40+ Peculiar Things That One Will Only See In Japan

By Luisa K May 1, 2024

This article was originally published on travelerdoor

It’s always interesting to see how different countries have distinct customs and cultures. Sometimes you can find many similarities between your home countries and other countries you might have visited or are interested in. Then there are others that seem as though they are on a completely unfamiliar planet. Every aspect of their daily lives is wildly different from anything we know or have ever seen before, and this, as you will probably find, is how we’d label Japan. Japan is a fascinating country with so many unusual and interesting customs that we’ve never come across anywhere else. As you are about to find out, some things are a little strange and would never happen in our home countries, whereas other mannerisms are sweet and kind. You’ll be amazed at just how much we can learn from the Japanese way of life and why we should all be more like Japan!

Fidget Spinner Costumes

We all know what a fidget spinner is, right?! But would you dress up as one? Probably not, but in Japan, it is absolutely acceptable to dress up as a random object if you run out of fancy costume ideas.

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Dressing up in fancy dress costumes, also known as cosplay, is very popular in Japan. Typically, the Japanese love to dress up as their favorite anime characters, but the trend quickly grew and enabled people to dress up as their favorite movie, video game, or other fictional characters.

A Walking Sausage Baby at the Supermarket

What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever seen at your local supermarket in your home country? You might see a new brand handing out tasters or people giving out discount coupons. If things are really lively, you might even witness an embarrassed customer accidentally knock dozens of jars off a shelf!

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What you are probably less likely to see is a grown adult dressed as a walking sausage baby walking about the store, unless, of course, you happen to be in Japan. The funniest thing about this photo is that if you look around, nobody seems surprised in the least to see the sausage baby in the middle of their local supermarket!

Neatly Orderly Lines at Train Stations

If you’ve ever been to a train station and lined up ready to board the train, you will know that it can be a bit chaotic. There are crowds of people, some rushing, pushing and shoving, waiting to get on the train when it arrives on the platform because nobody wants to miss it.

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Yet, in Japan, people line up in a neat and orderly queue! It’s nice to see Japan’s citizens being so polite and orderly, but what happens when the train arrives? Do people get on one by one, and do the train doors stay open long enough so that everyone can get on in time?! The answer is apparently a resounding, yes!

Pig Mopeds?!

Seeing someone riding around town on a moped is not anything particularly unusual or different. However, riding around on a moped with a pig face on it isn’t something we see every day in countries other than Japan. But as we have discovered, it is quite a normal sight there!

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Imagine seeing someone driving a moped that looks like a pig around your town. It would certainly strike up a few odd stares from onlookers. Yet, in Japan, people on the streets wouldn’t give it a second glance. You have to admire their open-mindedness!

Napping on the Job

We can’t imagine our bosses’ reaction if we were caught fast asleep at our desks while at work?! In most parts of the world, it just isn’t deemed acceptable to nap at our desks, no matter how tired we are!

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This is another interesting thing about Japan. Bosses in Japan don’t mind if their employees fall asleep on the job. The Japanese are very motivated people who love to work hard, so if an employee is caught napping while at work, it just shows that they are exhausted from their efforts.

Guards on the Escalators

Most of us use escalators without giving them a second thought, and in a situation where the escalator doesn’t happen to be working, the staff at the mall, airport, or business center will just put a sign up to inform visitors that the escalator is not in use.

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In Japan, they actually hire a guard to do the job of the sign instead. When somebody approaches the stairs, the guard will inform them that it is not working and, therefore, they must take the elevator or regular stairs.

Grown People Dressed as Anime Characters

You don’t have to be a gamer or an anime addict to know that the Japanese love anime! Plenty of people worldwide love anime and fancy dress just as much as they do in Japan, although they aren’t interests that occupy an entire nation in the way that it does in Japan!

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In other countries, dressing up in costume is usually reserved for parties and special occasions. However, it is completely normal in Japan to see grown adults dressed as anime characters out and about daily while getting on with their usual activities!

Robocop on Guitar

There really is nowhere else like Japan on this planet! No matter whether you’re walking the streets, sitting on a bus or train, or in a busy indoor area, such as a mall, you never know just what you will see while out and about!

