In days of old, The Land of the Rising Sun was mostly famous for things like ninjas, delicious sushi, intricate crafts and structures, and incredible centuries-old tradition. Nowadays, Japan is famous for its incredible technology and forward-thinking. Here are some ingenious ways the Japanese came up with to make life easier — some of them will blow your mind in ways only Japan can.
This Pop-Up Cafe's Robot Waiters Are Controlled By Paralyzed People
How about sipping your morning cappuccino in the 23rd Century? Well, you're in luck! Inspired by anime, Dawn Cafe is a trendy, futuristic pop-up cafe in Tokyo where you'll be served by robots...
The faceless, terrifying, tea-serving Terminators are operated remotely and give jobs to people with spinal cord injuries. Don't worry, not every robot is after your job! Not yet, that is, but give it a few years!
When Bus Drivers Go On Strike, You Can Still Get To Work
Striking bus drivers in Tokyo continue driving their usual routes, and simply allow passengers to travel for free. This way, everyone gets to work on time, and the economy doesn't take a hit.
But does this unusual technique actually work? Why yes, yes it does; the bus company owners soon realized how much money they're losing, and caved in to the bus drivers' demands.
Rather Than Cut Trees Down in Japan, They Relocate Them
Tokyo might be the most urban concrete jungle out there, but it still has plenty of green spaces. When construction workers in most other countries encounter a tree in their way, out come the chainsaws. But not in Japan!
Rather than cut it down, these road builders dug out this tree, bound its roots, and moved it a few hundred yards before building the road. Just don't mention all the trees they cut down to make that mini wooden railway!
Japanese Rice Farmers Plant Colored Rice To Create Art
In a certain part of Japan, rice farmers use their paddies as giant art canvases. But how does so-called Tambo Art take shape? Well, farmers sow different varieties of multicolored rice, then weeks later, the rice plants bloom.
The annual event runs from June until October, and thousands of tourists flock to the village of Inakadate in the Aomori Prefecture where farmers are also artists. Talk about having your rice cake and eating it too!
This Magical Walkway At Moominvalley Park Is Covered By Semi-Transparent Umbrellas
If you go down in the woods today, you're in for a big surprise. Nestled within Japan's Saitama Prefecture lies Moominvalley Park, a theme park dedicated to Finnish childrens' author Tove Jansson's strange cartoon hippo creatures, The Moomins.
Sunlight filters through the tree canopy and is then diffused by these see-through umbrellas, projecting gorgeous pearlescent colors onto the ground as you try to escape the evil Moomintroll!
Penguin Soap Opera In Kyoto Aquarium
Kyoto Aquarium keepers chronicle the love lives of their penguins by obsessively updating a flowchart to keep tabs on all their penguin dramas. Penguin melodramas include serious crushes and heartbreaks but also adultery and egg-stealing!
Heartbreaker Tera has dumped six different males! Someone should give these penguins their own reality TV show. Like a penguin version of The Bachelor. Hey, at least they won't have to borrow a tuxedo for the season finale!
Japanese Rail Workers Created Special Tunnels To Save Turtles
Japanese railway engineers found an ingenious way to stop thousands of turtles from being squashed by trains as they crossed the country's extensive network of rail tracks.
Working with the Suma Aqualife aquarium in Kobe, West Japan Railways installed tunnels along their tracks to help cut down annual turtle fatalities. Or, since they are so closely related to tortoises, to make sure they are HARE today, not gone tomorrow!
Call The Other Side On This Magic Phone Booth
On a hill overlooking the ocean in Otsuchi lies the “Telephone of the Wind". But, rather strangely, this phone line isn't connected to a phone network.
Tragically, many townsfolk died in the 2011 earthquake and tsunami so someone came up with the idea of a way grieving people could "call" friends and relatives they lost in the natural disaster. We honestly can't decide if this is more tragic or beautiful.
This Bonsai Tree Has Two Incredible Claims To Fame
Can you believe this bonsai tree is 400-years-old? It was planted back in 1625 during the Tokugawa Shogunate. Until fairly recently, it was owned by Japan's most-revered bonsai growing family, until they gave it to the USA as a peace gift.
But perhaps the most amazing thing about this tiny tree is that it somehow managed to survive the world's first atomic bomb attack when the Little Boy nuclear bomb was dropped on Hiroshima on August 6th, 1945.
