Some 10 Things You Didn’t Know About Japan

Sometime last year, I learned that I was one of the four recipients of a scholarship by the Japanese government, to go to Japan and study whatever I wanted, in whichever institution I preferred. I have always wanted to travel and this was one chance I couldn’t let go, so here we are now. My travel date is 30th September (see countdown on top right).

After getting the scholarship, and of course during the interview process, I tried to familiarize myself with Japan, gathering as much information as I could over the internet. My geography lessons from high school were a bit hazy, only thing I could remember (like most of you) is that Japan is made up of a series of islands.  Fact: Japan is a stratovolcanic archipelago of 6,852 islands.

Regions and prefectures of Japan

Regions and prefectures of Japan. Image from wikipedia

Here is a few facts:

  1. Japan is the third richest country by GDP (nominal – don’t ask me what this means). The USA has the largest GDP, by far (it’s really a sub-continent), followed by China, then Japan.
  2. Even if both countries, China and Japan, are rich by GDP, there is a fundamental difference between China and Japan. China is a third world (or second world if you look at its industralization) country; there are people living in extremely poor conditions in that country. Japan on the other hand, has very high standards of living for all her citizens, which makes her a first world country. I hear Japanese citizens who go to work in the USA demand a hardship allowance. They don’t have automated toilets in the US of A like in Japan.

    A Japanese toilet

    A Japanese toilet

  3. Japan is also known as the land of the rising sun. That’s what the red dot on the white flag means.

    Japan Flag

    Japan Flag

  4. Japanese is the main language used in Japan (obviously). Speaking it should be easy for a Kiswahili speaker like me. However, writing is another matter. The language uses 3 sets of characters, Kanji being one of them, as well as 2 sets of kana (hiragana & katakana). Kanji (Chinese characters) is mostly used for nouns (places & names). It is quite complex as a Kanji character could mean a whole concept. Hiragana is simpler as there are symbols to represent basic sounds, so you just combine these to make up the word, just like you do in Katakana. However, Katakana is mostly used to translate words from other languages. If I had to write my name, Savvy Kenya,  I would write it in Katakana as なケニア or something close to that. (Confession: I used Google translate!)

    Kanji words

    Kanji words

  5. The Japanese prime minister is Shinzō Abe.  He is 59, tough and conservative. Read more about him in this guardian article

    Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe

    Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe

  6. Japan’s population is decreasing. There is an increase in older people and a decrease in the younger people. The country is purported to have the highest proportion of elderly citizens; more than 24% are aged 65 or above, as of 2012. Japan has the lowest birth rate. The Economist set to find out why the Japanese are having so few babies.
  7. Japan is still a conservative nation. For example, to quote the Economist: Only around 2% of babies are born outside marriage (compared with 30-50% in most of the rich world).  On a related note, they have a strict sense of timing, I hear. I definitely need to up my game, when it comes to keeping time. However, they are very friendly and hardworking people, and I look forward to enjoying the hospitality 😉
  8. Japan experiences the four seasons: Summer, Autumn, Winter, Spring. The country is beautiful, stunningly so, in all the seasons.

    Springtime in Japan

    Springtime in Japan

  9. The car in front is always a Toyota, and it’s made in Japan. Okay, its owned by Japanese but manufacturing has probably been outsourced to China. You probably know this already.
  10. Tokyo is the capital city – this you already know. To be honest I ran out of facts you didn’t know and got tired of googling hehe.. so bear with me, I will write more about the country while I am there. I will probably change the title of this blog to “Adventures From the East” or “Tales From the Land of the Rising Sun”. Which do you like better?

 

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15 Responses to Some 10 Things You Didn’t Know About Japan

  1. woolie says:

    First congratulations on securing this very lucrative scholarship. An impressive feat, Savvy. Japan is an amazing country full of surprises. For a long time, before the ascendance of China, Japan was the world’s second largest economy – second to the US. But going by size and population clearly Japan is number one. Japan is a small nation with a big influence in the world. They project an outward looking positive message to the rest of the world.

    I have no idea why they have a declining population – which is defined as the situation where the birth rate is not sufficient to replace the people dying. This seems to be Japan’s real dilemma in the coming years. Over the years I have met many people from the land of the rising sun. One common theme that you will recognise almost immediately Savvy is – they are really big on respect and honour.

    You are a seasoned traveller having started your adventures at an early age and you’ll be right in your element in this new and interesting society. You have the added challenge (bonus) of learning a new language. How exciting!

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    • savvykenya says:

      Yes Woolie, I am looking forward to learning a new language and a totally new experience. I have respect and honour but I don’t think I show it outwardly, something I may have to learn! The Economist explains the population is declining because of the struggle women go through to bring up kids vs career. They don’t have a support system like affordable nannies or daycare, so most women have to give up their careers to bring up the kids. It’s a tough one. Affects most developed nations.

      Like

  2. Mackel9 says:

    Congratulations Savvy,
    No shit, Japanese toilets wipe, wash and dry you? Dang!

    How about “The Nihon Chronicles” 🙂

    P.S Come back a Ninja, Jeremy will sure be the karate kid double…

    Like

    • savvykenya says:

      I see what you did there, with the no shit line 🙂 I am going to test out the entire functionality of those high tech toilets!

      Nihon Chronicles.. good one, will consider.

      I am definitely taking up karate, I left a white belt, but must get a black belt. J of course, will be very agile if he takes it up early!

      Like

  3. Vincent Maraba says:

    Congratulations Savvy! What course are you destined to pursue?

    Like

  4. lil' says:

    Congratulations Savvy Kenya! Been following your blog for years now as a ghost reader, seems this is the perfect time to ‘come out’! Congrats again and it so happens I will be attending a training in Japan come October. Maybe then I’ll better understand your stories from the land of the rising sun.

    Like

  5. Pingback: Interview with Savvy Kenya, MEXT Scholarship Recipient

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