While traveling around Japan, I’ve noticed differences in people’s behavior, language, food, and modes of transportation. People in Keihanshin seem to be more relaxed and less rushed. There are still a lot of people who are serious and busy, but less than in Tokyo. We also talked about the differing dialects between the two regions. I’ve noticed the accent is a bit lower sounding here, but it’s hard for me to tell.
There are different food specialties in different regions around Japan. One of my classmates asked about the food I ate so far and I talked about Okonomiyaki from Hiroshima. He said I have to try Osakan style, because different regions have different versions of the food. I tried some yesterday in Osaka and watched the different way it was made. Personally, I prefer Hiroshima style, but I will try more to make sure. I’ve also noticed that there are more cars in Keihanshin. There’s been more traffic and we have to take a bus to get to class. We talked in class about how there are more cars in this region compared to Tokyo, but still a good amount of public transportation.
Japan has regional differences that are more easily defined than regions in the US. People from Keihanshin seem to have an somewhat unified identity, but it’s more difficult to find people in an area like the South with a collective identity. Americans define themselves as American, rather than a Southerner, for example. There are some regional differences in the US, such as accents and behaviors (laid back west coast, polite south, etc.) and some foods (deep dish pizza, pecan pie). Since Americans come from many different backgrounds, they each have their own traditions, but still share common traditions like thanksgiving. People are mixed all around the country and people within a region can be completely different. There are regionalistic similarities but it’s difficult to group these areas together because of the diversity of people living there. Maybe this is true in Japan too, but I haven't noticed it so far.
The Greater Tokyo area and the Keihanshin areas have similar contrasts much like the regions of New York City and Atlanta. Japan has a relatively small land mass compared to the United States, yet there are still observed regional differences within the country. Certain words are said different such as the word for “thank you” is “arigato” in Tokyo and “ookini” in Kaihanshin. People ride on the opposite side of the elevator. Every region has its customs. Similarly, within the United States, every region and city has its own subculture. The north references soda as “pop”. The South is infamous for its “yall”. Within every country every region has its differences. The Greater Tokyo area has a population of 37.8 million people and New York Metropolitan area has a population size of 20.3 million. The Keihanshin population size is 18.6 million while the Atlanta Metropolitan area is 5.6 million. Its been interesting to compare the different regions in different counties.
To start off with, the fashion in these regions are very different. In Tokyo, at any given moment when you ride the train, majority of the people in the car are in business clothes. I was alarmed by the amount of people, men and women, in professional attire during most of my time while I was in Tokyo. If they weren’t in professional attire, I noticed more fashionable “streetwear” among the general population. Whereas, in the Keihanshin area, I noticed more casual wear. In Kyoto, Osaka, and Kobe, I notice more people on the train are in casual attire. I still saw people in professional attire but not to the point where that is all I can see like in Tokyo. People here do wear streetwear, but I still saw more in Tokyo. Likewise, in New York, most of the people you see are in professional attire or more streetwear. In Atlanta, most people dress casually compared to New York. Tokyo and New York City shows how these economic hubs influence the fashion seen in between its skyscrapers.
Secondly, the differences in transportation in Greater Tokyo and Keihanshin is similar to New York and Atlanta. In the Greater Tokyo Area, the main mode of transportation is the rail system. Likewise, in New York City, the main mode of transportation is also the rail system. In Keihanshin, while there is still rail, there are more cars, bikes, and pedestrians on the roads. In Atlanta, there isn’t a reliable rail, but the main mode of transportation is cars with large roads and highways engineered to take people long distances to get to work. Transportation across these two hubs in Japan is similar to two different hubs in the US.
There is a stark contrast between the two regions within in Japan that is different with the two regions in the Untied States. The Keihanshin area, specifically Kyoto, has shrines embedded throughout the city. In Kobe and Osaka, not so much. Within Tokyo, there are also shrines embedded throughout the city, and some with massive parks that are in contrast to the bustling city surrounding the green space. In cities with such high population densities, any piece of land is very valuable. They dedicate a lot of land to their religion and history. However, in New York City and Atlanta, there are no religious monuments that have large amounts of land dedicated to them. Hardly any area is dedicated to green space. There are more parks in Tokyo when compared to New York. Atlanta is one of the more greener cities since it has many trees throughout the streets of Atlanta. In the aspect of religion, the regions of Japan and the U.S. vary in that sense.
