I have found the following list of things you may not have known about Japan on Jeff Laitila's site Sushicam.com, the content of which I'd like to discuss.

When you buy a beer from a vending machine it doesn't cost anymore than it does in a supermarket (No bulk purchase discount)
You can buy damn near anything from a vending machine here (whisky, french-fries, rice, video games, ramen noodles, batteries, fresh flowers, used women's panties, ...the list is endless)
You can pay almost any kind of bill at any convenience store
ATM's are not open 24 hours per day, and usually shut down around 7 or 8 p.m.
Some workers at train stations do not go home at night, they sleep in dormatories at the station to be able to open the station very early in the morning and close it very late at night
Nearly everyone smokes
When you leave a gas station the attendants stop traffic for you so you can get back on the road easily, then they bow to you as you leave
Different denominations of Japanese paper currency are different sizes, the larger the denomination the larger the bill is
Japanese paper currency has brail on it
There are people who have the job of pushing people into trains during rush hour so that the doors can close
Most Japanese houses have no insulation
Coffee tables with built in heaters and an accompanying blanket quickly become your best friends here in winter
A lot of people use kerosene heaters in the house during the winter
Trains are Always on time
Gasoline costs almost $4 per gallon
A single can of beer costs about $2.20 in stores
A single beer can cost anywhere from $3 to $15 in bar
Some old women highlight their hair purple or blue, they think it looks nice (I'm not kidding)
The doors on taxis open and close automatically
In Japan you can rent music CD's, just like renting a movie
Japanese snowmen are made with two snowballs instead of three
It costs about $16 to see a movie in a theater
Magazines and books are read "right handed" or "backwards" compared to western publications
Nobody uses checks, everything is bought using cash or credit cards
A small name stamp, called "inkan", carries the same legal weight as a persons signature
Taxi drivers wear white gloves
All convenience stores have the same prices for their products and they even go on sale at the same times (Yes, price fixing is rampant here)
Most younger Japanese can read and write English
Most younger Japanese cannot actually speak very much English
Of course, most of what's written there is true (except that not nearly everyone smokes, magazines are usually read the other way than books, credit cards aren't much commoner than cheques, but these are details). What struck me is that a few of these things seem perfectly normal for me European, and are apparently not for the author who is American (and maybe on this forum ??).

For example :

- Gasoline costs almost $4 per gallon

It's actually more expensive in most European countries than in Japan.

- In Japan you can rent music CD's, just like renting a movie

Why ? Can't you rent CD's in the US ? What about video games ?

- It costs about $16 to see a movie in a theater

I agre that it is expensive, but you'd pay about 20 US$ in central London. Is it really cheaper in places like New York ?

- Nobody uses checks, everything is bought using cash or credit cards

Cheques have almost disappeared in Europe as well. The difference is that a Northern European would pay almost everything with a credit card, while a Japanese almost exclusively in cash.

I'd add a few more strange or unexpected things you'll find in Japan to the list. That's why I started this topic.

- Everybody rides a bicycle. Even in the Netherlands it's nothing compared to here.

- Among the thousands of bicycles in front of every station, you'd be lucky to spot a mountain bike or anything more expensive than 10000yen (10US$/euro). Mine too.

- Taxis are so old, my first impression of Tokyo was to be back in the 80's.

- I have never seen any stone or (real) brick building in Japan. Only concrete or wood.

- There are no squares in Tokyo (and other cities I know), only streets and crossings.

- You can get a better mobile phone than anywhere else in the world, for free ! What's more, they also change it for free after a few months when new models have come.

- Most public phone don't make international calls.

- ATM's don't take non-Japanese cards (even when they take Visa, only the Japanese ones !)

- Mizuho, the world's largest bank, has no service in English, not even ATM's (or just a few). You can't send money to another country either.


There is surely more, but I can't think of anything else for the moment.

I was also very surprised that Japanese houses walls were a mere 15cm thick (or thin, don't know) and hollow inside, with of course no insulation, like Jeff mentions.