Japan vs. Korea: Six Differences

Way way back in February, I traveled to Japan! And I have yet to write about it….oops! Actually I haven’t wrote about a lot of things. Mainly because I’m procrastinating trying to work on my new general travel blog, but I have yet to come up with a domain name that I am happy with!

Anyways, I figured I should continue my procrastination attempt to keep up with this current blog regardless! So, let’s take a look at 6 differences I noticed between Korea and Japan, during my short one week visit.

1. Facial Hair

“Somethings different about these men….” I thought to myself. A few moments later I finally figured it out. FACIAL HAIR! Having spent over a year in Korea, where men are generally clean shaven, this was quite a shock to the system (in the best way possible). People who know me know I am a big fan of facial hair, so it was nice to have a dose of bearded eye-candy back in my life. (And on a non-superficial basis I also find this difference between Korea and Japan super fascinating).

Hello, handsome.

2. Sad Playgrounds

Korea is filled with loads of colourful parks and playgrounds with an infinite amount of slides, swings, work out equipment, and other things to climb on. Even in my small city of Mokpo, whether it’s a playground at a school, or simply a public park, they are usually well kept and filled with people. Heck, by my house there is even a park with a giant pirate ship! My first impression of Japanese playgrounds was: sad. They were usually in the shape of a perfect square, squeezed in between 2 buildings in the middle of the city, with no grass- simply dirt. Not even sand, just dirt. Most often accompanied by a sad looking swing set, and no one in the playground. I wish I had taken photos!

Does Japan’s abundance of beautifully calm zen gardens make this point irrelevant? I digress.

3. Expensive Food

Holy moly! When you get so accustomed to paying between $5-$12 for a meal in Korea, Japan is another shock to the system (a general theme for this trip….). My first night in Japan I was shocked to see the bill was over 300 Japanese yen ($~30) for 2 people. Oops! But that’s pretty normal I guess. If you want to eat super cheap in Japan, you can try 7/11 and other convienience stores (surprisingly good), luxurious department store basement food “courts”, and sushi-go-rounds (very reasonable). Regardless of the price, Japanese food is damn good!

Enjoying some $12 ramen- kinda cheap!

7/11 food heaven

4. Expensive Taxis

Taxis in Korea are so cheap, you don’t have to think twice about taking one. From one end of my city, to the literal opposite side, is about $9. Luckily I rarely have to make that route, because $9 is actually on the expensive end. I usually pay about $5-$7 for my average taxi ride. In Japan, people rarely take taxis. From the KIX airport to Osaka, Japan, is between $150-$200. (Almost) everybody takes public transit (or drives).

Sidenote: Japan loves their boxy cars!

5. Cheap(er) Coffee

Based on the two points above, you would probably make the assumption that things in general are more expensive in Japan. However- don’t fret! There is something that is cheaper- coffee. Still pricey if we’re comparing by Timmies standards, but still less expensive than Korea.

Enjoying my much cheaper Americano with some lovely geishas

6. Bikes, bikes, and more bikes

In Kyoto and Osaka I saw SO many locals on bikes! They even had an abundance parking lots just for bikes! I love this about a city and I’m so glad I got to experience and explore Kyoto by bike. I definitely felt a lot safer cycling in Japan compared to Korea, perhaps because bike culture is more prominent there, thus making the streets feel more bike friendly. Definitely a change of pace from the near-death experiences faced when hopping on a bike in Korea!

7. Standing Restaurants


A strange sight the first time you see it! “Why is everyone standing up in there? What’s going on?” None other than a standing Japanese ramen bar, is all! Plain and simple, these do not exist here in Korea. Far from (well, the literal opposite) to the sitting on the floor traditional Korean style restaurants.

It is hard to compare a place where I have lived for a year and a half, versus a place I only visited for a week. Therefore these differences should be taken at face value. These were simply my observations during my one week traveling through Kyoto, Nara and Osaka. Do I sound like a Psychology major? Oops.

I love both Korea and Japan and I am so fortunate to be able to have experienced them both!

Has anyone else traveled to both these countries? Do you agree or disagree with these differences? Let me know in the comments, I would love to hear them!

Until next post…….!

One thought on “Japan vs. Korea: Six Differences

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  1. Hey Kiddo!
    Wonderful to read of your discoveries of some of the differences between South Korea and Japan! Of course I haven't travelled to both countries so I know only of some of the differences as you've shared them.
    I would be curious to know of the differences in traffic…..that is to say the relationship between pedestrians, scooters and motorists etc…..

    I still miss South Korea; the kind and generous people of that beautiful country!


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