Tokyo and Keihanshin areas showed resemblance to New York and Atlanta regions . The differences in fashion and transportation modes resembled the differences in the US as well. They differ in regards to how both cities value religion and history compared to New York and Atlanta, despite its dense populations. Seeing the differences between the two regions and comparing them to places we know back home has been vey enlightening.
Despite Japan’s small size relative to the United States, there are still regional differences present throughout the country, particularly in the two largest megaregions, Greater Tokyo and Keihanshin. Some of these differences are caused by the history of Japan. Tokyo is the current capital whereas Kyoto was the former capital of Japan before the Meiji Restoration. In Feudal Japan, the emperor sat in Kyoto, whereas the shogun, who was the military and true leader of Japan, sat in present-day Tokyo. The Kansai region also had port cities, particularly Kobe, which were open to Western cultures and therefore more influenced by Western ideals. Osaka was also a hub of commerce throughout Japan’s history. It can be assumed, then, that the Keihanshin megaregion is expected to have differences from the Greater Tokyo megaregion, which it does.
One aspect in which the two megaregions differ is in the peoples’ overall attitudes. In Tokyo, citizens tended to be much quieter and keep to themselves more, not willing to talk much with others. This was evident on the rail lines, where the cars were almost silent when not crowded, and still relatively quiet during busy hours. On the other hand, rail lines in the Kansai region, while not loud by American standards, generally had some level of noise with passengers conversing with their neighbors. People in the Kansai region have tended to be more friendly and talkative in general, whether it be at the convenience stores or while in public. While hiking up a mountain trail on Miyajima, all the Japanese hikers that I passed greeted me politely, showing their openness to others, and other customers in some restaurants in Osaka happily greeted us.
There are also other, less impactful differences between the Greater Tokyo and Keihanshin megaregions. The regions have different dialects and phrases, although this is more difficult for foreigners to pick up on. However, phrase usage seems to tend towards the traditional Tokyo way of speaking, particularly for younger generations. Another main difference between regions in Japan is the cuisine available. In the Kanto region, soba noodles tend to be more popular, whereas udon tends to be more popular in the Kansai region. In Tokyo, people stand on the left side of escalators, whereas people stand on the right in Kansai (except for Kyoto). While this isn’t a very impactful difference in Japanese society, it highlights the fact that even in Japan’s close-knit, homogeneous culture, there are cultural differences between areas in the countries.
The easiest comparison between the Kanto and Kansai regions in the United States would be the North and South (particularly in eastern US). Like in Japan, the North and South of the US are close together, but quite different in terms of culture. For the US, these changes are partly caused by the original settlers of each region and partially caused by the climates of each region (the South being conducive to plantation farming, leading to slavery and a different culture from the North). However, in Japan, the Kanto and Kansai regions have been settled for thousands of years, and are relatively similar in climate, so other factors (discussed above) are at play in creating these cultural differences. Overall, despite having a very homogenous and harmonious culture, Japan still has cultural differences between its megaregions, which should be taken into account when designing sustainable infrastructure for each region.
Despite its smaller size, Japan has many regions. Regions which, like most countries, have their own unique cultures in the way they talk, the way they dress, and the way they live in general. Being from America, I can tell you first hand that different parts of the country have different lifestyles, and from recent experience I can see that Japan has a similar situation.
First off, we learned in lecture from Dr. Woodall in lecture that different regions have different dialects. In this specific case, we talked about the difference in dialect between the Tokyo area and the Keihanshin megaregion in the way the say (or not say) similar phrases such as “thank you”, “how much”, and surprisingly the word “idiot”. While this might be the case for some of the more traditional residents, a Kobe student made it clear that the current generation does not have any significant difference in how they speak compared to Tokyo or most areas around Japan. The student explained how that difference in dialect is more applicable to the older population.
life, Expat. “How to Ride an Escalator in Japan. (Kanto & Kansai).” YouTube, 8 July 2016, www.youtube.com/watch?v=xVZD5uSiniM. Accessed 14 June 2019.
