こんにちは Kon’nichwa 你好 Ni hao Hello
Japanese and Chinese characters are much different.
Granted, I was only in Japan, technically 5 days, and spent much of the time travelling. I was briefly in Osaka, took the bullet train to Tokyo and enjoyed an afternoon and evening with a high school classmate and took off the next morning for 2 nights in Kyoto. Unfortunately, I had a touch of the stomach flu hit me in Tokyo and lasted until I returned to Dong’e where I spent 1 whole day in bed. I somehow managed to push myself to do some touristy things and even eat, which I paid dearly for, but how can you NOT eat Kobe beef when in Japan. Admittedly, I am using only 3 fairly large cities in Japan as comparisons to my China experiences and that being said I have never visited Shanghai, the largest and probably most modern city in China. Also, living in Qingdao for 6 months, I feel I can give a good comparison as it is a large, fairly modern city.
I was actually surprised to discover that Japan is a total 360 from China. First off, it is MUCH more expensive than China. Tokyo and Osaka rank 4th and 5th behind Singapore, Hong Kong and Zurich as the world’s most expensive cities. Not counting Hong Kong, whose currency is the HK dollar, not the Chinese Renminbi, Shanghai is the only Chinese city in the top 20 coming in at 16.
In my opinion the cities I visited didn’t have that “Asian” feel to me nearly as much as does China. Of the 3, Kyoto, had the most traditional feel to me. As a matter of fact, they felt almost European/Eastern European to me. Although, the part of Tokyo I visited had kind of a Times Square feel. After walking around, stopping for an iced coffee, then later for a Gin and Tonic and a cheese plate….yes, cheese in Japan, we visited a large park right in the middle of the city. It was very much like Central Park. People hanging on the lawn, listening to music, playing with their dogs, just enjoying the day. Yes, when I was in Kyoto, there were girls running around in kimonos, but somehow it lacked an authentic feel. Especially when I saw about 4 shops where you could rent them for the day. I also never saw a “real” geisha as they try to stay away from the limelight, except when they put on their seasonal dances. You can, of course, “rent” a geisha for the evening, at a fairly steep cost.
That being said, there is also a strong British influence in Japan. The uniforms of the school children are very “British Like”. I am not sure how I made it to adult life and didn’t realize they drove “on the wrong side of the rode” in Japan. So, I guess that is the second big difference between Japan and China, cars driving on the wrong side, well, unless you factor in my little village of Dong’e where you just drive on whichever side is convenient, at the moment.
I got the feeling that Japan is much more “tourist friendly”, especially “Western” tourist friendly or maybe I should say more prepared for Western Tourists. Many signs were in English, I don’t see a lot of that in China, not even in Beijing or Qingdao. Shanghai, sorry, can’t say.
I was surprised to find 7-Eleven and Lawsons everywhere. Although, much to my dismay, no chip dip in Lawsons. I have to admit, I did buy a ham and cheese on white bread with lettuce and mayo at Lawsons. I almost felt like I was back in elementary school as I sat on a bench and actually really enjoyed it. Not something I would likely find in China. I was also surprised at how many people spoke at least a little English, especially the taxi drivers.
Speaking of taxis’s……Taxi’s in China are just your typical taxi’s, not so much in Japan. Taxi’s were more like chauffeur driven vehicles with many of the drivers in suit and tie and most all wearing white gloves. Arriving at your destination, the driver pushes a button and your door pops open. I learned quickly, don’t close it, they will also handle that from the driver’s seat. If you happen to have luggage, pop, another button and he opens the trunk, jumps out and handles your bags. In China, 7 out of 10 times, it has been up to me to handle my bags in and out of the trunk.
Hotel’s…..I stayed in all Japanese brand mid price range hotels. In China, I normally stay at Western Brands, if available, or a Chinese brand in the mid to high range. I found the mid range Japanese hotels to be several notches better than the Western Brand/best Chinese brand hotels. They were just better, construction-wise, cleanliness, customer service and amenities. Not that the hotels in China had anything terribly wrong with them, I’m just saying the Japanese hotels were just all around better. You are just going to have to trust me on this, It is difficult to explain, something you almost need to experience.
Food…..Beef, I have yet to find a steak in a typical Chinese restaurant. Being Japan, they are well known for Kobe beef. I had probably one of the finest steaks I have eaten, cooked to perfection and served with a small salad and veggies. No, I didn’t have sushi, yes it is Japanese, no it isn’t as widely eaten as one might think. I was told, yes, we eat sushi….sometimes. What seems to be widely popular is Yakatori, which is basically chicken kabobs. They are grilled and served with different toppings. I had them with wasabi, plum sauce and a type of basil, which actually looked more like a seaweed to me.
Of course, there is the subject of toilets. China, 90% of the time…..squatties. I never came face to face or should I say bottom to hole in the floor with a squatty in Japan. China, always carry your own tissue. I always found TP in public restrooms in Japan. China, throw your used TP in a trash bin next to the squatty/toilet….DO NOT FLUSH! Japan posts signage telling you to please flush your tissue DO NOT discard in the bin. I have decided that I want a Japanese toilet in my home. They have all kinds of buttons to let you choose everything from heated seat to how much spray and how wrm the water to clean yourself and sometimes even a drying option. I found these even in many public places. They were often accompanied by a sign requesting people not to squat on the toilet seat, but please sit.
I don’t real feel like I have done a good job explaining why I feel China and Japan are 360 degrees different. I think the more I try, this will become a more boring post than it already is. Easiest way to explain is this; Japan is more civilized. I had this discussion with my classmate who is living in Tokyo and that is the best word we could come up with. I have to agree, Japan is more civilized.
That being said, I have no desire to live in Japan, although, I would like to visit again. I feel that I am getting much more of a cultural experience here in China. Boy, did I struggle with this post, saying Japan is more civilized almost made me feel like I had been cheating on China. I really do enjoy my life here and the opportunities and experiences it has provided. Hope I can do better with the next post, any suggestions for topic are welcome. I will leave you with some photos.