Facts & Trivia 2

Facts, Statistics, and Trivia Vol. 2


Aoi Matsuri

The Daibutsu-den: the largest wooden structure in the world.

The oldest festival in the world is reputed to be the Aoi Matsuri, held every May 15th or 16th in Kyoto. The Aoi Festival began in the mid 6th century to give thanks to the gods for deliverance from floods. A procession of about 500 people dressed in Heian Period (794-1192) costume carries hollyhock (aoi) from the Imperial Palace to Kamigamo and Shimogamo Shrines. Up to 100,00 spectators line the route.

Tokyo Disneyland

The most-visited amusement park in the world is Tokyo Disneyland. Opened in 1983, more than 13 million people visit it each year.

Todaiji

The biggest statue of the Buddha in Japan is the "Daibutsu" (Big Buddha) at Todaiji Temple, Nara. At 15 metres in height (49 ft) it is also the largest gilded-bronze Buddha in the world. It was completed in 749. It is housed in the Daibutsu-den, which is the largest wooden structure in the world, measuring 48 metres in height, 57 metres in width, and 54 metres in depth. The original Daibatsu-den was completed in 743, but was destroyed in a fire in the mid 16th century. The current building was constructed in 1692, and is actually smaller than the original.

Construction Industry

Japan's construction industry employs more than 6 million people.

What's the biggest industry in Japan? Automobiles? Nope. Consumer electronics? Nope. It's construction. Fuelled by a Public Works program that has no peer anywhere in the world, Japan's construction industry employs more than 6 million people, roughly 10% of the working population. On a per capita basis that is twice the rate of Europe or North America. Japan's construction industry is the biggest in the world, consuming close to 10% of Japan's GDP. The result of all this construction is roads that go nowhere, a coastline covered in concrete, and close to 3,000 dams.

Ramen

When one thinks of Japan's contribution to world cuisine, probably the first thing that comes to mind is sushi. But Japan has given us much more. In 1958, in a shack in north Osaka, Ando Momofuku invented the instant ramen noodle (the first flavor was chicken). You can even visit the Museum for the Instant Noodle. 5.2 billion servings are consumed each year in Japan, making an average of 41 servings per person per year, but that pales by comparison with China's staggering 16 billion servings a year. World-wide there are 880 brands of instant noodle.

MSG

Another great contribution to world food by Japan is Monosodium Glutamate (MSG), the flavor-enhancer used in Chinese cooking and in a lot of processed food. In 1908, Kikunae Ikeda was experimenting with the flavor of kombu, a type of seaweed used in Japanese soup stocks. He isolated MSG, which in Japanese is called Umami. Recent research suggests that MSG is in fact a fifth taste.

Seikan Tunnel

The longest transportation tunnel in the world is the Seikan tunnel connecting the main island of Honshu to Hokkaido. Like the Channel Tunnel that opened 6 years later, the Seikan is also a railway tunnel and is 33.5 miles long (more than 2 miles longer than the Chunnel.) In the list of longest rail tunnels in the world, Japan has 7 in the top 16.

Weather

Japan consists of an Archipielago of islands extending 1,300 miles in a NE-SW direction, so the weather differs greatly from one end to the other. The coldest temperature ever recorded (1902) was minus 41 degrees Celsius in Asahikawa, Hokkaido. The hottest temperatures recorded in Japan include 40.8 degrees, in Yamagata (1933) and 40.9 in Tajimi in Gifu Prefecture in 2007. The wettest day in recorded history was the 11th September 1976, in Hiso, Tokushima, when 1,114 mms of rain fell. The strongest winds were recorded at Miyakojima, Okinawa on September 5th, 1966, reaching 85.3 metres per second.

Akashi Kaikyo Bridge

The Akashi Kaikyo Bridge: longest suspension bridge in the world.

The longest suspension bridge in the world is the Akashi Kaikyo Bridge connecting Kobe with Awaji Island. Opened in 1998, the central span is 6,570 feet in length. That's about 1.5 times the size of the Golden Gate Bridge, and 4 times the size of the Brooklyn Bridge. The Akashi Kaikyo Bridge also has the tallest bridge towers in the world, at 928 feet. The longest cable-stayed bridge in the world is the Tatara Bridge which connects Hiroshima to Shikoku. Completed in 1999 the overall length is 1480 metres, with a central span of 890 metres.

Rollercoaster

The fastest Rollercoaster in the world is the "Dodonpa" at Fujikyu Highland Park in Fujiyoshida. It reached a top speed of 172 kph, beating the previous record of 148 kph set by another Japanese rollercoaster, the "Steel Dragon".

Japanese Language

The official language of Japan is...... surprise, surprise.... Japanese. Spoken by 125 million people, it is the 8th most common language in the world. However it's not the only language spoken in Japan. Both the Okinawan people and the Ainu people have their own languages, and Korean and Chinese is spoken by many of the million or so residents from those countries. "Legal" residents.... there are also large numbers of "illegal" residents. Portuguese is also spoken, due to an influx of Brazilians of Japanese ancestry. However, the strangest language spoken goes by several names: "Engrish", "Japlish", "Katakana English". Japan has a huge number of "loan words", taken from other languages, primarily English. The pronunciation of these words is changed to fit the Japanese phonetic system, and in many cases the meaning is also changed. In a recent survey, the three most commonly recognized loanwords were sutoresu (stress), risaikuru (recycle) and borantia (volunteer).

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