Japanese Subcultures You Won’t Believe Are Real!

Japan welcomes over 20 million foreign visitors annually, but for some reason, much of their culture remains enigmatic to the Western world. There’s a lot to discover within Japan’s amazing culture and you’ll soon see that ideas like cuddle cafes and sleeping on the job are considered perfectly normal in Japanese society. Some things may surprise you or have you scratching your head — like why a certain American food chain is packed at the end of the year!

You’re The Master Of These Japanese Meido Kafes

Any service you’ve received at a restaurant might be considered subpar once you’ve set foot into one of Japan’s meido kafes, or maid cafes. Once you enter such establishments, waitresses dressed in frilly anime-like maid costumes will serve you as if you are their master (or mistress), rather than a regular cafe patron. Maid cafes originated in Akihabara, an area in Toyko home to the otaku, or nerd, district. The concept has been so popular that competition has encouraged cafes to ramp up their service by trying to make customers’ experiences as fun and exciting as possible. But don’t be mistaken, these maid cafes are not intended to be sexual in any way.

When You’re Lonely, A Stranger Will Cuddle You — For A Price

Perhaps you’re feeling a little lonely and need the warmth of another body to cuddle up against. Walk around Akihabara a little more and you might come across one of Japan’s cuddle cafes, where you can pay to cuddle with a complete stranger (unless you’re a regular, which, there are at some cafes). It costs around $40 for a 30-minute session, but don’t get any ideas — these establishments offer nothing more than cuddling. There are other perks you can pay for such as hand holding, staring into each other’s eyes — even an ear cleaning — but these cuddle sessions are purely innocent.

Capsule Hotels Are The Hotels Of The Future

If you need a quick, no frills place to stay for a night or two, you might be interested in the utilitarianism of a Japanese capsule hotel. Inside you will find a large room with dozens of individual capsules intended for hotel patrons. The capsules are no larger than a single bed and are sometimes equipped with a small television set or a place to store and charge your personal items. There is a communal bathroom, much like what you would find at a hostel. Salaried businessmen and inebriated folks who couldn’t make it home safely are frequent patrons of these establishments.

There Are Hotels For People Involved In Affairs

Even more curious than capsule hotels are the infamous Japanese love hotels. Offering two different room rates — a “rest” or an overnight stay — these hotels are designed for amorous couples. While the clientele ranges from city bosses and their mistresses to a married couple trying to spice up their love life, a key component of these hotels is their discretion. Check-in and a lot of the other hotel processes are done on a computer, allowing for as little human interaction as possible to maintain privacy. While most rooms are pretty basic, a lot of hotels offer theme rooms with amenities varying from karaoke machines to rotating beds.

Bunny Cafes Let You Play With Rabbits While You Eat

If you’re looking for more niche cafes to check out, look no further than a bunny cafe, or usagi cafe. If you’re familiar with the concept of cat cafes, then bunny cafes are no different. Here, you can play with all the furry rabbits your heart desires. You can still grab a snack or a drink, but some cafes will have the dining and bunny areas separate. The concept of bunny cafes has certainly taken off, although they’re not quite on every street corner like the maid cafes seem to be. Because there are a lot of restrictions on owning personal pets in Japan, a lot of people visit pet cafes to get their furry fix.

KFC Is A Japanese Christmas Tradition

Although only about one percent of Japan is Christian, a lot of Japanese people still look forward to Christmas — and it’s not even a national holiday there. When Christmastime rolls around, Japan’s Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurants begin dolling out special Christmas Party Barrels, which include full-on dinners for the whole family to enjoy. The concept of Kurisumasu ni wa Kentakkii, or Kentucky for Christmas, took up in the mid-’70s when the manager of the first Japan-based KFC thought of providing a way for foreigners to celebrate Christmas abroad. Now, having KFC at Christmastime is as traditional in Japan as having a Christmas tree in your living room.

Japan Is A Vending Machine Mecca

When you’re walking along the streets in Japan, you might get a little thirsty and want to stop at a nearby vending machine for a refreshing soda. Lucky for you, in Japan, you can get a soda and then some. Japan is home to some of the craziest vending machines in the world. You can get anything from beer, hot soup, produce, eggs — even used underwear! Vending machines are prominent in Japan and you will often see many of them lined up, as opposed to just seeing one or two on a street corner like in many other Western countries.

Japanese Photobooths Were Ahead Of Their Time

In Japanese arcades, you are likely to come across their purikura machines, photo sticker booths that are a whole lot of fun. While standard photo booths in the Western world are usually made to fit just one or two people, purikura machines can accommodate a whole group of people, so you and all your best friends can join in on the experience. The real fun after your photo is taken. From there, you can customize your photos in various types of ways depending on what’s offered by your machine. Your photos could have custom backgrounds, drawings, stickers—you can even change the features on your face!

Karaoke Is As Normal As A Night At The Club

You’ve more than likely heard of karaoke, but if you haven’t — where have you been?! The Japanese invention has gained international popularity and has been around for decades. It involves you singing into a microphone as the lyrics of your favorite song are displayed on the screen, while the instrumental aspects of the song play in the background. In Japan, people who go to karaoke get their own private room so they can sing to their heart’s content without having to be embarrassed. You can even order food and drinks and have a full-on party with your closest friends!

