What are the key cultural differences between China and Japan?
To most westerners there is no difference except Chinese people live in China which is a communist state. Japanese people live in Japan where Anime comes from. That may sound ignorant as hell but it's an honest answer.
Most people don't know that there is much of a difference because they don't care.
Asian people are Asian period. Look at it this way. In the US we live in a giant country.
We might say things like I'm from the south or I'm from the west but in actuality that doesn't mean much because we are all Americans.
So for people here to see that the borders are important to Asian people is hard because all we see is man made lines/borders and to 90% of us your borders are just that.
Japanese people live on an island like Martha’s Vinyard/Hawaii. Chinese people live on the mainland like most of the US, Korean people live on the peninsula like Floridia.
It's just borders. Imaginary lines but all of the people are the same. Asian.
Hara Hachibu, former Chemical Engineer
Japanese have a herd mentality and more regimented ,Chinese are more individualistic and open minded, not so reserved and tend to speak their mind. It hard to know what Japanese are thinking and they are shy to say NO. Business dealings are easier with Chinese from that respect as the Japanese tend to hold their cards very close to their chest. Chinese tend to be loud and behavior in public is quite different than Japanese.
Hygiene is a top priority in Japan, no so in China. Japanese is a bit of a closed society and gaijans are not welcome, foreigners in China do much better and are readily accepted with open arms and can feel right at home. May have something to do with the homogenous population in Japan.
Francesco Baldessari, Writer (2015-present)
I am Italian and I have been living in Japan since 1980. During those 37 years I have studied with Chinese, and I have been to China several times, the first I think it was in 1989, The last two years ago.
I have several Chinese friends of many years. Me and my friend Wen-yu Speak often of China and Japan.
I would like to tell my impressions, without going too deep because I don’t know China as well as I would like.
As far as I’m concerned, in many ways going to China feels like going home.
China’s cities have squares, streets have names, the numbering system works pretty much the same way, there are tables, chairs and beds. None of these things exists in Japan. Kotatsu and futon are very different in look and use, and they imply a completely different use of space.
Food in China, different as it is, is at least cooked, never raw.
The Chinese are far, far easier to deal with than the Japanese. They are more explicit and clear. You never have to wonder about what a Chinese thinks of you. In Japan you don’t really know.
In China making friends is easy. In 1989 I went by train from Hong Kong to Beijing and then on to Manchuria. I still remember the many conversations I had with Chinese travelers writing Chinese characters on a piece of paper getting drunk with Chinese vodka. I don’t think this would’ve happened in Japan. It happened all the time in China.
I love Japan, but it’s not an easy country to live in.
To me the Chinese are and always were human beings. Easy to get along with. Differences are usually somehow bridgeable.
With the Japanese sometimes you wonder whether they come from another planet. Likeable, but inscrutable.
I mean no disrespect to eitherside. I like and respect both nations for different reasons, but from a European perspective the Chinese are far easier to understand and get used to.
Karen Ma, Born in China, raised in Hong Kong and Japan, been in Beijing 6 plus years. Formerly a Mandarin teacher.
Japanese people are more reserved, having come from an island country, rather like the Brits. Chinese are more open, having come from a very large country where the people are not very homogeneous. But the downside is that the Chinese can be insular, rather like the Americans in a way. Here are some contrasts:
Japanese love and appreciate dainty things, and are great learners of foreign cultures. They also love quality, not quantity, and take great pride in their workmanship. Simplicity is the key to their aesthetics. They do tend to be very safety oriented though, and are less willing to take risks sometimes. They are very polite, but this can also mean they will always try to keep you at arm's length.
Chinese prefer size and quantity to quality, and their taste can be a bit over the top at times. And because they are from a huge country with a large population, they can sometimes be a bit arrogant and self-absorbed. They can also come off as rude, offering opinions when not solicited. They are not so detailed oriented, and their workmanship can be a problem. But they will invite you to their home for a meal--something that doesn't happen very often in Japan.
As a Chinese-American journalist and author who lived in Japan for 15 years, I'd say there are many things I like about Japan. But I will add this one bit--the Japanese are very exclusive, and you can spend decades there and still being constantly reminded that you're always going to be an "outsider". In China though, it's often easier for foreigners to make friends.
Lisa Galarneau, Anthropologist
I dug this up from a blog post in 2005:
Differences Between China & Japan (observed during fairly brief travel in each country - in major cities mainly).
