Japan vs. South Korea: Differences in Beauty Standards, Men, and Diversity

September 22, 2014
Japan vs. South Korea: Differences in Beauty Standards, Men, and Diversity

I have to say that when my friends said, “Guys, let’s go to Japan for our long weekend,” I was thinking, “Really? Why?” I have been living in Korea for a year now, and, visually speaking, it can sometimes be a little boring. I come from a culturally diverse family, so this situation has been the longest that I have been without diversity.

One of the things that you learn fairly quickly when you arrive in Korea is that, as a culture, they value unity. They like to look like a group, instead of standing out. Coming from America, that was so strange to me since we are always trying to stand out and be different and unique.

In Japan, the women seemed to not be worried about a certain ideal of beauty and were more interested in creating their own ideal.

Japan is the same way as America. It was so refreshing to get out of the terminal and see variety. Men and women had the freedom to dress as they please. You didn’t see couples walking around wearing the same outfits or groups of friends dressed in head to toe matching outfits. Japan had the feel of a much older city, and with that feeling, comes more individuality.

Japan vs. South Korea: Differences in Beauty Standards, Men, and Diversity

Since living in Korea, I honest to God have forgotten that men exist. No one looks at me, or checks me out; I am kind of like an invisible person walking down the street. It can definitely mess with your self-esteem, and I was beginning to think that I am not attractive. Thankfully, Tokyo reminded me that I am a beautiful woman, and my skin color has no bearing on my beauty. Men checked my friends and I out several occasions, and it felt really nice.

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The men in Tokyo are so different. They have varying skin tones, different body types, tattoos, facial hair and punk hairstyles and just a bit more swag than Korean men.

Since living in Korea, I honest to God have forgotten that men exist. No one looks at me, or checks me out; I am kind of like an invisible person walking down the street.

When walking down the streets of Seoul, you will always notice that there is a beauty store literally on every corner. In Korea, women and men are completely obsessed with their appearances, and, as a result, there is a booming beauty industry here. I was surprised at how few beauty shops I saw in Tokyo. The women in Tokyo also weren’t covered in ten pounds of makeup.

There seems to be less pressure on the women in Tokyo to look a certain way. In Korea, the ideal woman is rail thin and very pale, and they will go to extreme measures to reach that goal. In Japan, the women seemed to not be worried about a certain ideal of beauty and were more interested in creating their own ideal.

The way to say foreigner in Korean is “waygookin,” and it is a word that I hear quite often here. No matter how long you live in Korea, you will always be a foreigner. Don’t get me wrong — the people in Korea are very friendly. They have been very sweet to me while I have been here. But when you visit a foreign country, you may ask yourself if you could you live there for an extended period of time.

With Korea, the answer is no. I think because Tokyo is an older and more well established city, foreigners may feel more comfortable there. No one cared that my friends and I were foreign, and we didn’t seem to be inconveniences to anyone.

I do love Korea, and it was a great place for me to experience living abroad, but it is still growing and becoming an international destination. I really enjoyed my visit to Japan, and I can’t wait to return.


Japan vs. South Korea: Differences in Beauty, Men, and Diversity

Related Reading

Curiosity, Ignorance and Racism in South Korea
3 Reasons Why South Korea Stole My Heart
Top 5 Reasons Why You Should Visit South Korea
Living in Japan: In Conversation with Ariel Annon
Top 5 Japanese Etiquette Blunders You Must Never Commit
Japan Travel Tips: Ariel’s Take on Health, Safety and Romance
6 Things that Surprised Me about Life in Japan

Have you traveled to Japan or South Korea? What were your impressions? Email us at [email protected] for information about sharing your experience and advice with the Pink Pangea community. We can’t wait to hear from you.

Japan vs. South Korea: Differences in Beauty Standards, Men, and Diversity photo credits: Pixabay and Danielle Fraser.



About Danielle Fraser

Danielle Fraser is currently teaching English in South Korea. She is taking some time off from her regular profession to nurture her passions for traveling, photography and writing.

33 thoughts on “Japan vs. South Korea: Differences in Beauty Standards, Men, and Diversity

  1. January 23, 2024

    I think Jacqueline hits the best point 10 of of 10. I’m not Asian but what she said makes the most sense and relates to the debate the most. Kudos!

