Overseas, Japan has an image of being filled with strange and weird customs and technology. After living here for a while, you will probably realize that daily life is the same as everywhere else.
However, there are a few things I have noticed that are notably different. Here is a list of the things that I think are strange but interesting in Japan.
I grew up in an American suburb and thus a car was absolutely necessary to get anywhere. In Tokyo, that is definitely not the case. The subway is probably the most popular and widely used form of transportation but bicycles are also everywhere. I think it’s great and I also try to ride my bike where ever I can.
I think the most unusual but awesome parts are the mothers riding motorized bikes with child seats in the front and back and grandmas and grandpas riding their bikes. I think bicycles are really a great form of transportation as they don’t add pollution to the environment, they save money on transportation costs and they are good exercise 😀
If you find yourself living in Japan, I would highly recommend buying a bicycle. There is even a system where you have to register your bicycle when you buy it. This comes in handy if you ever lose your bike or it gets stolen. You can report it to the police and they will look out for your registration number.
Hikikomori is a term for people in Japan who stay in their rooms 24/7. They never go outside and are usually provided with food and care by their parents. Although there are people with agoraphobia (fear of the outside) all around the world, Japan is unique in that there is a high number of cases here. Experts estimate that up to 3,600,000 adults in Japan are hikikomori.
Causes can be attributed to the extreme societal pressure in Japan and parents willing to take care of their adult children. First generation hikikomori are now in their 40’s and some are starting to worry about what will happen when their parents die.
3. Kanamara festival
The Japanese celebrate many seasonal and annual festivals. Usually they are in honor of their gods held at a shrine. There is one particular festival in Kawasaki that is a bit different from others.
Based on a legend that a blacksmith created a metal phallus in order to help a woman with a cursed vagina, the festival is celebrated with phallic structures, candy, carved vegetables and a parade.
What surprised me the most about this festival is, typically Japanese people seems so shy but this festival is nothing near that (LOL). It has gained worldwide attention from press and appeared in most major newspapers, huffington post, daily mail, UK mirror, you named it!
4. Expensive Fruit
Grocery shopping in general is a bit more expensive than what I am used to in Japan. Especially for fruit.
Since the majority of fruit is imported, it is seen more as a luxury and people often give fruits as gifts. This has led to even more expensive fruits with expensive packaging to boot.
I have even seen strawberries individually packaged and sold at 240 yen a piece. There are even some fruits like melons which can be sold for 5,000 yen per piece.
Japanese people wouldn’t buy these fruits for household consuming but rather as a gift. Japan produce product is considered one of the best quality in the world. Each fruits are carefully hand picked to make sure that stay fresh by the time they arrived at the store.
I would like to visit a farm one day. It will be interesting!
5. Fried chicken on Christmas
I think this one is particularly interesting, especially since some Japanese think that this is a custom that actually comes from America. If you have not heard about this before, many KFC is considered a traditional Christmas meal much like turkey is the thing to eat on Thanksgiving Day in the States.
Read our blog about Christmas in Japan
Reservations are made months in advance and people who didn’t make a reservation wait in two hour lines to get their fried chicken. Apparently this practice originated from a very successful marketing campaign by KFC. Originally aimed towards foreigners living in Japan craving some western food for the holidays, the idea spread and is now Christmas tradition.
6. Death by Mochi
Have you ever tried Japanese mochi? It is a sticky rice cake made by pounding steamed mochi rice. It is tradition to eat mochi over the New Year holidays in Japan.
Read about Japanese new year tradition
However, since so much mochi is eaten, every year there are always several deaths around the holidays caused by choking on mochi.
To try and prevent this, there are always warnings about eating mochi in smaller pieces and to chew thoroughly. These are mainly aimed towards children and the elderly. in 2015, nine died from eating mochi and thirteen were in serious condition.
7. No ketchup with french fries
In Japan, it is not common to dip french fries in ketchup. Thus, if you go to the chain fastfood, you will have to ask for it at the counter. I actually did not know this until recently when I went to one for the first time. I realized I didn’t receive and ketchup and when I looked around the store to see if there were any dispensers, I couldn’t find any. I also realized that no one else was eating their fries with ketchup.
Although this is not a super strange thing, what makes it more interesting is McDonald’s recent promotion of chocolate fries. Yes, instead of serving their fries with ketchup they decided to serve them with chocolate. It was a limited time product only during the winter season and apparently they were quite tasty.
Well that’s it for my list of things that I thought were strange but interesting about Japan. I’m sure there will be more to discover the more time I spend here but that is what makes life interesting.
Below is the list of 5 interesting things about Japan written by my fellow blogger >> 5 things that surprise me about Japan<< Seems likes we have a lot in common!
Thank you for reading and see you next time!