Japan may be a small island nation but this Asian country has made some big contributions to the world. From technology to pop culture, Japan has made plenty of headlines for innovation, imagination, and scientific advancements. But what is Japan famous for, really?
In this Japan overview, we will explore 24 of the many things that Japan is famous for, including its history, its landmarks, its food and drink, and its many contributions to the world.
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What is Japan famous for? Japan’s 24 top claims to fame
Japan is one of our favorite countries. Its ancient culture coupled with its modernity make Japan such a fascinating place to visit.
Whether you’re planning a trip to Japan or you’re just interested in learning more about this beautiful country, we’ve compiled a list of 24 things Japan is known for.
Table of Contents
Anime is a style of animation that originated in Japan and has since become a global phenomenon. Anime characters are known for their large, sparkling, expressive eyes. While the themes of anime can range from fun and fantastical to thought-provoking dramas that resonate on a deeper emotional level.
This form of animation has fostered a fandom culture around the world, sparking international conventions and creating a new form of creative performance art in the form of cosplay, where people of all ages will dress up as their favorite fictional character. While cosplay often includes Disney or Marvel characters, as well, this form of entertainment originated with the real-life recreation of anime characters.
If you love anime or you are visiting Tokyo with kids who love anime, be sure to visit the district of Akihabara. Known as Electric Town, this buzzing district is famed for its venues specializing in anime, video games and manga. With its bright colors and electronic billboards, the district itself looks like the real-life setting of an animated movie.
The word ‘kawaii’ means “cute” or “adorable” in Japanese.
And one of the best things about visiting Japan with kids is that Kawaii culture is so pronounced in the country.
Kawaii encompasses a wide range of aesthetics, products, and behaviors characterized by their charming, childlike, and playful qualities. This cultural phenomenon has trickled into fashion, entertainment, and even food. Iconic Sanrio characters like Hello Kitty have become global ambassadors of Kawaii culture, embodying its essence of cuteness and fostering a sense of joy among fans of all ages.
In Japan, Kawaii is not merely a superficial trend but a deeply ingrained cultural value. To experience Kawaii culture at its finest, add the district of Harajuku to your Tokyo itinerary. Known as Japan’s teen fashion district, you’ll find lots of trendy stores and sweet shops selling colorful and cute desserts.
Japan was the first country in the world to implement a high-speed rail network, and to this day, its rail system is second to none.
Since its debut in 1964, the Shinkansen, or bullet train, has earned global renown for its groundbreaking technology, unparalleled speed, and exceptional safety record. With trains capable of reaching speeds exceeding 300 kilometers per hour (186 miles per hour), the Shinkansen offers passengers a fast, efficient, and comfortable mode of transportation between major cities across Japan.
Trains in Japan are also known for their punctuality and reliability and with its country-wide rail pass for foreign visitors to Japan, known as the JR Pass, train travel around Japan is a convenient way to navigate the country.
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Japan is famous for several unique culinary delights, but perhaps none more notable than sushi.
With an emphasis on freshness, preparation, and presentation, making sushi is practically an artform.
Originating in Japan centuries ago, sushi consists of pieces of raw or cooked seafood served on a small bed of rice and sometimes wrapped in seaweed. Making sushi requires precision and skill, from selecting the finest ingredients to mastering the delicate balance of flavors and textures.
Being an island, seafood – like tuna, salmon, and shrimp – is a staple in the Japanese diet. This Japanese custom of eating heart-healthy fish likely contributes to the longevity of life that Japan is known for.
Let’s be real. What is Japan famous for, really? If there is one awesome thing Japan is renowned for, it is definitely their fancy high-tech toilets!
Seriously, Japanese toilets are one of the best things about Japan. I’m not sure why the rest of the world hasn’t caught up, but after you use a Japanese toilet, you will never want to use another restroom anywhere else. No joke, we upgraded our toilet at home after our trip to Japan.
So, what is so fancy about Japanese toilets? Whether in homes, public facilities, or businesses, the toilets are designed with hygiene, comfort, and eco-friendly initiatives. Equipped with features such as heated seats, bidet sprays, adjustable water temperature and pressure, deodorizers, and even built-in air dryers, and sinks on the back of the toilet that turn on when you flush, Japan’s toilets are a complete bathroom experience!
Some models also incorporate innovative technologies like motion sensors, self-cleaning mechanisms, and automatic lid opening/closing. It’s no wonder visitors to Japan are often intrigued and impressed by the modern amenities offered by these cutting-edge toilet systems.
