29 March 2009

What makes USA different from Japan?



During the second and third weeks of this month, I was on a trip to the USA. The main purpose of my visit was to attend a conference in Seattle from 15-18 of March. However, I doubled my period of stay and visited some of my relatives who live in the Colorado state. I will talk about my travel experiences in my next posts. This time, I am going to share my first impression of the place along with some distinct everyday differences between Japan and the United States.

I came to Japan in early 2006. It was my first visit to any foreign country (I had visited many cities of India before but we, the Nepalese, often don't consider the trip to India as a foreign-trip thanks to the open border between the two countries and the provisions that don't require any Visa). I was amazed by the technological advancements and the cultural richness of this Asian giant that takes pride in its long history. One can feel the technological advancements of Japan much beyond the cell phones, digital cameras and the motorcars. On the other hand it is a conventional society with unique cultural traditions. I have discussed about various aspects of Japan in my previous posts. During the last 3 years, I have been fortunate enough to travel to some really beautiful countries and places. The way I see the places has changed over the years and the benchmark of judging any place has raised.


After I returned back to Japan, most of my friends asked me few obvious questions: how was my trip to the USA and which country I liked more? Answer to the first question is relatively easy and I must say that I enjoyed my trip immensely. But, response to the second one depends upon perception of the individuals and is often a subject of one's priority. Japan and the USA are both developed countries with their unique positions in the global geopolitical affairs. However, the later continues to be the most preferred destination for people around the world. Well, my experience of the United States is limited to little less than a couple of weeks, so I may not be well familiar to several characteristics of the society. But, I managed to have some experiences even during my brief stay in the USA that are different from Japan. First, lets discuss those things that make Japan a better place than the United States.

When I visited the state in west central United States in the Rocky Mountains, Colorado, I didn't have the opportunity to walk around the interior city area. But after I reached Seattle (Washington state), I witnessed an ugly sight of the lovely land! While walking along the streets, I saw many homeless or random publicly drunk people in the downtown. Most of the stores and restaurants closes well before 8-9 PM, and people disappear from the street. The only people left seemed to be those that live on the streets or are engaged in suspicious activities. And, empty streets were indeed scary! In contrast, Japan is one of the safest place in the world. In general, one can feel the sense of safety while walking along the streets at any point of time including the lonely nights. No wonder that Japan was placed 5th in the Global Peace Index Rankings in 2008.


The next thing that I observed in the United States (Seattle and Denver areas rather) that the cities were not very clean. The Japanese cities are by and large much cleaner than the American ones. Japan is immaculate! For instance, Hiroshima city in Japan has a larger population than Seattle’s, but if you visit Hiroshima, you will see neither a single plastic bag nor newspaper littering the streets. In addition, the garbage management system in Japan seems to be much better than few other countries that I have visited (including Switzerland). Specially, the way Japanese separate the garbage in different bins. One can see 4 to 5 bins, dedicated to different categories of garbage, evenly aligned and conveniently located at most of the public places!


Well, Japan is cleaner and safer place than the United States! There may be some other facts too going in favor of Japan. There are numerous vending machines on every block in the more populated areas of Japan. Vending machines are everywhere and sell anything you can fit in there. One can never go thirsty in Japan that's for sure! But, lets talk something that makes the United States a better place.

The first thing that impressed me about America is the diversity in their society. The population is diverse and includes people from around the globe. Though it was my first trip to the USA, I felt more comfortable there than I feel here in Japan even after 3 years of my stay! One of the reason behind it was the easy 'communication'. Japanese are polite people (at least they appear so while communicating with a foreigner) but language is the biggest hurdle here for foreigners. Besides, Japanese rarely accept a foreigner as one among them. Means, here you will always be an alien! The language of America, English, is familiar to a larger population of the world. Even the Japanese have started to realize the importance of English as such it is being taught in schools at the elementary level.

The next good thing that I found about America is regarding the consumer rights. In most cases, one can return the stuff he / she has bought if not satisfied with the performance of the same. Though, I don't have much experience, but I heard about the strong consumer rights existing in the United States from my relatives and friends living there. Seems that consumer rights are very well protected by the law. On the other hand, Japan's consumers, despite of being one of the most meticulous and demanding consumers in the world (expecting only the best quality and service from the merchant), are probably the world's least protected ones.


In the USA, roads are wider and normally have several lanes. The speed limits on average are higher. In contrast, Japanese roads are very narrow and sometimes only wide enough for one car to drive on at a time. Even highways have narrow lanes. There are definitely other things as well that makes America a better choice to most of the population around the world. But, the post has already become long, so let me stop now. I would love to read your opinion on various issues. And hope to see you once again when I write about my experiences in the United States!