Second, another small cultural difference is found in a surprising location; at an escalator. In malls, stores, and most commonly, train stations, there are many escalators, and people in the Tokyo and Keihanshin areas rides these escalators differently. In Tokyo, people stand still on the left side of the leaving the right side of the escalator open to people who want to walk up/down. In Keihanshin, it is the opposite, with people standing still on the right and walking up/down on the left. Honestly, there is no rule stating what side to stand on, it’s just how the culture developed.
Lastly, similar to other countries of the world, like America as well, in different regions, there are different staple foods. Now, most types of food are available everywhere, but each region has their own specialty food. For example, okonomiyaki is from Osaka (a pancake made of many ingredients especially cabbage), ramen originated in Sapporo, sushi came from Tokyo, and then there are many other unique dishes that have now spread across Japan. It’s cool because we can relate that to the US where various regions have different signature dishes, like lobster from Maine, potato themed dishes from Idaho, blue crabs and other seafood from Maryland, and other foods.
At first, I wasn’t sure how different each region of Japan would be because of seclusion of Japan for so many years, the majority of the population being pure Japanese, and just the lack of diversity introduced to Japan overall. But now I see that although there has been much diversity brought into the country, within Japan itself, there have been multiple unique systems and cultures across various prefectures created through different groups of people. There are several regional differences in Japan and they are expressed through the unique lifestyles of each region, similar to that of the United States.
Although Japan’s land size is the equivalent to that of Montana’s, it is still divided into multiple regions, each with a unique culture. Through my travels, I have been able to experience life in two of Japan’s major regions: Tokyo, including its surrounding metropolitan area, and Keihanshin, consisting of the cities of Kyoto, Osaka, and Kobe. These two regions serve as stark contrasts of each other, as each area has distinct cultures and environments.
When I traveled within Tokyo, I was initially struck by the sheer number of people I was surrounded by. The streets were packed with swarms of people rushing from one place to the next. The picture below depicts the famous Shibuya crossing where Tokyo’s dense population is very much evident. Especially later in the day, trains are packed with people occupying every possible space, leaving little room to even breathe. The congestion in this region only continues to worsen as the region expands. In Keihanshin, the area is far less populated and has been experiencing population decline over the years. Because Tokyo has to accommodate its massive population and fast-paced environment, it prioritizes creating an efficient transportation system and incorporating the newest technologies. While the Keihanshin region certainly has superb transportation, I have noticed that many of the trains appear to slightly outdated, with less technological advancements, and longer wait times.
The crowds at Shibuya crossing.
Tokyo is also a global city, serving as the headquarters for a multitude of major corporations, which has attracted a middle-aged professional population. Thus, their culture is very much work-oriented and has formed a rigid atmosphere. Everyone appears to be consumed with the work ahead of them. There is always someone to meet or someplace to be, contributing to a rushed environment. Interestingly enough, a fellow classmate from Kobe University mentioned how owning a Suica card, the transit fee card typically used in Tokyo as opposed to the Icoco card used in Keihanshin, is often associated with a stuck-up nature.
View of Tokyo from a government building.
In Keihanshin, life moves slower. Rather than seeing businessmen rushing to catch the next train, it is typical to see elderly women strolling to a nearby grocery store. Because Tokyo has been subjected to the forces of globalization, it is often indistinguishable from other major global cities with its landscape boasting of high-rises and other corporate building. On the other hand, places such as Kyoto have more distinctive characteristics and local flavor with its plethora of traditional temples and shrines. Instead of tall skyscrapers, there tend to be more small stores and residential areas, as well.
A residential area in Kyoto.
As with many countries, regional differences are particularly evident in the dialect that is used. For example, in Keihanshin, the word for “different” is chau, while it is chigau in the Tokyo megaregion. These linguistic differences are immediate ways that indicate which community an individual is a part of.
Upon discussions with the Kobe University students, it is evident that people strongly identify with their respective region. Similar to Japan, in the United States, people have strong ties to their region. Having lived in both California and in Georgia, I am familiar with both the West Coast and Southern culture. Just how in Japan, there is a particular dialect used in Keihanshin, in the South, the Southern drawl and the excessive usage of the word “y’all” distinguishes it from other regions of the United States. Because of the different historical and geographical features across regions, differences in culture and customs are bound to happen. Although regionalism appears to be similar in Japan and the United States, one possible difference could be seen in politics. In the United States, the South is generally more conservative, adhering to the Republican party while the West is typical more liberal and more supportive of the Democratic party. From my understanding, there does not seem to be clear regional differences in terms of political affiliations; however, it may be just because I have not resided in Japan long enough to understand its political climate.