Prior to visiting Japan, we thought geishas were something only ancient Japan was known for. However, these iconic Japanese performers are very much still a part of Japan’s culture. Geishas are highly skilled entertainers trained in traditional arts such as dance, music, and conversation.
Geisha’s are treated like celebrities in Japan escorted by security through crowds of people who stand outside tea houses to try to capture a photo of these recognizable performers. In fact, going geisha spotting in the district like Gion is one of the best things to do in Kyoto.
Becoming a geisha requires years of rigorous training under the guidance of experienced mentors. Geishas often entertain at exclusive teahouses and banquet halls, and attending one of these performances comes with a hefty price tag.
The kimono is the national dress of Japan and has been an integral part of Japanese attire for centuries, worn on special occasions, and to ceremonies, and festivals.
The kimono’s distinctive silhouette, characterized by its long, straight-line cut, wrapped-front, and wide sleeves, has a lovely, aesthetic appeal. Often the colors, and the intricate patterns and motifs convey deeper meanings and symbolism.
Japan is famous for its kimonos, which are often purchased as Japanese souvenirs, or rented as part of the Japanese experience. For visitors to Japan, a popular activity is to rent a kimono or even take part in a professional photo shoot in this traditional attire. You can even book a Maiko makeover and photo shoot, where you’ll be dressed in a kimono and made up like a real Maiko, who is an apprentice to a geisha.
Onsens are another one of the things Japan is famous for. These traditional hot springs are cherished for their therapeutic properties and serene ambiance.
Japan’s volcanic landscape has gifted it with numerous onsens scattered throughout the country, ranging from rustic outdoor baths to luxurious resort spas in towns like Hakone – an easy day trip from Tokyo famous for its onsens.
For first-time visitors to an onsen, be prepared to soak in these communal, steamy mineral baths in the nude. While they separate men from women, you’ll bear it all while relaxing in these tranquil retreats.
If you’re more comfortable in a private or family onsen, traditional ryokans – or Japanese inns – often include private onsens. Ryokans are often included among the best places to stay in Kyoto, Tokyo, Osaka, and elsewhere in Japan.
Japan has it all, and chances are you can find it all in a vending machine. The country boasts an astonishing amount of vending machines offering everything from hot drinks and snacks to toys, alcohol, and even steaming hot bowls of ramen. The prevalence and unique variety of vending machines has become one of the things Japan is famous for.
Vending machines provide a quick and hassle-free way for people to access goods 24/7, fitting seamlessly into Japan’s fast-paced lifestyle particularly in busy cities like Tokyo and Osaka.
You’ll find rows of vending machines at Tokyo Station offering everything from quirky novelty items to everyday necessities.
Sumo wrestling is a traditional Japanese sport. Originating in ancient times as a Shinto ritual to ensure bountiful harvests, sumo has evolved into a highly respected sport governed by strict rules and customs.
Stout wrestlers, clad in loincloths, face off in a circular ring, striving to force their opponent out or to the ground. Matches are brief but intense, often lasting mere seconds. Sumo wrestlers are revered figures in Japanese society and the practice of sumo continues to be a beloved sport, often drawing large audiences of both Japanese citizens and foreign visitors.
Another food Japan is famous for, ramen is a beloved staple of Japanese cuisine.
It is much more than just a bowl of noodles; it’s a culinary dish that has captivated taste buds worldwide. Served in a flavorful broth, often accompanied by toppings such as sliced pork, soft-boiled eggs, nori seaweed, and green onions, ramen varies from region to region.
Each region is distinguished by variations in broth, noodle texture, and toppings, offering a diverse range of tastes and experiences for ramen enthusiasts. Whether it’s the rich and creamy tonkotsu broth, savory miso-based ramen, or light and clear shoyu broth, ramen brings a comforting warmth to anyone who eats it!
Shintoism and Buddhism
The primary religion in Japan is Shinto, a belief system that emphasizes the spirituality of this life and nature – rather than having a focus on an afterlife. Shinto rituals and practices are deeply intertwined with Japanese culture and traditions, influencing everything from festivals to architecture to famous shrines, like Fushimi Inari in Kyoto – known for its thousands of vibrant orange torii gates that lead to the sacred Mount Inari.
