1. Since the turn of the century, Tokyo is the most populous city in the world (urban area), ahead of Shanghai and Sao Paulo.
2. In Europe you might lose your job for it, but in Japan “Inemuri” the practice of having a quick sleep at your desk is deemed perfectly acceptable.
3. Japanese people are incredibly polite so it can be shocking to see and hear them making a terrible slurping noise while eating noodles. However, it is rude not to, as this noise indicates you are enjoying your meal and also that you are taking in air with your food that enhances its flavour. If you want to watch a fantastic film about noodles, check out the 1985 classic “Tampopo,” billed as a Ramen Western.
4. Many F1 first timers in Japan are surprised at how small their hotel rooms are. However, they are positively palatial when compared to another great Japanese invention, the Capsule hotel room. Designed for Japanese “salarymen” to sleep in if they miss the last train home, the effect is similar to sleeping inside a torpedo tube.
5. There are at least 5 million vending machines in the streets of Japan, or one machine for every 23 people. You can buy almost anything from them: soft drinks, hot coffee, beer, noodles, Budhist charms, floral arrangements and toy cars. Part of the reason for the large number of machines is the low level of street crime and vandalism.
6. Are you fed up with rude hotel staff, as you travel round the world chasing the F1 calendar? Then maybe you should try and stay in one of Tokyo’s Henn na Hotels: they are staffed by robots, including dinosaur robots that run the Reception desk.
7. You’ve probably all heard of Fugo, the Puffer fish that is both a delicacy and a danger as parts of it are more poisonous than cyanide. Japanese chefs train for years to be certified to prepare it. But now, Puffer Fish Roulette could be a thing of the past as a company has bred a non-poisonous species, especially for the dinner table. Where’s the thrill in that?
8. Only one part of Japan is located in the Tropics. Okinotori-Shima (“Remote Bird Islands” in English) is a tiny atoll that is uninhabited and covers just 8000 square metres and is home to a research station in the Philippine Sea. It is 1740 kilometres south of Tokyo.
9. There can be no more typical image of Japan than the Geisha female entertainer. But the first Geisha, dating back to the 13th century, were in fact men.
10. Suzuka is the name of the fantastic circuit we race on and it is also the name of a Japanese manga or cartoon magazine. The themes mix a love story with athletics.
11. The Japanese like rabbits. There is an island overrun with wild rabbits but in the centre of Tokyo there is even a café where you can pay around 15 Euro to pet a rabbit of your choice sitting on a rug on your lap.
12. The small industrial town of Suzuka is twinned with the French town of Le Mans, home to another iconic race track.