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This is a good example of how wonderfully different life in Japan can be. Two men, dressed as Robocop characters, playing guitar and having a great time. We’re not sure whether this was a random event or if it was some kind of advertising or PR event, but it sure looks fun either way!

Ripped Teletubbies

If you were an adult when the Teletubbies first came on to television, then this might be comical. If you were a child of the noughties who watched the Teletubbies then this could potentially ruin your childhood! It’s the Teletubbies like you’ve never seen them before!

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Teletubbies aired between 1997 and 2001. It was a strange children’s TV program, consisting of four round-bellied characters. If you haven’t watched it, don’t bother! But it seems to be somewhat popular in Japan, as these men have dressed up as Teletubbies characters as part of a bodybuilding contest!

Hello Kitty is Big in Japan!

Don’t get us wrong; we all like Hello Kitty, and we can appreciate that it is popular all over the world. Yet, Japan has taken their love of Hello Kitty to new heights. They are absolutely obsessed with absolutely anything related to Hello Kitty!

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It’s not just kids; it is adults too. Actually, it’s mostly adults! So when this person got the chance to dress up in costume, they combined two of their favorite fictional characters – Hello Kitty and Darth Vader. Although the costume is quite creepy, it really shows off how creative the Japanese are!

You Get What You Order!

How many times have you ordered something off a menu because you loved the look of it in the picture on the menu, only to then be disappointed when it arrived? This is a common occurrence because nothing is ever as good in real life as it looks on the menu!

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But in Japan, you get what you order! If something looks delicious and tasty on the menu, then that’s how it will look in real life. Take this Starbucks American Cherry Pie, for example – it’s identical to the picture on the board!

Costco Like You’ve Never Seen It Before

Costco is an international store. While its brand might be consistent in terms of the products it sells and the way the store looks on the inside and outside, the atmosphere among customers is completely different in this Japanese Costco!

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Costco is a great store, but it can be hectic and disorderly at times, especially during busy hours. You can’t imagine seeing this type of organization when shoppers stock to eat at the Costco cafe. Notice how neat and tidy those shopping carts are!

Hospital Food Rivals Fine Dining

For those of us in the western world, we can’t complain about our health care systems; after all, they do a great job! However, if we had one complaint, it would be the hospital food. As if being admitted to hospital wasn’t depressing enough, the food served is almost like a punishment!

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This is a photo of hospital food in Japan, and what can we say? Not only is it impressive for hospital food, we think that most of us can agree that we’d be happy to pay for food that looks that good in a restaurant!

Strange Objects in Your Rear View Mirror

With Japan’s reputation for dressing up in fancy dress costumes for no reason at all, as well as their love for anime and comic-style vehicles, it is safe to say that you never know just what you’ll see in your rearview mirror when you’re driving around the country!

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Take this shot, for example. Can you imagine what your first thoughts would be when looking up into your rearview mirror whilst driving, only to see this image in the reflection!? It would frighten some, entertain others, and shock most! It’s definitely a view you wouldn’t see in most countries!

Lost Property Shock!

Have you ever left your belongings somewhere in a public area by mistake and then felt that sinking feeling in your stomach when you realized what you’ve done?! You might frantically run back and retrace your steps, but deep down, you know that somebody has already taken your belongings!

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When a visitor to Japan accidentally left their shopping bags on the streets of Osaka, they did not expect to find them in the same spot when they returned to look for them. Yet, to their surprise, somebody had picked up their bags and moved them next to a tree, completely untouched!

Kids Clean Their Own School

You might remember learning the “Clean Up” song at school. It’s a song that most of us know, and it goes: “Clean up, clean up, everybody, everywhere. Clean up, clean up, everybody, do your share.” But whereas most of us only sang the song at school, Japanese school kids take the message to another level.

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The majority of Japanese schools don’t have their own janitors and cleaning assistants, so the children do the job instead. Cleaning their own school is a way of expressing gratitude to their school and teachers and a way of learning to work productively as a team!

A KFC Christmas Dinner

In countries like the USA and the UK, people are expected to make and eat their national Christmas dinner. It’s actually something that is taken quite seriously. If people are unable to eat a proper Turkey dinner for Christmas with all the trimmings, they can become very upset!

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In many countries in the western world, Christmas just isn’t Christmas without a Turkey, potatoes, and all the seasonal Christmas veggies. However, in Japan, it’s perfectly acceptable to enjoy a KFC bucket as your Christmas meal! Do you know anyone who would be happy with that in the US?

