Although Japan and Korea are neighboring countries, located on the same continent, and share several similarities. Each country has its own culture and history.
In this article, you will discover the main cultural differences between these awesome Asian countries.
Society and collectivism
Japan and Korea have a collective society. Nevertheless, South Korea has an internal collective culture while Japan has an external collective culture.
In simple words, Japan is more society centered. Indeed, in Japan social order is essential and it is important to follow the social standards and take into consideration how other individuals feel about your behavior.
Korea is more family-centered, for Korean people it is more important to be part of a family than give attention to what strangers think of themselves.
It is easier for foreigners to make friends in Korea than in Japan because Korean people are friendly and will consider you as part of the family, while Japanese people tend to create limitations and do not show their feeling and control their behavior.
Japan and Korea have wonderful food, they love wrapped and rolled food, served with rice.
Nevertheless, both of these nations offer very different culinary experiences.
Korean food is mainly based on meat and is mostly spicy. They use a charcoal grill for several of their famous barbecue dishes. You will find sliced steak, short ribs, and bacon in some of their traditional meal. Meats are often accompanied by special sauces.
Korean also like soups and side dishes composed of green chili, garlic, lettuce-rolled meats, and radishes.
Japanese food is lighter and lower in calories than Korean food because its food is mostly based on seafood.
As you certainly know sushi and sashimi are the national dishes of Japan. Simmered dishes and noodles are also a staple food in Japan.
Despite some meat dishes such as Udon, Suba, and beef in Sukiyaki are famous in Japan. Japanese people consume more fish than meat.
Due to history, China influenced the languages of both countries.
In the 1980s, Korea completely abolished Chinese characters, to use their own language ‘’the Hangul’’. Nevertheless, grammar and formal language still have some similarities.
Japan also has its own Japanese alphabet named ‘’Hiragana and Katakana’’, but they also use Chinese characters named ‘’Kanji’’.
Japan and Korea present different traditional clothes.
The Hanbok is the traditional Korean dress, these clothes are only worn on formal and semi-formal occasions.
The traditional Japanese formal wear is the Kimono, which is mainly used on special occasions like weddings or ceremonies. Nevertheless, some people wear kimonos every day
When it comes to cinematographic culture, both countries Japan and Korea are recognised worldwide and have millionsof fans all arround the world.
Japan is recognized for its Animes, especially for Mangas. The Japanese term ‘’Manga’’ means strip cartoons.
Mangas are an unmissable phenomen of Japanese culture. These are original animes that mix modernity and tradition. Each manga series has unique personages with their own personality and impact on Japanese culture.
Even if you are not a fan of Mangas and animes, you certainly have already heard about Naruto, Dragon Ball Z or Onepiece.
Moreover, the country is also recognized for some horror movies, like battle royal.
South Korea is famous for its Drama movies, like Parasite, which won multiple Oscars and had worldwide success considered one of the best movies of the 21st century.
There is also Squid game a Korean Drama series that was broadcasted by Netflix and got a million fans all around the world.
As a fan of movies and series, I can confirm that Parasite and Squid are really worth watching. Basically, I am not a friend of Japanese Mangas but I tried to watch Onepiece and really enjoyed the universe of this Manga, the personages, and the messages delivered through each episode.
So, I advise you to try watching one Manga series even if you are not a fan of Managas.
Music and sport Culture
Concerning music and sport Japan and Korea have both their own specific cultures. In Korea K-POP is part of the culture especially for the young generation. You have certainly already heard about the K-POP boys band ”BTS” which is very famous in Korea. Japan also has multiple singers.
Regarding sports, Japan and Korea are known for martial arts, Japan is one of the best nations in Karate while Taekwondo is one of the most popular sports in South Korea.
Concerning society, Japan and Korea are quite different, Japan is calmer and more peaceful, while South Korea is more entertaining and fun.
If you wish to see and enjoy traditional architecture, stunning and wonderful landscapes, breathtaking coastlines, wide forests, and majestic volcanoes, I personally advise you to visit Japan.
If you like to visit vibrant cities and enjoy nightlife and atypical entertaining activities, while discovering futuristic modernity and pulsating Korean culture, I also personally advise you to visit South Korea.
Confucianism is slightly practiced in Japan while it is very important in Korea.
In Korean society age is very important, in general, the first question asked of people is their age. Honorific languages are used for older people, for Instance use the ‘’Jondaesmal’’ language with their parents and grandparents, as a sign of respect.
When it comes to religion, Japan and Korea are also not similar at all. In Japan Shinto is the native religion, according to the edition of the religion Yearbook by the Agency of cultural affairs in Japan, in 2022, 48,5 % of the population practice Shinto, 46,3 % believe in Buddhism, 1 % in Christianity, and 4 % believe in other religions.
According to the 2015 national census, in South Korea, 56,1 % of the population are atheists. Nevertheless, 19,7% are protestants, 15,5 % believe in Buddhism and 7,9% are Catholics.
When it comes to work ethics, Japan and Korea have some distinct differences. In Japan, the culture is heavily centered around the idea of “Kaizen,” which means continuous improvement.
The Japanese value hard work and long hours, often prioritizing the company’s success over their own personal life. On the other hand, South Korea has a “work hard, play hard” mentality. South Koreans tend to have a strong drive to succeed, but they also value their personal time and leisure activities.
In South Korea, it’s not uncommon to see employees leaving the office on time and making the most of their evenings and weekends. Both cultures have a strong work ethic, but they approach work-life balance in different ways.
Japan and Korea are hardworking countries, on average most people work more than 40 hours per week.
In Japan, order and prudence are prioritized over competition and efficiency. While in Korea people are sometimes over-competitive.
Korean people have strong national pride, as their country has one of the most tragic histories of Asian countries. They fought to save their country from invasions from other Asian countries.
Japanese are also proud of their country, nevertheless, the young generation of Japan is not as concerned as the young Korean generation.
Japan and Korea
Finally, each country has a specific culture, and all the aspects of the culture do not apply to all people. Both countries are worth visiting and offer differents really enriching and unforgettable experiences.