Despite Japan’s homogeneity, each region has defining qualities, as evidenced by the differing atmospheres in Tokyo and Keihanshin. As I live here, I am learning more and more about the nuances of Japanese culture, and it has been absolutely fascinating.
In the book The Japanese Mind, there are many aspects of Japanese culture that are discussed. After reading about and discussing many of these topics, I can see how they either promote or discourage sustainable development in different ways.
The aspects of Japanese culture that we have discussed that I believe could promote sustainable development are the concepts of Gambari, Giri, and possibly Bushido. Gambari is the Japanese concept of patience and determinism. It is often used to promote a culture of working hard and taking the future into your own hands. Although it can sometimes put pressure on students and workers to succeed, it can also reinforce the idea that every member of society should work hard and earn their part. This can help sustainable development because it drives people to do all they can for their society and country, which makes Japan a very productive nation.
Giri is the concept of social obligation. In Japan, when someone does something for you or gives you a gift, you are expected to return the favor with an equal action or gift because of Giri. Giri reinforces Japan’s collectivist culture and promotes the ideal that people should work together and help each other out equally in order to be successful in life. This is beneficial to sustainable development because a country cannot develop if only some of its members are succeeding. If someone uses the help of someone else to make gains in their education or work, they are expected to return this favor, rather than just take advantage of that help like I often see in the US. This concept of helping others who will, in turn, help you reinforces sustainable development because it ensures that no one takes advantage of another person in order to make personal gains, but rather encourages people to help others so that they, too, can be helped. Below is a photo of rice farms in Japan. The concept of Giri and Japan's collectivist, give-and-take culture came from the collectivist nature of rice farming.
Finally, Bushido has to do with the concept of the way of the warrior. It refers to the Japanese tradition of samurai being loyal to their masters, to the point where if their master was dishonored or killed, they would commit suicide in his honor. Some aspects of Bushido can help promote sustainable development. Boshido encourages people to identify with their country or workplace and have pride in the work they do. Due to Boshido, as kids, Japanese students develop a sense of loyalty to their teachers. Also, in Japan, manners are highly valued. These are characteristics that foster growth in society, because they promote collectivist values and respect for one another and for the societal structure.
However, Boshido can also hinder sustainable development. Because of Boshido, some workers overwork themselves because they try to prove their loyalty. Also, some students, when they don’t get good enough scores on the entrance exams to top-tier universities, decide to take their lives because of the concept of Boshido, which enforces “die rather than disgrace yourself.” So, Boshido can in some ways enforce and in other ways hinder sustainable development. Below is a photo of Japanese samurai, from which the concept of Boshido originated.
Other aspects of Japanese culture that we have discussed seem to hinder sustainable development, as well. In my opinion, Amakudari, Chinmoku, and Danjyo Kankei seem to be barriers to sustainable development. Amakudari means descent from heaven, which the Japanese use to refer to when bureaucrats enter top-tier positions in private companies after they retire from the government. This practice causes much corruption in the government in the form of the government favoring companies that save positions for bureaucrats to fill when they retire. This allows these larger companies to control their industry and hurts market competition. Also, bureaucrats often don’t have much experience with business when they fill these top-tier positions, so it’s common for them to make poor choices for the company because of inexperience. This whole system hurts sustainable development because it favors corruption from the government in order to keep the people in power at the top of the economy.
Chinmoku is the Japanese concept of silence. Often, people in Japan will say nothing when they are contemplating an idea, when thinking of a response to a question, when they are upset but don’t want to cause an issue or be disrespectful, or when they disagree but don’t want to say so. This silence occurs out of respect for others, but often leads to confusion among people when they communicate. From talking with my classmates from Kobe, I learned that in group meetings, there will often be long periods of silence where no one says anything because no one wants to disagree with an idea, even if they think it is wrong. Chinmoku acts as a barrier to sustainable development because it prevents the free flow of ideas among people and creates a lot of confusion as well as slows down or prevents progress in group work.
