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Overview
Late in October, I spent 7 days in Japan (Tokyo, Kawaguchiko, Kyoto, Osaka) and 2 days in Korea (Seoul). Here I’ll list my observations and how the 2 nations compare from my experience. I've added some random photos I took during the trip to make this report a bit more "colourful"

Vibe and Atmosphere
Japan is easily the most unique country I’ve ever been to from the 25. It’s full of weird as hell (in a cool way) surprises. It’s very distinct and Japanese and hasn’t been really Westernized. It boasts a 98% homogenous population who practice mostly Shintoism.

Korea on the other hand was a lot more Westernized. You’d see a lot more signs in English, A LOT more foreign expats, and if you’re from a Western country and want to go live in Asia, fair to say there is less chance of you getting homesick in Seoul compared to Tokyo.

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Societal Observations
Japan was easily the most high-trust society I’ve ever seen. I find it bewildering that people would leave the key inside lockers in public spaces! (as if they were sure nobody would steal). A lot of it is because of Shintoism principles where taking away someone else’ possession is highly frowned upon, and the extremely homogeneous population also contributes to that. I talked to a few expats and they said the vast majority of the little petty crime that happens is in Roppongi where you see most foreigner population. That’s one of the reasons Japanese could be a bit xenophobic, because they really expect foreigners to act like them and keep their society high-trust, and sadly the migrants who are there don't behave as Japanese standards demand for the most part.

I find Korea to be a lot more you know like regular western society. I don't recall seeing any homeless person or beggars in 7 days in Japan, but saw 5-6 in two days in Seoul.

Girls & Guys
Japanese men were a lot tamer than Korean dudes. As in, they were a lot more laid back in a bar or nightlight than Koreans. I noticed a total of 3-4 haircut styles on the Japanese only. They would get their crazy side out after lots of drinks though. Korean guys were taller and had some of the weirdest haircuts on the planet. It’s as they put a bowl on their head and cut everything else.

In terms of Girls, I’d say Japanese girls have cuter faces and are friendlier (though their English really sucks). Korean girls have such shiny faces (a strange makeup culture), get loads of cosmetic surgery (especially the chin) ,but are still more elegant than your average Western girl and IMO they have some of the best legs and knees anywhere in the world.

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Nightlife
In terms of night-life, Seoul is mind-blowing. The last call is mostly at 7 AM and at the time the venue is still like 50% packed by around 5AM. Koreans truly party and they do party until they drop. Japanese are ruthless partiers as well and the night-life vibe in both countries are similar, but Korea takes this one for me.

One thing I noticed in both countries is lack of PDA and public hookups. Both countries are quite conservative socially and relatively still patriarchal. If you’re at a night venue in the West at 3AM, half the crowd are either hooking up or couples up if not a higher percentage. In Japan/Korea, I find it to be less than 15% at most.

Food & Alcohol & Smoking
Honestly, it’s not even a competition. Japanese food shits all over Korean food for me. The fresh Sushi I ate in Japan makes a complete mockery of what we call Sushi here in the West. Other sorts of seafood like Octopus, crab, calamari, Salmon Ice cream, All sorts of sashimis and of course the infamous Kobe steak Korean food disappointed me, except for Pork Belly or as they call it “Samgreopsal.” Since Korean food is a lot greasier, it goes down better with beer, whereas Japanese food is made to be accompanied by Sake or Whiskey. I also enjoyed Kirin beer and tried horse sashimi. I had cooked horse when in Kazakhstan in 2017, but I actually preferred the horse sashimi taste to that one.

Alcohol is more expensive in Japan compared to Korea, but still, both were cheaper than booze in somewhere like NY at least. If I were living in Japan, I’d definitely have seafood 4-5 times a week. It just tasted so god damn fresh. Straight out of the ocean!

In Japan, outside smoking was very strict and restricted to designated areas on the streets. INSIDE smoking though was very popular. Nearly every bar, restaurant, and even breakfast cafes! Had inside smoking options. On a Monday morning at 7 AM I went for breakfast in Shinjuku Tokyo, and the smoking section of the café filled with businessmen in suit and ties were fuller than the non-smoking section. In Korea, it was the opposite. You’d see a lot more people smoking outside and throwing their cigarette butts on the ground, whereas inside smoking was more restricted and only allowed in bigger clubs.

