South Korea vs. Japan

8 Oct

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South Korea and Japan are two countries that are quite close geographically, and so one may assume that they have similar cultures. In some ways, their cultures are similar; in other ways, however, they are not. I’d highly recommend both countries as travel destinations. Both offer a fascinating glimpse into modern Asian life that is complimented by very old traditions, and rich varieties of arts and culture.

One way they are different is in the level of technology. South Korea is the more high tech country of the two, despite the preconceptions of Japan some westerners have. Japan has great infrastructure for transportation, but free wifi that’s open to anyone there is ridiculously hard to find, even in major cities.

Another difference is the advertising. Shops and restaurants in South Korea have much flashier, larger (and some would say more obnoxious) signs above or near them. In Japan, restaurants have a menu outside, and a smaller sign that’s of a more subtle color that blends in with its surroundings.

TRADITIONAL CUISINE: 

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When it comes to the general traits of great Asian cuisines, these two countries couldn’t be further apart. Japanese food is delicate in texture and subtle in taste, whereas Korean food is very spicy and explosive with its own sort of flavor. Both countries have a great cuisine, but Japanese cuisine is more highly regarded and globally popular. Sushi is one of the world’s favorite foods, and Ramen Noodles in Japan are simply amazing. Many Korean foods, on the other hand, are types of food some people love and some people hate. Korean food also has less variety. That being said, I do love Korean food, especially the Bulgogi and BiBimBap rice dishes. It just isn’t ever going to be on the same level as Japanese food though.

WINNER: Japan

PRICES: 

Korea’s especially cheaper when it comes to transportation, especially taxis, and just less pricey in general. Accomodation is expensive in both countries, but probably Japan more so. Korea also has more budget dining options, often restaurants with orange signs that serve a wide variety of well known Korean dishes for less than 7$ (Around 7500 Korean Won). Both are fundamentally developed, expensive countries, however, and you shouldn’t try to visit them on a Southeast Asia budget.

WINNER: South Korea

“OFF THE BEATEN PATH” FACTOR: 

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Technically, according to rankings, South Korea gets more tourists than Japan. But the tourists in Korea tend to cluster in Seoul. If you just love the feeling of being in a totally unfamiliar place, where few speak english and where you are the only foreign tourist for miles, South Korea has few equals anywhere in the world. Once you leave Seoul, it is rare to come across another tourist from overseas. In fact, less than half of foreign tourists to South Korea make it outside of Seoul.

In Japan, on the other hand, it is far easier to come across another foreigner (especially a westerner) at any given region of the country. The tourists in Korea tend to cluster in Seoul, but in Japan, there is a higher number of big towns that tourists want to see. You can still get off the beaten track in Japan, but most towns, from a small town to a major city, will be likely more touristed in Japan than any sort of Korean equivalent.

WINNER: South Korea

ATTRACTIONS: 

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South Korea and Japan both have great attractions, from temples, to museums, to national parks. But Japan is a better country when it comes to the sights themselves, though. Japan not only is a bigger country with more sights, but the best temples in Japan stand out far more than the best temples in Korea. Both countries have great national parks, but the mountains and wilderness areas in Japan are bigger, and so the national parks are more interesting. In both countries, hiking can at times be more about seeing shrines or temples than about seeing incredibly natural beauty, though. When it comes to museums, South Korea and Japan are pretty much equal in my opinion. Both countries have very good museums that do a great job of showcasing the histories of their country.

WINNER: Japan

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