Space Saving Environmental Flush
Japan is definitely more environmentally friendly than most other countries. So much so that if you're ever lucky enough to visit, you will find that many wash sinks actually sit on top of Japanese toilets, above the cistern.
This space-saving device means that when you wash your hands after you've finished doing your business, the water is reused for the next flush. It saves Japan millions of liters of water every year. Obvious yet genius.
Japanese Hospitals Feed You Like a King
If you've ever been laid up in the hospital, you'll know that most hospital food is notoriously awful. If you haven't had the pleasure, just imagine school meals, but ten times worse.
But Japan's hospitals serve their patients a veritable feast compared to the rest of the world. This means your visiting relatives don't have to sneak in Big Macs or burritos from across the road!
Japan Produces Lumber Without Chopping Down Trees
The Japanese are so clever, they've even found a way of producing lumber without chopping down and killing trees. This special technique harvests straight logs without having to cut down the entire tree.
Shoots from the base of the tree are pruned so that the trunk stays straight in an ancient Japanese pruning method called Daisugi––which roughly translates as "platform cedar"––and dates back to the 14th century.
Japan Repairs A Sinkhole In Fukuoka City In Ultra Quick Time
When a giant sinkhole appeared in Fukuoka City's financial district in November 2016, people assumed it was caused by a natural disaster. But the giant hole was caused by nearby underground construction. So how long do you think it took to repair?
A month? Three months? Six? How about two days! An army of construction workers quickly moved in and worked round the clock to remedy the situation. Unfortunately, three weeks later, the sinkhole reappeared. Wonder how long it took them to fix it then!
The Oldest Koi Fish Ever Recorded
This koi fish was named Hanako, which translates to "Flower Girl". She was born in Japan in the year 1751 and died in 1977, making her 226 years old when she died. Hanako was the oldest koi fish ever recorded.
Some people thought there was something fishy about these longevity claims, but in 1966 and 1974, two teams of biologists studied the growth rings from her scales and reported that Hanako was indeed 215 and then 223 years old.
Meet This Flute-Playing Kyoto Man And His Dog
Wander the streets of Kyoto, and you might bump into this old dude and his dog. First, you'll hear his enchanting flute music. Next, you'll see him dressed in traditional Japanese costume.
But the best part is his samurai sword-carrying dog who provides backing vocals and occasionally guests on drums. The fluting busker flaunts his skills every day and even sells CDs of his haunting flute music for 2,000 Yen, or $18.
Japanese People Are Friendly, Helpful and Compassionate
Again in Kyoto, while waiting at Kyoto's station, this guy was pretty bored as he waited for his train. Until, that is, this friendly local asked him if he would like to pass the time by playing a two-player Game Boy game with him.
If that happened in New York or London; most locals would reply: "Here; take my phone, take my wallet, please don't hurt me, I have a wife and children!" On second thought, this guy could be a serial killer. Or just very into Game Boys!
When Is A Train Stop Not A Train Stop?
This train stop in the middle of Japan's spectacular countryside is possibly the only one of its kind in the world. With no way in or out, it's only accessible by train.
This stop's sole purpose is so passengers can get off the train in the middle of a journey to rest and admire the views of the river and surrounding valley. How zen is that?
Train Seats Face The Windows So Passengers Can View The Scenery
Staying with trains, another area Japan famously excels at. On certain rail routes, some of the seats face the windows so passengers can take in the country's magnificent scenery as it zooms past at 200 miles per hour.
The trains––which run mostly in the fall so you can appreciate the red and golden leaves falling from the autumn trees––also feature extra-large windows so passengers can truly appreciate nature as it whizzes by.
Eating Alone In Japan Is Taken Literally
Great news if you're an introvert. Instead of being seated at a table of twenty drunk, rowdy strangers, Japan has restaurants where you can sit on your own, with your back to the rest of the restaurant, avoiding eye contact with everyone!
A few minutes after you've ordered, a little window pops open and a pair of anonymous chef's hands deliver your food. You don't even have to speak to a waiter. Then it's back to your Tokyo cubicle hotel bed, all alone!
