Japan is one of the most magnificent countries in the world. It is full of interesting sights, architecture, and activities, but by far the best part of this island nation is its rich and unique cultural heritage, various aspects of which can be new and unique for travelers.
Unearthing these nuances of the Japanese culture can be a rewarding experience. Of course, there’s no substitute for individual travel adventure, but learning some of the things that make Japan special is invariably fun.
A list of unique Japanese facts could be endless, but we hope that our unique facts list will at least give you a peek of what tugs people around the world to this Nihon kingdom. At the same time, maybe you’ll realize a few uncanny things about this culture that you’d never contemplated before.
These 10 unique facts about the country are some of the most quirky and fascinating things about Japanese culture. Read on for an enlightening experience.
Few unique facts about Japan
1. The Japanese are known to wear masks to protect others
Long before COVID 19, we are familiar with images of Japanese people wearing masks in public places. Videos always show multiple people wearing face masks and walking. What most of us didn’t understand (before the pandemic) is why.
Japanese people are used to wearing masks to be polite to those around them. The masks prevented one from passing an infection to another person, so you can see why they have for a long time been popular in Japan, where the culture insists on having the well-being of others in mind before anything else.
2. In Japan, noisy slurping is a good thing
In India, slurping is rude. From a young age, we work hard to master the skills of not doing it, to eat quietly and politely. In Japan, the exact opposite is true. Slurping is considered polite and a compliment to the chef.
This is especially true when it comes to noodles and ramen. Ramen restaurants in Japan are really fast-paced. You usually place an order ahead of time, and by the time you sit down, a hot bowl of ramen is placed in front of you. Ideally, you’re supposed to start eating immediately, but the piping hot broth could easily burn your mouth. To avoid this, you have to slurp the noodles. You do it loudly and glance at the chef so he knows you’re enjoying your meal.
3. There are queues for everything
Nobody overtakes or breaks a queue in Japan! We are not saying that you have to spend more time waiting in Japan, just that waiting is a lot more organized. For example, instead of overtaking one another to order food at a takeaway restaurant or at the bar, customers form a sophisticated line to order items. You’ll also find a line of people waiting to be seated at restaurants or buying tickets for an event, even to use the Public restrooms. For long waits like going up into the Tokyo Tower, expect really well-organized and patient queues.
4. Bowing is an important part of the Japanese culture
Bowing in situations is a famous Japanese cultural symbol and very recognizable around the world, quite similar to an Indian namaste. In Japan, this way of greeting is referred to as ojigi. This etiquette was formed around 800 years ago and is used in many situations from apology to salutation.
When performing ojigi, your back must be straight. The body should only bend at the waist. A bent back is considered rude because it seems lazy and therefore not sincere.
In business and social situations, the depth of a bow is equivalent to the respect it’s meant to convey. A bow is divided into three categories. A short bow is called eshaku and it is used in general greetings between colleagues. A medium bow, or keirei, is used to greet seniors or superiors. Finally, the deepest bow, saikeirei, is used to greet important people, apologize, or ask for large favors. There are even more kinds of bows, for religious ceremonies and other activities.
5. It’s impolite to walk and eat
For an Indian reader, this is not really unique. The Indian tendency to eat a vada-paw or bhutta (corn on the cob) while we walk or eat in public places is very normal. However, like many aspects of Japanese etiquette, this custom is frowned upon. While eating and walking are becoming increasingly common worldwide thanks to large food-chains offering attractive on-the-go food choices, in Japan, you will still receive strange looks. In fact, signs are often posted in local stores prohibiting you from walking while you eat the food you buy.