10 Offbeat Facts About Japan That Prove It's Unlike Any Other Country

10 Offbeat Facts About Japan That Prove It’s Unlike Any Other Country

Japan is known for being unique and having a proud culture. What makes the country great is not just the intelligent people, but their mannerisms and respect for others. Rich in history, innovation, imagination and values, Japan is surely a place to visit at least once in your lifetime. The country however, did not achieve its perfect badge overnight. For decades, the people of Japan have been working to make their country truly unique. Here, we are listing some interesting facts about Japan, and some of the things that make it truly a great country.

1. The Japanese railway system is extremely punctual. If a train departs or arrives a few seconds late, they will issue a lateness certificate that apologizes for the inconvenience caused. Travelers can also provide it to their bosses so that they don’t get in trouble for being late.

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Image: Wikimedia

The Japanese consider punctuality to be of great significance in life. While you can never hope for an apology for a public transportation arriving late or departing early anywhere else in the world, Japan takes it one step further by issuing a lateness certificate so the travelers don’t have to explain themselves to their bosses. The lateness certificate is also an apology letter for causing the inconvenience. Japanese trains have had a long reputation for being extremely punctual. In 2018, a train driver accidentally closed the doors and left the station 25 seconds earlier than its intended departure time. Although there were no visible passengers on the station, a few of them were running to the train, hoping to make it. Realizing that the 25 seconds had caused a lot of people to miss the train, the company issued an apology letter; as shown above. (source)

2. Japan is among the top 10 countries with the lowest crime rates in the world.

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Image: Pawel Nolbert

With exceptional low levels of crime, Japan is among the top 10 countries that are safe for citizens and tourists alike. In 2011, Japan had a crime rate of 0.3 per 100,000 people, while in the US, the rate was 4.7 per 100,000 people. Reports also show that most of the crimes are committed by senior citizens. In fact, senior citizens account for more than 20% of arrests and detentions. According to the Irish Times, the reason why Japan has a low crime rate is due to the fact that the police pay attention and treat even the most minor offense harshly. Meanwhile, Kanako Takayama, a professor of criminal law at Kyoto University, says that the police are becoming bored of not having enough work and are finding innovative ways to make arrests. (source)

3. A new Japanese law forces companies to provide their employees with enough rest and go home at 3 p.m. on the last Friday of the month.

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Image: Mimi Thian

The country with a population of 126.8 million has some of the longest working hours in the world. More than one quarter of Japanese companies require that their employees work at least 80 hours in a week, with Sunday being the only day off. A 2016 study also showed that workers were not compensated by major companies for working overtime. This affects the overall mental health of workers, leading to depression, anxiety and other mental illnesses. In order to tackle the negative impacts of working, the Japanese government rolled out a new law that requires companies to give an additional 5 days off; making their total annual days off to 16.

Another study also found that 63% of Japanese workers felt guilty for taking paid days off. In 2018, the government also launched an initiative called Premium Fridays, where companies are encouraged to allow employees to leave at 3 p.m. on the last Friday of the month. Japanese workers however, are so committed to their jobs that not even 4% of employees in Japan left early on the first Premium Friday. (source)

4. Some Japanese companies give extra vacation days to employees who do not take smoke breaks.

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Image: yeongkyeong lee

Most employees who smoke take 15 minute smoke breaks every day during work hours. While it does not affect productivity, taking breaks during office hours is seen as unacceptable. In order to thank the non-smoking employees and to teach the employees who prefer to smoke during work hours, Japanese companies are rewarding the non-smoking employees with extra paid vacation days throughout the year. According to Business Insider, a Japanese marketing firm called Piala is the first to start the initiative by giving employees 6 extra days a year.

