Japanese children get HALF the summer vacation Americans do . . . and other interesting facts about Japan!
Whenever I travel to a new country, I always like learning about the culture, the people, the country. And one of the reasons I love to write this blog is to educate people about the culture and differences in other countries, and perhaps motivate and inspire you all to travel to foreign destinations to explore them yourself as well!
In addition, I will also admit that before I started traveling internationally, I was a bit “geographically challenged” and REALLY had to take out a map and stare at it for awhile to get myself reacquainted with the globe. You learn and memorize this stuff in elementary school, and then again in high school . . . but then that’s usually IT—unless your job requires you to constantly look at a map. So of course I’m going to “shove” a few maps at you, here, as well 🙂
So, with each new country we visit, I’d love to share with you some fun and interesting information about them!… and learn a bit myself along the way.
Japan is pretty far from the US, but yet when you look to the west of the United States, it’s pretty “close” compared to any other country around. From Los Angeles, it is a 12 hour flight to Tokyo, and I’m sure it’s about 17 or so from New York, so buckle yourself in for a LONG ride!
Japan is actually an Island nation, comprised of 6,852 Islands total, but 97% of the land area is on the main 4 Islands. The country is located in East Asia in the Pacific Ocean, and lies to the east of South Korea, North Korea, China, and a small portion of Russia.
Here are some other key facts about Japan:
Currency: Japanese Yen
Language: Japanese, consisting of four different writing systems using characters: Kanji, Hiragana, Katakana, and Romaji. Children take a mandatory 6 years of English language classes in school.
Climate/Seasons: Climate is predominantly temperate, Average winter temperature is 42 degrees F, and the average summer temperature is 77 degrees. Rainy season is May to July.
Economy: As of 2011, Japan is the third largest national economy in the world, after the United States and China, in terms of nominal GDP.
Population: Estimated around 127.3 million and culturally homogeneous, composed of 98.5% ethnic Japanese.
Religion: Mainly Buddhism or Shinto, or some people follow both. Religion does not usually play a major role in the average life of Japanese, but most people will hold religious ceremonies at births, weddings, and funerals. Many people also visit temples or shrines throughout the year.
Literacy Rate: 99%
Foods: Japanese cuisine combines staple foods including noodles or Japanese rice, soup, dishes made with fish, vegetables, and tofu.
Work environment: Japanese people usually work long work hours and hold a strong devotion to their company. The average Japanese worker is entitled to fifteen days of paid vacation a year but usually only takes seven.
Unemployment Rate: 4.2% (2013)
Education: Education is mandatory and free for children first through ninth grades (elementary and middle school) with high school (9-12) being non-compulsory. Enrollment in high school is over 96%, despite the fact that families must pay for both private and public high schools.
The school year begins on April 1st and works on a trimester system: The first trimester runs until late July, with a 6-week summer break, followed by a second trimester from early September to late December with a 2-week break for Christmas and New Year’s Day, ending with a third term from early January to late March with a 1-week spring break.
Life expectancy: Japan has the longest overall life expectancy at birth of any country in the world at 83.5 years.
Drinking/Smoking age: 20 years old for both. However, they are somewhat relaxed about the limits, and you can buy beer and cigarettes in vending machines (although supposedly a lot of cigarette machines require a special card.)
Driving: Legal driving age in Japan is 18 years old. Cars drive on the LEFT side of the road, with cars having the steering wheel on the RIGHT side of the car.
Interesting Japan facts:
- Japan has the second lowest homicide rate in the world . . . In 2011, there were only seven gun murders!—and keep in mind, that’s with a population of 127+ million people! In comparison, the US has a population of 314 million people, and there were approximately 8,500 gun murders in 2011.
- Many smaller cities offer free tour guides (an ACTUAL person!) or have people at train stations to help you find your way.
- Japan is the most vulnerable nation to earthquakes amongst all the regions of the world. Each year about 1500 earthquakes are recorded in Japan.
Most toilets in Japan have a built-in bidet system for spraying your backside, along with a seat warmer and automatic lid lifter. They are more often the norm in homes, hotels, and nicer restrooms nowadays. Some have fans on the inside to eliminate “fumes” and some even make a “white noise” sound to disguise any embarrassing sounds that may occur. However, in some train stations and other public restrooms you often will still find the traditional Japanese “floor toilet” in which you need to squat over.
- Japan does not have an atomic weapon, yet it is the only country in the world against which atomic weapons have been used.
- It is not uncommon to eat rice at every meal, including breakfast.
- The word karaoke means “empty orchestra” in Japanese.