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Culture and City Organization
I found Japanese cities to be a lot more organized than Seoul. They were significantly cleaner. Same with public transportation. Everything seemed to be in order. Seoul, on the other hand, was very chaotic. You’d see lots of car traffic with crazy fast disorganized driving. The air in Seoul was also more polluted than anywhere in Japan. Yet, you’d see lots more high-rise buildings in Seoul than any city in Japan. In a way, I’d say, Seoul was like a 1st- World version of Tehran.

Tokyo’s population of 37 million is more than the entire country of Canada for example, which all the more makes an amazing organization and order a huge success. You feel vert safe there. Despite Korea being much more Westernized, I find the customer service in Japan much more professional and pleasant. Upon leaving a restaurant, you are farewelled by a choir of ARIGATO GOJAYMAS (Thank you very much) and a smiling crew.

The Japanese are super polite, and not the fake polite IMO, I really got the vibe that it’s genuine. On an average day in Japan, you hear ARIGATO GOJAYMAS maybe at least 500 times (no exaggeration), whereas the Korean equivalent of “KAMSAMNIDA” is heard maybe 30 times a day. I also find Japanese staff smile more than Koreans.

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Language
In terms of languages, Japanese is nicer to hear and easier to speak IMO. Yet, Korean is significantly easier to read and learn and master, mostly because you only deal with ONE alphabet with clear patterns, as opposed to 3 in Japanese, with one being Kanji where you have to simply memorize many things. I already learned Katakana and Hiragana and basics of Korean consonants and vowels, but Kanji…jesus Christ.

Koreans speak much much better English than Japanese however. Not even comparable!

Random Observations
I didn’t see anyone wearing sunglasses in either country even when it was super sunny. Also, didn’t walk past any public gyms all last 10 days. Could be a coincidence, or maybe not?

Another thing I noticed is how Japanese men dress up sooooo much more than Koreans. There was a point in Osaka last Thursday night around 10 pm where I looked around and 90% of men on the street were still in full suit and tie, the Same vibe in Tokyo. These guys take their work very seriously90-degrees of 90 degree bows when lower ranked employees were saying goodbye to their bosses.

Now to issue of Manga/Anime culture: To me, it was mind-blowing. I saw numerous mid-aged businessmen in suit watching Hentai during their metro rides. The Manga store (with over 70% content being R-rated) was packed. The fantasies of these folks go wild. There were also lots of Sega and video game stores in Japan. I couldn’t personally stand being inside for more than 2 minutes as the sheer noise electrocutes your brain. I saw lots of older game players as well, so not just teens.

Being in Japan is like being in an amusement park. It’s like a living meme. At times, I genuinely felt like an active video game player just being myself in the city. You get to laugh at so many random things you notice. My favourite was perhaps the music they play in the metro when arriving at a new stop. It’s something I last heard when I was 5.Quite cute and hilarious. Kindergarten style!

Last random observation: the toilets in Japan are amazing. Almost all toilets have bidet (even Western coffeeshop branches there had bidet!) , but they go an extra step and some have additional heating as you sit down and deodorizing options. It felt so good.

Korean Politics and Attitude Towards the North
One of the biggest surprises was how strong South Korean state propaganda was. I was taking the train from Incheon airport to Seoul city center and we had a screen in front of us in English. It kept showing some islands which are disputed between Korea and Japan with subtitles like: “Japan knows the truth, the World knows the truth, nobody can deny the truth that the Island has always been Korean and it’s a testament to Korean sovereignty.” The sort of wording you’d perhaps expect to a few hundred kilometers to the North. I discussed it with a Korean dude and he passionately defended it and told me about history of the island and how Japan fucked Korea up during the war and the tension and slight resentment between the 2 still exists.

On a positive note, I spoke to handful of Koreans (as mentioned, their English is much better than the Japanese), and they were VERY positive and optimistic about immediate peace with North. They’d talk very chill about Kim Jong-Un and even his father and grandpa, I didn’t feel much hostility at all, small sample size mind you. Unsurprisingly, Trump was quite popular with them as well. The guys especially said they can’t wait for peace to accelerate so they won’t have to go through the mandatory 2-year military service.
Speaking of the service, I think that’s one reason was see a lot more Korean migrants emigrating their first world country to come to West. For guys, it’s a nightmare. Also Koreans have a super big exam upon ending high school to get to Uni and if fail, it’s a huge setback. Those 2 reasons IMO contribute a lot to Korean emigration.

