9 Interesting Facts about Japan

Because 10 is too mainstream.


Hayashi Osamu is a famous teacher who belongs to the well-known Toshin prep school that has helped several students get into their dream Tokyo University. So famous, he has a number of educational TV programs under his belt.

One of my favorites is 林先生が初耳だった! (loosely: Mr. Hayashi has never heard of it!) which challenges him on some general knowledge questions to see if he has heard of it before. Here’s some of the interesting ones about Japan.

1. The Secrets of the Kanda River Sakura

The cherry blossom trees along Kanda River were planted for the purpose of fortifying the ground. Tokugawa Yoshimune had them planted so that people would gather for cherry blossom viewing, resulting in a more compact ground, thus strengthening the embankments.

2. The Vertically Written Abashiri Station Name

The station at Abashiri, Hokkaido was deliberately written vertically instead of horizontally in a hope that prisoners at the country’s northernmost prison (Abashiri) will not go wayward (横にそれる in Japanese meaning to deviate sideways) again after their release.

3. The Computer-Controlled Waterfall of Kegon no Taki


The Kegon no Taki waterfall standing at 97m tall in Nikko, Tochigi is controlled by a computer to reduce the amount of water flow at night when electricity is less required.

4. Sightseeing at the Imperial Palace

The imperial palace is open for sightseeing twice a day at no cost on weekdays at 10am and 1.30pm, each tour lasting approximately 1 hr 15 min.

5. The 8cm Kojien Dictionary

The first Kojien dictionary was published in 1955 with 200,000 words at 8cm. Today’s edition contains about 240,000 words, an increase of over 700 pages, but the thickness of the dictionary remains at 8cm due to thinning papers. The reason for such a limitation is, besides the reduction of deforestation from the increase use of papers, 8cm is also deemed to be the thickest for one to carry in one hand and to feel easy to use.

6. The One-Month Early Magazines


If you take a close look at the latest copy of Seventeen magazine above, the cover says “October” issue. Magazines here tend to “release a month earlier.” But the truth is, they are not. The reason why covers always indicate a month later is to create the idea of how updated they are. Especially for fashion magazines, you probably prefer to refer to something that is always ahead in time. Although now you know it’s not that true.

7. The Origins of Ota-ku

Nono, not this otaku. The Ota-ward Ota-ku. If you understand some Japanese, you would know that Ota is usually written as 太田 but the Ota in Ota-ward is written as 大田 without the dot at the bottom of the first character. The reason is because, the current Ota-ku is made up of the old Omori (森) and Kamata (蒲), which is why the characters are different.

8. The Unknown Left Side of Haunted House

Gomi Hirofumi, Japan’s top Haunted House creator reveals that scares are almost always from the left because the human instinct to protect its heart is stronger.

9. The Most Beautiful Starbucks is in Toyama


The Starbucks in Toyama Prefecture was voted the world’s most beautiful Starbucks in 2008. Maybe I’ll drop by sometime.

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