My first glimpse of the mainland was from Osaka Kansai airport's shuttle bus going to Kobe city. The cars were all different, as you'd expect, all Toyota's and Nissan's instead of Kia's and Hyundai's but it wasn't that I noticed first, it was the orderly fashion in which these cars were being driven. The speed limit was 80km and nobody seemed to be going any faster, there was no ridiculous lane diving, no dangerous tail gating. In comparison to a Korean bus, it felt as if we were crawling along, barely covering any ground at all.
|Kobe from the top of a cable car...bit overcast!|
The initial bit of coast line I saw was very industrial, but port areas generally are I suppose. It was the abundance of low rise buildings though that I found strange. In Korea, low rise buildings are either the homes of very rich people or are way out in rural settings where the demand for land isn't as high. From what I could tell, low rise was the norm in Osaka/Kobe, with high rise being reserved for city center office blocks and the likes.
Public toilets, and their cleanliness, was another major difference. It's not that you are ever far from a toilet here, because you're not. Its just that here they tend to be shared and not belonging to any particular establishment and therefore they are not always places of high hygiene. However, in Japan, they do seem to belong to the individual shops/restaurants etc and not just communal to the building at large. They have public toilets in all the convenience stores, on buses, in train stations, all fitted with electric seats, stocked with toilet paper and soap and immaculately kept. This was a very welcome difference.
|Basic Instructions of a Public Toilet!|
Kobe city itself had a very European feel to it. Big open tree-lined boulevards and red brick facades. Different styles of architecture, not just great big concrete blocks a la Korea! There was also a serious lack of Neon, compared with what I'm used to anyway. My first impression of Kobe was that Korean cities in comparison seem to be by far the whackier ones if judged by appearance only. More lights, more noise, more rubbish.
The most obvious difference, and one that I was aware of and expected, was the price difference. Japan is between 2 and 3 times more expensive than Korea, or I suppose I should say that Osaka is about 2-3 times more expensive than Daejeon. Everything from a bottle of water or a bus ticket, to a meal out was infinitely more expensive. The first night I was there, we had yakitori for dinner which is basically skewered, grilled chicken. We had three each, some fried chicken, grilled mushrooms and radish and three beers each. It was very tasty, but not excessive size wise and it came to 3000yen which is the equivalent of about 35,000won or $30. The same meal in Daejeon would have cost me half that or less and even at that, would be considered a relatively pricey night out!
The people too were very different. Different from the Koreans, of course, but different to each other also. As I sat at a well known meeting place in the city waiting for my friend to arrive, I struggled to find anyone I would've classified as looking typically 'Japanese'. The Korean people pride themselves on being a homogenous race but only after a few days in Japan did I realise quite how homogenous they really do look. Their homogeneity seems more apparent too I'd imagine given that there is very much a 'way to dress' here, and they all want to look a certain, same way. In Japan on the other hand, there were all sorts of shapes and sizes, and people were using dress to identify themselves in different ways instead of trying to blend into the one ideal.
Later that evening though, I started chatting to a British guy living in Kobe who, when trying to decide between teaching English in Japan or Korea, said he chose Japan because its culture is more homogenous and more preserved than that of Korea. I was shocked, my first impressions of Japan as I've mentioned above, would have led me to exactly the opposite conclusion. He put forward a fairly solid argument about Korean people really seeking to be Westernised, and Americanised specifically, which is abundantly apparent in their dress and more shockingly in the high rates of plastic surgery, and in doing that they'd lost lots of their culture. I couldn't argue with that but still I'm not entirely sure I'd agree with him. I suppose two days in Japan isn't really long enough to judge. Mind you, as far as I'm aware he'd never actually been to Korea either!
Two days was too short to really get a feel for the place at large but that hadn't really been my aim to begin with. I went for a weekend away and to catch up with a friend from home, and I did both of those.
|J Poppers, dressed much more 'alternatively' than Korean K-Pop Stars|
|Women Only Carraiges on the Train: to combat the rise in sexual harassment apparently|
|Solid Advise. Advice the Korean could do.|
|Again, solid advice!|
|Osaka at dusk.|