  2. Doris Gorgo
    July 23, 2022

    I have never actually seen many Japanese men, so I cannot compare them to S Korean men. All that I know is S. Korean men are awesome. Their facial features are alluring. I love their skin and I especially love their eyes. That probably is the feature I love best. I would much rather be with a S.Korean man more so than any man from the US. Not only are they very handsome, but are more considerate , caring and courteous than men from the US. The majority of men from the US are too “macho” and that is something that turns me off. In response to a comment made above about Korean men and women being obsessed with beauty, I don’t feel that that is necessarily so. What is the problem with keeping yourself neat, clean and attractive and having the self-confidence that goes along with it. They are always neatly dressed, don’t have any facial hair (I do not like facial hair), and no long unkept hair. The women, in general, are impeccably dressed and they have beautiful skin. People in the US have become very unkept with their appearance.

  3. Trekker
    November 3, 2018

    Honestly all East Asians (Korean, Japanese, Chinese) prefer light skin. It goes back thousands of years. Darker skin was associated with poor peasants working under the sun. East Asians are naturally light skin people. So for you ignorant ones this preference for light skin has nothing to do with white (or I like to call pink) Europeans even ever showed up. In Asia. Actually when East Asians first encountered Europeans they had nothing flattering to say about their appearance.
    But with the invention of Hollywood’s white propaganda machine it only preserved this light skin preference. Also it doesn’t help seeing a lot of negative images of criminals and poor people being dark skin people.
    Koreans and Japanese are closely related people racially and culturally but of course there are differences. Koreans are more homogeneous in physical appearance, pale skin. Japanese have bit more variety in appearance most being pale skin but some even look tan like Southeast Asians.
    Koreans are taller and bigger boned. Japanese eat more fish than Koreans. Koreans prefer sexy than cute. Opposite of Japan where cute is preferred.
    Both are polite but Koreans tend to speak their minds more. Japanese will almost never speak their minds publicly or especially in front of strangers. So, many foreigners think Japanese are extremely polite. Japanese don’t like to talk about controversial topics.
    Japanese and Korean women dress very well. Korean women are more affectionate and tend to follow trends more. Japanese women are more docile and less confrontational.
    Korean men are more gentlemanly and more affectionate but can be hot tempered. Japanese guys less gentlemanly, cheap and more reserved. Koreans tend to speak better English.
    98 percent of Koreans and most Japanese lack ABCC11 gene so they don’t have body odor like other races. LOL !

  4. Jacqueline
    June 18, 2018

    Korean men are more hot headed and get jealous super easily, and also less open to dating foreigners. Even though Japanese mother’s do alot of times influence their sons or tell them they are not allowed to date foreigners, Korean mothers are worse and most Korean men are expected/mandatory to marry Korean women only, while Japanese guys either have mom’s who are less strict or they are more likely to rebel if they do have mom’s who forbid it. Most (about 98 percent) of Korean guys I met in the past were only wanting and allowed to be with Korean women and said they were not allowed or interested to date foreign women. Food might have alot to do with why Koreans are more hot headed, they eat alot of spicy food while Japanese don’t eat spicy food. Korean’s speak their mind more and people claim that they are more honest and will be lifelong friends but actually Korean people are more rude and honest but are very hot headed and get mad very easily and call off friendships real fast so they are not life long friends, its really hard to maintain a lasting friendship with Koreans since they get mad so easily about something, you do one thing to make them mad and the friendship will end very easily. Also in Japan there are alot more tan/ darker skinned Japanese, even if the stereotype is that Japanese want super pale skin like a geisha, it isn’t near as much as S.Korea, the only place I can think of where some women try to have super pale skin is Tokyo/Kanto region, while the west/south Japan like Osaka and Kansai there are alot of brown skinned Japanese who are more natural and laid back in appearance. Both Korean women and men are obsessed with having porcelain white skin (like how in kpop all the male singers are super porcelain white). Japanese men are ok with just being their natural brown/tan, and one of the most popular jpop male artists is Exile which all the members are natural brown skinned, another one is jrapper Zeebra who is brown skinned. Also in Japan blasians are seen frequently in the music scene (like Crystal Kay). Its the reason why you had a better experience in Japan. Koreans are more into mainstream kpop fashion and surgery, pale skin and mainstream kpop influenced clothes while Japanese are into all kinds of different types of fashion and making handmade clothes, hippy eclectic looks, etc.

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