Japan, what an intriguing place! My son hopes to visit as soon as he’s old enough and I plan to tag along and immerse myself in the local delights. Swathed in culture and history, this small island is full to bursting with interesting places to visit and even more interesting cultural norms.
Read on to learn 5 random facts about Japan – maybe I’ll even convince you to plan a visit!
5. Reading and Writing
In Japan it is believed that the literacy rate, the number of people who can read and write, usually in the native language, is nearly 100%. Up until the 4th Century AD, the Japanese did not have a writing system, but eventually adopted, and adapted, the Chinese style of writing in the 5th Century AD, that might explain why there are similarities between the styles. In the year 1007, the first novel was written by noble woman, Murasaki Shikibu.
The writing styles have evolved over the years and the Japanese now use 4 different systems of writing, often at the same time. These styles are called Romaji, Katakana, Hiragana and Kanji.
4. Food and Slurping
Meals in Japan are often based around the staple rice, with various vegetables, fish and sometimes meat added to complete the meals. Rice is even eaten for breakfast. As well as rice; noodles, fish and sake are amongst the foods most commonly associated with Japan.
It is well-known that the Japanese traditionally sit at low-level tables to eat, but perhaps less well known is the act of slurping. It is encouraged and expected for one to slurp whilst eating their noodles, apparently it makes the noodles taste better whilst also cooling them.
3. Religion and Spirituality
The main religions in Japan are Shinto and Buddhism. Shinto is interesting as it is one of those religions where there is no single founder, no leading scripture, nor gods to be appeased. Instead it is focused on the Kami, spirits who can choose to act on behalf of locals if those locals act to please them. Followers of Shinto concern themselves with following specific rituals in order to communicate and gain favour with the Kami. It is not an official religion and many who live it do not perceive it as a religion, but more as a way of life.
Buddhism is a more widely known belief system. At its core is the quest for enlightenment, which individuals can hope to attain by meditating and following the tenets of the religion, such as the four noble truths. Again, Buddhism does not believe in worship of a deity, but focuses instead on the person and their path to enlightenment.
Another, probably well-known fact is that people are often expected to remove their shoes before entering homes and certain public places. Indeed, many such places have raised floors as a subtle indication that shoes must be removed and slippers must be put on.
It doesn’t just stop there, though. The Japanese often have rules about slippers to be worn inside the home and if there is a room with flooring that could be damaged with the regular slippers, they will often remove those slippers and put on special ones for that room. There are even special slippers one is expected to wear when using the bathroom. The removal of shoes is a big deal and to ignore such a rule is considered a serious insult.
I don’t know about you, but when I think of Japan, one of the most common images is that of the sumo wrestler. Being Japan’s national sport, sumo is taken very seriously and is equally respected. It was originally an event designed to entertain the Kami and is a show of strength. The loser is the one who touches the floor with any part of their body, except the soles of their feet, first or who is thrown from the ring.
What do you think of my list? Do you have any other interesting facts about Japan? If so, I’d love to hear about them in the comments below!