Super Organized

Have you ever seen such organization and good manners in a busy public area? Despite the fact that the “up” side of the stairs is bustling, nobody has stepped out of line and used the empty “down” set of stairs to save time.

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The Japanese love organization and have a lot of respect for good manners and societal customs. There is no pushing and shoving. People are patient; they take their time and are considerate to those around them. We can’t imagine seeing this kind of organization and patience at home!

Sorry Like You Mean It

Don’t worry; we’re not expecting you to read and understand the note that was left in this bike basket. The owner of this bicycle came back to find that somebody had left this note and the equivalent of $10 in his basket.

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The note read: “I accidentally knocked over your bike and broke your bell – I’m sorry. Here is 1,000 Japanese Yen to buy a new one.” It’s unlikely that you’d get this treatment at home! This is a very sincere apology!

Footbaths on Trains

No matter whether or not you’ve ever taken a footbath before is one question but have you ever had the opportunity to take a footbath on a moving train? What’s more, is would you be interested in having a quick foot soak during your journey?

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It’s a weird one, admittedly. Japan offers passengers the opportunity to take a quick footbath so that you can relax during your train trip. It’s a great idea, but we’re not sure how often this system is cleaned between uses.

A Lego Tree

At first glance, this tree looks like a pretty pink cherry blossom in full bloom, like the kind you’d see during springtime. However, as you get up close to it, you’ll find that the tree is actually made out of Lego and isn’t at all real.

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It’s one of the impressive attractions found at Legoland Japan and it even won a Guinness World Record for being the largest cherry blossom tree made from Lego blocks. The tree comes complete with lit lanterns, which are illuminated during the evening for late-night visitors.

The Food Samples are Plastic

Food styling is a real art, and there are so many secrets behind the food that we see on cooking segments on television or in photos. For one, whole chickens are not usually cooked thoroughly if they’re for display purposes only. They are often just painted brown instead of actually being cooked to stay looking plump and juicy.

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There’s a lot of wastage when it comes to food samples or any dishes that are laid out on display, so it’s nice to see how the Japanese have thought of a way around this issue. Instead of using real food and leaving it to go to waste, they have false plastic samples made up to look like the food they are promoting. Just don’t take a bite out of one of these dishes!

Luggage Arranged by Color

If it hasn’t yet sunk in how much Japanese people love order, then this picture will give you a good idea! The staff at Japanese airports like to order passengers’ suitcases by color before they are loaded on to the conveyor belt.

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Not only is the organization highly impressive here, but it also shows the airport staff treating the luggage with care. Rather than rushing or throwing the luggage around without any care, the staff handles other people’s belongings with care and respect.

Japan’s Trains Offer Something for Kids

Train travel in most countries is a cheap and convenient option, but it is by no means entertaining, and they certainly don’t cater to children! We’re not complaining, but anyone with children will understand how restless children can become when traveling on trains or planes.

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Some Japanese trains even offer something to occupy kids during long journeys. On the Fujikyu Railway, children can play on a special conductor-style seat, specially designed for young passengers on board. So parents can enjoy a peaceful trip, knowing that their kids are kept entertained the entire time!

Sorry for Departing 20 Seconds Early

If you’re a regular user of public transport in your own country, then you will appreciate the convenience and low cost of the service, while being well aware that they can sometimes run late or stop working all together without even being notified.

Credit: LERK/CC BY 2.5/Wikimedia Commons and japantoday.com

Yet, in Japan, when the Tsukuba Express of the Tokyo Train Company departed the platform just 20 seconds earlier than scheduled, the railway company issued a written apology! Considering how organized the Japanese are, we doubt it affected anybody too much, but the gesture is so kind and respectful all the same!

Take a Bath in Ramen Noodles

Do you love ramen noodles? Would it be your ultimate dream to bathe in them? Well, if so, why not head to Japan, where you can realize your dream by bathing in a pool filled with ramen noodles! If you dislike noodles, then you’re probably thinking how revolting this is.

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In Japan, you can take the whole family along for a relaxing bath in ramen noodles. The bathtub is designed to replicate a noodle bowl and inside, the hot tub is filled with authentic ramen noodle broth because it is said to be good for the skin.

