Japan has been captivating travellers since it first opened up to international trade in 1853. While its many traditions and cultural landmarks persist, Japan is also one of the leading economic and technological centres of the world. Ancient gods and traditional customs sit side by side with cutting edge technologies and trendy pop culture, and there is always something new to experience on a visit. From the fashion in Harajuku to perfect produce, to empty orchestras and bizarre meal-time etiquette, here are 23 interesting facts about Japan you probably never knew.
1. Japan has been inhabited since 30,000 B.C.
2. An estimated 127 million people live in Japan. It has the 10th largest population in the world.
3. 70% of Japan is mountainous – including over 100 active volcanoes.
4. A melon can sell for over $400 in Japan.
5. Japan imports 85% of Jamaica's annual coffee production.
6. Japanese people used to shave their heads as a sign of penance for violating society's rules and breaching honour.
7. Japan has a 99% literacy rate among children aged 15 years and over.
8. Slurping your noodles loudly in Japan is considered evidence of enjoying your meal.
9. Tokyo has the world's largest fish market, handling over 2000 tonnes of marine products daily.
10. Raised floors help indicate where you should take off your shoes in Japanese buildings.
11. "Geisha" means "person of the arts" and the first Geisha were actually men.
12. About 1500 earthquakes strike Japan every year.
13. At 83, the average life expectancy for Japanese people is 4 years higher than for Americans.
14. Basashi is a popular Japanese dish, consisting of raw horsemeat slices with ginger and onions.
15. Whale meat is not actually a delicacy in Japan, but they are still hunted for research purposes.
Top image © sabrinaokaeda/Shutterstock
Learn more and explore this archipelago with the Rough Guide to Japan.