Japan or Taiwan – Which Asian jewel destination is for you ?

Travel is highly subjective, in that what one person enjoys, another may not. The outcome of your trip, be it a positive or negative experience, is always up to your interests and preferences.

But what if you are torn between two great choices – Japan vs. Taiwan? How do you decide which country to visit?

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If you are still undecided on which country will give you the best bang for your buck, let us compare these two Asian destinations and see their similarities and differences to help you decide which one to visit.

JapanTaiwan
CultureOld civilization tied seamlessly with
the modern era
A blend of influences from neighboring countries
CuisineUses seafood and seasonal
ingredients while highlighting its natural flavors.

Pleasing aesthetics.
Uses seafood and seasonal ingredients while highlighting its natural flavors.

Pleasing aesthetics.
Tourist SpotsWorld-renowned Mt Fuji, Cherry Blossoms, religious temples and gardens, UNESCO World Heritage
Site in Nikko.
Noteworthy Taroko Gorge, Alishan National Scenic Area, Sun Moon Lake, Kenting National Park
Ease of Communication English spoken in major cities and
tourist areas
English-friendly destination for travelers
HighlightsMarvelous tech Budget-friendly

Similarities between Japan and Taiwan

Japan and Taiwan are located in East Asia. Both are heavily influenced by Chinese culture and tradition because of their proximity to each other, trade partners during the olden times and China’s colonization or annexation of the two countries. 

On top of that, Taiwan was under Japanese rule for over 50 years and thus has adopted the “Japanese way” of doing things.

This can be seen in the way locals interact with each other, including doing business fairly and honestly, and train conductors greeting passengers aboard and bowing and apologizing for any inconvenience when something bad happens on board.

Japan and Taiwan share many things in common:

  • Both are island nations surrounded by water on all sides and share certain geographic characteristics, such as mountainous terrains, diverse landscapes, and sparkling coastlines.
  • Because of their geographical location and characteristics, both countries face significant risks of damage from natural disasters like typhoons and earthquakes.
  • The two countries are on the Pacific Ring of Fire and have active volcanoes that may cause catastrophe anytime, yet also give way to relaxing natural hot springs that dot the countryside.
  • Japan and Taiwan have two writing systems, with 1 heavily influenced by Chinese, and the other locally developed. 
  • In Japan they use Kanji containing Chinese Characters and Kana for Japanese; while in Taiwan they have Hanzi/ Hàn-jī for Chinese Characters, and Bopomofo for Taiwanese, which locals use to teach children.

Differences between Japan and Taiwan

Though Japan and Taiwan have similarities, they have distinct differences and boast unique charms that resonate with different types of travelers.

Their influences and how they adapted to changes and tests of time shaped them to be what they are today.

Let’s check out their differences.

Japan vs. Taiwan: A Showdown of Cultural Marvels?

A woman in a kimono is pouring tea into a cup.

Japan

Japan is one of the oldest known civilizations in Asia and has a rich and distinct culture that has evolved over thousands of years. This is reflected in various aspects of its society, making it an excellent country to relocate to.

Its culture is highly influenced by Shintoism, Buddhism, and modern innovations, where tradition seamlessly melds with modern and awe-inspiring tech. 

It also prides itself on numerous historical and cultural attractions. From ancient temples, thousands of torii strategically built all over Japan, magnificent castles, and traditional festivals like the Kyoto Gion Matsuri – you name it, Japan has it.

There is also Japan’s traditional arts like the Ikebana, Kabuki, and Noh Theater, which all offer a glimpse into Japan’s old-world charm. 

Don’t forget the Japanese tea ceremony, known as Chado, which emphasizes mindfulness, etiquette, and the preparation and consumption of matcha (green tea) that embodies the principles of harmony, respect, purity, and tranquility. 

Meanwhile, the country’s art of flower arranging can introduce aesthetic harmony into one’s life, while the traditional theaters can offer a cultural and emotional journey. 

When it comes to arts and crafts, Japan is incomparable. There’s the art of paper folding or origami; ceramics, including the famous porcelain of Arita and Imari; and Woodblock Printing (Ukiyo-e) that depicts scenes from kabuki theater, landscapes, and beautiful women.

As for bringing counterfeit branded bags to Japan, it is frowned upon.