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19 Comments:

Milan on March 29, 2009 at 9:10 PM said...

I never been japan yet, so donn know how is that.

But yes as much as i felt, usa is a gud place to reside. i love mixed culture here. i felt usa is not only the country of white native english speaking guys, rather u can find many chinese, indian, nepali and others people from all around the world. i never feel alone here... sometimes i confuse whether im in nepal or usa.. i always feel like to be in my own home..

Prabesh Poudel "उजेली" on March 29, 2009 at 9:25 PM said...

we feel very happy to know about abroad places as we are really far away from those technological advancements. Thank you very much for providing information about two advanced giants !!

Lukmanul Hakim on March 30, 2009 at 3:34 AM said...

hi Deependra!
could you also elaborate the teacher-student relationship between Japan and America?

Basanta Gautam on March 30, 2009 at 9:26 AM said...

Nice analysis Deependrajee! Enjoyed it very much. I haven't been to US, so don't have any firsthand experience about US. I agree with you on what you wrote about Japan.

Sujan said...

Dipendra dai thanx for sharing ure views on the two big economies in the world. I hope to see more about ure trip in the upcoming blog- especially your experience of presentation in the USA and other non English speaking countries.......J'pan, China, Europe....as u already had an experince in these countries.

Natsu said...

If U allow me, I want to disagree on few points U have mentioned.

Well, Japan is safer than USA and many parts of the world but it more depends on what U call safe. There are sporadic events in Japan that are becoming more common recently. Only the victims can understand why Japan is not safe and talk to any Japanese and they will tell U the inner fear they have in dark allies and lonely streets. Yet, safer than USA because even Junior high school students can walk home safely well past midnight alone though almost 3rd of Japanese girls are victims of sexual harassment making us rethink if it is really safe. Japan the biggest network of organised crime.

Vending machines are indeed very convenient. But, it comes for a cost. Every street and every corner has 2-3 vending machines and at some places there are long walls of vending machines. It is mere a competition between the companies. How it is harming the environment and overusing/misusing the resources is something to think about. Some places in Japan are already thinking over this and reducing the number of vending machines. They have it and they can put more does not mean they are good.

The roads according to U are smaller in Japan than USA but might not be a fair comparison if U take in consideration the sizes of the two countries but densities of the population is yet another factor.

You have not elaborated what you wanted to say about 'consumer's right' and in what ways in US better than Japan.

DEEPENDRA on March 31, 2009 at 5:49 AM said...

Dear Natsu, you are free to disagree on the issues raised here in the post! I appreciate your comment but, let me elaborate few of my points:

Regarding your statement 'Japan is safer than USA and many parts of the world but it more depends on what U call safe', I request you to go through the various parameters that have been considered while preparing the Global Peace Index Rankings (please click on the respective countries to view the details: JAPAN/ USA). However, when we say 'Japan is one of the safest country', one should NOT think of safety in absolute terms. In this era of globalization, nothing like 'ideal' can be achieved!

When I wrote in favor of vending machines, I emphasized only the convenience aspect. yes, it comes for a cost. However, there are always researches going on to reduce the environmental impacts being caused by these vending machines.

I can understand the fact why there are narrower roads in Japan but this does not change the truth. There is problem of space here in Japan and that has resulted into smaller house/room sizes as well as narrower roads. And I have just tried to say this little fact!

Regarding the consumer's right, I will try to elaborate my point in my coming posts!

Dilip Acharya on March 31, 2009 at 7:33 AM said...

Though I have never been to both of the countries, I had some notions and feelings, which perfectly fits with your narration.

I don't hesitate to express that, this post has widen my knowledge and information about both of the USA an Japan.

Waiting for the remaining stories in your coming posts!

Sumiran on April 2, 2009 at 4:18 PM said...

I agree with Dipendrajee's arguments. The views that Natsusan has brought are, indeed, throwing light on the hidden aspects of Japanese crime, but in global comparision, it still emerges as safer place.
Regarding to the road network, obviously USA has very large area of unpopulated plain land than the that of Japan. This i think helps to build wider highway there.

Anonymous said...

In Japan, the correlation coefficient (between sensei & student) is less than 2, whereas it is 8 plus over there. There, gakusei don need to say "hai sensei its raining" while it is sunny outside.

DEEPENDRA on April 5, 2009 at 10:50 AM said...