The Japanese Found A Way To Combine Pinball And Gambling

Leave it to Japan to take the pinball concept up about ten notches! Pachinko is sort of like the Japanese equivalent to slot machines, except pachinko machines use tiny steel balls that determine the machine’s payout. Modern-day machines display colors and lights similar to the excitement of slot machines. There are many Pachinko parlors throughout Japan and they are very similar to casinos, however, gambling for money is illegal in Japan. At pachinko parlors, you must exchange your payout for prizes or tokens. Most of the time, the tokens can be brought to a separate venue where you can exchange them for cash.

The Whimsical World Of Harajuku Street-Style

By now, you can already see Japan’s affinity for making things visually exciting, engaging, and more often than not, extremely cute! This has been extended into the realm of fashion as well and there’s no better example than Harajuku street style. The area around the Harajuku station in Tokyo has its own eclectic and off-beat vibe and within its streets run various Harajuku style tribes — different subcultures within Harajuku that are differentiated by which styles and trends a person is wearing. In general, teens are seen wearing bright and outlandish clothing, often with elaborate makeup and hairstyles.

Japanese Girls Take Lolita To A Whole New Level Of Cuteness

The popularity of Ganguro began to wane as the 2000s kicked in and by then, teens were starting to obsess with the Lolita style. While the name Lolita may evoke inappropriate sexual connotations in the minds of Westerners, the Lolita fashion craze in Japan has an entirely different meaning. Girls dress up in modest Victorian-era-style dresses, which are often frilly and extremely feminine. Girls wear their hairs in pigtails with big bows and even take it to the next level with petticoats and knee socks. Lolita style has even evolved into another substyle called Gothic Lolita, which is the same idea but with a dark twist.

Japanese Men Strip Down For This Spiritual Festival

Towards the latter half of the year, you might be around for Hadaka Matsuri, which is known as Japan’s Naked Festival. Sorry, ladies — this is a boys only retreat. Thousands of men and boys (dressed in a loincloth, so not completely naked) gather at Saidai-ji for a midnight celebration before they participate in a race to win good fortune for the following year. The race involves two sacred sticks thrown into a crowd by a Shinto priest. Whoever successfully sticks both sticks into a rice-filled box known as the masu, is the one who wins the year of good fortune.

A Japanese Holiday That Celebrates Adulthood

Another tradition in Japanese culture is Coming of Age Day, a national holiday usually celebrated on the second Monday of January. This day is held for individuals who turned 20 years old on or before that day over the past year, to congratulate their entrance into adulthood and encourage their new expected responsibilities. Girls dress for the occasion, in elaborate furisode, a style of kimono distinguished by long sleeves. Guys used to dress in traditional Japanese garb, but in recent years have veered toward wearing a suit and tie. However, the event is increasingly losing popularity among current Japanese young adults.

There Is Even A Day To Celebrate Children

For a country that puts much emphasis on respecting elders, they sure do know how to celebrate their youth! Another traditional Japanese holiday is Children’s Day. Known as Kodomo No Hi, the tradition was originally known as Boy’s Day to celebrate boys of the family and their fathers. Additionally, there was a Girl’s Day as well, but as of 1948 the Japanese government officially recognized an overall Children’s Day to celebrate children’s’ happiness and respect their individual personalities. Families celebrate by putting up koinobori, carp-shaped flags that look like they are swimming when the wind blows through.

Don’t Worry About Falling Asleep On The Job

If you tend to fall asleep at your desk and often get slack for it, you might want to move to Japan where that is totally acceptable. The Japanese concept of inemuri, which roughly translates to “present while sleeping,” is the practice of napping in public — which includes a work or class setting. Japanese bosses recognize that their employees work so hard, they may be driven to engage in inemuri, which is totally okay as long as you’re “sleeping” upright. Some Japanese even fall asleep on public transportation and tend to doze off on a stranger’s shoulder, but don’t worry — that’s socially acceptable too.

Why There Is Never A Fourth Floor In Japan

One thing you’ll notice when you’re in Japan is how there buildings don’t have a labeled fourth floor. Elevator buttons will go from three to five, but never four. Why? The Japanese are superstitious about the number four because the word for it in Japanese sounds very similar to the Japanese word for death. The number four is considered very unlucky in Japanese culture and this extends to other numbers that include a number four. Number 49, for example, is bad because in Japanese it sounds similar to the phrase “pain until death.” This phenomenon is known as tetraphobia and is prominent throughout East and Southeast Asia.

This Japanese Tradition Can Get You The Best Meal You’ve Ever Had

If you’re feeling particularly adventurous with Japanese cuisine, you can participate in Omakase, which translates to “I will leave it to you.” This tradition involves letting the chef of a restaurant choose your order for you. In a country that has some of the best chefs and freshest ingredients, this wouldn’t be a bad idea. However, there are some guidelines to get the best experience possible. For example, you might want to try Omakase at a sushi restaurant, where fresh fish and veggies are delivered every day. But if you engage a chef in Omakase you have to commit to it, because it would be very rude if you didn’t eat what was given to you.

Too Old To Be Adopted? Not In Japan!

In Japan, there are a lot of families that adopt adults. While most orphans in Western culture are not up for adoption as adults, Japan has made it completely normal to adopt non-related adults into the offspring roles of their families. Japanese families do this to extend their family name, estate, and ancestry. The practice is especially prominent in Japan because fewer people are getting married and having children and as a result, Japan is experiencing a decreasing birth rate and concerning decrease in population. Most Japanese adopt someone in their twenties and these adoptees must agree to take on their new family name if they want the inheritance.