Have you tried soy sauce-flavored Kit Kats or seen a vending machine with both hot AND cold drinks? Turns out, these “unusual things” are common in Japan! Here’s another one: a hugely popular Christmas tradition is eating KFC! That’s right. Every year since around the mid-70s, KFC has promoted their fried chicken as a Christmas meal, complete with life-sized statues of Colonel Sanders dressed as Santa to greet locals and tourists all over Japan. It’s a thing, and only in Japan!
Here are 8 more unusual things that are totally common in Japan:
1. Umbrella Lockers
Umbrellas are as common in Japan as anywhere else, possibly even more so. You can find umbrellas on the cheap very easily, and there’s always a “shared” space to stash them as you enter different establishments. The downside to that is, while the Japanese are not at all known for helping themselves to others’ belongings, so many of these cheap umbrellas look the same that you shouldn’t be surprised if yours ends up missing when you return for it. But if you’ve spent a little extra money on a really cool looking, top-of-the-line model (which you’ll find tons of there!), and would rather not lose it, no worries! Many hotels, government offices, sports centers, and restaurants provide lockers for your favorite umbrella. Just don’t forget your locker number or key!
2. Personal Stamps Instead Of Signatures
Instead of using a pen to sign your name to a document as you’d normally do on a day-to-day basis, the Japanese use a personalized Hanko stamp. Car purchases, leases, contracts, applications, etc., all very commonly “signed” by using this unique method instead of a hand-written signature. This seems unusual, but is actually pretty cool – especially if your handwriting looks like mine!
3. Bullet Train Sushi – Only In Japan!
You’ve probably heard of conveyor belt sushi in Japan. Well, there’s a company called Uobei that decided to break away from that standard belt-delivery method and deliver your sushi at top speeds directly to your table by miniature bullet train, after you’ve ordered electronically via the tablet located at your table. This is even more fun than the usual loop of plates going round and round on a belt while you sit at a counter! And if you’re curious about other foods you should try in Japan that aren’t sushi, check out this post.
4. Dogs In Strollers (Instead of Children)
Dogs now outnumber children aged 10 and below in Japan, many of these dog owners seem to have a different approach to “walking” them. Actually, there’s not much walking involved for the dogs themselves. It’s very common in Japan for pets to be carted around in prams and carts. We’re not gonna lie – we think it’s pretty damn cute!
5. Automated Car Parking – Totally Common In Japan
Japan has had some of the first automated rotary parking systems in the world. Marvels of engineering, these parking facilities allow multiple cars to be parked in a small area that would otherwise only hold a few cars. The use of space is extremely more practical, but even better is that the act of parking your car is also much easier. There are different iterations, but generally you drive up and “it” takes the car away and parks it for you. Forget driving around a crowded lot or structure looking for your own space. Unusual everywhere else, but common in Japan!
6. Vending Machines With Both Hot AND Cold Drinks
Vending machines in Japan are the best. Especially during the colder months of the year, when you can find both hot and cold drinks in the same machine! Imagine a can of hot coffee right next to a bottle of green tea. The hot drinks are indicated by red labels and the cold, by blue labels. Unusual, but totally common in Japan. Oh, by the way – hot coffee in a can… you’re welcome! This was one of my (Stephen’s) biggest OMGs during my first trip to Japan.
7. Few Public Trash Cans – Common In Japan
And ironically, practically no litter either! From what we understand, it’s customary to bring your own trash home with you to dispose of it there. We’re not saying there are zero public trash cans, but good luck finding one simply walking down a street. You’ll commonly find them in convenient stores, where many people stop to eat the foods they buy, and dispose of their trash there. Which probably explains why you’ll see few people walking around the streets while eating. Ironically, litter is as scarce as trash cans. You might see some, but overall very little. It’s quite remarkable, and admirable!
8. Unique And Unusual Kit Kat Flavors
Oh yeah. This is absolutely one of those unusual things that is totally common in Japan! If you want something cool and unique to bring back home to your friends and family from Japan, this will be a home run! Flavors like green tea, soy sauce, strawberry, edamame, wasabi, Tokyo banana, and dozens of others are in rotation, with some being more limited and seasonal than others. It’s so much fun to give these as gifts and watch people’s expressions as they look at the packaging in disbelief and taste them for the first time.
There’s no question that Japan is one of the most creative and innovative societies in the world. This list hardly scratches the surface, as there are so many more things we probably don’t even know about. So if you know of more unusual things that are totally common in Japan, hit us up and let us know. We’d love to hear from you, and we always love learning more cool things about Japan! These unique aspects of the Japanese culture are what make it one of our favorite countries to visit. And hey, if you’re headed to Tokyo and looking for some tips on what to do and where to go, check out our Perfect 7 Day Tokyo Itinerary post!