40 Things You Didn’t Know About Japan

Trivia plays a big part in our lives. From wanting to correctly answer questions posed on TV quiz shows, to classroom study needed for a test (but unlikely to be used again), to lookin’ good in front of that angel in the bar. Trivia, facts – or factoids, as some are now referred as – are all around us.

Here, then, are a few Japan-based factoids with which you can show off your knowledge of the country you now call home.

During an 1881 tour of Japan, Britain’s Prince of Wales (later King George V) had a large Japanese-style dragon tattooed on his arm.

The world’s oldest hotel is in Japan – the ‘Hoshi’ in Komatsu, Ishikawa Prefecture. It has been in business since the early 8th century – records claim 718 AD as the date it opened.

The skin of Oden Takahashi – the last woman beheaded in Japan – is supposed
to be held by Tokyo University.

Ueno Park, near Todai, was founded upon the insistence of a Dutch doctor named Bauduin. His bust can be seen in the park today, near the fountains. The area was originally slated for use as a hospital.

Japan’s largest ‘village’ is Takizawa in Iwate Prefecture; the population is almost 55,000!

Tokyo’s Chuo Line actually links Tokyo Station with Nagoya, 397km away! Most think it stops at Takao in western Tokyo.

The first operational train station in Tokyo was Shinagawa – not Shimbashi, as is popularly believed.

Oh, and Shinagawa Station is in Minato-ku, not Shinagawa-ku!

Staying with trains; as many know, Shinjuku Station is the busiest in the world – over three million people pass through it daily. Less well known is the fact that the Tokyo subway station with the most users is Ayase Station at the end of the Chiyoda Line in Adachi-ku. Almost half a million commuters pass through it each day.

The largest screen in the world is Turf Vision at Tokyo Racecourse in Fuchu, measuring 11.2 x 66.4m.

Japan’s national bird is the pheasant – seen on the back of the old 10,000 yen note.

Haneda Airport in Tokyo is the 4th busiest in the world – passenger numbers total around 65 million a year (roughly equal to the population of the UK).

In the world of music, Japan’s best selling male artist of all time is one Michiya Mihashi – having sold over 100 million records.

His female equivalent is Misora Hibari (80 million sold).

Van Gogh once considered becoming an ukiyo-e (woodblock print) dealer.

Before the late 19th century, there was no Japanese word for ‘competition’ as all prices and services were fixed!

At around the same time, Japan’s first prime minister – Ito Hirobumi – burned down the British Legation buildings which were still under construction.

The remains of the Meiji Emperor are not actually interred in Meiji Shrine in Tokyo – they are in Kyoto.

Everyone knows the tallest mountain in Japan is Mt. Fuji, at 3,776m, but during the time Taiwan was ‘part’ of the Japanese Empire, that title went to Mt. Niitakayama (Yushan), at 3,952m.

At the opposite end of the scale, the lowest natural mountain in Japan is Bentenyama in Tokushima, Shikoku – at just 6.1m.

Mount Fuji last erupted in 1707 and is now dormant,
not extinct.1

There is no universally accepted photographic image of Japan’s famed 19th century samurai Saigo Takamori.

The statue of Saigo in Ueno park is actually based on a likeness of his brother.

Baseball players playing for the Yomiuri Giants team in Tokyo must shave all facial hair – and not let it grow back for the duration of their contract with the team.

Baseball players playing for the Yomiuri Giants team in Tokyo must shave all facial hair – and not let it grow back for the duration of their contract with the team.

Former Beatle Paul McCartney spent time in prison when visiting Japan in the early 1980s for possession of a ‘questionable substance.’

The Arakawa River in the north of the city, near the prison McCartney ‘visited’ is actually a canal, dug in 1911 to help prevent flooding.

Inazo Nitobe’s book Bushido was originally written in English and later translated into Japanese.

At 100 kph top speed, the Tozai Line is Tokyo’s fastest subway line.

The Japan-owned Ogasawara Islands in the Pacific are known as the Bonin Islands in the west.

In 2004, Adachi-ku in Tokyo recorded the highest ever temperature measured in the archipelago (42.7°C) on July 20th. It remains an unofficial record, though, as someone forgot to dot the i’s and cross the t’s when reporting.

During the 2002 South Korea / Japan FIFA World Cup, no games were held in Tokyo.

The Japanese Football Association (JFA) was founded way back in 1921, but everyone still calls the sport “soccer”.

JR Central Towers at Nagoya Station in Aichi is the largest building in Japan in terms of floor space, occupying a whopping 416,565 square meters.

The entire Japanese language is made up of just 101 syllables. English, meanwhile, has over 3000 according to linguists.

The most watched Japanese TV show to date was a flyweight boxing match pitting Yoshio Shirai against Pascual Perez in 1954, with a 96.1% viewer rate!

Story by Mark Buckton
From J SELECT Magazine,March 2010