Upside-Down Houses

This building literally looks as if it’s falling over! It isn’t. What you see here is actually a restaurant that was built to look like this. Again, this is yet another example of the creativity and fine architectural skills that the Japanese possess.

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If you get motion sickness or feel dizzy or nauseous at the sight of anything like this, then it’s probably best to avoid eating in this restaurant. We’d love to see what the restaurant looks like inside. We bet this place took years to build!

KFC versus McDonald’s Costume Showdown

Another day, another fancy dress costume. This time, Japanese locals had fun by dressing up as KFC founder Colonel Sanders and rival fast-food company owner, Ronald McDonald! These two people actually had a mock showdown in the middle of the street!

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This looks like a lot of fun, and we have to say that these two look way cooler than their real life counterparts! The Japanese might be orderly and extremely punctual, but they know how to have fun too. Out of interest, who do you think won?

Protecting the Deer, Protecting You.

The boundaries between local wildlife habitats and busy residential areas often cross one another, meaning that chaos can occur when wildlife and town residents accidentally end up mixing. This is usually the fault of neither the people nor the animals, but when animals attack in self-defense, they can be dangerous.

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To reiterate the fact that the abundance of wild deer in Japan are, in fact, wild animals, no matter how sweet they look, a sign has been put up to inform locals. Although the illustrations on the sign are funny, they are there to prove a point. The deer may and could attack you; it’s not their fault, so don’t cross them! Protecting the deer and the people is what we like to see!

Leaving Your Valuables on Display

No, we’re not showing you this picture to show a man sleeping on a train because we’d imagine that happens everywhere, right?! You will probably notice something very alarming when you look more closely at this photo. Spotted it yet?

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This man is sleeping on a train in a public space with his personal belongings on full display in front of him. Anybody could grab his phone or wallet, and he would be none the wiser, yet that’s not the case here. He can leave his mobile and all his money and personal documents in full view without any issues!

The Most Confusing Road Signs

Driving abroad can be an interesting experience. Sometimes you might find that they drive on the opposite side of the road in a foreign country, which can be confusing enough. On the other hand, you might find that the road signs are utterly confusing!

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In some cases, the road signs in other countries have different meanings to the ones back home. We’re not sure what is meant by these Japanese road signs, and we applaud the locals for being able to figure it out! How are you supposed to work out the speed limit or which direction you’re supposed to take from these signs?

Keep Hair Out of Your Food

Although some people have a serious phobia of getting even the smallest amount of hair in their food, the majority of us accept it as being one of those petty problems that we’re never going to solve in life. Yeah, nobody likes getting hair in their food, but what can you do about it?!

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Well, it turns out that the Japanese have done something about this issue. Whereas most long-haired people would revert to simply tying their hair back, the Japanese have gone as far as inventing a noodle-saving face device that not only keeps your hair well out of the way when eating noodles it also prevents you from dropping noodles down yourself if you happen to miss your mouth!

Coffee Cup Balconies

If you go to a funfair, you might see fairground rides with coffee cups. Swirling, twirling tea or coffee cups, spinning around with people sitting inside of them. This image kind of reminds us of that; only these coffee cups are attached to buildings, which is unlike anything we’ve ever seen before.

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These are what you would call “coffee cup balconies.” Japan is well known for its fantastic architectural designs, and this is an example of that. The coffee balconies not only serve as somewhere new and interesting for coffee-drinkers to sit when they visit this cafe and wish to sit outdoors, but they’re also aesthetically pleasing for passersby on the street too.

Headbands with Huge Cats

The Japanese adore cats and so don’t be surprised to see a wealth of merchandise featuring cats if you ever visit Japan. These huge cat headbands are certainly a different way of incorporating your love of cats into your outfit.

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We’re not sure if this look would catch on elsewhere in the world unless, of course, you love cats and can’t bear not to be around them for a single moment in the day. Hardcore cat lovers dream of having their pet cats around them all day, but if that’s not possible, perhaps this is the next best thing.

Cuddling Houses for Lonely People

Worldwide, fewer people are settling down and getting married or having children, choosing instead to focus on study, business, or travel. Japan is no different, and to offer a form of comfort for lonely singletons, Japan has opened its own cuddling houses.

