Whenever a country spends a long period in isolation, it tends to get, shall we say, quirkier. The most extreme examples take place over millions of years and affect the land itself, since ancient creatures and plants survive there long after they’ve died off everywhere else. Australia is famous for this phenomenon, especially around here as it’s home to unique animals like the koala and kangaroo. Moreover, it’s home to the world’s only living egg-laying mammals like the echidna and the duck-billed platypus.
However, this solitude doesn’t have to last so long for a nation to develop some unusual traits. In 1639, the ruler of Japan forbade almost all contact with the outside world following a period of bitter rivalry with Europeans and intrusion from their missionaries.
This isolation lasted over 200 years before it was finally broken when four American battleships showed up in Edo Bay and demanded to trade with Japan. Ever since, western nations and Japan have had a profound influence on each other and often trade ideas, styles and art forms. While this history affords Japan a unique perspective on the ways of the world, it also likely influences behaviors that the rest of us sometimes have a difficult time understanding. So many of us look at trends over there with bewilderment and the idea of Japan as a “weird” place is a popular one in our society.
So with that in mind, let’s look at 13 interesting facts about Japan that may seem hard to believe in most other places. Yet if you look closer, you may find that some of them make more sense than you thought.
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1. Some hotels give you just enough room to sleep.
These are known as “capsule” hotels and a guest’s “room” often amounts to one of the narrow tubes pictured below. They were invented to give Japanese workers a place to sleep if they were too tired to go home but can offer some of their own charms to visiting tourists.
This is especially true if you’re traveling on a budget since it typically only costs $30 to sleep in a capsule hotel.
via The Tokyo Times | Getty Images / AvaxNews
2. At Christmastime, KFC is the place to be.
Thanks to a successful 1974 commercial promoting “Kentucky for Christmas,” Japanese locations can boast two-hour lineups filled with people trying to get the restaurant’s special Christmas chicken dinner that comes with cake and champagne.
The enthusiasm is particularly unusual because only about 1% of Japanese citizens identify as Christian and Christmas isn’t a national holiday in Japan.
via Direct Japan
3. Some Japanese women are intentionally giving themselves crooked teeth.
Known as yaeba, this beauty trend prizes the “impish cuteness” that occurs when the molars crowd the canines and push them forward. The look is a signature of pop music group TYB48 and their popularity has inspired women of all ages to spend between $210 and $540 per tooth to attach artificial canines to their teeth.
via The Atlantic
4. The number four is considered deathly unlucky in Japan.
This is because the Japanese word for “four” is very similar to the word for “death,” so some buildings in Japan don’t have a fourth floor. This is especially true for hospitals, where patients are never kept on that floor.