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Bill Belew has raised 2 bi-cultural kids, now 34 and 30. And he and his wife are now parenting a 3rd, Mia, who is 8.


Blogging in Japan

I know some things about Japan, first hand, having lived there nearly 20 years, but I’ll try to leave my bias out. Try to…21 must know facts about Japan.

Continuing on my journey around Asia’s many countries on this list of countries in Asia, I come to Japan. (How many countries are there in Asia anyway? See the list for the answer.)

There is no real method to my madness. I chose Japan because as I write this our new Secretary of State, Hillary, made the land of the Rising Sun her first stop on her first overseas trip. So, I thought, I’d do Japan next.

1.  Japan (pronounced Nihon or Nippon – knee hone, knee pone)is about 90% the size of California. But, 60% of Japan is unlivable because of mountains and such. It makes the livable part of Japan about the size of New York, or Illinois or Iowa.  There are more than 3,000 Japanese islands.

2. Japan’s population is about 40% that of the United States. It’s like taking all of the people west of the Mississippi and having them live in the southern half of California. Or, we could have everyone in New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia, North & South Carolina, and Missouri move into the State of Illinois. That’s how crowded Japan is. Japan has 50% more people than Germany which is about the same size.

3. More people live in the Tokyo metropolitan area than live in the entire state of California or imagine having everyone in Michigan + Ohio + Pennsylvania living in one city and the immediate surroundings. There are more people in the Tokyo area than in Shanghai and Beijing metro areas combined.

4. More than one in five people in Japan are over the age of 65. Just one in eight under the age of 14.

5. The average age in Japan is 44. Japanese women are expected to live to be 85.6 years old.  Men will live to be 78.7 years old.

6. Japan is an island country, completely surrounded by water with 18,000 miles of coastline.

7. Japan has virtually no natural energy resources, is the largest importer of coal and liquefied gas in the world, 2nd largest oil importer.

8. Mt Fuji is the highest point in Japan at 3,776 meters. There are about 1,500 seismic occurrences in Japan each year. Tsunamis and typhoons are two other natural hazards.

9. Japan is 98.5 Japanese, .5% Korean and .4% Chinese. Brazil has the largest population of Japanese outside of Japan.


10. Some 100 million people in Japan practices Shintoism, 80 million practice Buddhism and 2 million practice Christianity. There are only 127 million people in the country. The Japanese do not find it a conflict to practice more than one religion.


11. Japan and America are opposites in many ways. The ruling Liberal Democratic Party leans toward socialism and is very conservative. The socialist party is liberal and progressive. Go figure!

12.  About one in eight people in Japan’s workforce do something related to the auto industry.


13.  The average Japanese has more than $100K in the bank. What that means is someone had more than $200k in the bank because when we were there we didn’t have any. The richest group in Japan are the office ladies who work full time and still live at home. Imagine making $30-40K a year and having no expenses.

14. Japan’s largest export partners are US 20.4%, China 15.3%, South Korea 7.6%, Taiwan 6.3%, Hong Kong 5.4%.

15. Japan’s largest import partners are China 20.5%, US 11.6%, Saudi Arabia 5.7%, UAE 5.2%, Australia 5%, South Korea 4.4%, Indonesia 4.2%.

16. 80% of all Japanese have a cell phone. There is one Internet host for every 3 people in the country. 75% of Japanese are online.

17. Japan has about 13,000 miles of railways. You can go anywhere by public transportation….including the Shinkansen (sheen con sen) bullet train. Japan National Tourism Organization is the place to start.

18. Start at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs if you want to work/teach in Japan.

19. Despite losing the war, Japan did not change her national anthem or national flag.

20. 99% of Japanese over 15 years of age are considered literate.

21. Despite being 1/10th the size of China, Japan still has a larger economy…but maybe not for long.


22. 21 facts about Japan are not enough facts about Japan.

Seriously …there is Japanese sports like sumo, technology like robots and cars and electronics to consider. Japan is indeed a fascinating place. I wish I could go back.

What have I forgotten? What else goes on the list? What doesn’t belong here?

Please take the time to Sign My Japan Guestbook if you have ever been to Japan.

source, source, source, source, source, source, source, source, source, source, source

Talk to Bill and others about their experiences raising bi-cultural Japanese-American kids.

Bill Belew

Daddy and Christian.


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