From wacky vending machines to friendly robots to the toilets beyond your wildest dreams, Japan really has it all. The quirks that Japan has to offer are incredibly innovative, but most of all, they’re adorable AF. Here are some uniquely Japanese things so precious you may pass out.
1. Capsule Hotels
Capsule hotels are one of Japan’s best known and unique types of lodging. Capsule hotels offer their guests private enclosed beds and basic amenities for less than regular or business hotels. They usually charge between 3,000 and 4,000 yen per night. Recently, a few premium and themed capsule hotels have opened around Tokyo, Kyoto, and Osaka with slightly higher prices. Capsule hotels are also popular with foreign travelers and are increasingly offering English websites and booking systems. The standard capsule is a fiberglass unit built around a single size futon mattress, measuring roughly 1.2 meters wide, two meters long and one meter high. They are usually stacked two units high and lined up side by side along the corridor. Sheets, blankets and pillows are provided, and each capsule also comes outfitted with a light, alarm clock, TV and radio unit built in.
2. Machine-operated multistory parking space
Japan is a very populous and yet small country, so at one point the Japanese began to stretch above ground level to find new spaces to meet their needs. This can be seen in massive skyscrapers as well as in parking systems which in Japan tend to be as automated and space-saving as possible. From underground bicycle parking to towers that rotate your car to its highest point, Japanese parking systems are certainly not only great for countries with a small space. Some popular parking lots in Tokyo cost 50,000 yen per month. There are three types depending on the position at which the cars enters the system: top loading, middle loading and bottom loading. The top loading and the middle loading systems are systems that give consideration to the effective use of the underground.
Otooshi is a small dish, usually a snack, that is brought to izakaya restaurants after the customer’s order is taken to prepare them until their meal arrives. Since it comes out without being ordered, it might surprise some people. It is a custom that began out of respect for the customer. Orders at izakaya usually start with drinks, and drinking without something to snack on seems dull, so it’s a way for the establishment to make its customers feel more welcome. Otoshi means “to pass”, and is somewhat reflective of a small bite to occupy the time between placing the order and when the food arrives. They range from the delicious, to the weird, to the downright nasty. They are not the typical appetizer, and are an extremely acquired taste to say the least.
4. Adult Arcade Wonderland
An adult film company in Japan has opened a five-story ‘adults only’ theme park in Tokyo’s red-light district, where guests are served by porn stars. The theme park was designed by Japanese adult film producer Soft on Demand (SOD) called SOD Land, who dubbed it the “adult theme park”. The park sells alcohol, food, and adult videos, and also gives visitors the chance to chat with porn performers for an entrance fee of 500 yen (around $ 5). Additionally, visitors will have to pay for any food and drink they order while at the theme park. Interestingly, each floor has a different theme, the basement will be the “Newcomer Adult Film Actress Floor”, where visitors will be served by new and future porn stars. Another floor allows guests to talk and mingle with more well-known adult movie stars, while other floors include a silent bar, a space that offers ‘erotic massages’.
Purikura is the abbreviation of “purinto kurabu”. The term is actually a trademark for photo booths, as well as the stamp-sized images themselves. Most of the images are actually used as stickers and are very popular, especially with Japanese teenage girls. Purikura photo booths are usually suitable for two people, but some are large enough to hold five or six people. These aren’t just your regular photo booths – music is often played inside the machines, and some Purikura locations have costumes or props for hire. Once the photos are taken, the photos can be edited and decorated before printing on a small self-adhesive photo paper. Purikura machines can be found all over Japan. One of the most popular arcades is the “Purikura no Mecca” in Shibuya, Tokyo, but basically every Game Center in Japan will include at least one section of the colorful Purikura machines.
6. Wet towels
An oshibori, or hot towel in English, is a wet towel offered to customers in places such as restaurants or bars, and used to wash their hands before eating. In Japan, October 29 has been oshibori day since 2004. These aren’t just little finger napkins placed neatly next to your plate to easily wipe stray food from hands and fingers … these Oshibori are almost like an appetizer for the meal itself. You walk into a restaurant, you settle in with water or tea and a wet Oshibori towel. Some places will have special towels that smell of herbs, they can be warm in the winter and cool in the summer and guess what, they are NEVER stained. Unwrap the small white towel, use it carefully to dry your hands and appropriately even allow the hot or cold towel to be placed against your eyes or temple to cool it down before eating.
7. Rice patty art
The art of the paddy field began in 1993 when purple and yellow rice plants were used to make a picture of Mt. Iwaki with letters on the rice fields. The main purpose of the establishment was to take advantage of the tradition of manual labor in rice growing to give people the opportunity to learn more about rice growing and agriculture. Rice field art uses various colorful rice plants as a painting on a rice field canvas. The massive images are painstakingly crafted using perspective drawing methods to make them look best when viewed from the viewing platform. Art has captured the attention of national and international media because of its uniqueness. Each year, more than 100,000 visitors from Japan and abroad come to see the fields, including the Emperor and Empress of Japan in September 2014.
8. Square watermelons
Japan is well known for being a country that thinks innovative in everything from smart phones to toilet paper. Japan’s latest craze is for its luxury, and its new exotic watermelons packaged in wooden boxes are sold in fruit parlors decorated to look like expensive jewelry stores from the outside. Unfortunately, square watermelons are more decorative than they taste. Melons are harvested before they are ripe, making them practically inedible. In Japan, it is customary to give high-end fruit as a gift, so these watermelons make great gifts for special occasions.
The Japanese culture is incredibly intriguing, and we say that knowing with absolute confidence that anyone who has been there will say that’s an understatement. Of course, the majority of folks would’ve taken in the sights and sounds of somewhere like Tokyo, but the truth is that there’s so much more to the country than just the capital.