I finished my world trip in 2008 being unfair to China, saying I wasn’t interested in going back there. It was unreasonable and wrong. However, the complete opposite happened to its archrival Asian country: I absolutely loved Japan!
We, on the west, often mistake Chinese for Japanese and vice-versa. Big mistake. Besides the similar facial features, the two nationalities are very different:
- People: In China, I found the locals introverts, not wanting much to do with foreigners, although in between themselves they always seemed to be in heated discussions. I was always unsure if people in Shanghai were fighting each other or just talking about the weather. In Japan, people are quieter, but, somehow, extroverts. Must be the crazy fashion they display with splendor: yellow warmers on top of pink tights, red cat sunglasses, Mohawk hairstyle, that kind of stuff. At the same time, feels that they are always inner-meditating. And they are super friendly with foreigners.
- Food: well, unless you are Amish or lived under a rock for the past 50 years, you know that Japanese and Chinese food is very different. Although both love their rice, the former uses sticky-sushi style, while the latter loves fried versions of it. Hmmm.
- Fashion: In China, clothes are often replicas of famous western brands. Or originals, actually, as I learned on my 2017 favorite book trilogy Crazy Rich Asians. In Japan, outfits are very original. One of the best (and wildest) things you can do in this world is shopping at Harajuku neighborhood in Tokyo. I still have some stuff I got there, including this extra long but tight lime-green hoodie that says Choose Banana on the back.
- Language: yes, both nations use that beautifully-insane character writing style, but the Japanese language is different than Mandarin. Although the character set can look the same, the pronunciation and meaning are mostly different. Funny story about that: I was on a bus with my Japanese friend in Ibiza, and he started laughing after seeing a tattoo on a western girl shoulder. He asked if she knew the meaning of it, and she said something like: “Means love.” Later, he told me that the real meaning was actually brothel. Poor girl. Hopefully the pronunciation of that character means something else in China!
- Dog: I remember hanging out with a bronze sculpture of a dog at Shibuya Station, Tokyo. Just years later I saw the movie with Richard Gere and realized that was Hachikō, a renowned dog that got famous due to amazing loyalty to his owner. You should watch that movie. In China, well, I don’t want to say it, but there are petitions out there saying what they do with their dogs.
- Nightlife: I guess that’s a reflection of the people. In China, men sit around table playing dice. In Japan, they jump around and go a little too crazy at parties.
- Culture: both countries carry incredible millenary civilizations. In that matter, which is really what matters the most, you should consider visiting both Asian neighbors ASAP.
The winner: YOU.
I hope I didn’t offend anyone. I love both countries.
Please let me know your thoughts.