Finally, Danjyo Kankei is the concept of male and female relationships. In Japan’s societal structure, men are above women. Men are expected to be the ones who go to work and make money, while women are expected to stay home and raise children. In Japan, it’s very difficult for a woman to get her job back after she takes maternity leave. This concept is a large barrier to sustainable development because it is not sustainable to treat some members of society differently from others. Japan is currently experiencing a declining birthrate in part because women are being forced to choose between marrying and keeping their jobs, which is one example of how Danjyo Kankei is hurting Japan’s development. In order to get the most out of a society, the members within it must be given equal opportunity to contribute in any way they see fit. Below is a picture of the sustainable development goals. Goal number 5 has to do with achieving gender equality.
Overall, from discussing many aspects of Japan’s culture, I have learned a lot about how cultural values can help or hurt sustainable development. Either way, I have seen that the values of a culture has an enormous influence on everyday life and development of a nation, whether good or bad.
Starting in Tokyo and ending in Kobe, I have noticed several differences between the two cities that belong in their respective megaregions, the Greater Tokyo Area and the Keihanshin. While the Greater Tokyo Area is comprised of Tokyo and neighboring prefectures, the three primary cities of the Keihanshin are Kyoto, Osaka, and Kobe. With Tokyo being a small island country, the two megaregions are located relatively close to each other, yet each area has managed to cultivate their own distinct culture. The cultural differences are easily distinguishable between the two, given their language, lifestyle, traditions, and even food.
The first difference that stuck out to me immediately in Kobe was how everyone walked on the right side on both the sidewalk and escalator. In Tokyo, however, this was not the case as everyone stood on the left side of the escalator. Additionally, people living in Keihanshin have their own dialect of the Japanese language, in which the verbal and written forms of certain phrases are different but still hold the same meaning.
As for lifestyle, the people walking on the streets in Tokyo live a more fast-paced lifestyle, who seem to constantly rush from place to place, especially those commuting to and from work. In contrast, those living in the Keihanshin megaregion are more laidback and relaxed. They also dress more casually, while the former appear to dress more professionally and perhaps stylish.
The Greater Tokyo Area is similar to New York in which it is also a heavily populated metropolis. New Yorkers are extremely impatient and seem to walk at the speed of lightning; if you're walking slowly and also happen to be blocking someone's way, you will either get told off by them or glared at. I personally experienced something similar while in Boston a few years back; I was staring at my phone trying to use Google Maps while slowly walking on a bridge looking out onto the Charles river. I wasn't even about to bump into a lady walking hurriedly in my direction, but as she passed by me, she loudly proclaimed for me to "wake up."
Furthermore, the United States has a lot more megaregions than just two, but those located closer in proximity to each other seem to have a similar culture and lifestyle. For instance, there are three megaregions in the North: Chi-Pitts, Bos-Wash, and Tor-Buff-Chester. While I am not as familiar with this area, they seem to share a similar lifestyle in that everything is relatively fast-paced, but each region does have a unique accent. The food is also extremely different, with Chicago known for its deep-dish pizza and Boston for its seafood. The South, however, has its comfort food, which is comprised of fried chicken, pecan pie, and sweet potato casserole. For those who grow up in the South, such as in the Charlanta megaregion, there is the "Southern drawl", in which people "draw" out their vowels while talking; many also use "y'all", while those in the North say "you guys."
Despite being the closest thing the world has to a perfect nation-state, Japan is not without its regional differences. Ironically, these differences are one of the biggest similarities I have found between Japan and America. Though we are, indeed, the United States, we often see large idealistic gaps between geographical regions, mainly between the north and south, and Japan surprisingly has similar tendencies even if they are expressed in different ways. In going from the greater Tokyo area to Japan’s other megaregion, Keihanshin (Kyoto, Osaka, Kobe), there were a number of differences that were very easy to spot and others that took more of a trained eye and some background knowledge on Japan to discover.
One of the biggest and most obvious differences given our initial focus on transportation was the stark increase of personal vehicle use in Keihanshin. Though a majority of the population, including ourselves, still commute, and there is still an extreme lack of Atlanta-like traffic, there is still a very noticeable increase in personal vehicle usage in the area. This is, of course, in large part due to Keihanshin’s smaller population and larger land area, which creates a slightly less imperative need for public transportation, but it is still on a far greater level than any transportation in America. It is also harder for Keihanshin to build railways and subway lines, as the area is situated within mountain ranges (which we have experienced firsthand on our daily class commute), as opposed to Tokyo which is situated on relatively flat land surrounded by mountainous areas.
