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10 Crazy Things You Can Only Find in Japan

If you spot blue traffic lights and sweet potato Kit Kats, you're probably in Japan.

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Cutesy construction barriers

Construction can be unpleasant to look at, so might as well make it a little cuter. The unsightly orange and white striped barriers you’d find in America might catch drivers’ eyes, but the cartoon-shaped ones in Japan will make you want to keep looking.

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Blue traffic lights

Almost universally, red means stop and green means go. If you’re in Japan, though, you’d have to wait a long time waiting for the traffic light to turn green. In that country, the “go” lights are more of a turquoise or aqua color, and in some areas they’re just plain blue. Learn why Japan’s traffic lights are blue and not green.

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An island of bunnies

Off the East Sea of Japan sits Ōkunoshima, an island fittingly dubbed “Rabbit Island.” By taking a quick ferry ride over, visitors can watch and feed hundreds of fluffy bunnies. Find out more about Ōkunoshima, including its history and some adorable pictures.

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Crazy expensive fruits

If you cringed at out-of-season produce prices in your own grocery store, you’ll get even bigger sticker shock at high-end fruit stores in Japan. Expensive fruits are a status symbol in the gift-giving culture, which explains why you can find pears for $19, strawberries for $5 apiece, and melons for $125 in some stores. Here’s why fruit is so expensive in Japan.

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Fancy toilets

Spending some time in the bathroom is a fact of life, so why not make it comfortable? Skip over the traditional squat toilets (which yes, involve squatting over an in-ground bowl) and go to a more modern stall. It’s not uncommon to find one that makes noise to block any uncomfortable sounds, gives off perfume, raises its seat automatically, and has a built-in bidet. Once you’re done, practice this Japanese tradition for a meaningful life.

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Cars advertising new and senior drivers

If you’ve ever wondered about that yellow and green V-shaped symbol in your emoji keyboard, you finally have an answer: It’s a Japanese symbol for “novice.” (Learn the real meanings behind 10 other confusing emojis.) One of the most common places you’ll see it is as a magnet on the back of cars. New drivers need to keep a “shoshinsha mark” magnet on their vehicles for a year. On the other hand, a “koreisha mark” that looks like a four-colored clover indicates the driver is 75 or older. (Find out how to tell if your elderly loved one should stop driving.) If you spot a yellow butterfly on a green background, you’ll know the person behind the wheel is hard of hearing.

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Front-seat TVs

Your car might have a navigation screen by the driver’s seat, and maybe even a TV screen for the back-seat riders. In Japan, though, the two are one in the same—a front-seat screen can stream TV shows. “All of our ‘navi’ systems sold in Japan have a TV tuner function, but none sold outside Japan have it,” Pioneer Corp. spokesman Hiromitsu Kimura told the Wall Street Journal. And you thought texting and driving was bad! Find why you need to cut distractions and follow these 10 other driving etiquette rules.

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KFC for Christmas

A fast food joint might be the last place you’d want to celebrate Christmas, but it’s the go-to spot in Japan. The tradition started in the 1970s, when the manager of the country’s first KFC overheard foreigners saying they missed having turkey—a meat that’s tough to find in Japan—on Christmas. Not many Japanese people celebrate the holiday, but the manager hoped fried chicken could be a good substitute for foreigners craving poultry. (Maybe soon they’ll add these Japanese chickens that could prevent cancer to their menu.) Good marketing helped the tradition stick, and you might need to order your KFC Christmas dinner weeks in advance or spend hours waiting in line for it. In other Japanese food news, find out why Japan has some of the best school lunches.

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Crazy vending machines

You might be a regular at the office vending machine when mid-afternoon cravings hit, but the dispensers in Japan aren’t just for snacks and drinks. Machines selling sushi socks, bottled flying fish, surgical masks, and canned carrots can all be found in Japan. Then again, you can also find vending machines selling coffee, beer, and sake, so maybe they know what they’re doing. Maybe soon you’ll find this Japanese ice cream that never melts inside a machine.

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Shower dryers

Most Japanese homes don’t have a clothes dryer. Instead, they’ll hang their clean laundry outside or in the bathroom. Showers have a fan setting designed for drying clothes, so even delicate clothes dry quickly without getting ruined in the heat. When using the shower to, well, shower, try this Japanese beauty trick to make your hair grow faster.

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Unique Kit-Kat flavors

Americans might get excited when white chocolate and strawberry Kit Kats hit the markets, but Japanese buyers have way more options. Imagine satisfying your candy craving with crazy flavors like wasabi, sake, or purple sweet potato. Part of the popularity might come from the name. In Japan, the chocolate bars are called kitto katto, which is awfully close to kitto katsu, meaning “surely you will win,” according to CBS. Despite the love for chocolate, find out why Japanese children are the healthiest in the world.

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Rain protectors on cars

On a hot summer day with a 50 percent chance of rain, it’s a total gamble whether you want to come back to a stiflingly hot car or water-soaked seats. In Japan, though, there’s a mini roof hanging over the windows to protect the interior from rain. You can add them separately in the United States, but they’re a vehicle commonplace in Japan.

Marissa Laliberte
Marissa Laliberte-Simonian is a London-based associate editor with the global promotions team at WebMD’s Medscape.com and was previously a staff writer for Reader's Digest. Her work has also appeared in Business Insider, Parents magazine, CreakyJoints, and the Baltimore Sun. You can find her on Instagram @marissasimonian.