The emphasis on authenticity and respect for craftsmanship is strong, as genuine products are seen as a reflection of dedication and cultural heritage.

Counterfeits are considered dishonest and disrespectful, going against the values of integrity and quality that are highly valued in Japanese society.

Exploring these aspects of Japanese culture can be an enriching experience. 

A group of asian people performing in front of a building.

Taiwan

On the other hand, Taiwan offers its own unique cultural experiences, which is a captivating blend of influences from Chinese, Japanese, and indigenous cultures, making it a truly unique and multifaceted society.

The language of Taiwan reflects this diversity, with Mandarin Chinese being the official language and widely spoken. 

However, the native Hokkien dialect is also prevalent, especially in daily conversations, while the Hakka language is spoken by the Hakka ethnic group. 

Taiwan is also home to several indigenous tribes, each with its language and culture. 

In addition to its rich linguistic heritage, Taiwan also boasts a wide array of traditional arts. Taiwanese opera is known for its elaborate costumes and stylized performances, while puppetry (Budaixi) is a popular form of entertainment. 

Calligraphers in Taiwan create beautiful artworks with brush and ink, showcasing the country’s artistic prowess. 

Taiwan also hosts colorful festivals and celebrates everything from religious devotion to the changing of seasons. 

Some great examples are the Lantern Festival which is held during the Lunar New Year and showcases spectacular lantern displays; the Ghost Festival which honors ancestors with elaborate offerings and performances; and the Mazu Pilgrimage, one of Taiwan’s largest religious processions.

Heavenly Cuisine

Japan’s Offerings

Japanese cuisine emphasizes the use of fresh, seasonal ingredients. Sushi, sashimi, and tempura are wonderful examples of dishes that highlight the natural flavors of seafood and vegetables. 

It also puts much weight on aesthetics and considers food presentation as a form of art. Sushi, for example, is not only about taste but also about aesthetics. Dishes are meticulously arranged to highlight the colors and textures of each ingredient. 

Japan also has Umami, the fifth basic taste and a cornerstone of the country’s cooking. The taste is often achieved through ingredients like miso, soy sauce, and dashi broth.

Additionally, traditional Japanese cooking methods include grilling (yakitori), steaming (chawanmushi), and simmering (nabe).

Taiwan’s Dishes

On the other hand, Taiwanese cuisine is known for its bold and diverse flavors

It incorporates a wide range of ingredients, including pork, seafood, tofu, and various vegetables that are often characterized by the complex interplay of sweet, savory, and spicy flavors from the use of sauces, spices, and seasonings like chili sauce, soy paste, and black vinegar.

Taiwan cuisine also uses a wide range of cooking methods. The common techniques they use are stir-frying, deep-frying, and braising – very Chinese-like.

Meanwhile, unlike in Japan, food in Taiwan is prepared and served in a no-fuss manner and is well-known for its hearty and comforting appearance, and taste and flavor are of utmost importance. 

Fascinating tourist destinations

When it comes to natural landscapes and cultural attractions, Japan and Taiwan have incomparable captivating sites travelers will surely enjoy.

Japanese cherry blossoms and a river with mt fuji in the background.

Only in Japan

  • Mount Fuji (Fuji-san), Honshu: Mount Fuji is Japan’s highest peak and is considered an iconic symbol of the country. Its perfectly conical shape and surrounding landscapes create a stunning backdrop. 

    The best time to visit Mount Fuji is during the summer when travelers can climb it. This is also the time when Mount Fuji is most visible from the Fuji Five Lakes region.
  • Cherry Blossom Viewing (Sakura): Japan’s cherry blossoms are world-famous and attract millions of visitors during Springtime.

    Kyoto and Tokyo cities see most international travelers during this season, when cherry blossoms are in bloom, creating a breathtaking sea of pink and white petals.
  • Kyoto’s Temples and Gardens: Kyoto is a cultural treasure trove with its historic temples and traditional Japanese gardens. Kinkaku-ji (the Golden Pavilion), Fushimi Inari Shrine, and the bamboo groves of Arashiyama are just a few of its remarkable attractions.
  • Nikko and Hakone: Nikko and Hakone are fantastic destinations in Japan. They offer a unique blend of natural beauty, cultural attractions, and relaxation that sets it apart from other places in the country.

    Located in Tochigi Prefecture, Nikko is known for its intricate Toshogu Shrine, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the picturesque Lake Chuzenji. 

