Why I love Japan more than Korea

This is a very hurried post. While Daniel is carried away with Moana for the millionth time, I have to get this out of my system before I carry on with house chores that never end.

I have been to both countries as a stewardess and as a tourist. Before you jump to any conclusions, please reread my title AGAIN. This post has nothing to do about hating Korea, but why I prefer to travel to Japan instead of the other.

I love Korea as well, we traveled there when Daniel was about 11 months. If you follow me on Instagram you would have noticed that we just got back from Osaka a few days ago. Here is a short list of why I prefer Japan over Korea:

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1. It is much easier for a Muslim to eat out in Japan. 

In Japan, your alternative to Halal food is seafood, which can be found in abundance: namely unagi, tuna, squid, salmon, prawns, you name it. Just watch out for beer or alcohol, such as Sake, in their cooking. If you eat sushi or rice bowls/donburi, I would say you are safe.

I really enjoyed their Non-alcoholic beer in Japan, 0.00% by Asahi, Kirin or Suntory. Once a Non-Muslim, this is the closest I get to real beer-tasting beverages and it puts Barbican to shame.

We brought a couple of microwaveable food by Brahim’s, just in case, on days where we would oversleep and it was too late to eat lunch out (to make sure Daniel eats lunch on time). As we rented a place with a microwave, it really solved a lot of our problems.

In Korea, pork is commonly found in their dishes and it is a tad more difficult to find seafood dishes. You would need to go all the way to places like Itaewon in order to enjoy authentic Halal Korean food. Unless of course you are planning to eat briyani or kebabs wherever you go! I usually enjoy trying out local specialities so I stay away from dishes I can find back home.

We went to a few Halal restaurants when we were here but it was scattered around Osaka (as opposed to Itaewon, Seoul) so it’s quite a distance to travel and walk. I found the website and app by Have Halal When Travel to be PERFECT in looking for Halal eateries. Would probably talk about the restaurants another time.

2. Restaurants clearly display their menu outside the restaurant

…which makes life even easier. While there are plenty of restaurants with English menu, at least 90% of them display their menus outside like this. Even without an English menu, you can pretty much tell what they would be serving. The food replicas look pretty real too.

To be honest this made decision making even easier as we could just walk around and survey (like we did in Shinkasen which had TONS of restaurants) before deciding what to eat. Spoilt for choice everyday and I.LOVE.JAPANESE.FOOD!

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Source: Japan Guide

3. Japan is EXTREMELY Baby-Friendly

Nearly, if not all, subways had elevators (if not, escalators!). Japan is VERY VERY disable-friendly; the raised paths for the blind was never ending, and there were elevators everywhere for the wheel-chair disabled. There are special seats/areas in the subway train for strollers and wheel chair passengers, with clear signages on the floor to indicate the entrance to the coach.

Since I traveled to both Japan and Korea while Daniel is a babe/toddler, we carried his stroller everywhere we went. While in Korea I did a lot of baby wearing (because it was all about stairs here and the majority of the subways had no elevators/escalators) I did not even use my Ergobaby Carrier in Japan, despite bringing it with me incase of emergencies. Daniel sat/slept in his stroller throughout the entire trip.

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4. Japan was extremely clean.

There were some areas which would stink of pee (especially it is near a bar) but otherwise, it is so bloody clean here. The air is constantly fresh and the weather was perfect! I can’t quite remember how clean Korea was, but Paris was horrible…. Japan all the way!

5. You can get anything and everything in their convenience store. 

I believe you can survive by living next to a convenience store. You can find anything here from immediately edible food (onigiri, rice bowls, microwaveable food, drinks etc), hot coffee/tea, laundry supplies, Muji products like underwear, personal hygiene care you name it. We lived not far from Osaka Castle, near Temmabashi station and Family Mart was just 50m away from our apartment. We frequented the place everyday. On our last two days we found out that there was a larger Family Mart about 200m walk from this one which had even MORE STUFF including this palm-sized tamago and matcha latte!

Family Mart is fairly common but you’ll also see Lawson (which serves a different brand of coffee mind you, tak payah pergi Starbucks) and 7Eleven. You’ll also find hot food  such as breaded and fried goodies, steam pau and some poached goodies or something we call ‘loklok’ here in Malaysia, IN THEIR FAMILY MART.

Now, that’s all I can think about Japan right now but let me talk about Korea for a moment. There are other reasons why I love Korea as well and here it is:

1.  Travelling in Korea is fairly cheaper. 

We went everywhere in Seoul via the subways, which is highly efficient and reliable as Japan. However, it is much cheaper. In Korea, we just used T-Money, which is similar to our Touch-N-Go in Malaysia. Subways are also charged differently here according to distance and not station to station (Read about it here).

In Japan, we took the Osaka Amazing Pass, 2-day for 3,000 yen. It was expensive but worth the money spent as it also included entrance fees to a lot of places like Tennoji Zoo and Osaka Castle, free rides on the Tempozan Ferris Wheel and covers subway and buses as well (Read about it here).

2. Halal restaurants were usually group together in one location.

In Itaewon, there are several Halal restaurants all grouped in one place. I assume that this is due to the fact there is a mosque located in the area. There are at least 2-3 restaurants with authentic Korean dishes and a kebab place too. I can’t remember exactly, so best you check out Have Halal When Travel again for this.

I had a wonderful time in Seoul last year and Osaka this time around. I must say I really love Japan (I’ve already been to Narita, Haneda and Tokyo when I was with Malaysia Airlines) and would most definitely like to visit during Spring and Autumn in the years to come.

Here are some photos, if you had not already seen them on Instagram @leemishael.

  • Top Left: Halal Udon, 2nd Floor, Kansai Airport
  • Top Right: Sushi restaurant inside Keihan City Mall (don’t remember seeing any pork dishes)
  • Bottom Left: A donburi restaurant, Tempozan Market Place
  • Botton Right: Tsuki No Odori, Halal Yakitori, Dotonburi. TO DIE FOR. 

We stayed at an apartment in that we booked via AirBNB and it was superb. The host was wonderful, professional and I was highly impress! Their location is perfect! They were located 1-minute from the subway. Thank you Teppei & Misaki!

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