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Top 5 Uniquely Unusual Things in Japan

Ahhh Japan, how I love thy eclectically unusual ways…
If you’ve been reading some of our articles, it should come as no surprise that Japan is … well, different from most all other countries. Diverse in its culture, extremely varied in its food, and multifaceted in its day to day activities – It is quite unique in its own, special way.

There are so many things to love about Japan, from the fantastic food, to the (mostly) friendly people, to the absolutely amazingly beautiful countryside in some places (away from cities), and of course its unique culture.  While there are many similarities between Japan and other countries, there are also quite a few differences that are peculiar to only Japan…. things that make you go: “Heeeeeeeeeeeeeeee”.

Here are 5 things only found on Planet Japan, that even Japanophiles would consider rather unusual:

  1. Hikikomori (引き籠もり): Literally translating to pulling inward, or being confined, this term refers to the growing trend of people who withraw from social life completely. More often than not, these people refuse to leave their house for long periods of time (often exceeding 6 months).  Psychologists infer that the condition is closely related to depression and anxiety about Japan’s extreme social pressures. 
  2. Kodokushi (孤独死): Japan is a densely populated country with many older people. As such, sometimes it takes a while for recently deceased people to be found. Apparently this happens so often here, there’s even a word for it. Called Kodokushi (孤独死), or lonely death, this phenomenon has become an increasingly serious problem in recent years due to tougher economic times and the increasing elder population here.
  3. Yaeba (八重歯): While a straight set of Pearly Whites is still the accepted aesthetic norm in most countries, leave it to Japan to completely topple that idea. Recently, a trend called Yaeba (八重歯), or “snaggle” teeth is all the rage amongst teenage girls. Believed to give girls a childlike cuteness, this latest beauty craze has young Japanese women going crazy for a crowded, crooked-toothed smile with accentuated canine teeth. Seems like they never shy away from anything that will bring out that “kawaii” factor. Doctors are charging as much as ¥39,000 for the alteration. Not missing a beat, Japan promptly formed a J-pop group named TYB48 (tsuke-yaeba48), who had their debut in April. 
  4. Suicides (自殺): This may come as somewhat of a surprise to some, but Japan has one of the highest suicide rates in the world. You would think with all this modern technology, a near 100% adult literacy rate, an extremely low crime rate, National Healthcare, and lifetime employment, that Japan would be an absolute Nirvana. But every Rose has its Thorns, as they say, and Japan is no exception. As wonderful as Japan is to live, there is a lot of social pressure here. The absolute need to fit into a tight societal structure with all of its expectations and unwritten rules can be too much for some. As a matter of fact, suicide is the no. 1 cause of death amongst males aged 20-44, according to the latest statistics.
  5. And last but certainly not least, we turn to the one thing that has continuously bewildered Expats and Japanese alike since Colonel Sanders set foot on these shores about 40 years ago – a truly Japanese Christmas tradition, namely Kentucky Fried Chicken. No, that’s no typo! You see, in Japan it’s a tradition to eat KFC for Christmas. Don’t believe me? Just try getting some chicken at KFC during the holidays… I can almost guarantee you they’ll be all sold out, since you actually have to make reservations in advance to get your mitts on some of that delicious, crispy, oily, christmassy goodness 

Peaceful? Definitely! Modern? Mostly/in many ways. Unusual? Most Certainly! Different? Absolutely! To say that Japan is eclectic would be a severe understatement. Trust me when I say that even if you’ve lived in Japan for a Decade or longer, you’ll still find things that surprise you. How about you guys? What do you consider to be most unusual about Japan? Let us know in the comments below!

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