To outsiders, Japan might as well be another planet in a different universe — it feels light-years away from everything we know. In a culture where everything is weirdly unique and outlandishly creative, it makes for a fascinating journey through one of the world’s most bizarrely beautiful places. Here are 7 quirky things that only exist in Japan…
1. Insanely expensive luxury fruit
It’s said that the Japanese eat with their eyes, which might explain the popularity of luxury grocer’s dedicated to flawless and insanely expensive fruit. Japan’s tradition of gift giving prizes luxury fruit above all else. People literally spend hundreds (or even thousands) of dollars on square-shaped watermelons, tennis-ball sized strawberries, or a single bunch of grapes. A pair of cantaloupe once sold here for a record $27,000 at auction.
2. Weird and wacky vending machines
In Japan there are over 5 million vending machines – about 1 for every 23 people – and it’s not just snacks and beverages on offer. In a culture that values convenience and worships automation, everything is up for grabs: live lobsters, lingerie, liquor, umbrellas, fresh eggs, floral arrangements, board games. Perhaps most shocking to outsiders is that vending machines rarely malfunction or get vandalized.
3. High-tech toilets
Electronic commodes in Japan are next-level, offering a complicated assortment of options like heated seats, warm water jets, lids that raise and lower automatically, air-dry functions, and even sound effects known as “Otohime” that mask unpleasant sounds. They’re intimidating to use at first sight, but you’ll soon wonder how you ever lived without them.
4. Robot cabarets
The iconic Robot Restaurant in Tokyo’s red-light district is a technicolor sensory overload — and one of the weirdest cabaret shows on the planet. Featuring 3-meter-tall transformer robots, flying dancers, giant pandas and about five million light bulbs, if you’re ever looking for a crazy night out in Tokyo, this show is at the top of many bucket lists.
5. Mario Kart street racing
It’s real-life Mario Kart racing… in the streets of Tokyo! In the hometown that gave birth to Nintendo, MariCar came up with the brilliant idea of offering go-kart tours inspired by the mega popular game. Cosplaying as your favorite character and whizzing around town in a Mario Kart-inspired vehicle is peak Japanese gaming culture — sign us up!
6. Capsule hotels
Capsule hotels are straight out of a sci-fi movie. Functioning similar to a hostel where short-term guests share communal spaces like bathroom and dining facilities, they’re among the cheapest places to spend a night in Japan. Pods start from around $18 and have become extremely popular with tourists on a budget, or just those looking for a truly unique experience.
7. Bizarre foodie flavors
Chicken wing, garlic, ramen, wasabi, tofu, soy sauce: these are just a handful of weird ice cream flavors you’ll find in Japan — and it doesn’t stop there. Kit Kat flavors found here are the stuff of legend with more than 300 bizarre (and intriguing) flavors on offer. When it comes to snacking, there’s no better place in the world to get adventurous.