As anticipation continues to grow and the world awaits the beginning of the XXXII Olympics— delayed a year due to the COVID-19 Pandemic — we’d like to take this opportunity to learn more about the Olympics’ host nation, the Land of the Rising Sun … Japan.
The Japanese name for Japan is Nippon or Nihon, which translates to “The sun’s origin,” which is why Japan is often referred to as the “Land of the Rising Sun.” The red circle on Japan’s flag represents the sun.
Japan is made up of 6,852 islands. However, only 430 of these islands are inhabited.
Japan’s “mainland” consists of four large islands: Hokkaido, Honshu, Kyushu and Shikoku.
There are several islands where animals rule. The island of Aoshima, for example, only has 15 humans living on it and over a 100 cats. Ōkunoshima Island has over 900 wild rabbits living there, which tourists can visit and feed. One of Japan’s greatest tourist attractions is the island of Itsukushima, filled with friendly deer. The island is also home to several Shinto shrines; deer are sacred in the Shinto religion, believed to be the messengers of the gods.
Japan is home to Mount Fuji, also called Fuji-San and Fuji no Yama. Mount Fuji is 12,388 feet tall, and is both one of Japan’s three holy mountains and a United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization World Heritage Site. Mount Fuji is also a volcano and considered to be active, despite the last eruption being in 1707.
Nearly 70% of Japan’s geography is mountains and forests. There are also 110 active volcanoes.
Japan’s capital city, Tokyo, is the world’s most populated city with over 38 million people. Tokyo is the host city for the Olympics.
Tokyo previously hosted the 1964 Olympic Games. Tokyo is the first Asian city to host the Olympics more than once.
Japan has also hosted the Winter Olympics: the 1972 Sapporo Games and the 1998 Nagano Games.
Speaking of sports — baseball is Japan’s most popular sport, with soccer coming in as a close second. However, Japan has the most Olympic medals in the event of Judo.
Japan has the world’s oldest continuous monarchy, dating back to 600 B.C. It’s also the only country left in the world to have a monarch with the title of “Emperor.”
The emblem for Japan’s imperial family is a chrysanthemum, which represents longevity, rejuvenation, nobility, harvests and goodwill. The imperial throne is called the “Chrysanthemum Throne.”
Buddhism and Shinto are the two most common religions in Japan.
The number four is unlucky in Japan, because the Japanese word for four has the same pronunciation as the word for death, though they’re written differently. If you were to enter an elevator for a Japanese building with many floors, you’ll see that there’s no floor number four; the numbers will skip from three to five.
Japan’s writing system has three scripts: kanji, hiragana and katakana. All three script styles can be used in one sentence. There’s also an additional script style called Rōmaji, which is when Japanese words are written out using the Latin alphabet — the same alphabet used for the English language.
Geisha are a well-known aspect of Japanese culture. Geisha translates to “art person,” and geisha are trained in various disciplines, such as music, dance, singing and tea ceremony. They are often hired to perform these art skills and act as a hostess for the rich and powerful, typically in tea houses. Geisha is one of the oldest professions in Japan.
While women in kimono, white face paint and red lipstick are the iconic image of geisha, the first geisha were men. However, it soon became a female-dominated profession, and one of the best opportunities for women to support themselves. In the past, young girls from poor families would be adopted by geisha houses (called Okiya) to be trained in the profession. Some of the most wealthy women in Japan are in the geisha business.
An apprentice geisha is called a maiko. However, even after they complete their apprenticeship, most of a geisha’s days are spent taking lessons to further improve their skills in the arts. To distinguish the apprentices from the professionals, maiko wear red collars, red paint on their bottom lip, a particular kimono style, and special hairstyles. In the past, maiko would begin their training as young as six; today, girls have to be in their first year of junior high school to become a maiko.
Japan has 5.5 million vending machines, where one could purchase just about anything — food, drinks, toys and more. However, it’s rude to eat and walk at the same time.
The Hyozaemon company recycles professional baseball players’ bats by turning them into reusable chopsticks.
In 1928, the Emperor Hirohito introduced a daily 10-minute radio exercise program and it’s still running to this day.
In Japan, baths aren’t for getting clean; they’re for winding down at the end of the day. Therefore, it’s important to not enter a bath while dirty.