Piala, a marketing firm based in Tokyo, enacted the policy in September after CEO Takao Asuka received complaints from his non-smoking employees about smoking employees taking 15-20 minute breaks every day during work hours. Roughly 35% of the employees in the company are known to smoke. Through this tactic, Asuka hopes to teach them a lesson, and also hopes that he can encourage them to quit smoking. (source)

5. Even though the streets are free of dumpsters, they are kept perfectly clean by its residents.

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Image: Jezael Melgoza

For centuries, Japan has been obsessed with cleanliness. Not only do the Japanese give importance to cleaning oneself, they also take care of their surroundings. Apart from that, Japan has a well organized waste collection and management system. The process of sorting trash starts with each citizen. Biodegradable, electronics and non-biodegradable products such as plastic are sorted and placed in separate trash bags for pickup. This makes the job easier for the sorting facility since all incoming trash is already sorted out for them. (source)

6. Napping in public or at work is considered a sign of diligence.

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Image: Min An

The Japanese are known for working extremely long hours. It is so common among people to fall asleep during their jobs and in public from exhaustion that people even have a name for it – inemuri – or “sleeping while present”. If a person falls asleep on their job, everywhere else, it would be seen as laziness and wasting company resources. In Japan however, it’s seen as commitment and people sometimes fake it, just so they would be recognized by their senior officials. Some IT companies even promote people to take naps during work hours because they believe that short naps help improve productivity. Okuta, a home renovation firm near Tokyo, allows employees to take a 20 minute power nap at their desks or staff lounge in the afternoon. Within the past two years, the process has increased worker productivity and other companies are now adapting the trend. (source)

7. Since most Japanese women feel embarrassed to use the bathroom among strangers, there are toilets that are specifically designed to mask the sounds.

Using a public restroom filled with strangers can be a bit embarrassing at times. In order to tackle this issue, Japan has gone one step further by installing special toilets that mimic sounds so it masks any sound the user makes. The device is known as “Sound Princess”, and was created after Japanese women were flushing multiple times to mask the sounds of using the restroom, but were also wasting millions of gallons of water every year in the process. Each toilet has a small electronic device, which is produced by Toto, a famous Japanese manufacturer, which produces different sounds and covers the sound of bodily functions. (source)

8. In Japan, new drivers have to display a “shoshinsha mark” on their vehicles for one year after they receive their license. The green and yellow v-shaped symbol alerts other drivers that the driver is new and is gaining practical experience.

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Image: Eric/Wikimedia

Being able to drive by yourself and travel everywhere can be an amazing experience. But, every new driver is also bound to make some mistakes. The Japanese understand this very well and in order to alert other drivers about a new driver being on the road, they have developed a sticker system. The shoshinsha mark is a green and yellow v-shaped symbol, that explains itself to others that the driver has limited experience in real-life and is learning to pass. For one year after the driver receives their license, the sticker must be displayed on the front and back of the vehicle, until they are completely familiar with the “rules of the road” and gain practical experience. For senior citizens, there is a fukushi mark, which is similar but is shaped like a teardrop, which lets others know that the driver has a slower reaction time and to use precaution. (source)

9. The Japanese use an art form called “kintsugi”, which is a process of mending broken ceramics with gold. They believe that the cracks should be visible since it glorifies one’s past and the tough roads they have been through, rather than disguising their pain.

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Image: Ruthann/Wikimedia

For centuries, the Japanese have been practicing a technique to repair broken ceramics. With the help of lacquer and gold pigment, they put a shattered ceramic piece back together. This tradition, known as kintsugi, meaning “golden seams” (or kintsukuroi, meaning “golden repair”), takes months to put a broken ceramic item back together, but the process is worth the time and effort. When the mending process is completed, the ceramic piece bears golden scars of its shattered past, instead of hiding them. (source)

10. In Japan, there are special moving companies that come in, pack, transport and arrange everything neatly in your new home. The company even provides neighbors with gifts for the inconvenience caused by them.

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Image: Rachel and Jun

In Japan, there are special moving companies that you can hire. The companies will come pack up everything for you, then transport them safely to the new apartment or home and neatly arrange them for you. Before the process begins, a team member will arrive to make a list of all the heavy items, then they would visit the neighbors and apologize in advance for the inconvenience they would cause. The neighbors also receive small gifts such as a box of chocolate to make them happy.

On the day of the move, 10-20 men and women will neatly pack all the items and transport them to the new place. If the appliances are old and you wish to upgrade them to the latest models, the companies also provides a service where they take the old appliances and give really good deals on the latest models. While moving large items such as furniture, all the walls inside the house or apartment will be covered with special protective mats. (source)

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