    The region’s vibrant autumn foliage is another draw. Travelers can enjoy the stunning view of lush forest that discarded the serene green hues then transformed into showy yellow, orange, and red colors from mid-October to November. 

    Meanwhile, nestled within Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park, Hakone unveils a world of natural beauty and culture. With Mount Fuji’s majestic backdrop, serene lakes, and lush forests, it is a haven for nature enthusiasts.

    The Hakone Open-Air Museum adds an artistic touch with sculptures by renowned artists.

    But Hakone’s true magic lies in its healing hot springs, where open-air onsens await amidst pristine surroundings.

    It is steeped in Japanese culture with its’ historic tea houses, art museums, traditional ryokan inns, and iconic sites like Hakone Shrine and Lake Ashi.

    Hakone offers an enchanting escape where nature and culture intertwine, ready to captivate the soul.
A hillside overlooking the ocean at sunset.

When in Taiwan

  • Taroko Gorge, Hualien: Taroko Gorge is a natural wonder, noted for its marble canyons, towering cliffs, and crystal-clear rivers. 

    Visitors are not limited to simply enjoying the view but can explore hiking trails, admire the Swallow Grotto, and visit the Eternal Spring Shrine.
  • Alishan National Scenic Area, Chiayi: Alishan is known for its ancient cypress forests, where 1,000 years old massive trees tower overhead. It has trails that offer tourists an opportunity to walk amidst the majestic giants and is home to the Alishan Sacred Tree, a giant red cypress, which is an iconic symbol of Taiwan.

    It also boasts stunning sunrises and sunsets that showcase breathtaking views of the sea of clouds as the sun gradually illuminates the landscape beyond.
  • Sun Moon Lake, Nantou: Taiwan’s largest lake, Sun Moon Lake is surrounded by verdant mountains and serene waters. 

    Travelers can join in on outdoor activities like boating and cycling. Tourists can also visit the elegant Xuanzang Temple which is dedicated to the famous Buddhist monk and scholar Xuanzang who made great contributions in literature and his account of his sixteen-year pilgrimage to India.
  • Kenting National Park, Pingtung: Located in the south, Kenting National Park is a natural reserve with pristine beaches, coral reefs, and a diverse range of marine life.

    Visitors can partake in various water activities, including swimming, snorkeling, jet skiing, diving, and banana boat rides. It also offers other outdoor recreations like trail hiking, biking, camping, and picnicking. 

Ease of Communication

English proficiency in Japan

English proficiency in Japan can vary, with more English spoken in major cities and tourist areas

Tourist destinations and areas with a significant international presence, such as Tokyo’s Shibuya or Kyoto’s Gion, generally have more English-speaking residents and businesses. 

In contrast, rural areas and smaller towns may have lower English proficiency, with fewer people comfortable speaking English.

Overall, Japanese remains the dominant language in the country. Though 

English proficiency in Taiwan

Taiwan is a relatively English-friendly destination for travelers and English is commonly used in tourist areas like Taipei. 

This can be greatly attributed to Taiwan’s strong emphasis on English education, where English is taught as a mandatory subject in schools from an early age. 

On top of that, announcements, maps, and street signs are often available in English, which can provide valuable information to tourists, including event listings, travel tips, and cultural insights.

What sets Taiwan and Japan apart?

Japan’s Technology

Japan is synonymous with cutting-edge technology that is legendary even among developed countries. Tokyo is a futuristic metropolis where innovation is a way of life. 

Tourists can even explore the bustling streets of Akihabara, where the latest gadgets and electronics are readily available, or marvel at the efficiency of the Shinkansen (bullet train).

True, Taiwan certainly has its tech hubs, but Japan’s integration of technology into everyday life is on another level. Japan has seamlessly merged old traditions and culture with modern technology. 

Taiwan’s Affordable Travel

Taiwan is more budget-friendly compared to Japan. Accommodations, food, and transportation are all reasonably priced, allowing you to stretch your travel budget and have more experiences without breaking the bank.

Moreover, Taiwan’s compact size and efficient transportation system make it easy to explore the entire island without the need for lengthy travel between cities.

You can travel from bustling urban centers to tranquil countryside retreats without spending too much helping you save money on transportation and, at the same time allowing you to maximizing your time creating memorable experiences.