View Full Version : Similarities between Japan and Thailand

Nov 10, 2006, 08:25
As I was watching "Anna and the King" for the 2nd time, I realised that Thailand (well, 'Siam' at the time) bore many resemblences with Japan even in the 19th century. The film takes places in the 1860's, just at the time Japan was forced to open to the West and Meiji reformed the country based on Western models. The same thing happened in Siam, which is what the film is about.

Here are other similarities I found between the two countries :

- men wearing top-knots (until the end of the Edo period in Japan)

- people wearing ample, robe-like clothes, made of colourful silk for rich people (as opposewd to sober-colour trousers, jackets, or close-fitting dresses and hats, like Westerners at the time)

- the king/emperor being considered as a living god, and ordinary people bowing to their knees and not being allowed to look directly at him. This was true in Japan until 1945. European kings or emperors have never been considered as gods after the Roman Empire (because Christianity only allows one god)

- king/emperor blessing the rice fields to bring rain and abundance (this is still done every year in Japan, and nothing similar has never been done by Christian monarchs in Europe)

- flowers and lights put to flow on the river to accompany the souls of the departed (like for o-Bon in Japan)

- wooden houses with steps leading to the house (as opposed to a door a floor and street level like in the West)

- subdued and obedient women (this was more obvious in 19th-century Japan and Thailand than now, and both have evolved in similar ways with women now often more sexually forward and confident than men)

- extreme indirectness, with a lot of allusions and ambiguities, in the way of speaking

- strong attitude to "losing face" (this can still lead to suicides or murders both in Thailand and Japan)

- the fact that neither Thailand nor Japan were colonised because of their strong monarchy and the will of the monarchs to learn from the West and modernise their country.

- the attitude to foreigners. There was a reference to "foreign devils" in 'Anna and the King", which was also common in Bakumatsu and Meiji Japan. Nevertheless Westerners were treated with the utmost respect, and were/are allowed not to follow local customs because they are foreigners and not expected to understand (or agree). Nowadays, the Thai have the word "Farang" (originally meaning "French") to refer to Westerners, just like the Japanese have the term "Gaijin". In my almost 2 months in Thailand altogether, I found that the use and frequency of "Farang" was indeed almost identical to "Gaijin", except that the Japanese may also consider other Asians as "Gaiijn" (not all Japanese agree on its meaning, connotations and usage).

- preference for executions by beheading by sabre/sword rather than axe or guillotine or by hanging.

And of course all the other similitudes related to Buddhism (priests, temples, Buddha statues, cremations, humbleness...).

Naturally, other East Asians also have some of these things in common, but I found Japan and Thailand to be suprisingly similar, even compared to the rest of East Asia, and this up to this day. I had travelled all over South-East Asia before first going to Japan, and my first reaction when I landed in Tokyo was to compare it to Bangkok :

- similar houses and street plans

- lots of canals and boats

- suspended highways all over the city centre

- imposing condominums of concrete next to wooden hovels

- food stalls in the street at night (oden in Japan, noodles in Thailand)

- big department stores (even Japanese ones in Bangkok)

- similar-looking and coulourful taxis everywhere

- conspicuous sex industry, and similar way of functioning (soaplands with touts, "special" massage parlours, hostess bars, love hotels...)

- love for food (much more so than in Korea, Cambodia, the Philippines or Indonesia, for instance)

- preference for cash over bank cards

- convenience stroes everywhere (Family Mart, 7 Eleven and other Japanese chains are well implanted in Thailand, maybe better than anywhere else in Eurasia)

- difficulty of learning English (compare to other East Asian countries, especially the Philippines, Hong Kong, Malaysia and Singapore) despite numerous contact with Westerners, English-speaking movies, etc.

- 3 or 4 generations living under one roof (probably in all East Asia, although maybe less in Communist China)

- many levels of politeness, and different use of language depending of whether the speaker in male or female

- fondness for cute things (again, probably a pan-East Asian thing)

- numerous superstitions, belief in ghosts and spirits (there are tiny shrines at every street corner both in Thailand and Japan)

and maybe more...

Nov 11, 2006, 15:05
Despite never having seen 'Anna and the King'*, I did live in Thailand for two years both in Bangkok and Chiang Mai and I think a lot of your examples above are very true.

I found a lot of similarities in appearance with Thailand and especially southern Japan where the vegetation, scenery and slower pace of life are remarkably similar.

The first time my mother in law came to Bangkok to visit she was taken aback by the similarity between Bangkok and the Tokyo of old. She said it was like going back 30 years and felt quite at home. This was when they were constructing the overhead train system ten years ago and Bangkok was in such chaos.

*I do remember Yul Brenner in 'the King and I', though.

Nov 15, 2006, 18:28
Your points are very valid indeed. Maybe that's why the Japanese companies like Thailand so much. I spoke to various Japanese businessmen, and they said that they prefer to invest in Thailand over China if both have the same scope and amount of business opportunities.

Nov 15, 2006, 19:08
Similarities between Japan and Thailand

both have a same image about K

Dutch Baka
Nov 15, 2006, 20:00
both have a same image about K

What's K?

Google gives me 2,820,000,000 results for K. Please write your post more clear. Thank you

Nov 15, 2006, 20:07


Nov 24, 2006, 01:40
We love the King.
Thai boy

Nov 24, 2006, 02:05
We love the King.
Thai boy

Elvis Presley?:cool:

Despite never having seen 'Anna and the King'*
*I do remember Yul Brenner in 'the King and I', though.
He was also in The Magnificent Severn, a western version of Seven Samurai.

Hiroyuki Nagashima
Nov 24, 2006, 03:50
What's K?

Probably "K" is Korea.:relief: