Quick, do you know how many Great Lakes there are on North America? The answer is five. The reason I know this is, the official name of the Great Lakes in Japanese is “Go-daiko” or the Five Great Lakes. The Japanese can be really organized at times, and they like to codify things into little lists to make them easier to manage, not unlike the classic Seven Wonders of the World ranking. Have you read the Four Great Tragedies of Shakespeare? I didn’t know there were only four of them, but this is the term the Japanese use to describe Hamlet, Macbeth, Othello and King Lear. These “most famous” mini lists are positively legion in Japan, and no matter what subject you’re interested in, there’s probably a “best whatever” list for you. If you’re planning a trip to Japan, you might want to hit the Nihon Sankei, the Three Most Beautiful Views of Japan, which are the gnarled Japan Pines of Matsushima, the floating arch at Miyajima near Hiroshima and the view from the top of Amano Hashidate Mountain in Kyoto (which, by tradition, you’re supposed to look at upside down, looking between your own legs). How about the Three Rare Delicacies of the World? Caviar, foie gras and truffles. The Three Great Soups? Bouillabaisse, Shark’s Fin and Tom Yan Kung. How about the Three Great Guitarists of the world? Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page. There is even an official listing for the Three Great Brands of Ham in the world.
This is really how you’re supposed to do it.