12 Crazy Things You Can Only Find in Japan
If you spot blue traffic lights and sweet potato Kit Kats, you’re in Japan.
1. Cutesy Construction Barriers
Construction can be unpleasant to look at, so might as well make it a little cuter. The unsightly orange and black striped barriers you’d find in Canada might catch drivers’ eyes, but the cartoon-shaped ones in Japan will make you want to keep looking.
2. Blue Traffic Lights
Almost universally, red means stop and green means go. If you’re in Japan, though, you’d have to wait a long time waiting for the traffic light to turn green. In that country, the “go” lights are more of a turquoise or aqua colour, and in some areas they’re just plain blue.
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4. Crazy Expensive Fruits
If you cringed at out-of-season produce prices in your own grocery store, you’ll get even bigger sticker shock at high-end fruit stores in Japan. Expensive fruits are a status symbol in the gift-giving culture, which explains why you can find pears for $19, strawberries for $5 apiece, and melons for $125 in some stores.
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5. Fancy Toilets
Spending some time in the bathroom is a fact of life, so why not make it comfortable? Skip over the traditional squat toilets (which yes, involve squatting over an in-ground bowl) and go to a more modern stall. It’s not uncommon to find one that makes noise to block any uncomfortable sounds, gives off perfume, raises its seat automatically, and has a built-in bidet.
6. Cars Advertising New and Senior Drivers
If you’ve ever wondered about that yellow and green V-shaped symbol in your emoji keyboard, you finally have an answer: It’s a Japanese symbol for “novice.” One of the most common places you’ll see it is as a magnet on the back of cars. New drivers need to keep a “shoshinsha mark” magnet on their vehicles for a year. On the other hand, a “koreisha mark” that looks like a four-coloured clover indicates the driver is 75 or older. If you spot a yellow butterfly on a green background, you’ll know the person behind the wheel is hard of hearing.
7. Front-Seat TVs
Your car might have a navigation screen by the driver’s seat, and maybe even a TV screen for the back-seat riders. In Japan, though, the two are one in the same—a front-seat screen can stream TV shows. "All of our 'navi' systems sold in Japan have a TV tuner function, but none sold outside Japan have it," Pioneer Corp. spokesman Hiromitsu Kimura told the Wall Street Journal. And you thought texting and driving was bad!
8. KFC for Christmas
A fast food joint might be the last place you’d want to celebrate Christmas, but it’s the go-to spot in Japan. The tradition started in the 1970s, when the manager of the country’s first KFC overheard foreigners saying they missed having turkey—a meat that’s tough to find in Japan—on Christmas. Not many Japanese people celebrate the holiday, but the manager hoped fried chicken could be a good substitute for foreigners craving poultry. Good marketing helped the tradition stick, and you might need to order your KFC Christmas dinner weeks in advance or spend hours waiting in line for it.
9. Crazy Vending Machines
You might be a regular at the office vending machine when mid-afternoon cravings hit, but the dispensers in Japan aren’t just for snacks and drinks. Machines selling sushi socks, bottled flying fish, surgical masks, and canned carrots can all be found in Japan. Then again, you can also find vending machines selling coffee, beer, and sake, so maybe they know what they’re doing.
10. Shower Dryers
Most Japanese homes don’t have a clothes dryer. Instead, they’ll hang their clean laundry outside or in the bathroom. Showers have a fan setting designed for drying clothes, so even delicate clothes dry quickly without getting ruined in the heat.
11. Unique Kit-Kat Flavours
Canadians might get excited when white chocolate and strawberry Kit Kats hit the markets, but Japanese buyers have way more options. Imagine satisfying your candy craving with crazy flavours like wasabi, sake, or purple sweet potato. Part of the popularity might come from the name. In Japan, the chocolate bars are called kitto katto, which is awfully close to kitto katsu, meaning “surely you will win,” according to CBS.
12. Rain Protectors on Cars
On a hot summer day with a 50 per cent chance of rain, it’s a total gamble whether you want to come back to a stiflingly hot car or water-soaked seats. In Japan, though, there’s a mini roof hanging over the windows to protect the interior from rain. You can add them separately in Canada, but they’re a vehicle commonplace in Japan.
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