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These are strictly cuddling houses where nothing more than a cuddle and innocent affection is permitted. Similar services have been set up in different countries, but they have been considered a little controversial and haven’t been as widely accepted as they have in Japan. Would you pay a stranger to hug you?

Unusual Kit-Kat Flavors

If you’re used to picking up a Kit-Kat for a light chocolate snack back home, just bear in mind that Japanese Kit-Kats come in a range of unusual flavors. While they are not quite as crazy as the sweet treats you’d find in the Harry Potter stories, they are definitely different from what you’d get elsewhere.

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Do you remember everyone’s excitement when Kit-Kat released a white chocolate version and then later, peanut butter, salted caramel, and cookie flavor? Well, they are nothing compared to the flavors in Japan, which consist of green tea, soy sauce, orange, and wait for it – even baked potato!

Umbrellas are Like Tents

Unless you’re one of those people who find getting caught in heavy rain without an umbrella a romantic and emotional experience, you’ll probably agree that few people like to get caught out without an umbrella in the pouring rain. While it helps to have an umbrella, they don’t always protect you from heavy downpours.

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When it rains in Japan, it pours, and it often comes unexpectedly. The rain is often accompanied by the wind, which blows the rain in all directions, including sideways, so a normal umbrella is not enough to keep you dry. That’s why a Japanese inventor created this bubble umbrella which will keep you dry no matter how heavy the rain is!

Vending Machines Offer Everything

In most parts of the world, vending machines sell snacks and refreshments. They’re usually filled with chips, energy bars, sports drinks, water, and sodas. That said, we’re always overjoyed to discover that a place has a vending machine because it means we can easily get a drink or snack.

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In Japan, though, it is another story entirely. If you happen to stumble upon a vending machine while there, you will quickly learn that they stock just about anything! It’s almost like having a convenience store crammed into a drinks’ machine!

Construction Barriers that Will Make You Smile

Usually, whenever we come face to face with construction barriers, it means that the road is shut off, and we’re either going to end up stuck in traffic or are forced to rethink our route. What’s worse is that the barriers are always an ugly shade of orange, which doesn’t provide us with anything nice to stare at.

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Japan has come up with a great solution for the poor drivers and travelers who are unfortunately inconvenienced by construction barriers and anyone else who they disturb. Make them cute and pretty is their motto! And look at just how cute and fun these construction barriers are!

It’s Blue for Go on Japanese Traffic Lights

In most countries, if not all other countries, the traffic light system is: red, amber, and green. Of course, you can expect Japan to do things differently by now, which naturally they do! Japan’s traffic light system is: red, amber, and blue!

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Blue is for “go,” and the shade of blue can range from turquoise to royal blue, but it is always blue. We’d imagine that this is very confusing for foreigners driving in Japan for the first time, as it is for Japanese people going to drive in other parts of the world.

Fruit is a Different Shape

The Japanese love their fruit, but it’s extremely expensive. Fruit is typically given as a gift in Japan, as it is considered a sign of wealth and sophistication. Yet again, the Japanese have a way of presenting fruit in an aesthetically pleasing way!

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These watermelons are novelty shaped. In Japan, you can find watermelons shaped as squares, hearts, and other shapes. To achieve these unusual shapes, the watermelons are placed in shaped jars when small so that they grow into the shape of their jar.

Pokemon Planes!

No, Pokemon doesn’t have its own fleet of airplanes. These are Pokemon-themed planes, which are planes of well-known airlines, decorated in Pokemon colors and characters. Japan seems obsessed with anything anime or Pokemon, which is why it was probably well worth the investment for them.

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This might put some people off in other places because Pokemon isn’t so widely adored in other countries as it is in Japan, but it seems to work well here! Imagine the surprise on the passengers’ faces when they cross the runway and see that they’re about to board a Pokemon plane?!

The Controversial Child Harness

If we’re being honest, this one has gone beyond Japan, despite how polarizing it is. As you can read from the heading above and see in the photo, some Japanese parents use a cord fastened to their children’s backpacks in an effort to keep them safe and prevent them from going into traffic.

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As you’d imagine, these harnesses weren’t received well by all parents since a significant number felt that doing this was akin to treating their kids like pets on a leash. On the other hand, those in support say they’d rather that than lose their kids to an unfortunate accident. How do you feel about this?