Japan's Airport Baggage Handlers Organize Your Luggage By Color
You know how it is. after a long-haul, red-eye flight, you stand in line for three months waiting for your black suitcase to appear on the conveyor belt. You're relieved when the machine finally whirs into action, but then the worst thing imaginable happens.
As you make a bee-line for any similar colored case, you're disappointed to realize it's not your suitcase. No such problems in Japan; baggage handlers organize passenger's bags by color so you can quickly identify your case, thus alleviating congestion.
Chewing Gum Comes With A Stack Of Paper For Easy Disposal
If you love masticating in public, you'll be glad to hear chewing gum is widely available in Japan, unlike Singapore, where it's illegal to import. But when you buy a pack of Japanese gum, it comes with a tiny wad of Post-It-like papers.
This simple solution helps keep the whole country clean and saves janitors and street sweepers from scraping hardened, sticky gum from the sidewalks and the underside of schoolchildrens' desks.
Even When The Streets Are Flooded, They Are Cleaner Than The Rest Of The World
One of the few downsides to living in Japan is the monsoons, earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanic eruptions, and Godzilla destroying Tokyo every few years! Flooding is common, but do you notice anything special about this picture?
If you're thinking "Hey! Where's all the trash and debris?" you'd be right. Litterbugs are handed large fines, but the problem is also nipped in the bud as Japanese people don't walk and eat and take their trash home with them.
Japan Uses Sprinklers To Stops Roads From Freezing Over
In addition to monsoon flooding, the north of Japan can get incredibly cold and receives a lot of snow. So, how do they combat roads freezing over? Some chilly areas are equipped with sprinkler systems to spray potentially hazardous icy roads with saltwater.
In Tsunan, they spray snow with mild underground water. In other regions, instead of snowplows, heated roads melt snow as it makes contact with the ground! The Japanese really do have an answer for everything.
Japanese Soccer World Cup Fans Stun The Rest Of The World
Despite watching their men's team lose 2-1 to the Ivory Coast, Japanese soccer fans at Brazil's 2014 World Cup stayed behind after the match to help clean up! Yep, Blue Samurais' fans armed themselves with black trash bags, and simply went for it.
The army of litter pickers patrolled their section of the stadium to collect their litter. These actions shocked soccer fans from other countries but collecting your trash after sporting events is customary in Japan. Because, of course, it is!
Japan Has Women-Only Train Carriages
In Japan, women can feel safe by traveling on trains with cars for women only. Unfortunately, these female-only carriages are a necessary evil because public groping on crowded trains is a huge problem.
While this disgusting act occurs all over the world, it is particularly prevalent in Japan, where it is known as "chikan" Yet, surprisingly, gender-segregated carriages aren't a new invention. They were first used over one hundred years ago in 1912.
The Japanese Go The Extra Mile
As well as being shy, did you know Japanese people are also adorably sweet? This person's product arrived from Japan with a handwritten note from the seller. Now, you may be thinking: "There's nothing unusual about that."
And you'd be right. It happens all the time in every country. But when was the last time your special thank you message came complete with a handmade origami swan to spread Japanese culture and make your day?
The Famous Japanese Bullet Train Is An Incredibly Smooth Ride
The Japanese understand that time is money! That's why the Shinkansen railways network carries businesspeople and commuters to and from work at 200 mph (320 km/h). Its top speed was recorded at a staggering 275 mph (443 km/h).
Even at these breakneck speeds, the bullet train doesn't clink, clunk and screech and throw you around the car. Instead, it runs so smoothly, you can balance a coin on its edge. Perfect for meditating as you whizz past snow-capped Mount Fiji.
Train Station Attendants Literally Pop Up To Rush To Your Aid
Whether you're from another city or another country, buying train tickets at a machine can be a pain in the butt. Even locals get confused sometimes, but don't worry––in Japan, help is never far away.
Station attendants pop out of a little window next to the machine to help guide you through your purchase. They might make you jump out of your skin the first time, but really they're just helpful Japanese cuckoo clocks!
The Hospital Food Is So Good
As we've already mentioned, the food in hospitals is great. While you're nursing your broken ankles from falling down giant sinkholes, you will be fed like a king, or, in this case, an Emperor.
Instead of a moldy old sandwich and a carton of sugary orange drink, you'll be delivered a three-course meal featuring soup, salad, a main meal, dessert, and drinks to wash it all down. And all that healthy food will help you recover more quickly.
