Japan vs China! Which is best to travel?

by author David Jones

Statistics show that many travelers are heading east and exploring the lands of Asia. There are many Asian countries to explore and enjoy. Choosing between them can be a big challenge. Many Asian countries share some similarities. Yet they all have their own unique lifestyles, cultures, and identities.

For an unforgettable Asian experience, China and Japan are two terrific countries to visit. They both have a lot to offer, with each one having its advantages. If you’re trying to choose between them, we’re here to help. This guide will look at key aspects of China and Japan travel to help you might the right choice.



An Overview

China is the world’s most populous country. It’s home to an astonishing total of over 1.4 billion people. Japan, meanwhile, is home to about 125 million people. China is about 25 times larger than Japan in terms of physical size.

Japan, is home to about 125 million people

Japan, is home to about 125 million people

This means that there’s a lot more ground to cover and places to explore in China. But size isn’t everything. Japan might be smaller, but it’s still an extraordinary place. Known as ‘The Land of the Rising Sun’, Japan is home to historic temples and modern cities.

Sitting in the Pacific Ocean and made up of several islands, Japan is a rich, varied, vibrant destination. It’s a place where you can feel like you’ve teleported into the future as you explore the streets of Tokyo. The very next day, you can travel back to the past and take a tour of the country’s old shrines and castles.

China is also a place that fuses both the old and the new. It has some of the oldest and most awe-inspiring temples and ancient sites around. Equally, it has lots of modern, almost futuristic cities like Shanghai and Beijing.

China is the world's most populous country

China is the world’s most populous country

Both of these countries share some similarities. They both honor the past and embrace the future. They can both appeal to a wide range of travelers. And they can both make your vacation dreams come true.


The first thing many people think about when playing a trip is the budget. For some, money is no object. But for most people, money matters when traveling. Many people need to plan vacations with care to ensure they can afford everything. So how do Japan and China compare when it comes to costs?

Well, if money is the number one factor for you, China is the best choice. Japan is quite an expensive place to travel. In fact, general daily travel costs in Japan can be about twice as high as what you would expect to pay in China.

Accommodation is more expensive in Japan, with minimum hotel rates of around $60 per night. In China, you can find a hotel at half that price. Food is also more expensive in Japan on average. However, both countries have a lot of street food vendors offering cheap and tasty treats.

A bottle of water costs almost twice as much in Japan and public transport is more expensive too. All in all, average daily costs in Japan are upwards of $100 per traveler. In China, you can probably spend about $50-60 per day and still have a great time.


We’ve seen that accommodation is cheaper in China. But how do the countries compare in terms of accommodation quality and options?

For starters, China has a lot of basic, budget hotels. These places will typically offer quite small and simple rooms. They usually have Wi-Fi access and basic amenities.

There are also lots of hostels around China for young travelers or those on a budget. The big cities offer more options in terms of high end hotels. If you’re visiting the rural regions of China, they often don’t offer a lot of choice.

kapsule Hotels are less expensive structures very famous in Tokyo

Japan is more of a ‘westernized’ nation with more options in terms of accommodation. You’ll find a lot of private rentals around big cities like Tokyo. These places allow you to stay in a real local home and enjoy all the usual comforts.

For hotels, there are both Western-style and Japanese, traditional options. Standard Western-style hotels offer great amenities and large rooms for travelers.

The Japanese options like Ryokan and Minshuku are usually family-run places. They usually provide breakfasts and dinners with your room fee. They also feature typical Japanese elements like sliding doors and tatami flooring.

Accommodation is more expensive in Japan

Accommodation is more expensive in Japan

Japan also has its famous ‘love hotels’ as well as themed hotels. There are also capsule hotels with very small sleeping pods in Japan. You can find a few of these pod hotels in China too. Overall, Japan has more options but higher prices.

Weather and the Best Time to Visit

Sometimes, we have to plan our vacations at certain periods of the year. This can be due to a variety of reasons like school and work. It can affect the destinations we choose, as the weather conditions can vary a lot throughout the year.

One advantage of China is its size. Since it’s such a large country, you can always find warm and sunny places. Southern China is always sunny, with lots of hot days and summer-style activities. If you prefer cooler weather, the northeastern part of the country has cold, snowy winters.

Snow season, China

There are even special winter and ice festivals in the northern regions of China. So, there’s never really a bad time to visit. Plus, with China being so vast, you don’t need to worry about huge crowds of tourists everywhere. You can always find a place that is less busy than the others.

In Japan, it’s a bit of a different story. Japan is much smaller than China and mostly has the same weather all over. It has four distinct seasons like many other countries. In winter, Japan can have a lot of snow and quite cold temperatures.

Springs and falls are quite mild in Japan. Summers can be warm, but not especially hot unless you’re visiting the southern parts. Many people flock to Japan during the ‘shoulder months’ on either side of the summer like April, May, September, and October.

Mount Fuji

Mount Fuji

April is very popular in Japan. This is when ‘cherry blossom season’ occurs in which Japan’s famous cherry trees blossom beautifully with lots of pink petals. This is a great time to visit, but it’s very busy. If you want to avoid the crowds and still get mild temperatures, May and early fall are the best moments.