Despite its slightly more rigorous physical layout, however, Keihanshin has managed to develop into a travelable and workable megaregion. Whatever gap exists in technology between itself and Tokyo, it makes up for with rich cultural experiences and history. As the first long-standing capital of the country, Kyoto specifically has literally countless shrines and historical hubs which, although present in Tokyo as well, are far more frequent and sometimes significant than their other megaregion counterpart. Most of Japan’s unique cultural icons are the most present in Kyoto, for example, Torii gates, geisha, and ancient battlegrounds are the most abundant in this area.
Despite its homogeneity as a country, the regional differences in Japan are actually very pronounced. The citizens further this by showing regional pride, something which I found many similarities to from an American perspective. While some of the regional differences in Japan were created inadvertently and shouldn’t necessarily be seen as cultural statements, some of the differences were self-created and mirror the petty rival culture we have between the north and south of America. For example, in many parts of Keihanshin, I noticed that people walked on the right side of escalators, stairs, etc. I discovered that the cause of this was a refusal or unwillingness to follow Tokyo’s standard (which was followed by virtually every other region in Japan), which reminded me of silly rivalry things we do between the north and south in America. Although historically in our own country the implications of one region going off on its own tends to be very negative, however, in Japan it is less malicious and more just a petty act. This difference, I would argue, comes mainly from cultural backgrounds and the fact that Americans speaks their minds against other countries and amongst ourselves, but Japan is more prone to small actions that have strong implications in a very high context. That said, I still find it funny that, upon further research, I discovered that Keihanshin, specifically Osaka, likes to be very explicit regarding their differences from Tokyo and take pride in being the odd one out in the typically silent Japanese culture. Perhaps the homogeneity heightens differences between regions or perhaps they are just very proud of their unique regional cultures, but either way, the dynamic is one that surprised me in regards to its similarity to America’s.
From my time traveling around Japan, I’ve been able to compare this country to America fairly comprehensibly. I’ve traveled from Tokyo to Fukushima to Kyoto to Hiroshima and now reside in Kobe. This span of travel has also showed me many similarities and differences between the regions of Japan.
Some regional differences between Greater Tokyo and Keihanshin were fairly obvious. In Tokyo, people stand on the left and pass on the right when riding an escalator. In Osaka, people stand on the right side of the escalator and pass on the left. In Kyoto and Kobe, it is usually mixed. There are also differences in language between the two megaregions. Some words only slightly change in meaning while several words are completely different. For example, “I don’t know” in Tokyo is “wakaranai” but in Keihanshin it is “wakarahen.” Another blaring difference is the intercity transportation. I don’t believe I will ever see a subway and train system as complex and efficient as Tokyo. In Keihanshin, the train systems are still very impressive, but they are not nearly as extensive as Tokyo. Bus and bike travel seem to be more prominent in the western region. The dress between locals in the two megaregions also differs. More women in Tokyo wear high heels than those in Keihanshin. This may be due to the types of transportation women use; biking in high heels is no easy task.
A final difference I have observed between the two megaregions are the shops. In Greater Tokyo, tall department stores are everywhere. The multifloored department stores and malls are in Keihanshin as well, but on a much lesser scale. In their place are more smaller, local shops. A regional difference that I have not witnessed, but have heard rumor of, is the demeanor of each region. Tokyo residents are said to be more cold, impatient, and aloof, while Keihanshin locals are supposedly more friendly, humorous, and welcoming. Despite the rumor, everyone I have met in Japan has been extremely kind and hospitable, regardless of region.
Regional differences within a country are not unique to Japan. The United States has its own set of regional differences that are just as observable, if not more. I grew up in rural Maryland and attend university in Georgia. While both of these states are along the east coast, they have their fair share of regional differences. A change in dialect from the Northeast to the South is prominent, with the most renowned difference being “you guys” and “y’all.” But just like Japan, we have different words for the same thing. “Pop,” “soda,” “cola,” are all soft drinks. “Tractor trailer,” “eighteen-wheeler,” “semitruck,” are different regional words for the same large truck that pulls a container on the highway. Just like Japan, transportation differs based on region as well. The entirety of America is a car culture, but large pickup trucks are more prominent in the South and Midwest than either coast.
