20+ Weird and Wonderful Things That Only Exist in Japan

By Nick Hadji 12 months ago

1. Cuddle cafes

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It might sound creepy, but these cafes opened to allow male customers to sleep next to a girl for a fee. There’s nothing sexual involved though. Some cafes offer hugs to male customers, while others offer services like “stroking a girl’s hair for three minutes”. They’re pretty popular, and provide a place for tired office workers to relax (Japan works the longest office hours in the world FYI).Original content sourced from Femanin.com

2. Noodle slurping

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Japan is well known for its unique politeness, but when noodles get involved, everything goes out the window. It might be seen rude to openly slurp your noodles in public in most parts of the world, but in Japan, it’s seen as a sign of disrespect to the chef if you don’t show your appreciation. So get slurping!

3. Unique vending machines

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Vending machines can be found all over the world, but nobody does them quite like Japan does. While you can still get hold of things like snacks and drinks, you can even get your hands on more unexpected items like fresh fruit and vegetables, cigarettes, underwear, and lobsters! Oh, and cars. Obviously.

4. Ear cleaning parlors

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Are you keen on getting your ears cleaned on a regular basis? If so, Japan is the perfect place for you. There are tons of ear-cleaning parlors in Japan, and can mainly be found in big cities like Tokyo and Osaka. You can lie down, drink some green tea, and let the staff do their magic. These parlors are especially popular with male office workers.

5. Futuristic toilets

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Japan is well known for its crazy toilets. At first glance, they might seem pretty normal, but there are tons of settings on these things! Japanese toilets are equipped with everything from water jets to music, as well as warmed seats. So if you’re visiting Japan, go steady on those settings – you may find yourself dealing with unintended consequences.

6. Pushing people in the subway

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Videos of subway staff pushing commuters onto packed subways have gone viral over the years. Instead of encouraging people to simply wait for the next train, subway staff have special workers who push people down the train to make more space for those waiting to board. Imagine this in a Western country…

7. Restaurants showcase plastic food

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Plastic food displays in restaurants are pretty common in Japan. And it’s actually pretty helpful. If you go to an unfamiliar restaurant, or you can’t read a menu, a restaurant will display all of its food options in handy plastic models. This gives you an idea of what your food will look like. Restaurants pay local plastic model artists to make them, so be sure to check them out.

8. Eating alone is standard

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A lot of people in the West really struggle to go out and eat alone. Not in Japan though. People tend to prioritize privacy and alone time here, so restaurants create handy one-person booths for people to relax in. As Japanese people are often so busy working, they usually end up grabbing their food on the go.

9. Capsule hotels

A guide to capsule hotels in Japan | GO TOKYO
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Capsule hotels were pretty controversial when they were invented back in 1979. Space saving is a big deal in Japan, as it’s a small island with a LOT of people, so these capsule hotels are a great way to make hotel rooms smaller and more efficient. They have everything you need for a night’s sleep, including a bed, lamp, TV and blankets.

10. Free tissues

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If you’re in one of the major districts of Japan’s big cities, you’ll probably stumble across people handing out free tissues. This is really common in Japan, and works as a form of advertising. Companies hand out free tissues with their logo and information on them, and there’s competition for the prime city center spots.

11. Wet towels before meals

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Most of us won’t be strangers to being given wet towels in a restaurant after we’ve eaten our food. But in Japan, restaurants give you these towels BEFORE you start eating, which are known as oshibori. It’s a distinct Japanese tradition that encourages you to clean and freshen up before your main course.

12. Essential pre-meal appetizers

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Pre-meal dishes, which as known as otoshi, are essentially compulsory appetizers. They act as a kind of cover charge while giving you an opportunity to whet your appetite before your ordered dishes. Popular otoshi dishes include offal stew, edamame beans, potato salad, and even spicy octopus if you’re lucky.

13. Name plates on houses

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In Japan, street names kinda go out the window. It’s really common for people to name their houses and apartments, which means it can be very confusing if you’re trying to find your Airbnb! Neighborhoods are split into individual blocks known as “chome,” forcing houses on different streets to share an almost identical address. This is why name plates have become the norm.

14. Rice paddy art

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Rice paddy art is becoming a big thing in Japan. Made famous by the town of Inakadate in Aomori, these amazing rice paddy illustrations can be seen between June and October. Farmers manage to plant different colored strains of rice to form a picture when viewed from above, which is pretty painstaking work.

15. All-you-can-drink booze

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Yep, you heard us right. Japan’s all-you-can-drink offers, also known as nomi-hodai, are designed for friends and colleagues to have a good time without worrying about running up the check. All-you-can-drink courses aren’t typically offered to solo diners, so you’ll need to get a group together to give this one a go.

