I thought it would be nice to discuss the differences between Australia vs Japan: daily life! Every year we are seeing a trend of more and more Australians visiting Japan. Australia being close to Japan is a great plus and flights tend to be very affordable these days, especially the LCCs. Similarly, we are also seeing more Japanese people coming to Australia for a working holiday or visiting – which is also great!
Let’s talk about my favourite topic first! So after living in Tokyo for 2 years and visiting much of Japan, I could experience REAL Japanese food. You will rarely find me dining at Japanese restaurants in Australia.
Why do you ask? Well simply put… IT’S NOT REAL JAPANESE FOOD
I hear this with most western countries. If you try and eat Japanese food outside of Japan, what you will find is most of the food is made up to make the locals happy. Everyone in Australia seems to love “avocado and tuna sushi rolls”, which you will never find in Japan. Or the good old “California roll” that will send you off chasing rainbows.
The fish and meats are completely different, who would have thought?! The raw fish in Japan tastes 100 times better (sorry Australia). The quality and taste are on a completely different playing field!
Australia’s Food Scene
Of course, you can find some famous chains in Australia that are from Japan… but what’s the difference? THE PRICE!!! You can pay close to 2,000yen ($24 AUD) for a bowl of ramen! In Japan, it can be anywhere from 450-1,000yen (less than half). So, you can see the wallet always takes a big hit when dining at a Japanese restaurant in Australia.
Comparatively, Australia now has a great variety of Vegan / Vegetarian / Organic food choices. Usually reasonably priced and quite easy to find. In Japan, this has just started to gain traction (mainly in Tokyo, and small parts of Osaka). But it is very expensive and considered as something for the wealthy only. For Vegetarians or Vegans – many places may state their dishes are vegetarian safe, but still use stock or broths made from fish/meat and the like. So try and find a place that is explicitly clear about the types of ingredients they use in their food.
I absolutely love Japan for their seasonal dishes, there is a huge variety and they take the quality very seriously! Many restaurants and chains will change their menu or specials throughout the year. This doesn’t just stop at eateries either, as many supermarkets, cafes and bars also follow suit!
I will keep this short and sweet as I have written a complete article on working for a Japanese company. For those interested, you can find the post here.
Australians are nowhere near overworked as the Japanese. An average working week in Australia will consist of 38 hours and overtime isn’t too common but definitely accounted for. In Japan, however, you are expected to stay at the workplace until the boss leaves. Which usually means 2-6 hours AFTER your shift has finished. Writing that sentence alone is bringing back many horrible memories!
Japan will often have many work dinners or drinking events that you’re expected to attend. This is to ‘strengthen’ the relationship between colleagues. I remember attending a drinking event in Tokyo that started at 10:30 pm on a Friday night. My manager got so drunk that he ripped his shirt off and placed 2 sliced tomatoes on his chest and wore them as a bra yelling out in Japanese ‘I AM TOMATO MAN!!!’ Yet, when we all turned up on Monday morning, everyone acted as if nothing had occurred. In fact, the drinking party was never even mentioned!
Well, we already know that Japan has one of the best transport systems in the world! Their trains are famous for being super convenient, and running on time (to the second). However, what they don’t tell you in the brochure – is that they can become so busy and overcrowded. In reality, you are literally packed inside the carriage like sardines, that you can’t even check the time on your watch!
It can be quite difficult to navigate your way around some stations as well. Even to this day, I can never have a smooth run at Tokyo station! I do love the public manners you will see on a daily basis in Japan. These are simple things like everyone waits on one side of the escalator so the people that are in a rush can easily pass through. Another example is just after the train doors open, many passengers will step off and move out of the way to allow other people to get off easily.
Public vs Private Transport
It is also difficult to own a car in Japan. Parking spots need to be registered before you can even purchase a car. Plus the excessive price of leasing a parking space is almost in line with your monthly rent. Car spaces are limited too, so you sometimes need to be lucky even finding an empty one. Space is a luxury in Japan, and it is something that your wallet will try to avoid at all costs.
In Australia, the trains and buses are famous for never being on time. The weekend is a complete mess too, as trains have a lot of “track work” meaning that the train is out of action until Monday morning! Experiencing track work in Japan is almost non-existent, as they usually conduct most maintenance in between non-operating hours. Most families in Australia still tend to own a vehicle. Yet, these days traffic can be particularly horrendous during rush hour.
How can you spend your spare time in each country and what there is to do and see?
Australia is famous for its beautiful beaches, large natural landscapes, and of course intriguing wildlife. But as a person living in Australia, it can be quite limited to what you can do every weekend. Travelling to another city, for example, can take 6-12 hours by car or train as they are quite far from one another.
In Japan, however (depending on where you are) the next city can be as little as 30 minutes! Furthermore, the bullet train (Shinkansen) network also makes short work of several hundred km. Meaning that you can be across the country in just a couple of hours.
The population of Australia is approaching 25 million people. Whereas the population of Tokyo alone is close to 37 million people!!! Isn’t that just mind-blowing! This means heading out in Tokyo anytime can be very busy! But there are certain things that Tokyo does differently.
Loneliness or Simple Solidarity?
Firstly, their trading hours for shops are usually 10 am to 11 pm, unlike Australia being the good old 9 to 5. Restaurants and bars may close even later (or not close at all) in Tokyo. You can find a small place to dine almost anywhere on the map! It’s quite acceptable to dine or drink alone too! And having a small chat to the person next to you who is also there… being alone is quite a common occurrence. Try the same approach in Osaka and you’re guaranteed to have a great evening. This is due to their bright and energetic character and a more straightforward approach! Hence why most comedians come from Osaka!
In Australia, I don’t feel very comfortable dining alone, or even find it a little embarrassing. So much so that, ‘maybe the staff would think I have no friends’, and I bow my head in sorrow…
You often find weekly or monthly events in Japan that attract people from all over the world! One of my favourites being when everyone gets together for Cherry Blossom season. At this time of the year, there is drinking, celebrations, picnics and parties all through the week! It is completely reasonable to be invited to several parties too. One party with your colleagues, another with friends and then even a third one with family!
Why have I given this its own topic? Once you see the comparison you can thank me later.
Convenience Stores in AUSTRALIA:
- Offer a variety of snacks and drinks (no alcohol)
- Can purchase public transport cards and top-ups (surcharge may apply)
- EXTREMELY EXPENSIVE (a huge mark up on product prices)
Convenience Stores in JAPAN:
- Offer a variety of snacks and drinks (including alcohol)
- Offer fresh food delivered multiple times throughout the day (due to being sold out so quickly)
- Can top up transport cards
- Can pay bills (including phone/rent)
- Can photocopy / fax / scan
- Buy tickets to events (such as Disneyland)
- Have parcels delivered or packed and posted
- Open 24/7 (depending on the city)
- Loyalty cards (depending on branch)
- One can be located within 50m from one another!
There are so many great things that we have even written a complete article about them which you can read here.
Thought it would also be worth mentioning:
Bottle of 600mL Coke from Australia: 400yen ($4.50AUD)
Bottle of 600mL Coke from Japan: 120yen ($1.50AUD)
1x Mango from Australia: 300yen ($3.50AUD)
1x Mango from Japan: 2500yen ($30AUD)
When I am back in Australia, my Mango consumption has certainly increased!
I thought it would be interesting to see how different these two countries actually are, some things may be done better in one place, but then the other country can counter that with something else! No country is better than the other! I love them both in their own ways, and I think you would find me travelling between the two for the rest of my life!
If you’re planning your travels in Japan, we invite you to join our rapidly expanding Travel in Japan Discussion Group via facebook.