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!