Getting Around

Japan leads the world in its public transport. The nation is famous for its ‘bullet trains‘. These trains are the fastest in the world. They move at incredible speed and they’re always on time. This makes getting around Japan very simple. You can travel between cities and even hop around the different islands with ease.

Japan leads the world in its public transport

Japan leads the world in its public transport

In cities like Tokyo, the metro systems also make it easy to get around. You need to be careful on the streets, however. Jay-walking is often punished and the streets can be super busy. The rules are strict and there are even special agents to push people into trains during rush hour periods. This means that getting around Japan is easy but can be quite stressful.

In China, things are much more relaxed. Since the country is a lot bigger, journey times are longer. You might not be able to hop around and see all the cities you want to see during just a one or two-week trip. However, if you do choose to travel, the trains are reliable. They’re quite old and conventional, lacking the modern amenities of modern alternatives.

China public transport

China public transport

There are, however, new Chinese bullet trains that are helping to speed up transport across the nation. You can also find cheap domestic flights between big cities around China too. Also, the rules for walking around are more relaxed. You won’t get stopped or punished for jay-walking in China. People move more freely and casually around the cities. This helps to provide a more laid-back pace of life.

Things to Do

So, what can you actually do in China and Japan? The activities and attractions of these two countries are very unique and special. China is home to one of the most iconic landmarks in the world: The Great Wall of China. A long, historic, incredible wall, the Great Wall is an amazing place to visit.

There are lots of temples and historic hotspots in China. The country has a lot of appeal for history buffs and culture lovers. You can check out the Forbidden City, Emperor Qinshihuang’s Mausoleum, the Temple of Heaven, and Tiananmen Square.

Forbidden City in Beijing,China

Forbidden City in Beijing,China

You can also explore beautiful natural spaces like Jiuzhai Valley National Park and the Tiger Leaping Gorge. There are also some vibrant inner city areas like Nanjing Road in Shanghai or Wangfujing in Beijing.

Japan also has a lot of historic and traditional sites. Examples include the Fushimi Inari Taisha Shinto shrine and the Kiyomizu-dera temple. The Senso-ji temples is another popular site and Osaka Castle is a must-visit location.

Japan also has a lot of beautiful natural areas. Arashiyama forest is very famous for its monkeys and bamboo shoots. Travelers can visit Mount Fuji, snapping photos from afar or actually hiking up the mountain with their friends.

Arashiyama forest

Arashiyama forest

The big city of Tokyo can almost be considered an attraction too. It’s a city like no other. It has its own Disneyland, entire neighborhoods dedicated to arcade games and anime, theme restaurants, and much more. You can visit old shrines one moment and modern skyscrapers the next.


Many people travel to enjoy new foods and drinks. It can be thrilling to visit a different country and enjoy brand new flavors. It’s always exciting to try local delicacies and traditional dishes too. So how do the cuisines and culinary styles of Japan and China stack up?

chinese food

Chinese food

Well, we’ve already mentioned that food is cheaper in China. It’s also probably a little less healthy overall. A lot of Chinese dishes are prepared in woks and fried. They often involve a lot of oils and sauces. You’ll find almost everything served with noodles and rice in China.

Many people are familiar with Chinese foods in their own countries, so you can find dishes you know while exploring China. The quality can vary greatly, depending on where you dine. Out in the rural areas, you might discover local restaurants and unique traditional delicacies. The big cities have major fast food chains and restaurants of different styles. It’s not too hard to find amazing food in China.

japanese food

Japanese food

The same can be said for Japan as well. Japanese cuisine involves less reliance on sauces and oils. Many foods are actually served raw in Japan. There’s a big focus on seafood. You’ll find lots of sushi and fish dishes in typical Japanese restaurants. Japanese chefs use special flat pans called teppans that allow them to grill food on the outside and keep it raw in the center.

This technique can create some really unique flavors. However, if you’re picky about food and don’t like eating things raw, you might not like Japanese cuisine so much. Fortunately, big cities like Tokyo have all kinds of restaurants offering Italian, French, American, Korean, and other styles of cuisine too.

Final Verdict

Ultimately, both Japan and China are amazing vacation destinations. The right choice for you depends on your personal preferences and tastes. Your budget is also another big factor to consider. If you want to get the best value from your trip and make every dollar count, China is the best choice. Food, accommodation, travel, and activities are all cheaper in China.

China also has some truly iconic landmarks and monuments like its Great Wall. However, Japan has the thrilling metropolis of Tokyo and dozens of ancient temples too. The quality of life is also better overall in Japan. Many Westerners enjoy the high standards of public transport and dining in places like Tokyo and Kyoto.

China has the advantage of its size and weather. You can visit at almost any time of the year and have a terrific time. Japan is also enjoyable throughout the year, but tourists will need to cope with cooler weather and snow in winter. In the end, the choice is yours. Whichever country you choose, you can make a lot of happy memories there.

Great Wall of China

Great Wall of China