Visitors can also explore the ancient city of Nara, home to the Kasuga Taisha Shrine, the awe-inspiring Great Buddha statue at Todai-ji Temple, and the Nara Park deer, which were considered spiritual messengers in ancient Shinto. These sites offer immersive experiences where visitors can observe rituals, explore sacred spaces, and gain insight into the spiritual traditions of Japan.
Buddhism is also widely practiced in Japan, often hand-in-hand along with Shintoism. While many visitors to Japan assume they are the same, Buddhism focuses more on ascending after death and the soul’s continued journey in an afterlife.
Japan has a proud global reputation for its excellence in technology. The country is frequently praised for its commitment to innovation and precision engineering. Most notably, Japan has pioneered advancements in electronics, robotics, and automotive manufacturing.
In fact, Japanese companies like Sony, Toyota, Panasonic, and Canon have become household names synonymous with cutting-edge technology. Japan’s success in technology can be attributed to their culture that values hard work and attention to detail, plus their emphasis on education and academia.
Whether it’s producing the world’s most advanced consumer electronics, developing state-of-the-art robotics, or leading the way in green technology, Japan’s impact on the global tech landscape is undeniable.
Without a doubt, the darkest and most tragic thing Japan is known for is the atomic bombing of the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. During World War II, the United States dropped a devastating atomic bomb on Hiroshima following Japan’s bombing of Pearl Harbor in Hawaii, claiming the lives of at least 140,000 people.
To this day, the incident remains the only time in history that this horrific weapon of war has ever been used. A memorial, known as the Hiroshima Peace Memorial, stands as a poignant symbol of remembrance in the city. The Peace Memorial Park includes the memorial museum and the Atomic Bomb Dome, one of the few structures that survived the devastating atomic bombing.
Now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the skeletal remains of the former Hiroshima Prefectural Industrial Promotion Hall serve as a powerful reminder of the horrors of war and the catastrophic consequences of nuclear weapons.
Visited by millions of people from around the world each year, the Hiroshima Peace Memorial not only stands as a solemn tribute to the countless lives lost but is a solemn call for global nuclear disarmament.
Themed cafes have become a fun and unique part of Japan’s culinary landscape. Ranging from whimsical to bizarre, visiting at least one of these cafes is a must when traveling to Japan.
From cat cafes where patrons can enjoy a cup of coffee in the company of adorable feline companions to maid cafes where guests are treated like royalty by waitresses dressed in maid costumes, Japan’s themed cafes are definitely unique.
Other popular themes include cafes dedicated to beloved characters like Alice in Wonderland, as well as unique concepts like hedgehog cafes, owl cafes, and even a cafe themed after a science lab.
These cafes not only provide a fun and entertaining atmosphere but also serve as a reflection of Japan’s unconventional creativity.
Tatami rooms are traditional Japanese living spaces characterized by their flooring made of tatami mats. Typically constructed from natural materials like rice straw and covered with woven rush grass, tatami floors provide a soft surface for sitting, sleeping, and walking barefoot.
Tatami rooms are common in many Japanese homes, businesses, ryokans and even hotels. When they are present, it is customary to remove your shoes. In fact, many people in Japan do not wear shoes inside. It is not only a Japanese habit, it is more hygienic and keeps germs out of your house.
Tatami rooms serve as multifunctional spaces for activities such as dining, meditation, tea ceremonies, and socializing, and are often a central room in a home.
They are often decorated in a minimalist fashion with sliding shoji doors made of translucent paper and wooden frames and low furniture such as floor cushions and small tables.
Japan is one of the best places in Asia for a family vacation. Not only because of the many things to do in Japan for families, but because of the politeness and genuine respectfulness of the Japanese people.
From a young age, Japanese people are taught the importance of etiquette and proper behavior in various settings. Politeness is not just a superficial gesture but a fundamental aspect of their culture, religion, and desire to maintain harmony.
This emphasis on politeness is evident in everyday interactions, such as bowing when greeting or saying goodbye to someone as a sign of respect and prioritizing the needs of others.
Tea ceremonies in Japan hold profound cultural significance. These customs are not just about drinking tea but are deeply symbolic rituals that emphasize harmony, respect, and mindfulness.
Central to the ceremony is the preparation and serving of matcha, powdered green tea, in a serene and carefully orchestrated manner. Every aspect of the ceremony, from the arrangement of the tea room to the utensils used, is infused with symbolism and aesthetic considerations.
