Facts About Japan

   In Japanese, the name “Japan” is Nihon or Nippon, which means “Land of the Rising Sun.” It was once believed that Japan was the first country to see the sun rise in the East in the morning.

   The Japanese eat more fish than any other people in the world, about 17 million tons per year. Japan is the world’s largest importer of seafood, with shrimp comprising about one third of the total, about four million tons a year. More than 20% of Japanese protein is obtained through fish and fish products.

   Over two billion manga, Japanese comic books or graphic novels, are sold in Japan each year.

   Sushi has been around since about the second century A.D. It started as a way to preserve fish in China and eventually made its way to Japan. The method of eating raw fish and rice began in the early 17th century. Sushi does not mean raw fish in Japanese. It actually means rice seasoned with vinegar, sugar, and salt. Raw fish sliced and served alone without rice is called sashimi.

   When Japanese people meet, they traditionally bow instead of shake hands, and the lowest bow shows the deepest respect.

   Sumo wrestling in Japan can be traced back 1,500 years. Wrestlers weigh 300 pounds or more and train in a heya (room, stable) operated by former sumo champions. Younger sumo wrestlers are traditionally required to clean and bathe the veteran wrestlers, including all the hard-to-reach places.

   The Japanese word banzai literally means “10 thousand years” and was traditionally used to wish the emperor a long life. Today, it is closer to a cheer like “Hip Hip Hooray!” Travelers are often given a sendoff at the train station or airport by a group of coworkers shouting, “Banzai!” three times while raising their arms over their heads. This chant is also used at celebrations.

   Japan consists of over 6,800 islands.

   Home to 33 million people, the Tokyo-Yokohama metropolitan area is the largest populated metropolitan region in the world.

   Cherry blossoms (sakura) are Japan’s national flower.

   Japan is the largest automobile producer in the world, and the Japanese company Toyota is the third largest automaker in the world. It was founded by Kiichiro Toyoda who changed the “da” for “ta” because it sounds clearer. Also, written in Katakana script, “Toyota” uses 8 brush strokes, a number considered to be lucky in Japan.

   Mt. Fuji, or Fujisan or Fujiyama, is the tallest mountain in Japan at 12,388 feet (3,776 m). It is considered a sacred mountain to many Japanese. More than one million people climb Mt. Fuji every year during the official climbing season of July and August.

   The Japanese avoid the number four (shi) because it sounds the same as the word for death. Tall buildings do not have a fourth floor. Tea and sake sets are sold with five cups. Three or five is the desirable number of guests in a traditional Japanese tea ceremony. As a rule, odd numbers are preferred over even numbers in Japan.

   Geisha in Japanese means “person of the arts,” and the first geishas were actually men called taikomochi and they had a role similar to Western court jesters.

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