Milan ji, welcome to this blog! I agree with you that there exists a mixed culture in the United States! Even during my short visit, I could get that sense! It's good to know that you are enjoying your stay there.

Dear Prabesh, I am glad that you found the post interesting.

Dear Lokman, I hope you have found the answer to your query in the comment made by Anonymous. Frankly, I don't have enough experience of the US culture! :-)

Basantaji and Sujanji, Thanks for your words. I will continue to share my experiences in future as well. Please keep visiting.

Dilipji and Netraji, I appreciate your comments and happy that you found this post worth reading.

Thanks to 'Anonymous' for answering one of the queries put here. I hope to hear from you in future as well.

Anonymous said...

Nice job in comparing those two although you were only few weeks in the U.S. But there are things I want to ask.I can say your opinions are wrong about safety, road width, store closed before 10PM, and cleanliness. But in the same time, I can't accept everything.

First, based on 25 most liveable cities 2009 by Monocle, Japan is sure has plenty winners; while U.S. is incomparably less.

Second, I hope you will explain more about the consumerism rights. That one is one of the biggest problems the world has. It’s true that the return policy in US is greatly convenient for most people. But what I want to point out is the purpose and the effect of the right. The consumerism in the U.S., debated recently, is ‘dehumanizing’ people. The purpose of the right may be to protect the buyers and most of the time, to maintain/increase economy. However, the fact is that the society becomes so greedy in buying stuffs. They are spoiled with this right and closing their minds when buying stuffs. Japan probably doesn’t have this right, nor most countries in Asia. But Japan probably does prepare how the consumerism will affect other aspects. Over there, trashes must be separated in proper ways. In the U.S., although it’s been started, the act to balance the consumerism with others (such as environments or pollution) are not equally treated. Japan has high consumerisms too, I think Eastern Asia countries are like that recently, but the cities are clean. I agree that it’s so impressing about the right of consumerism in the U.S.; but when I look again at the effect, I definitely dissatisfied.

The title of this article is captivating. But I wish it could be more specific rather than saying this is the comparison of every aspect for those two countries; although if you did that, this article would be more like a scientific sociological paper rather than a blog article.
Thank you.

IvanGroznyIV said...

The big draw for the US over Japan will always be the nature of the society. Japan was never meant to be an immigrant society, and has trouble dealing with non-Japanese immigrants even now. A foreigner could get citizenship, speak fluent Japanese, live in Japan for decades and still be immediately seen as a foreigner just because of his skin color or his native language or where he was born. Japanese are Japanese by virtue of race almost as much as citizenship.

The United States, by contrast, has as a core value that it is a nation of immigrants. If you have citizenship, then no matter what you look like or where you're originally from Americans are taught to treat you as another American, no different than if you were born there. Obviously, there are ignorant people who are very xenophobic and don't do this, but on the whole American inclusiveness is taken as a point of great pride.

Anonymous said...

As an American who has lived in Japan (only for a short while!), this is very interesting to me. Please post more of your impressions of the US, compared to Japan.

DEEPENDRA on October 23, 2009 at 7:53 PM said...

@Anonymous, it's interesting to read your views on prevailing consumer rights in both countries.

@IvanGroznyIV, I agree with you that Japan was never meant to be an immigrant society, and has trouble dealing with non-Japanese immigrants even now. Thanks for sharing your opinion on the two societies which despite being so identical (from developmental point of view) are yet so different.

@anonymous, glad to know that you found the article interesting.

Anonymous said...

I have been in Japan, lived and worked for a while. In pursuit to earn bigger than from my country where I came from, I have to take advantage of the time I was there to work very hard and accept any job that will come my way. Since my employer is a staffing agency and handles numerous factories I was able to work on different factories together with different nationalities. My job there is like a hell to me because I was not used to that kind of job and my long years in school made me think that if I only knew that this kind of job I would land soon I didn't gone college. Discrimination with other races do exist. They look down to other races and would think themselves as superior. We don't talk in work with each other, we just keep on working. Sometimes, there are objects to be lifted up which I wasn't used to, luckily my countryman will lend a hand. They are the person who can easily say I'm sorry but they did not really meant it hiding behind their smiling face. Even if it's their fault they will not submit and insist their superiorness.

Anonymous said...

i don't think that was long enough i would like to hear more about your viewon japan against the usa or vice versa

fairmont acapulco princess on January 12, 2011 at 6:37 PM said...

Good job Deependrajha. They are very different and you have made it out well.

Thanks for sharing.

Anonymous said...

The friggn uranium is killing me!

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