Curious Facts about Japan

Curious Facts about Japan

Myth or fact? Japanese people are obsessed with sumo and cameras. Wrong. These are not real Japanese national passions. And you might think that everyone in Tokyo loves raw meat. No, it is not true, just like sushi is not the only food they eat. However, there are some really interesting facts about Japan that might amuse you. Here is a list...

1. Some of our Western choices when it comes to food might shock other cultures around the world, and certainly, eating dogs is something that the Western world doesn't find very appealing. Well, take a deep breath: raw horse meat is actually a popular meal in Japan.

2. Dogs on the tube in Tokyo don't bark. They are even more civilised than people in big cities. But everyone is very polite on the underground in Tokyo since it is so crowded railway staff are employed to cram passengers inside. Can you imagine if everyone was pushing in?

3. Many couples in Japan celebrate Christmas like Valentine's Day. December 25th is more of a lovers' holiday. Now picture Santa Claus wearing Cupid's wings.

4. If you find a misspelled ad in London, the error serves the purpose of highlighting a message or capturing the audience's attention. If you see a misspelling in Japan, don't bother to look for the meaning, poorly written English can be found everywhere, including T-shirts and other fashion items.

5. This fact will not surprise anyone: Japan's literacy rate is almost 100%. Actually, the annual university entrance examination is internationally known as "exam hell" given its difficulty.

6. Far from a person that attends to men's needs with her charms, Geisha actually means "person of the arts" and the first geishas were actually men.

The Origin of Godzilla

The Origin of Godzilla

"Listen kid. There's two things you don't know about the Earth: one is me, and the other is Godzilla," said Captain Douglas Gordon to the Xilien Commander in "Godzilla: Final Wars".

And certainly, how much do we know about this kaiju (Japanese giant monster)?

Godzilla comes from the word "Gorija" which is Japanese for "The King of the Monsters". This giant monster made its first appearance over half a century ago in Ishiro Honda's 1954 film "Godzilla". Ever since, Godzilla has become a pop culture icon all over the world.

The famous Japanese monster has not only starred in 28 films produced by Toho Co., Ltd, but also has appeared in several other media incarnations such as video games, novels, comic books, and television series.

Nowadays, most people are familiar with Godzilla, but not everybody knows that this creature that terrorizes mankind was conceived as a metaphor for nuclear weapons. Indeed, this creature was born in 1954 when the nuclear bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the Lucky Dragon 5 incident was still fresh in the Japanese consciousness. Hence, Godzilla was envisaged as a gigantic mutant dinosaur transformed from the fallout of an atomic bomb test.

As the film series continued, some stories portrayed the character of Godzilla as a hero. In these story lines, Godzilla saves the world from other threats - usually from Outer Space - such as King Ghidorah, Gigan and MechaGodzilla, along with other monsters like Rodan and Mothra. In some other plots, Godzilla was the lesser of two menaces, who plays the defender by default yet is still a threat to humanity.

For many people worldwide, Godzilla is one of the defining elements of Japanese pop culture. Even though its popularity has weakened throughout the years, Godzilla continues to be one of the most renowned monster characters in the world. Today, the King of the Monsters is still an central feature of Japanese films, embodying the kaiju subset of the tokusatsu genre.

Tokyo for Hipsters

Tokyo for Hipsters

Hipsters don’t usually call themselves "hipsters", but even you aren’t one, you might find a few hip activities in Tokyo appealing.

Hipster refers to a postmodern subculture of young, urban middle-class adults and older teenagers that became particularly prominent in the 2010s. The subculture is associated with indie and alternative music, a varied non-mainstream fashion sensibility, and alternative lifestyles.

Hagiso is known as Tokyo’s "smallest cultural institution". This house in the traditional Yanaka area includes a café and exhibition space. Go there for a drink and catch one of their occasional gigs and dance performances.

Karaoke might be pretty mainstream, but what about singing karaoke in a hot tub? Yes, there is a place part karaoke box and part theme park in Tokyo called Roppongi’s Lovenet complex. Here, you will find some bizarre rooms, such as the Aqua suite where you can sing in a hot tub.

Tour the traditional arts: This is an activity for everyone but it will certainly suit hipsters as stroll around Bingoya, an alternative souvenir shop. Here, they will find five floors’ worth of handmade traditional crafts, including pottery, fabrics, lacquerware and folk art.

Get your hands on countless books in Tokyo’s Jimbocho neighbourhood, a bibliophile nirvana which offers some 180 second-hand bookshops.

If you are looking for something cool, and if you are a hipster you probably are, hop aboard a swimming bus. This amphibious bus tours the streets around Tokyo Skytree before navigating the waters of a river nearby.

Puff on a hookah pipe and odd liquors such as ginseng brandy and cannabis vodka in Bonji Bar, a curious watering hole in Asakusa.

Sip slow-brewed coffee in a café from the 70s. Surrounded by retro furniture, you will be able to place with the shop’s aged cat while waiting for your coffee.

Have an experimental evening at SuperDeluxe, a haven for Tokyo’s avant-garde types. This place hosts improv gigs, rock shows, dance performances and Pecha Kucha nights. You can also get highly quaffable Tokyo Ale here.

Robot Restaurant

Robot Restaurant

If you thought the idea of Hooters - with girls serving chicken in provocative outfits - was extravagant, wait until you visit Robot Restaurant in Tokyo. Bikini-clad women perform mock battles using enormous robots bring a basement in Shinjuku's Kabukicho district to to life every night.

Decorated with neon lights, video screens, mirrors and bright colours, Robot Restaurant has a futuristic atmosphere that takes after Cyperdog shop in Camden Town, London.

However, the main attraction of the restaurant is its 60-minute show which is worth US$100 million. Robots, dancers, drummers, bomber planes, tanks, motorcycles, quads, giant video screens, and three gigantic fifteen foot tall female robots take to the stage and make it the paramount psychedelic experience.

About 12,000 bulbs line the walls of the waiting room preparing your senses and leading you to the show area. There you will find more than 200 colourful 44-inch monitors surround the stage area, even on the ceiling. Attractive female robots might be quite entertaining, but the battle between a giant mechanical armadillo and a Kung-fu panda are just about the most comical aspect of the show.

As futuristic characters battle on stage, Daft Punk-inspired figures skate around the place swinging lasers and cheering the crowd with their glow sticks. The show also features mythical characters from console games.

With such an extraordinary spectacle, it shouldn't come as a surprise that the place has become world-famous since its establishment over a year ago. Even if you haven't been to the place, you've probably heard about it, read about it in a blog or news sites, watched a clip on YouTube or TV, or even seen a snippet of a recent Tokyo-filmed music video from the rock band Muse.

The Robot Restaurant couldn't be any further from the eating-focused establishment its name might suggest, but dinner is included which is always a plus. The drink menu, however, only consists of canned beer, chu-hai and bottled tea. The entry fee also includes a bento box.