Japanese Elevators Feature A Button For Pets
Of course, just like us, you were hoping for a button low down on the elevator for dogs to press. While we'd love that to be true, unfortunately, the pet button actually performs another function entirely.
The pet button is for humans who ride the elevator with a pet. After pushing the button, a HEPA filter purifies the air and triggers a silent alarm to alert those with pet allergies to avoid using the elevator until the air is clean.
Watermelons Are Square For Easy Storing Stacking
If you ask for watermelon and it happens to be square, don't worry, it's not some physics-defying alien fruit. Unusually shaped fruit is commonplace in Japan.
Square fruit saves space and can be piled close and high. Have you ever tried to stack regular basketball-sized and shaped watermelons into a pyramid? Not easy, is it?
Drainage Canals Are So Clean, Koi Carp Live In Them
We know Japan is clean, but in the city of Shimabara on Kyushu Island, the drainage canals are so clean, hundreds of koi carp happily live in them and go about their business.
If the fish didn't do their business in the water, you could drink it. It all began in the 1970s when authorities decided to release the colorful fish into the clean, 100-meter-long waterway, where they have thrived.
Japan Has Its Own Russian Doll Volcano
Outside Tokyo, there lies an isolated village called Aogashima that sits slap bang in the middle of a volcano. That's not so special, plenty of countries have villages that sit within volcano's caldera.
But hold your horses. Aogashima is extra special because it has another mini volcano inside it like a set of explosive Russian Dolls. It's a bit like when you buy a pepper and there's a baby pepper growing inside it, only much more fiery!
Newspaper Adverts For Movies Are Printed On Both Sides Of The Page
Some Japanese newspapers run adverts for films printed on both sides of the paper. The purpose here is twofold. First, you get two movie posters for the price of one.
But hold the page up to the light, et voila! You have a double-side film poster featuring your favorite character and a ghostly version of another character from the other side of the page!
When Flights Are Delayed, Airport Staff Bow To Affected Passengers
When flights are delayed in other countries, you generally receive a snotty message via loudspeakers. If you're very lucky, your airline might give you a sandwich by way of an apology.
In Japan, the airport staff form a line and bow to say sorry for the inconvenience. This act of compassion may not get you to your destination, but it definitely makes you feel a little better about being late.
The Opposite Of An Energy Drink, Japan Has Relaxation Drinks
Many entries on our list are down to simple common sense, but Zen Buddhism also explains much of the nation's laid-back, calm composure. As the rest of the world rushes from A to B, Japanese people quietly mediate.
And while you can buy energy drinks, Japan is likely the only country where you can also buy a relaxing drink. We wonder what the tagline is. Maybe instead of "Red Bull gives you wings", it's "Chill Out gives you ZZZZZZ."
The Yamakura Dam Reservoir Features A Floating Solar Power Plant
In the Chiba Prefecture, sits the Yamakura Dam. And on the Yamakura Dam sits Japan's largest floating solar-powered power station. It's a great use of the giant waterway. Or at least it used to be.
In September 2019, 200kph Typhoon Faxai swept through the Chiba province. The massive hurricane triggered a series of events that resulted in 70% of the dam's solar plant being destroyed and catching fire.
Pizza Boxes In Japan Feature A Handy Handle
We'd love to start this entry by asking, "How many times have you wished for a handle on your pizza box?" But the crazy thing is, you probably would never have even thought of the idea without this photograph!
The fact that we've never considered pizza handles demonstrates just how forward-thinking this country is. Forget nuclear fusion or artificial intelligence, we want handles on our pizzas! We want them here, and we want them now!
Online Beauty Store Owner Also Goes The Extra Mile
This guy must have been reduced to tears when the eye drops he bought from Japan were delayed due to the Coronavirus pandemic. But his eyes soon dried up when they finally arrived.
The store owner had included a handwritten thank you note in English. But that's not all, he also included his favorite tea and some little Japanese candies. What a nice man!
A Museum In Japan That Has Rocks That Look Like Faces
In no other country in the world would you find a museum featuring rocks that look like faces. The peculiar museum is in Chichibu, Japan, two hours northwest of Tokyo.
It's called the Chinsekikan, or Hall of Curious Rocks in English and it houses over 1,700 rocks that resemble human faces. If you look closely, you can see our high school science teacher. Third row down, fourth from the left. Mr. Atkinson is that you?
