I have to say that when my friends said, “Guys, let’s go to Japan for our long weekend,” I was thinking, “Really? Why?” I have been living in Korea for a year now, and, visually speaking, it can sometimes be a little boring. I come from a culturally diverse family, so this situation has been the longest that I have been without diversity.
One of the things that you learn fairly quickly when you arrive in Korea is that, as a culture, they value unity. They like to look like a group, instead of standing out. Coming from America, that was so strange to me since we are always trying to stand out and be different and unique.
In Japan, the women seemed to not be worried about a certain ideal of beauty and were more interested in creating their own ideal.
Japan is the same way as America. It was so refreshing to get out of the terminal and see variety. Men and women had the freedom to dress as they please. You didn’t see couples walking around wearing the same outfits or groups of friends dressed in head to toe matching outfits. Japan had the feel of a much older city, and with that feeling, comes more individuality.
Since living in Korea, I honest to God have forgotten that men exist. No one looks at me, or checks me out; I am kind of like an invisible person walking down the street. It can definitely mess with your self-esteem, and I was beginning to think that I am not attractive. Thankfully, Tokyo reminded me that I am a beautiful woman, and my skin color has no bearing on my beauty. Men checked my friends and I out several occasions, and it felt really nice.
The men in Tokyo are so different. They have varying skin tones, different body types, tattoos, facial hair and punk hairstyles and just a bit more swag than Korean men.
Since living in Korea, I honest to God have forgotten that men exist. No one looks at me, or checks me out; I am kind of like an invisible person walking down the street.
When walking down the streets of Seoul, you will always notice that there is a beauty store literally on every corner. In Korea, women and men are completely obsessed with their appearances, and, as a result, there is a booming beauty industry here. I was surprised at how few beauty shops I saw in Tokyo. The women in Tokyo also weren’t covered in ten pounds of makeup. There seems to be less pressure on the women in Tokyo to look a certain way. In Korea, the ideal woman is rail thin and very pale, and they will go to extreme measures to reach that goal. In Japan, the women seemed to not be worried about a certain ideal of beauty and were more interested in creating their own ideal.
The way to say foreigner in Korean is “waygookin,” and it is a word that I hear quite often here. No matter how long you live in Korea, you will always be a foreigner. Don’t get me wrong — the people in Korea are very friendly. They have been very sweet to me while I have been here. But when you visit a foreign country, you may ask yourself if you could you live there for an extended period of time. With Korea, the answer is no. I think because Tokyo is an older and more well established city, foreigners may feel more comfortable there. No one cared that my friends and I were foreign, and we didn’t seem to be inconveniences to anyone.
I do love Korea, and it was a great place for me to experience living abroad, but it is still growing and becoming an international destination. I really enjoyed my visit to Japan, and I can’t wait to return.
Japan vs. South Korea: Differences in Beauty, Men, and Diversity
Top photo by masaru minoya (Creative Commons)