In Japan, workers wear name tags, not number tags. (no kidding, we were waited on by 'Number Six' and 'Number 15' in Beijing)
In China, there are at least 4 times more people working in any given store than necessary. The ice cream store in the mall had 6 scoopers, plus two people working the register.
In Japan, one can take photos without fear of arrest or property seizure.
In China, workers often stand in formation and are debriefed at the end of the day.
In Japan, one can cross the street without fear of death.
In China, old neighborhoods are wantonly ripped down with no public announcement, much to the surprise of the residents living there.
In Japan, it would be possible to eat off the floor of the subway.
In China, tour groups travel in well-orchestrated packs wearing identical baseball caps.
In Japan, 'kitchens' are in the bedroom, instead of on the balcony.
In China, the shower is not distinguishable from the rest of the bathroom. And the washing machine is in there, too.
In Japan, one can drink the water and breathe the air.
In China, about half of all websites are inaccessible, including my blog. (though, strangely, I was able to access the back-end of my blog).
In Japan, people don't smile at you unless you smile first. But they also don't touch your child without asking.
In China, dwarves are given jobs luring people into icky Cantonese restaurants.
In Japan, sake is cheaper than Coca Cola.
In China, the freeway is shutdown at rush hour.
In Japan, no one can find anything because the address system was invented by a 13th century monk. The buildings are not numbered sequentially, but by date of construction!
In China, they celebrated 'hate the Japanese day' while we were there.
In Japan, I can blog from my bed.
But in China, I could get a $10 massage from a blind fellow in the massage parlour downstairs. And they'd bring me a drink, too.
Michael David Cobb Bowen, All I care about is wisdom.
Originally Answered: To westerners, what are the most significant differences between Chinese and Japanese cultures?
I tend to think of Japanese as more formal and focused with a dirty underside. I tend to think of Chinese as more selfless and results-oriented with a different kind of reserve. I think the Chinese are more universal in their thinking in that the Chinese individual appears to be more at home anywhere his skills apply whereas the Japanese individual needs to craft a specific environment appropriate to his success.
Here in Los Angeles County, we have more Chinese and Japanese than just about any place outside of Asia. My opinion is based on my first hand experiences, limited as they are, and consumption of a bit of literature.
I am impressed with the feudal formality of the old school Japanese culture. I often use the term evoked by Yukio Mishima of 'the unity of pen and sword' as a kind of perfection. But I am also impressed with the rapid assimilation of Western styles and organization and with the Japanese appreciation of everything that Douglas McArthur was and did in their nation. Yet I also see Japanese achievement as somewhat divergent from their inner selves, as if they are going through the motions of Western success as a way of presenting themselves to the world. Meanwhile the inner Japanese is still very restrained by traditions, and bound to their society above all.
With Chinese I sense that their appreciation of their own formalisms and traditions is held more at arm's length. The Chinese peasant appears to me to be more at home with himself and does not subject himself to anything but the raw power of his cultural superiors. In that way, they are more like Americans but not so actively rebellious. I am more impressed with the industriousness and spirituality of what I know of the Chinese character which I see analogous to American individualism but shows off less. I admire that sort of restraint of not showing off your kung fu. And yet there I sense a great potential for deceit in that there is less formal space for social status. Chinese focus on skill makes them more unabashed throwing their weight around with little regard for the impact on society.
Chinese and Japanese similarly regard 'face' in a way that's more fragile than that of Americans. They are more motivated by an aversion to shame than we are. That is not fundamentally different, but they apply matters of shame to more aspects of life than we do, and in that way suffer. But by the same token, have more coherent social order at a personal level. In contrast, Americans apply matters of shame more towards material and institutional relationships rather than personal and thus have more social mobility, regarding our own personal demeanor as our own and less subject to social criticism and shame.
Oleg Levy, Lived in Shanghai for two years
Chinese people are more open. Its not always a good thing though. They will openly swear at you or blankly stare at you like you`ve come from a different planet. Questions about your salary, rent and other money related topics are commonly asked. They also rarely mind other people, so if you are in a crowded area it might get rather nasty. Service is almost always bad. Spitting, littering, etc... is very common - they have enough people to clean it up so it looks almost decent.