Two regional differences between the Northeast and the South that I enjoy are the differences in etiquette and food. The South is renowned for its kind, welcoming residents often referred to as “Southern hospitality.” People are more open and willing to chat. They will hold doors open for others and often say “good morning” to strangers passing by. The food in the South is also delicious, although rarely nutritious. Fried chicken, barbeque, sweet tea, Cheerwine, and pecan pie are a few Southern delicacies. The Northeast has its own set of regional food as well, including Utz potato chips and Cheese Nips.
Understanding regional cultural differences is important when it comes to promoting sustainable development. If a development is in conflict with a culture’s values or characteristics, it is not sustainable. A sustainable development in one culture may not be sustainable in another culture.
Over the past two weeks, we made our way from one megaregion to another as we traveled from Tokyo to Keihanshin. In both places, it is easy to tell why they are called megaregions. Looking over the skyline of both regions, all that can be seen is buildings for miles and miles. Although both regions are very highly populated and are centers of economic output, they each have their unique cultures, lifestyles, and traditions. Below is a picture of the Tokyo skyline.
The first thing I noticed once exiting the train in Keihanshin was the fact that people stood on the opposite side of the escalator than people in Tokyo. In Tokyo, it is customary to stand on the left side, but in Keihanshin, people tend to stand on the right.
Another difference I noticed almost immediately was the way people dress in Keihanshin versus in Tokyo. In Tokyo, we were constantly surrounded by big corporations and businesses, and the commuters were primarily people making their way to work in these businesses downtown. In Tokyo, it struck me how nicely and professionally everyone we encountered was dressed, in the mornings, daytime, and at night. The people there seemed overall to be very professional in their dress and behavior.
However, in Keihanshin, I immediately noticed that people were dressed and acted in a more casual manner. In this region, I don’t see quite as many people dressed in suits or blouses making their way to work in a corporate office. Instead, I see many more young people and I see many more people dressed less professionally. Overall, I get a sense that the dress and culture here are more relaxed, whereas in Tokyo, it all seemed very business-oriented.
The transit cards that are used in the two regions is a symbol of the differences between the two areas. People in the Keihanshin megaregion use rail lines under JR west, while people in the Tokyo megaregion use those under JR east. The transit card that allows you to use trains or buses in JR east is called the Suica card, while the one in JR west is called the Icoca card. Through talking to people in the Keihanshin area, I learned that for people here, the Suica card represents something about a person. When people from Keihanshin see someone with a Suica card, they assume that the person is more stuck up because they are from the Tokyo megaregion, where, to them, the culture is more uptight.
The final difference I noticed between the two megaregions is in how homogeneous the region as a whole seemed to be in a cultural sense. In the Tokyo megaregion, there is only one central city, and everyone is a part of the megaregion around Tokyo. However, in Keihanshin, there are 3 major cities that make up the megaregion: Kyoto, Osaka, and Kobe. From talking to my classmates who live in the Keihanshin region, I learned that each city has its own unique culture. It means something different to be from Kyoto than from Osaka. So, this megaregion has a less uniform definition of what it means to be from the Keihanshin megaregion, whereas in the Tokyo megaregion, everyone is centralized around one city – Tokyo – so the way people identify with the region is more uniform.
I see similar patterns to this in the United States. Growing up in the south, I have noticed a distinct cultural identity that develops based on the region of the US where you grow up. From my point of view, although it is different to grow up in Georgia than it is to grow up in North Carolina, I see the culture of the Charlanta megaregion as being more similar to regionalism in Tokyo in the sense that it’s more unified. People in the south tend to culturally identify with one another, no matter if they’re from North Carolina, South Carolina, or Georgia. However, I feel that the regionalism in the Bos-Wash megaregion is different. It is very different to grow up in New York than it is to grow up in New Jersey, and it seems that people from each of these areas don’t feel like they had the same experience growing up as people from the other area. This megaregion seems to line up more closely with Keihanshin in the sense that people don’t identify with the region in the same way. The image below highlights the southern states of the US.
Overall, I have noticed that although megaregions share many traits such as high population densities and high economic outputs, they can differ in many ways depending on the people that live in them.