1904, Japan became the first Asian country in modern times to defeat a European power when it overcame Russia in Manchuria.
– Source: BBC News

25. There is a highway in Japan that passes through a building. The Hanshin Expressway has an offramp that passes through the 16-story Gate Tower Building in Osaka.
– Source: Daily Mail

The Hanshin Expressway at night shoing the road going through the building
The Hanshin Expressway (Shutterstock)

26. Japan has the world’s third-largest economy behind only the USA and China. Its GDP is 5.057 trillion USD.
– Source: BBC News, World Bank

27. Japan is the only modern nation to refer to its head of state as emperor. Since 2019, Emporer Naruhito is the current and 126th emperor in a line that extends back to the country’s founding in 600 BC by Emperor Jimmu. As such, it is the world’s oldest hereditary monarchy.
– Source: The Independent, New York Times

28. In 1945, Japan became the first and only country to ever have a nuclear weapon deployed outside testing on its territory. The cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were both bombed killing around 224,000 people in total and bringing about an abrupt end to the Second World War in Asia.
– Source: BBC News

Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park
The Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park (Shutterstock)

29. The world’s deepest underwater postbox is in Japan, located 10m (32ft 9in) beneath the surface of Susami Bay.
– Source: Guinness World Records

30. Japan has the world’s second-most powerful passport. Behind only the Singaporean, the Japanese passport can easily access 193 destinations.
– Source: Henley Passport Index

31. Japan has one of the world’s lowest murder rates. The latest figures show it records just 0.2 intentional homicides per 100,000 people – the fifth-lowest in the world.
– Source: World Bank

Every effort has been made to verify these facts about Japan using primary sources. However, if you find an error or have any questions, please contact us.