Hiroshima, Then and Hiroshima Now
As you no doubt already know, the city of Hiroshima was wiped off the face of the earth when the first nuclear attack took place in 1945. But just one lifetime later, look at the city thrive!
Fact of the day: Did you know that scientists cannot use carbon dating to date anything after 1945? Since humankind detonated the first nuclear bombs, there are too many “artificial” radiocarbons in the atmosphere to get carbon dating results.
If You Thought Japanese Hospital Food Was Good, Check Out Airline Food
You'd be forgiven for thinking this is the food you get served on a Business Class flight. It's not! This is the type of fare you can expect when you fly Economy Class in Japan.
You get a chicken katsu curry with rice and veggies, a potato salad, edamame beans, a mini-dessert, and a Kirin beer. Plus, you get real knives and forks, not those useless plastic abominations.
Kintai-Kyō Arch Bridge, In The City Of Iwakuni
In the Yamaguchi Prefecture sits the gorgeous Kintai-Kyō Bridge. Featuring five arches over the Nishiki River, it stands at the foot of Mount Yokohama, which is topped by Howl's Moving Castle. Kidding! It's Iwakuni Castle.
The castle was built in 1601 and overlooked a series of bridges. Unfortunately, they were all destroyed by flooding before the Kintai bridge was completed in 1673. Originally thought to be indestructible, it's been rebuilt several times, most recently after the typhoon of 1951.
Don't Have Room For A FIsh Tank? Try These Fish Socks!
These fishy socks are simply adorable. Just like the mittens you used to wear as a kid, they feature a separate big toe so you can flap the mouth and make your koi carp socks talk to each other.
They're available in a variety of colors and also come with another special hidden feature: If your feet smell, you can always say the stink is coming from the fish, not you!
The Solar Ark Cultivates A Better Understanding Of Renewable Energy
Nestled in the geographical center of Japan in Anpachi, Gifu Prefecture, the colossal Solar Ark towers 37 meters tall and 315 meters wide, meaning it's one of the largest solar buildings in the world.
The ark-shaped edifice comprises 5,046 solar panels, which produce 530,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity every year. Built by Sanyo to cultivate a better appreciation of solar power, you can even visit the Museum of Solar Energy inside the Solar Ark.
Check Out This Late-Night DIY Vending Machine
It's 3 am, and you run out of screws for the DIY project you started at midnight. In any normal country, you'd call it a night and go to the hardware store in the morning.
But not in Japan! Here, you simply walk to your nearest 24hr DIY vending machine, pop in a few hundred Yen and––hey presto––it's back to work with almost no interruption!
Hungry? Try Out This Driverless Roving KFC
You know how it is. You've been on your feet all day wandering Japan's beautiful cherry blossom. The only time you sat down was during an ancient tea ceremony, and you could eat a few dozen burgers. Well, you're in luck!
There's no need to go hunting for a KFC, McDonald's, or Burger King because Colonel Sanders will come to you in this driverless roving fast food truck. Genius!
Safely Leave Your Luggage When You Visit The Restroom
Ah, there's your black suitcase! Yet another genius idea from The Land of the Rising Sun. We've all had to struggle to take our suitcases into the cubicle when visiting the restroom while traveling.
But in Japan, they have a solution to every little problem. This anti-theft system can be found at airports and train stations. Lock up your luggage, do your business and your bag is there, waiting for you. Simple!
Check Out This Mini Driveway/Bridge In Kyoto
What do you do if you can't park on the street and don't have the room for a garage or carport? Why, you build a mini bridge/driveway for your tiny car over the stream next to your house, of course!
Okay, you'd spend half your woken life praying an earthquake tremor doesn't send your car cascading into the stream, but it's better than getting parking tickets every day.
Are We Making Ourselves Clear?
Remember back in the early 1990s when Coca-Cola introduced Tab Clear? Their ill-fated clear cola drink was universally hated and quickly withdrawn from shelves. But, guess what.
In Japan, you can buy Coca-Cola Clear. It is lemon-flavored to compensate for the missing caramel, which usually gives Coke its dark color. So, there we have it, folks; we hope it's more CLEAR that Japan really is Earth's most unique and imaginative country.