Facts & Trivia 4

Japan: Facts, Statistics, and Trivia Vol. 4


Rugby is not a sport you might normally associate with Japan, but since its introduction a little over a century ago it has gained in popularity and now there are more than 5,000 clubs making Japan the country with the highest number of rugby clubs in the world. Top level games draw crowds of more than 20,000, but its popularity has not yet translated into world-class performance as the only entry featuring Japan in the record books is the HIGHEST scoring World Cup match when Japan was defeated 145 - 17 by the New Zealand All Blacks in 1995. The 2019 Rugby World Cup will be held in Japan.


With its steep mountains and abundant rainfall, its not surprising that Japan has an enormous number of waterfalls, 2488 of them over 5 meters in height. The highest waterfall in Japan is the first of a series of 48 waterfalls on the Nachi River in Wakayama Prefecture.
Ichi-no-Taki (The First Fall) is 133 meters high (436 ft) and 13 meters wide and drops one ton of water a second. Shomyo Falls in Toyama Prefecture is sometimes claimed to be the highest waterfall, but it is in fact 4 waterfalls with a combined drop of 350 meters. With 230 waterfalls measuring five or more meters in height, Yamagata Prefecture has the most waterfalls of any prefecture in Japan.


Maybe it's the long history of double-suicide being a noble solution to the dilemma of ill-fated lovers that permeates Japanese literature, or maybe it's the samurai tradition of committing ritual disembowelment (seppuku or harakiri) for the maintenance of honor as exemplified by what is perhaps the most popular story in Japan, the 47 Ronin, or maybe it is even the infamy of the original suicide-bombers, World War II's kamikaze pilots, but whatever the reason, Japan is considered to have a high suicide rate. However, in actual fact, for most of the twentieth century Japan's suicide rate was on a par with the European average. For the past ten years though the suicide rate has been rising, and is now among the highest in the world, but still less than some of the eastern European and former Soviet countries. Last year more than 34,000 committed suicide, an increase of 7% over the previous year, making suicide the sixth most common cause of death in Japan. Among young people, the suicide rate rose an alarming 22%. The most common method is hanging, and the most common day chosen is Monday. Men prefer 5 a.m., and women prefer noon.

Legal Issues

Japanese politicians and other conservative commentators claim that the Japanese are a non-litigious people, that the Japanese people prefer to settle disputes without recourse to the courts, and to prove this they point to the extremely small number of lawyers in Japan, only one lawyer for every 8,000 people. Compared to the U.S., one lawyer per 320 people, or the U.K, one for every 694, this would seem to prove the point, but it is not mentioned that the number of lawyers in Japan is kept artificially low by allowing less than 3% of entrants to pass the Bar exam. Other factors discouraging the use of lawsuits to settle disputes lead to a very slow moving court system, so it is not surprising that the longest civil case in court led by the same individual took place in Japan. It lasted 32 years. Professor Saburo Ienaga challenged the Japanese Ministry of Education over their censorship of his history text book. Begun in 1965, a verdict was finally handed down in 1997.

The Oldest Shinto Shrine

The oldest Shinto shrine in Japan is considered to be Izumo Taisha Jingu on the Japan Sea coast in Shimane Prefecture. It is here, every October that ALL the Gods of Japan (more than 8 million) meet for discussions (and partying). The shrine was founded in the first century AD, and it has been rebuilt 25 times, the current building was constructed in 1744. The shrine is also home to the largest shimenawa (sacred rope) in Japan. It is more than 13 meters long and weighs 6,000 kilos.
The oldest shrine building in Japan is at the Ujigami Shrine in Uji City, just outside Kyoto, which was constructed in the late years of the Heian Period (794-1185); the shrine is dedicated to Emperor Ojin, his son Prince Ujinowake Iratsuko, and the emperor's elder brother Emperor Nintoku. Emperor Ojin was deified as Hachiman, the God of War and archery, and with more than 30,000 Hachiman shrines around the country it is the most common shrine in Japan. The main Hachiman shrine is in Usa, northern Kyushu, but the most well-known is the Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine in Kamakura City.

Usa Jingu Shrine, Usa City, Kyushu, Japan.
Usa Hachimangu Shrine Lotus Pond, Oita Prefecture, Kyushu


The longest monorail system in the world is the Osaka Monorail. Opened in 1990, it runs from Osaka's Itami Airport to the Hankyu Railway Station, with a spur line opened in 1997. It is 23.8 kilometers long and is planned to eventually be 50 kilometers and encircle the city. About 80,000 passengers are carried each day. The first monorail in Japan runs one third of a kilometer in Tokyo's Ueno Zoo. It opened in 1957.


Dioxins are some of the most toxic substances known to man, with studies suggesting that just 1 gram is enough to kill 10,000 people. It is estimated that fully 40% of all the airborne dioxin in the world comes from Japan, with the prime culprit being Japan's waste incinerators. Three-quarters of the 1.2 million tons of garbage and industrial waste produced every day in Japan is burned in 1,800 household-waste incinerators plus thousands more licensed and unlicensed hazardous waste incinerators. Japan is home to 70% of all the waste-incinerators in the world.


After Japan signed up to the World Health Organization's (WHO) Framework Convention on Tobacco Control agreement, from April 2005 no new tobacco billboard advertising will be allowed on buildings. Existing advertising will be removed by September 2005 and the size of health warnings will be increased to cover 30% of the front or back of cigarette packets. The wording will be changed from "smoking may harm your health" to "smoking is one of the causes of lung cancer." Tobacco ads will only be allowed on cigarette vending machines, tobacconists and in newspapers and magazines. By April 2008 plans are afoot to replace Japan's 600,000 cigarette vending machines with ones fitted with integrated circuit card readers to prevent minors (people under 20) from purchasing tobacco. According to Japan Tobacco (JT) the number of smokers in Japan dropped below 30% for the first time to stand at 29.4% of the population. In 2005, JT closed 8 of its 18 cigarette factories. Tobacco prices in Japan are still some of the lowest in the world and the average worker needs to labor for just 9 minutes to afford a pack of cigarettes, compared with 18 minutes in New York, 20 minutes in France, 38 minutes in Norway and 40 minutes in the UK.

Current Account Surplus

Japan's current account surplus with the rest of the world stood at eighteen trillion, nine hundred twenty-one billion (18,921,000,000,000) yen (about USD166.6 billion at June 2006 exchange rates) in fiscal 2005, hitting a record high for the third straight year.

By April 2006, after 15 consecutive months of increase, Japan's trade surplus with the U.S. was at its highest in 20 years - up 26.9 percent from 2005 to reach the sum of 803.2 billion yen (over USD7.65 billion at June 2006 exchange rates). Its total merchandise trade surplus, however, fell to 646.2 billion yen: a 31.8 percent decrease, thanks mainly to rising oil prices and growing domestic demand for overseas goods.

One of the few countries Japan presently trades at a deficit with is China.

Single Mothers

The number of single-mother households has increased dramatically in Japan to reach a record high of 1,225,400 households with a child or children under 20 in 2003. This represents a 28% increase from 1998 as more couples divorce in Japan and the highest figure since the Welfare Ministry starting compiling data in 1953. 80% of the total became single mothers due to divorce.


Japan has around 12 million kilometers of roads with 1 million kilometers of the total having no side walks (pavements).

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