Neither Japan nor Korea allow dual citizenship. So you’re either Japanese/Korean or you’re not.

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Highlights of my trip
- Spending Halloween night at Shibuya (the most populated crossing in the world), amazing atmosphere
- Seeing Mt. Fuji from up close. It’s very beautiful
- Going to Aokigahara (also known as the Suicide Forest) where hundreds of people take their own lives every year. I didn’t see any dead bodies but saw some random abandoned possessions like face masks and gloves. And it was very quite, so just me and my cousin there.
- Sampling all sorts of fresh off the ocean seafood when walking in Kyoto’s Nishiki market.
- Eating the world famous and the best steak in the world: Kobe beef. it literally melts in your mouth. No need to chew. They feed the cow beer and massage it accordingly to produce this sort of beef.
- Trying every single sort of Japanese Whiskey at Suntury Whiskey House in Osaka
- Going to Korean War Museum to learn more about Korean war of 50s

Final Words
Japan is a very special place and I envy the Japanese perhaps more so than any other people on earth. They have some issues with this whole Manga culture and how the guys have kind of retreated from game which has an obvious impact at lack of sexual activity among millennials and their population is tanking as a result. Other than that though, it's a truly interesting place that I’d recommend everyone to visit. Your life will never be the same.

Korea is also a fascinating place and I take this a positive sign that when my plan to visit DMZ was cancelled due to time constraint and I told a Korean guy at the bar I hope I do it next time, he told me: “I hope there even won’t be a DMZ next time you’re in Seoul and you can freely take the train to Pyong-Yang from here.” Let's hope so!
Fantastic info, thanks.

How much do you think living costs would be in Japan?
Interesting experience and write up, thanks!
Did you get to game any girls?

Only thing I disagree with is that Korean food is amazing. So is Japanese ofc but I love korean food.
Second that, Korean food is fantastic, outside Korea anyway...
Nice write up, was in Japan myself this year for a couple of weeks, had a lot of the same observations, I thought the music might be for the blind on the underground.

If you didnt stop at a street BBQ place and get cows tongue skewers with beers you missed out, was one of the best things I ate there.

Surprised you didnt mention Mario Kart tours, really wanted to try it but you need an international driving licence. Slated for my next trip there.

Also stayed in the capsule hotel at Narita Airport my first night, would recommend to anyone going there, great value and very clean.
Good post op. Question about Japan because I will visit the country soon.

How did you save money on transportation, hotel accommodations, and food? Tokyo is definitely not cheap.
(11-13-2018 10:58 AM)AManLikePutin Wrote: [ -> ]My favourite was perhaps the music they play in the metro when arriving at a new stop. It’s something I last heard when I was 5.Quite cute and hilarious. Kindergarten style!

Each metro stop has a unique jingle, all composed by the same man, Minoru Mukaiya.



(11-13-2018 03:44 PM)Soma Wrote: [ -> ]
(11-13-2018 10:58 AM)AManLikePutin Wrote: [ -> ]My favourite was perhaps the music they play in the metro when arriving at a new stop. It’s something I last heard when I was 5.Quite cute and hilarious. Kindergarten style!

Each metro stop has a unique jingle, all composed by the same man, Minoru Mukaiya.




Its for resting. Until recently, no open phones were allowed on metros. So, many people dozed with their eyes closed, in a state of rest. When their station came up, they heard the jingle and off they went. Genius really.
@Jefferson: Tough to answer as I stayed in hotels and Airbnbs in relatively central locations. But from what I gather, the competition for space is fierce in a city like Tokyo. I met a few foreigners who work there and they were saying how they have to pay close to $1500-$1800 a month for rent of relatively small space. Food costs quite cheaply compared to quality, and not all that different if you eat out, or make it yourself. non-public Transportation is another expensive item one must be aware of. There was no Uber unless you're taking the uber XL which was way overpriced. though public transport was reasonable (200 yen for each ride). Most foreigners I talked to who live there work in IT, however.

@spaceman: not actively, but at bars and night venues at night. language barrier by far the biggest issue with locals especially in Japan. I had done the first 5 Pimsleur lessons of both Japanese and Korean, which was a great opening surprise for them when starting a conversation in the local language. Quite a lot of expats from Siberian Russia, Australia, Singapore and a few Americans around though, so not a completely homogenous nightlife experience. Re: food, I didn't try Korean BBQ in Seoul (those 2 days really flew by) and it was one of the biggest regrets of my trip, so the food part is definitely biased towards Japan.