Japanese dont really say anything. Neither positive nor negative. It is clear in some cases that they would rather not talk to you, but still they have a smile plastered on their faces. They tend to be much cleaner too - Tokyo for example is extremely clean and Japan in general tends to be cleaner than other places. They are very polite and make very little noise when outside (they tend to get very noisy when they drink/eat/go out though). Service is very polite, but might not be as effective (still very good though)
Kentaro Chiba, studied at Waseda University (1985)
China was like the Roman Empire of Asia. Many cultural aspects of West European countries have roots in the Roman Empire. Catholicism and the Latin Alphabet are two good examples. Yes, Jesus came from Israel and Gautama Siddhartha (Buddhism) came from India, but they both had important transit points. Latin Alphabet can be compared to the Kanji (漢字).Come to think of it the studying of Latin at public schools in England is somewhat like the studying of Chinese Classics in senior highschools in Japan (both did not enhance fluency in the actual languages too!).
As I am writing this, I am fascinated by the similarity of circumstances. So asking about cultural differences between Japan and China is like asking about cultural differences , for example, between Italy and the UK.
Maybe asking about the differences between China and Italy would be a more interesting and possibly important question. For example; How did China maintain most of the territory acquired by the Qing Dynasty whereas the territory of Italy is a mere fraction of what the Roman Empire occupied at its peak? Maybe even worth a PhD.
Ryota Hira, works at Home Make Hira
I thought about this topic for a little while and have come up with some differences, though I do not know if these are the KEY differences. There are already some good answers for this question, so I'll focus on only one of many cultural differences.
I heard that China is "stone culture" and Japan is "wood culture." From my understanding, many historic buildings in China, such as the Great Wall and 江村橋, were made of stones. Japanese historic buildings were made of woods. In World History class, I learned the Chinese people in ancient period used rocks simply because they had plenty, and the Japanese used woods because they had trees everywhere. Plus, Japan had typhoons, floods, and especially earthquakes, so they preferred woods, which enabled them to build strong, kind of earthquake-resistance buildings.
The Great Wall (China)
Keinosuke Johan Miyanaga / 宮永 ヨハン 計之介, I know what it means to be objective.
Originally Answered: What are the cultural differences between the Chinese and Japanese?
They are completely different. Language. Culture. History. Tradition. Food... That is all anyone really needs to know.
Japan foreign policy kept Japan secluded from 1639 to 1854 while the rest of the world was gradually westernizing. After which a surge of westernization rapidly modernizes Japan leading to the Meiji Restoration. This included its military, and transformed Japan into an aggressive imperialist state. One of its first wars was with China.
Some credit Japan's cultural uniqueness and refinement to when they were able to isolate their own culture from western influences. Like a fine wine, with time comes maturity and refinement.
While Japan was secluded, there were many civil wars and domestic conflicts over power and land. I would say imperialism was merely a natural expansion of their prior domestic behavior. They've always resorted to violence. Furthermore, it can be said that they adopted imperialism from the Western allies that helped train them, who saw potential in Japan as an important strategic partner. Japan obliged, and the rest is history.
China and Japan are as different as... Britain and France maybe? Just as the British would be offended to be mistaken as French, that is about how different the Japanese feel they are with the Chinese and vice versa.
Robert Free, lived in China
A Japanese friend once said to me. "Chinese :they're so practical."
She meant it as an insult. For Japanese, manners are very important in a way only an upper class Englishman would understand. For PRC Chinese, it's about being practical. Taiwanese are somewhere in the middle. Probably akin to a Midwest American. I took my American family to Japan to meet my Japanese family years ago and it was hilarious. New Yorkers don't get why you stand to the left in an empty railway station. Japanese don't get why you break rules just because there's no body around.
William Hennigan, lived in China
I get this question often.
The biggest difference between the two cultures is :
The Japanese will take anything they touch and try it more beautiful or more user friendly. The Chinese are content with "it's good enough".
No nasty messages please. There are a lot more differences than this, this is just the bigger difference.
Jack Dahlgren, works at NVIDIA
I think it is impossible to do justice to this question in a forum like this. Historically there were periods where Japanese culture was highly informed by Chinese. Culture so there are a number of similarities but both countries have changed substantially over time and have very complex cultures. China for example covers more than a billion. People and numerous ethnic groups so even within a country there can be major cultural differences. Simplification to a few paragraphs will not give a reasonable picture.