Exploring Japan Part 4 -- Fun Facts & Resource Round-Up

For the last three Mondays we have been exploring Japan. We started with some picture books, then looked at crafts and artists and then origami. Today we are looking at fun facts about Japan and doing a resource and activity round-up. But first some facts about Japan itself. Japan is called Nihon or Nippon in Japanese. It means "land of the rising sun". It was once believed that Japan was the first country to see the sun each morning. The country is made up of 6,582 islands, but has four main islands: Hokkaido, Honshu, Shikoku, and Kyushu. Three tectonic plates meet near Japan and cause many earthquakes. Japan experiences 1,000 earthquakes in a year. Some of these cause tsunamis. There are also 200 volcanoes in Japan. Sixty of them are still active. Almost three quarters of the land is covered by mountains and forest which make the land hard to farm or use for industry or residential. The Japanese Alps run down the center of the island of Honshu. Mount Fuji is the highest mountain/volcano in Japan and is considered sacred by many Japanese people. 

Now let's get onto the fun facts. Be sure to share these with your children because I know they will find them interesting.

Fun Facts about Japan

1)  Sumo is the national sport of Japan. The most popular spectator sport is baseball.

2) Japan has the third longest life expectancy in the world. Men live to be 81 and women almost 88 years old. They live on average four years longer than Americans.

3) Tokoyo-Yokohama metropolitan area is the largest populated metropolitan region in the world. It has 33 million people.

4) Japan has more than 3,000 McDonald’s restaurants. It is the largest number in any country besides the United States. A Christmas tradition is to get Kentucky Fried Chicken. It is estimated 3.6 million Japanese people eat Kentucky Fried Chicken for Christmas. This is due to a 1974 advertising campaign done by Kentucky Fried Chicken. The campaign slogan was Kentucky for Christmas. It stuck and became a nationwide tradition.

5) Japanese director Akira Kurosawa’s film The Hidden Fortress was the basis of George Lucas’ famous film, Star Wars.

6) The Japanese eat more fish than other people in the world. They eat about 17 million tons of fish per year.

7) Over two billion manga are sold in Japan every year. Manga are comic books or graphic novels.

8) Japan has around 5.5 million vending machines with one on almost every street corner. They sell everything from beer, coffee, comic books, light bulbs, toilet paper, fresh eggs, porn magazines and used women’s underwear.

9) Japan has the second lowest homicide rate in the world. It also is home to the Aokigahara at the base of Mt. Fuji. It is known as the suicide forest and is the second most popular places for suicides in the world. The first is the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco.
Aokigahara Forest (10863133755)
Photo by Guilhem Vellut from Annecy, France / CC BY (

10) More adult diapers are sold than baby diapers in Japan. Japan has a low birth rate and has the highest elderly (over 65 years old) proportion in the world. There are more elderly in Japan than children today.

11) The world’s shortest escalator is in Japan. It is in the basement of More’s department store and has only 5 steps and is 32.8 inches high.

12) Yaeba, crooked teeth, are considered attractive in Japan. Girls actually go to the dentist to have their teeth unstraightened. Women in ancient Japan blackened their teeth with dye because white teeth are considered ugly. The practice was known as ohaguro and continued until the late 1800s.

13) Animation is so successful in Japan that there are almost 130 voice-acting schools there. Anime accounts for 60% of the world’s animation-based entertainment.

14) The sole Japanese male who survived the sinking of the Titanic was Masabumi Hosono. He was called a coward for not dying with the other passengers.
Masabumi Hosono

15) In Japan it is acceptable to take a nap on the job. It is called inemuri and is viewed as being exhausted from working hard.

16) In Japan black cats are considered good luck.

17) The Japanese word karaoke means “empty orchestra”. Daisuke Inoue made a coin-operated machine that played his songs on tape for his fans to sing his songs with the music in the 1970s. He however did not get a patent for his creation and made nothing as the karaoke wave hit.

18) The green traffic light in Japan is called ao shingō, or “blue.”

19) It is considered rude to rip off wrapping paper from a gift in Japan. The Japanese word for spinach, horenso, is similar to the word meaning to fall in love or secret love, horeru, gifts wrapped in spinach green means the giver is expecting love without using words.

20) In Japan people don’t shake hands but bow to one another. The lower the bow the more respectful.

21) The Japanese avoid the number four, shi, because it sounds like the word for death. Tea and sake sets are sold with five cubs; buildings do not have 4th floors. As a rule odd numbers are preferred than even ones.
Tokyo Palace 1908

22) The Japanese consider the belly, hara, to be the center of emotions and thoughts. They value silent communication, haragei, “speaking from the belly”.

23) The first Japanese emperor, Jimmu Tennō, came to power in 660 B.C. The imperial family descends from an unbroken lineage since. It is the only royal family to hold its position for so long. In the 12th century A.D. shoguns, military rulers, took control by force and influenced the emperors. In 1868 the shoguns were overthrown and the emperors returned.

24) The Japanese word for a dog barking is wan-wan.


Resource Round-Up
Now I have shared many books and posts about Japan. Here is a round-up of the books for you.
1) Amazing book for any unit on Japan--All About Japan
2) A new nonfiction book for middle grades telling the story of Sadako Sasaki
3) A novel based on the author's mother's life surviving the atomic bomb
4) Resources to learn some Japanese
5) Japanese craftsmen
6) The Asian history of zero (not actually Japan)
7) New picture books about Japan
8) Japanese Stories and Words
9) Resource Round-Up
10) The Last Kappa of Old Japan (a cultural story)
11) The story of the peace tree gifted to the United States from Japan after WWII
12) Fairy tales from Japan
13) Sushi play set (with books about sushi)
14) A fairy tale from Japan
15) A book about sight and dharma dolls
16) An exploration of Japanese Origami
17) A book about artist Yayoi Kusama
18) The Friendship Doll Series--dolls exchanged between American and Japanese children before WWII in hopes to bring peace First book and 2nd & 3rd books
19) A fun picture book in English and Japanese
20) Japanese paper craft books
21) Writing a Haiku book (other haiku books: about Earth, first book, origami and haikus)
22) Origami picture book (other origami picture books: Mor-igami and Origami Peace Cranes)
23) A book about a Japanese-American during WWII in an internment camp
Not Pictured: 
24) Bento Box Ideas 
25) Vegetarian Sushi Cookbook 
26) Book Round-Up (mostly for younger kids)
27) Tea Ceremony book and more
28) Japanese Kite, Games, Christmas stories, New Year traditions

More Resources

I asked some fellow bloggers to share their resources as well. Here are the ones who wanted me to share! There are many choices for sushi--to eat or to play.
1) Books about Japan from Growing Book by Book
2) World Cultures for Kids: Kyoto, Japan from Mama Smiles
3) Picture Books About Japan from Mama Smiles
4) Round-Up of Free Japan Presentations for Smart Boards or Power Point from Wise Owl Factory
5) 16 Japanese Folktales for Kids from What We Do All Day
6) Japan Bingo (Free Game) from Wise Owl Factory
7) Exploring Katsushika Hokusai and Block Printing from The Educators' Spin On It
8) DIY Play Sushi from Barley & Birch
9) Sushi Sensory Bin from Ruffles and Rain Boots
10) Build Your Own Sushi Bar from The Educators' Spin On It
11) Making Sushi at Home with Kids from Mama Smiles

This ends our exploration of Japan this month. Please tell me in the comments if you would like me to pick another country to explore next month!