@Puppetmaster: If you're visiting, I strongly recommend you buy a JR pass especially if you plan on traveling from one city to another. It's about $300 USD for one week, but even if you just take just one fast super Shinkansen train from Tokyo to Kyoto, it'd pay for itself. Not to mention it'll get you from either Narita/Haneda to Tokyo city centre and is valid on some other routes as well. Re: accommodation, it's the hardest part to do cheap, because, for Airbnb for example, they charge nearly as much for cleaning fee as they do for the actual rent which is absurd. I work in travel industry, so managed to get some discounts off hotels. I say it's worth it to get a central location so you won't have to rely on private transport like taxis after a late night out to get back so you can be within walking distance and Japan is very safe for the most part. Food and alcohol you shouldn't have a problem with as they are both cheaper than the majority of Western countries. I also got a 5gb data plan at Haneda (Bic Camera store) upon landing for about $28 which served me well during that week.
If you don't mind winter and air pollution Korea can theoretically be a cheap place to live. They also have a tax code with some interesting tax loopholes but it's been awhile since I checked their tax laws.

With the Jeonse system, you can get a $500 apartment in a city like Daegu or a Seoul suburb and you can buy super cheap groceries off Gmarket. And if you're an alcoholic then you can kill yourself on Soju if you want.

I also think positively of Korean girls. They didn't seem to cheat or fool around as much as other Asian nationalities. And the girls I met wanted to meet me several times per week (the women being clingy is something foreign guys notice a bit in Korea but I like clingy girls). Korea is a super good place to go wife hunting but I'm still too young to go tie the knot.
Good to see you enjoyed your time. Also good to see you were in Tokyo for Halloween. I was there the weekend before in the clubs and they were popping, and so many good costumes.
I did Tokyo for Halloween two years ago. Was rainy. How was the weather this year? The year I went a friend said the crowd was half the usual. Still fun though.
(11-13-2018 10:58 AM)AManLikePutin Wrote: [ -> ]Japan is easily the most unique country I’ve ever been to from the 25. It’s full of weird as hell (in a cool way) surprises. It’s very distinct and Japanese and hasn’t been really Westernized. It boasts a 98% homogenous population who practice mostly Shintoism.

Korea on the other hand was a lot more Westernized. You’d see a lot more signs in English, A LOT more foreign expats, and if you’re from a Western country and want to go live in Asia, fair to say there is less chance of you getting homesick in Seoul compared to Tokyo.


Food & Alcohol & Smoking
Honestly, it’s not even a competition. Japanese food shits all over Korean food for me. The fresh Sushi I ate in Japan makes a complete mockery of what we call Sushi here in the West. Other sorts of seafood like Octopus, crab, calamari, Salmon Ice cream, All sorts of sashimis and of course the infamous Kobe steak Korean food disappointed me, except for Pork Belly or as they call it “Samgreopsal.” Since Korean food is a lot greasier, it goes down better with beer, whereas Japanese food is made to be accompanied by Sake or Whiskey. I also enjoyed Kirin beer and tried horse sashimi. I had cooked horse when in Kazakhstan in 2017, but I actually preferred the horse sashimi taste to that one.

It's interesting, I went to Korea only once, 10 years ago, and found it very Korean so it must have changed a lot. The only time I saw many foreigners in a same place was in Itaewon. On the other hand I would have expected that Japan, for being a global player for a longer time, would have some more influence from outside but I guess even the sheer size difference of their populations alone matters a lot.

I agree with you about the food. I have never had a good meal of Korean food, at best only decent, but I adore Japanese food even though I am not a huge fan of sushi. Korean meals, even when they might look very good just have really weird flavors for my palate and on top of that are also quite spicy which only adds up to the weirdness.
(11-15-2018 03:43 AM)Padrino Wrote: [ -> ]
(11-13-2018 10:58 AM)AManLikePutin Wrote: [ -> ]Japan is easily the most unique country I’ve ever been to from the 25. It’s full of weird as hell (in a cool way) surprises. It’s very distinct and Japanese and hasn’t been really Westernized. It boasts a 98% homogenous population who practice mostly Shintoism.

Korea on the other hand was a lot more Westernized. You’d see a lot more signs in English, A LOT more foreign expats, and if you’re from a Western country and want to go live in Asia, fair to say there is less chance of you getting homesick in Seoul compared to Tokyo.


