12 Things People Won’t Tell You About Japan

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When people talk about Japan, lots of things will come up in conversation.

Maybe you’ll hear about the super-fast bullet train, the sushi, ramen or even Mount Fuji.

Things People Won’t Tell You About Japan listed
Things People Won’t Tell You About Japan

Perhaps you’ll start thinking about the shrines, temples, samurais or geisha.

However, there are lots of things people won’t tell you about Japan too!

Let’s look at 12 of them.

1. Taking a nap in the office isn’t frowned upon

Elsewhere in the world, sleeping on the job might land you in trouble.

So, it comes as a surprise to many that Japan sees this differently.

Though Japan is well-known for its workers working long hours and doing lots of overtime, napping on the job is normal.

Taking a nap on work
Taking a nap in the office in Japan

In some more traditional Japanese companies, it’s not uncommon to hear workers’ alarm clocks going off around lunchtime or when they’re doing overtime.

Instead of being viewed as something negative, it’s seen as a positive: the workers aren’t being lazy, they’re proving they’ve worked hard and are extremely dedicated.

2. Gambling is illegal (almost)

In Japan gambling isn’t allowed. Using casinos and placing bets on online overseas betting platforms is not allowed.

However, if you’ve visited Japan, you will have probably seen pachinko parlors.

These are bright, loud places where Japanese people go to spend hours playing a pachinko. This is a type of arcade game or slot machine.

Pachinko games aren’t considered to be gambling due to the prizes you can win.

The prizes are often things like:

  • badges
  • cigarettes
  • or pens

These can usually be exchanged for money at a separate shop that isn’t affiliated with any pachinko parlor.

Other gambling exceptions include betting on particular football matches, motorsports, or horse races.

3. Doing things alone is entirely normal

In other parts of the world, many people feel uncomfortable going to the cinema alone or going out for dinner alone.

In Japan, however, this is completely normal. So, if you’re a solo traveler, Japan is an excellent destination!

Solo experiences have even led to places designing activities for solo visitors.

It’s not uncommon to find karaoke cafes where there are individual boots for people to sing to their heart’s content all on their own.

There are also chain restaurants offering solo dinner experiences.

Some Bars – Like Bar Hitori in the Shinjuku district of Tokyo only allows people to enter if they’re alone. The name itself means ‘individual’ in Japanese.

In Hitori, the usual etiquette of not making small talk with other customers isn’t followed – though people will be left in peace if they want.

4. University is all about the extracurricular more than actual studying

Getting into university – or at least the right one – is an extremely challenging experience in Japan.

Each year, lots of young people have mental breakdowns when entrance exams come upon them.

Japan university facts
Getting into university in Japan

However, once you’re in, life at university is pretty relaxed.

Japanese university students often focus a lot of their time on their hobbies and having fun with their fellow students and friends while at university for four years.

What’s more, only a small proportion of graduates end up in a job that is related to the subject they studied.

A part of the reason for this is that many employers consider that having a degree is important, but the subject isn’t.

In addition, most jobs come with a 1-year training period as standard.

5. Valentine’s Day is when women do the treating

In Japan, Valentine’s Day is celebrated a little bit differently to the rest of the world.

Essentially, it’s something that women get involved in and it isn’t always romantic either.

Though women will give Valentines gifts to their significant other, it is much more essential that their male co-workers receive girichoki.

Couple in Yukata in Japan

This literally means ‘obligation chocolate’.

Females in the workplace will often spend lots of their money and time seeking out special chocolates or limited edition chocolates for their male co-workers.

It’s not all doom and gloom for women though! A month later on March 14th, it is White Day. On this day, men are meant to give female co-workers chocolate.

Not Only That – But they’re supposed to give them three times the amount that they were given!

6. There is an intricate system for sorting trash – and it confuses lots of people

One of the things people won’t tell you about Japan is how the trash sorting works!

Residents know the rules for sorting their trash – everything from sorting electronics, kitchen leftovers, metal, and paper has rules.

There are also complicated trash sorting systems in public places too.

Though all of this sorting might make you think that Japan is a leading country for looking after the environment, it is actually one of the top consumers of single-use plastic in the world.

You’ll notice things everywhere come wrapped individually in plastic – whether that’s vegetables, fruit or individual chocolates in a box!

Another thing you’re not told is how lots of it just ends up at the same trash-sorting plant and is all burned together anyway!

7. Japan uses a lot of old technology and analogue solutions

It’s easy to think of Japan as a world leader in technology with its pioneering mobile industry, interesting gadgets, and bullet trains.

However, one of the many things people won’t tell you about Japan before you go is just how reliant they still are on old technology.

Old technology in Japan
Japan uses a lot of old technology

If you go into any office, you shouldn’t be surprised to see piles of paperwork, old-fashioned files, and old computers.

What’s More – You can’t always guarantee you’ll be able to do things online. Lots of places require you to do things by post – things like real estate agents and banks, for example.

As for tourists, it can get a little complicated when hotels will only take fax or telephone reservations.

Lots of restaurants and shops are still cash-only too, though cards are gaining in popularity more and more – especially since the Covid-19 pandemic.

8. How many vending machines there are!

In Japan, there are around 5.5 million of them!

That’s right, Japan is the world’s top country for vending machine to people ration. When you look at how many there are, it works out as 1 for every 23 inhabitants!

vending machine Japan explained
Vending Machines in Japan

Most vending machines sell drinks: from soft drinks to coffee and even alcohol.

However, there are some strange vending machines, including ones that sell:

  • eggs
  • love letters
  • instant ramen
  • bananas
  • and even sex toys

9. Face masks were a thing before Covid-19

Nowadays, no one really bats an eyelid when someone wears a face mask in public thanks to Covid-19.

However, long before the pandemic, Japanese people wore them every day for decades.

People often believe that Japanese people wear these to prevent themselves from getting sick.

Wearing Face masks in Japan
Face masks in Japan

However, they are mostly worn by people who are feeling unwell and don’t want to pass anything on.

This is in part because lots of companies don’t have sick days, so employees often go to work when sick.

And, since a lot of people take packed public transport to get to their place of employment, they can’t distance themselves.

Another reason people use them is to ease hay fever symptoms or hide a make-up free face!

10. They have many holidays but little vacation

In Japanese society, it’s highly regarded to be dedicated to your workplace.

Average workers in Japan have around 10 to 15 vacation days every year.

However, there are sixteen public holidays, which means long weekends are quite common.

11. The truth about Japanese toilets

When people first visit Japan, they’ll see how plentiful toilets are.

You’ll even find them in very remote locations. What’s more, they’re extremely clean!

Bathroom toilet in Japan explained
Bathroom toilet in Japan

As well as this, you’ll find they’re equipped with music that muffles toilet sounds and water hoses to clean up afterwards!

Finally, the toilet seats are often heated too!

12. There aren’t many ovens!

The final of our 12 things people won’t tell you about Japan is that despite the country being renowned all over the world for its culinary delights, you won’t find many ovens!

Though microwave ovens are starting to grow in popularity, most apartments in Japan only have fish broilers under their gas stoves!

Final thoughts on things people won’t tell you about Japan

So, there you have it, 12 things people won’t tell you about Japan.

Which one surprised you the most?

Was it the exquisite toilets, the lack of ovens, the office naps, or one of the others?

It certainly seems as though Japan continues to surprise westerners with their way of life!

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