The East Asian island nation that recovered from defeat in the Second World War to become an industrial and technological powerhouse, Japan also saw a cultural revolution of sorts in the latter half of the 20th Century. As the Internet became ever more ubiquitous, Japan’s varied subcultures gained an almost global audience, triggering massive increased interest in what was for many a very different country and culture.
1. Bloodtype Horoscopes
If you’ve ever played a Japanese beat-em-up or RPG, you might have noticed that the character biographies often include bloodtype alongside age and nationality. While it may seem odd for a fictional character to be designated a bloodtype, it is in fact the Japanese equivalent of putting their star sign. Originally dismissed in the 1930s but revived via a popular yet scientifically-discredited book in the 1970s, many Japanese believe that your bloodtype can provide indicators of your personality; for example, those with Type A blood are said to be creative and sensible, yet potentially stubborn and tense.
Literally sold as a singer in a box, vocaloids are complete digitised singers enclosed within a proprietary music editing program developed by Yamaha. While song producers can use these computerised vocalists to create compositions and performances of their own, the most famous tracks are those which are performed ‘live’ with an image of the performing ‘singer’ projected onto a clear screen across the stage. In Tokyo, a concert featuring vocaloid Hatsune Miku attracted 10,000 people, each paying the equivalent of over $75 each for tickets.
3. Long, Long Lives
Japan holds the enviable record of being home to some of the most longest-lived people to ever live. In June 2013, Jiroemon Kumura died at the age of 116, making him the single human being to have ever lived longer than any before him. Kumura called the islands of Okinawa his home, and he is not alone in the centenary club in this area of southern Japan – around 400 people in Okinawa are aged 100 or over, at a rate up to six times higher than in the USA. Locals and researchers alike often accredit Okinawans long lives to positive spiritual attitude, relatively stress-free way of life, exercise and a relatively healthy, often fish-based diet.
4. The Fax Machine Is Still Relevant
While this piece of classic 80s and 90s technology has been usurped by email in most of the world, it continues to see regular use in many Japanese firms. Paper records are still very popular in Japan, and the hard copies which result from sending your documents by fax instead of attaching .doc files to an email are preferred to things you can’t immediately hold in your hand. It’s a surprising piece of technological redundancy from a nation often seen as being on the cutting edge of gadgetry and efficiency.
Japan, like most countries, relies on truck drivers to keep the country running anywhere close to a civilised level and, like most truckers, Japanese truckers like to decorate their cabs to give them a sense of ownership and express their own taste and character. The difference is that Japanese truckers really go for it with their decorations, with huge chrome adornments, murals and neon lights not uncommon additions to a cab’s frame, making it look often not unlike a disco Transformer. More an interesting cultural quirk than a weird one (hey, try explaining monster trucks to someone who has never heard of them before), these colourful automobiles nevertheless force a few head turns if you pass them on the street.
6. Pornography Is Illegal
Despite the surfeit of strange, animated depictions of man-on-lady, lady-on-lady and lady-on-tentacle monster naughtiness that stalk the interwebs, regular uncensored photos and movies of consenting adults engaging in babymaking practice is actually banned in Japan due to its being “injurious to public morals”. Now what people like to view online is between them and their browser, but it is a tad bizarre that animated tentacle ghost sex is fine in the eyes of the authorities, but the missionary position isn’t.
7. Paris Syndrome
Not technically a Japan fact but a Japanese fact, Paris syndrome is a recognised medical/psychological complaint, whereby tourists (generally Japanese) who visit Paris are so disenchanted with the reality of what they find compared to the image they had in their head before they arrived, that they become ill. Common symptoms include delusional states, hallucinations, anxiety, dizziness and sweating, often prompted by the discovery that not everybody looks like a fashion model and that even Parisians sometimes where non-couture clothing.
8. Adoption Is Insanely Popular
While on the face of it this is no bad thing, the reasons and nature of adoption in Japan is pretty unusual. Many of the biggest Japanese firms are family businesses (think Suzuki, Toyota) and for CEOs a great deal depends on being able to hand the reins over their son to continue to family success story. Problems therefore arise when natural sons don’t live up to expectations, leading to the legal adoption of fully grown men who are more qualified to be groomed for being the next chief exec. This practice is so widespread that 98% of adoptions in Japan are of adults, most being recent graduates in their mid-to-late 20s.
9. Free Cigarettes For The Elderly
Despite being the country that is home to some of the world’s oldest people, Japan’s Respect for the Aged Day still sees the country’s older residents handed free cigarettes outside popular congregation spots like train stations and department stores. While this free distribution is undertaken by tobacco companies rather than the authorities, it is still pretty unusual in a country where tobacco usage has been steadily declining.
Kancho itself is a slang version of the Japanese word for ‘enema’, so you can probably take a guess at where this is heading. Similar to the American high school classic that is the wedgie, kancho is a prank designed to cause embarrassment and mild bottom-related discomfort, except that it involves making a ‘gun’ out of your hands and fingers and attempting to ram your index fingers into the anus of an unsuspecting victim. Oh yeah, and you do this while shouting ‘kan-CHO!’. The prank is so widespread, it has even featured on celebrity panel shows.