Some people say that Korea is third-rate Japan and that Seoul is a mediocre version of Tokyo. This could not be further from the truth. Contrarily, many people say that Tokyo was over-rated and disappointing and that Seoul is more of like what they imagined Tokyo to be like. Seoul is so energetic and dynamic due to its youth culture. There is a vibrancy in the streets and a spark in the nightclubs. Seoul is hustle and bustle without being stifling or overwhelming. There is also a strong connection to the past, that never seems lost among modern skyscraper and urban professionals. Seoul has a soul because it never forgot who it was or where it came from. Additionally, the relatively low-cost as compared to Tokyo gives one a sense of gratification and not dizziness. There is an interesting and unique pulse in Seoul due to its strong connection with its past and its warm and meaningful embrace with the present and future. Korea is a very modern, digitalized, innovative and technology-oriented society. You feel like you are on the cusp of a new beginning and a place that is moving up in the world and going places. Korea is a country to watch.
Seoul, like many other cities in Asia, places higher value on anything Western or Japanese. Those restaurants are considered classier and always higher-priced. Chinese restaurants, conversely, are considered lower class and always lower-priced and are often delivery places.
Tokyo, on the other hand, has a way of losing its luster. Tokyo has been so hyped up for so many of us, then once we get there, we come down from this idealization-high and say “gee, there are just a bunch of buildings, old people and expensive boutiques and cafes”. Tokyo truly is one of the world’s greatest cities. However, the image one creates in one’s mind of it’s grandeur can not possible match the reality of the city. Japan has a really low birth rate and a self-enforcing one child only policy, perhaps mirroring neighboring China. That along with the world’s highest life expectancy rate created an odd dynamic of a bulging geriatric population. It is conspicuous to notice when roaming the streets of Tokyo. Additionally, the expense of being there can be quite disenchanting. Wandering what happened to your money and feeling ripped off adds to the deflated feeling of being in Tokyo. The grey staunch buildings can also produce a lack of intoxication. Tokyo is to be appreciated for how massive and efficient it is. The wealth of its people and its city is truly mesmerizing.
Tokyo has incredible cuisine and culture. The 20th and 21st century are from Tokyo defined modern art. The most cutting-edge, creative and poignant works in fashion, literature, anime, TV, cinema, painting and sculpture were almost exclusively made in Japan, notably Tokyo. The West has certainly fallen behind Japan, and now, the rest of Asia, in defining modernity. Japan was a trendsetter. Japan was ahead of the curve. However, some of this luster has faded in recent years due to low growth and a waning youth culture and competing from other Asian countries, notably it’s biggest rival Korea, then Taiwan and Singapore.
I must admit, I had not known Tokyo as intimately as Seoul, where I spent more of my time in. Additionally, I had seen so much of Asia and other parts of the world before reaching Tokyo that the euphoria of being somewhere new and exotic had faded when I arrived in Tokyo.
Tokyo and Seoul are both worth seeing and both defy what most people’s expectations are. Most people over-rate Tokyo and under-rate Seoul. Like most other entities that exist, the truth lies somewhere in between the two extreme poles.