Who doesn’t love chasing superlatives and being the best in the world? Japan certainly does. This country has high standards for itself and competes globally even in categories it’s not expected to excel at, such as whiskey production. As well as winning gold medals and submitting endless entries to be added to the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites, Japan is also breaking world records.

Sometimes it’s a numbers game, such as Tokyo being the most populous city (depending on how you measure it) and Shinjuku being the world’s busiest station with about 3.5 million passengers passing through daily. Sometimes it’s about being the highest or smallest. Cases in point: numbers two and three on our list below.

Tall, tiny, new and old, here’s a look at some of the most interesting Japan world records at the time of writing.

1. Tokyo is the city with the most Michelin-starred restaurants

Japanese cuisine is registered as Intangible Cultural Heritage by UNESCO, so the attention to fine dining is no surprise.

According to the 2022 Michelin Guide, Tokyo has maintained its culinary world dominance with 432 restaurants in the famous gourmet guide. Of those, 203 have received stars, while the other 229 were part of the Bib Gourmand selection. In both cases, Tokyo is number one in the world. The city numbers more Michelin restaurants than some of the top 10 countries on the Michelin list.

As a nation, Japan is just behind France, where the Michelin Guide originated. Counting only the restaurants with stars, Japan currently has 413 Michelin-starred restaurants.

Japan wins in another more recent Michelin category though, by being the country with the highest number of green stars — a total of 24 in 2022. In addition to great taste, the green stars are awarded to restaurants that are also dedicated to sustainability and protecting the environment. One of the Tokyo restaurants with a green star is DEN, also voted the best restaurant in Asia in 2022.

2. Japan has the tallest tower

This one might be a bit confusing if you’ve heard of the 829.8-meter tall Burj Khalifa in Dubai. Yes, the Burj Khalifa is the world’s tallest structure ahead of second-placed Tokyo Skytree at 634 meters, however, the Burj Khalifa is not a tower, so in the tallest tower category, Tokyo Skytree wins.

3. Japan has the shortest escalator

World records can also be set by doing something on an incredibly small scale. One such treasure is in Kawasaki, Kanagawa Prefecture — the world’s shortest escalator at More’s Department Store at only 83.4 cm in height and five steps in total. Anyone can go, see it and ride it for themselves.

Bonus: Japan also has the station with the shortest name. “Tsu” in Mie Prefecture is written only with one hiragana character — つ.

4. Japan has the biggest mobile humanoid robot

Robots are part of Japan’s brand, so usually, the country breaks and updates its own records. The latest officially registered in the Guinness Book of World Records is from 2020 when Bandai unveiled its new shiny moving 18-meter tall 25-ton heavy Gundam. The humanoid robot is based on the RX-78-2 Gundam design and it was created in celebration of the 40th anniversary of the anime series.

The Gundam robot is also the first one that can walk. Or more precisely take a few steps and go down on one knee. It’s standing in Gundam Factory Yokohama where fans can go and see it, climb up and also look at an exhibition detailing its creation by a team of stellar engineers. It will be on display until March 2023 and Bandai has not disclosed its plans for what comes after.

5. Japan has the most vending machines per capita

According to the Japan Vending Machines Manufacturers’ Association, Japan has the highest number of vending machines per capita. If only looking at the number of vending machines per country, the US has more vending machines in total. However, what’s impressive in Japan is the density and distribution of vending machines. There are currently around four million units in Japan.

6. Japan has the Earth’s youngest island

Japan sits on top of a very active volcanic area causing numerous earthquakes which occasionally leads to the emergence of new islands. As of the time of writing, Japan shares the world record with Greenland in regard to having the world’s youngest island. Fukutoku-Okanoba is off of Japan’s mainland in the Pacific Ocean, very close to Iwo Jima, another volcanic island. It emerged in 2021 and the area is still very active. Geologists are not sure how long the island will exist since eruptions can sometimes destroy landmasses they have previously created. This area’s underwater volcano has erupted several times before and created small islands but they all eroded after a while.

In 2013, the Nishinoshima Shinto in the Ogasawara Islands near Tokyo was the world’s newest island. In fact, Japan has held the record for the youngest island several times in the last 100 years. It’s, therefore, safe to assume that even if Fukutoku-Okanoba is wiped out, a new island will probably appear in the near future.

Japan world records

Editorial credit: Pasakorn Hansetagan / Shutterstock.com

7. Japan has some of the oldest people

Due to the nature of human life, this category fluctuates and is hard to track. Currently, according to the Population Reference Bureau, Japan has the highest percentage of elderly people in the world. The country also often tops the list of countries with the longest life expectancy in the world. While inside Japan, the Okinawans tend to live the longest on average.

Moreover, the oldest living person in the world has often been a Japanese citizen. However, at the time of writing, French Roman Catholic nun Lucile Randon (also known as Sister Andre) is the world’s oldest person. In the top 10 oldest people recorded ever, Japan has four entries. It’s the only country with more than two people in the top ten and Kane Tanaka holds the second spot. The top spot is held by Jeanne Calment from France who lived up to 122 years and 164 days.

Even a koala in Japan holds an age record, being the oldest koala in captivity (in a zoo in Awaji Farm Park England Hill) in the world.

Japan also has the oldest band ever recorded. The Golden Senior Trio entered the Guinness Book of World Records in 2015 when their average age was 83. In 2013, meanwhile, 80-year-old Yuichiro Miura reclaimed his title as the oldest person to climb to the summit of Mount Everest.