Food & Alcohol & Smoking
Honestly, it’s not even a competition. Japanese food shits all over Korean food for me. The fresh Sushi I ate in Japan makes a complete mockery of what we call Sushi here in the West. Other sorts of seafood like Octopus, crab, calamari, Salmon Ice cream, All sorts of sashimis and of course the infamous Kobe steak Korean food disappointed me, except for Pork Belly or as they call it “Samgreopsal.” Since Korean food is a lot greasier, it goes down better with beer, whereas Japanese food is made to be accompanied by Sake or Whiskey. I also enjoyed Kirin beer and tried horse sashimi. I had cooked horse when in Kazakhstan in 2017, but I actually preferred the horse sashimi taste to that one.

It's interesting, I went to Korea only once, 10 years ago, and found it very Korean so it must have changed a lot. The only time I saw many foreigners in a same place was in Itaewon. On the other hand I would have expected that Japan, for being a global player for a longer time, would have some more influence from outside but I guess even the sheer size difference of their populations alone matters a lot.

I agree with you about the food. I have never had a good meal of Korean food, at best only decent, but I adore Japanese food even though I am not a huge fan of sushi. Korean meals, even when they might look very good just have really weird flavors for my palate and on top of that are also quite spicy which only adds up to the weirdness.


Korea is very Korean. Just in comparison with Japan, probably the most unique country in the world, Korea feels "westernised / global".
(11-15-2018 07:06 AM)semibaron Wrote: [ -> ]Korea is very Korean. Just in comparison with Japan, probably the most unique country in the world, Korea feels "westernised / global".

Yeah, I suppose everything is relative. Maybe it is also true that there are only two kinds of people in this world: Japanese and non-Japanese.
(11-13-2018 09:08 PM)AManLikePutin Wrote: [ -> ]@Jefferson: Tough to answer as I stayed in hotels and Airbnbs in relatively central locations. But from what I gather, the competition for space is fierce in a city like Tokyo. I met a few foreigners who work there and they were saying how they have to pay close to $1500-$1800 a month for rent of relatively small space. Food costs quite cheaply compared to quality, and not all that different if you eat out, or make it yourself. non-public Transportation is another expensive item one must be aware of. There was no Uber unless you're taking the uber XL which was way overpriced. though public transport was reasonable (200 yen for each ride). Most foreigners I talked to who live there work in IT, however.

@spaceman: not actively, but at bars and night venues at night. language barrier by far the biggest issue with locals especially in Japan. I had done the first 5 Pimsleur lessons of both Japanese and Korean, which was a great opening surprise for them when starting a conversation in the local language. Quite a lot of expats from Siberian Russia, Australia, Singapore and a few Americans around though, so not a completely homogenous nightlife experience. Re: food, I didn't try Korean BBQ in Seoul (those 2 days really flew by) and it was one of the biggest regrets of my trip, so the food part is definitely biased towards Japan.

@Puppetmaster: If you're visiting, I strongly recommend you buy a JR pass especially if you plan on traveling from one city to another. It's about $300 USD for one week, but even if you just take just one fast super Shinkansen train from Tokyo to Kyoto, it'd pay for itself. Not to mention it'll get you from either Narita/Haneda to Tokyo city centre and is valid on some other routes as well. Re: accommodation, it's the hardest part to do cheap, because, for Airbnb for example, they charge nearly as much for cleaning fee as they do for the actual rent which is absurd. I work in travel industry, so managed to get some discounts off hotels. I say it's worth it to get a central location so you won't have to rely on private transport like taxis after a late night out to get back so you can be within walking distance and Japan is very safe for the most part. Food and alcohol you shouldn't have a problem with as they are both cheaper than the majority of Western countries. I also got a 5gb data plan at Haneda (Bic Camera store) upon landing for about $28 which served me well during that week.

What was your total estimated budget for Japan if you don't mind my asking?

I'm trying to get a good idea of how much money I need to save.
Really great info, thanks for sharing! I haven't been to either place, but one of my best friends is married to a Japanese girl and goes there all the time and LOVES it. He just came back from 3 weeks there and brought me back a bottle of Kenzo Estates Cabernet on Sunday. It's actually from Napa, but owned by the founder of Capcom, and is really hard to get (think cult Cab-ish) in the US, but there's a tasting room in Tokyo where they sell bottles. Japan is definitely high up on list of places for me to go.
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