Participants in the tea ceremony, whether hosts or guests, are encouraged to cultivate a sense of tranquility and connection with each other and with nature. Through its emphasis on simplicity, hospitality, and the appreciation of fleeting moments, the tea ceremony embodies core principles of Japanese philosophy and way of life.
Ninjas and Samurais
Samurais and ninjas aren’t just for action movies. The historic practice of martial arts is one of the things Japan is famous for.
The samurai were skilled warriors who served ancient dynasty’s and lords with unwavering loyalty. These fighters, renowned for their mastery of swordsmanship, are celebrated figures in Japanese folklore and history.
Conversely, ninjas, the shadowy operatives of espionage and stealth, captivate imaginations with their elusive nature. Employed for intelligence gathering, ninjas were trained in the arts of disguise, infiltration, and martial arts, making them formidable adversaries.
Both samurais and ninjas have left an indelible mark on Japanese culture, inspiring countless legends, literature, and media adaptations.
Origami is an ancient Japanese art of paper folding. With its origins dating back to the 17th century, origami has evolved from simple traditional designs to intricate contemporary creations.
Using just a single sheet of paper, practitioners skillfully fold and manipulate it into different shapes, animals, and objects. Origami has gained international acclaim, and taking an origami class in Japan has even become a popular activity for visitors.
Mount Fuji has become an iconic symbol of Japan. It’s symmetrical cone shape and distinctive appearance makes it one of the world’s most recognizable landmarks.
A designated UNESCO World Heritage Site, Mount Fuji holds significant cultural and spiritual importance as well, and is considered a sacred mountain to the Japanese.
The active stratovolcano is the highest peak in Japan, topping out at more than 12,000 feet. On a clear day the peak can be seen from Tokyo Tower or the Skytree Lookout.
For those who want a closer look, many take a day trip to Hakone and Lake Ashi, to admire the beauty, hike along scenic trails, and photograph the mountain. This is especially popular during the cherry blossom season when the trees around the base are in bloom.
Speaking of cherry blossoms, that is one of the other things Japan is known for. Known as “sakura” in Japanese, cherry blossoms are renowned for their delicate, pale pink flowers that cover the trees in springtime.
The many cherry blossom trees in Japan make spring one of the most popular times to visit the country. You’ll often find festivals with traditional performances taking place in the spring and street vendors selling cherry-blossom-themed merchandise.
Although cherry blossom season draws the largest crowds to Japan, parts of the country rank among the world’s most beautiful winter wonderlands, as well. Japan is world famous for its skiing and light, powdery snow, often referred to as “Japow”. The consistent snowfall and cold temperatures in many regions create ideal conditions for skiing and snowboarding.
Popular areas include Nagano, Niigata, and Hokkaido where skiing in Niseko is world-renowned, . Skiing in Japan isn’t just about the experience on the slopes though. A day skiing is often followed by a soak in a traditional Japanese hot spring or onsen, and a warm local meal, like ramen.
While the Chinese may be credited with the development of calligraphy, the art of beautiful writing is a popular practice in Japan, as well.
Japanese calligraphers use brushes, ink, and paper to create elegant characters that convey not only their literal meaning but also expressiveness and emotion. Calligraphy is highly regarded as an art form in Japan and is practiced by people of all ages. You can even take a calligraphy class during your Japan trip to learn this ancient practice and create your own art.
A Quick List of Things Japan is Famous For
- Famous People with Japanese heritage: George Takei, Ann Curry, Dean Cain, Pat Morita, Darren Barnet, Brian Tee
- Famous landmarks in Japan: Mt. Fuji, Tokyo Tower, Fushimi Inari, Arashiyama Bamboo Forest, Shibuya Crossing, Dotonbori, Hiroshima Peace City Monument,
- Famous Japan food and drinks: sushi, ramen, yakitori, wagyu beef, mochi, sake, green tea
- Famous movies filmed in Japan: Last Samurai, Memoirs of a Geisha, Lost in Translation, Battle Royale, The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift
Conclusion: What is Japan famous for?
And there it is, 24 things Japan is famous for and its many contributions to the world. From the fascinating culture to the incredible food and its beautiful religion, Japan has a little bit of everything. It is an amazing country, and if you get the opportunity to visit, we guarantee you will fall in love with Japan!
Do you have other questions besides “What is Japan famous for?” or are there any famous Japanese things you would add to this list? We’d love to hear from you! Leave your thoughts in the comments below.
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