16. Toilet slippers

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How would you feel about having a specific pair of slippers for when you got to the toilet? Well, it’s custom in Japan – and it’s a tradition they take very seriously. Alongside Japanese homes, toilet slippers are generally encountered in ryokan inns and traditional restaurants, as well as chaya teahouses.

17. Automatic taxi doors

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Wouldn’t it be awesome if we had this over in the US? Taxi drivers in Japan can automatically open and close the doors to their vehicles through a handy remote control panel. It was invented right before the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, which reduced the need for taxi drivers to be constantly stepping out of their cars.

18. Free footbaths

 

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If you liked the sound of free tissues, wait till you hear about Japan’s free foothbaths. Known as ashi-yu in Japanese, these footbaths can be found in hot spring villages, and serve as a great place to relax and warm up. Just take your shoes off, pop your feet in, and chill! Don’t forget to bring a towel though.

19. Two Valentine's Days

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To go alongside the original Valentine’s Day on February 14th, Japan also has a White Day exactly a month later in March. It’s common for women to give men chocolates in February, while the men return the favor (and buy even more extravagant gifts) on White Day. Cheaper chocolates and gifts are also handed out to coworkers and friends in a tradition known as giri choco, which means obligation chocolate.

20. A lack of trash cans

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While Japan still has a few trash cans in public spaces, there aren’t as many as you would expect in the land of convenience. Japan did once have more trash cans than it does today, but many of them were removed as part of counter-terrorism efforts after the Tokyo subway attack in 1995. While it can be annoying at times, it’s a good way to reduce your environmental impact.

21. Anime cafes and restaurants

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Japan’s favorite franchises like Pokemon, Hello Kitty, One Piece, Sailor Moon and Doraemon all get to take center stage in Japan’s dining scene. With cleverly designed cakes, drinks, ice-cream, pancakes, and other delights that replicate beloved characters, there are plenty to choose from in Japan’s big cities.

22. 'Love' hotels

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Privacy is a bit of a rare thing in Japan. Between overprotective parents, nosy neighbors and tiny apartments, it can be difficult to bring a romantic partner back to your place. ‘Love’ hotels offer a solution to this problem, as they offer a sanctuary for couples to get together in complete privacy. They’re not as seedy as they sound – in fact, some of them are pretty cool!

23. Blue traffic lights?

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Traffic lights in Japan are red, amber and blue – and there’s a distinct reason for this. The Japanese language traditionally made little distinction between the colors green and blue, and simply used the word ‘ao’ to describe both. Translated from English, it actually means blue – hence why they use blue lights instead.

24. Yuru-kyara mascots

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Yuru-kyara are Japanese mascots used to promote everything from towns, regions, tourist attractions, products, and a whole lot more. And they’re slowly becoming more popular outside of Japan too. Two of the most iconic Yuru-kyara are NHK’s mascot Kumamon and Domo-kun from Kumamoto Prefecture, which are now known worldwide.

25. Drinking in public is ok

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While many other countries have banned public drinking, Japan has done the opposite. You’ll find plenty of travelers buying beer for the train, college students gathering for drinks in parks, and even impromptu street parties in the trendy nightlife districts of Shibuya and Roppongi. Japanese strict manners and etiquette tend to prevent most of the fun from going overboard though.

26. Maid and butler cafes

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Maid and butler cafes are big business in Japan. You can find a ton of them on the streets of Tokyo’s otaku hub of Akihabara, where patrons can enjoy the service of impeccably-dressed Japanese maids and butlers. They’re on hand to entertain guests with unique songs, dances, and performances, and are particularly popular with office workers.

27. Fruits for $100 +

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Japan has some crazy fruits – and some crazy price tags to go with them. Odd-shaped watermelons are in high demand, and can be seen in square and heart shapes. One of Japan’s most expensive fruits includes the jet-black Densuke Watermelon, which has sold for an eye-watering price of 650,000 yen (approx. $6,000 USD).

28. Themed trains

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Japan’s famous for its bullet trains – but did you know they have themed bullet trains too? They feature everything from unique decor, fun activities, and exciting tie-ins to the country’s favorite franchises like Hello Kitty and Pokemon. One of the most famous trains is the Genbi Shinkansen, which is packed with cool installations by artists inspired by the surrounding scenery of Niigata.

29. Weird energy drinks

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With so many people working long work hours, a high amount of the population rely on energy drinks – and there are absolutely tons to choose from. One of the most in-demand is Lipovitan D by Taisho Pharmaceuticals, which is loaded with taurine, vitamin B, caffeine, and inositol, giving drowsy workers the power to get through their day.

30. Insane game shows

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Nowhere does crazy game shows quite like Japan. A lot of them seem to focus on putting contestants in weirdly humiliating situations, like the one where one item in a room is replaced with a look-alike item made of chocolate and contestants have to try to find it by biting into objects. Some of them like Takeshi’s Castle have taken off on a global scale.