Facts & Trivia

Japan: Facts, Statistics, and Trivia


The population of Japan is approximately 127 million. This makes it the tenth most populated country in the world, ahead of Mexico, and behind Nigeria. In terms of density of population, Japan is 18th in the world, with approximately 327 persons per sq.km., roughly equivalent to Holland or Belgium.

Map of Japan


The total area of Japan is 378,000 square kilometers (145,945 square miles). That's approximately 0.3% of the world. Most Japanese perceive Japan as a small country, but it is bigger than Germany or Italy, though smaller than Sweden.


Japan is composed of 6,852 islands, 600 of which are inhabited. Honshu, the main island, is the 7th largest island in the world. Hokkaido, Japan's 2nd largest island is the 22nd largest island in the world.



In terms of total population size, the Greater Tokyo area is the largest city in the world ('city" is here defined as a contiguous urban area, not the administratively/politically defined Tokyo). With a population of 26.5 million, more than 20% of all Japanese people live there. The second largest city in the world is Mexico City with 18 million inhabitants.


Japan has the highest density of robots in the world. There are approximately 800,00 industrial-use robots in operation around the world, and fully half of them in Japan. That's about 1 robot for every 310 people in Japan.


The longest river in Japan is the Shinano. Beginning in Nagano (the Japanese Alps) it flows north and east 367 kilometers and enters the Japan Sea at the city of Niigata. Most Japanese rivers are "fast", descending rapidly.


The biggest lake in Japan is Lake Biwa, situated in Shiga Prefecture, near Kyoto. It is 670.3 sq. kms. in area, with 450 streams and rivers entering along its 235 km. shoreline. Its maximum depth is 103 metres. The name Biwa refers to a 4-string lute-like instrument whose shape the lake resembles. The lake supplies water to 14 million residents of the area.


Japan is the world's third biggest spender on defense, spending US$45,600,000,000 in 2000. Japan spends more on defence than China, but less than Russia. Japan's 1947 Constitution renounces war and "...the threat and use of force as means of settling international dispute", and "......land, sea, and air forces, as well as other war potential, will never be maintained.". Hmmm!


The tallest mountain in Japan is Mount Fuji at 3,776 metres (12,388 ft). Probably the most easily recognized image of Japan, Fuji-san is climbed by about 300,000 visitors each year. An active volcano, its last eruption was in 1770. Japan is home to almost 10% of the world's 840 active volcanoes.


The most popular movie in Japan in 2002 was the anime "Spirited Away" by Hayao Miyazaki. (Original Japanese title "Sen to Chihiro no kamikushi"). It is also the most popular Japanese anime worldwide, winning this year's Oscar. Surprisingly, the 3rd most popular movie in Japan was Hollywood's "Pearl Harbor".



According to the Japanese National Police Agency, the largest Yakuza (Crime Syndicate) gang in Japan is the Yamaguchi-gumi, with more than 36,000 members, that's 43% of all Yakuza in Japan. The police can have such good information about the Yakuza, because until recently the Yakuza operated quite openly, with offices, newsletters, etc. However a new law has caused many yakuza to relinquish "membership" in a gang, so the official numbers are far smaller than the real numbers. A large proportion of Japan's gang members are dowa or buraku.


10 years ago Japan took more fish out of the sea (almost 10 million tons) than any other country. Now they catch almost half that, and have slipped to third place in the world ranking. However, they remain the biggest consumers of sea food, consuming fully one third of all seafood consumed in the world, importing 25% of the total world catch. "Seafood" means much more than fish, and includes crabs, lobsters, assorted shellfish, many kinds of seeweed, jellyfish, walrus, sea cucumbers (which aren't a vegetable), sea urchins, and of course whales.

Vending machines

Rural vending machine in wood.

There are 5 million vending machines (jidohanbaiki) in Japan. That's one for every 25 people. They are everywhere. I have yet to find one that was vandalized, or that did not work properly. Far and away the most common vending machines are for soft drinks: a dazzling array of coffees and teas, both hot and cold, a limited range of "colas", various juices, "sports" drinks (such as the unfortunately named Pocari Sweat). Alcohol vending machines are easy to find, dispensing primarily beer and sake from 5am-11pm, and there are over 600,000 cigarette vending machines. Other items I've seen dispensed by machine are uncooked rice, batteries, condoms, newspapers, "Casual Food" (fried chicken, hamburgers etc), ice-cream, pornographic magazines and videos, and "used" schoolgirls' panties. Strangely, I haven't come across any machines vending chocolate or candy bars.

Nengajou/New Year Cards

The Japanese send upwards of 35 BILLION New Year cards (nengajou) every year. That's approximately 30 cards for every man, woman, and child in Japan. They account for almost 20% of all annual postal revenues. The post office will hold any nengajou posted early, and delivers them all on the 1st of January.

Japan Search Service

Contact the Editor of JapanVisitor for a specific fact, statistic or piece of information relating to Japan.

Simply and easily order a search for a particular Japanese item or product. Reasonable rates payable via PayPal, bank transfer or international postal orders.

1 | 2 | 3 | 4

Books on Japan

Goods From Japan to your home or business.