My trip to Tokyo: cultural differences

By Jess Brown, BA (Hons) Graphic Design and Illustration, 2nd year


Last month I spent 3 days in Tokyo as part of a University trip with Illustration, Graphic Design and Fashion. It was truly life changing and we went around visiting galleries, talking with illustrators like Blood Bros (who you should check out on Instagram) and seeing the sights.

I could write a hundred essays on everything strange and wonderful I encountered on my travels but instead I’m going to do a run down on the main cultural differences I found as I figured that may be more interesting.



Tokyo is impeccably clean. From what our tour guide told us, japan in general takes keeping things clean very seriously. I didn’t see a piece of trash on the street and it’s a bit of a taboo to even eat food in case someone litters. Homeless people often go around picking up aluminium cans and selling them to recycling plants, something I’ve seen in Berlin that I think should be implemented here too. Obviously my preferred situation would be for no one to be homeless, but it’s a good idea to help get them money!


Go to London, our capital and you will hear a lot of noise, a lot of people shouting, a lot of traffic and rowdiness. In Tokyo it felt like the noise was dictated and organised. Whether it be from the animated billboards at Shibuya Crossing blasting out sound effects or on the tube where a cute jingle would play every time we got on and off a train. It’s interesting too, people don’t really chat loudly anywhere. It’s very quiet and respectful. With the sound effects though, imagine the zany sounds you find on most Nintendo games like Mario or Wii sports. It’s so cool.

Money and services

You don’t tip in Japan as it’s considered a bit disrespectful. Apparently in a lot of places they will chase you down to give you tips if you leave them. The customer service is incredible though. It’s not too pushy, it’s not too blunt or dead like you sometimes get here. It’s kind of all designed to be about the customer. There’s so much honour there which can be a positive and a negative depending on the person who that cultural standard is influencing. But in truth I didn’t really meet a rude person out there. They do exist obviously but in terms of tourism and getting round the city, it was one of the most helpful and kind places I’ve ever visited. Your average meal would be £7 – £10 so that wasn’t too bad.


Speaking of meals, it’s not that good for vegans out there. You can get vegetarian food and a lot of instant noodles/ snacks etc. which is what I had to do. But most of these things come with cheese or milk (which I’m allergic to) and eggs which cancels them out for vegans. From what my meat eating friends said though, the food was lush and the meat was very nicely cooked and prepared. We visited Tokyo Plaza on one of our last nights and the food was incredible.

All in all Japan is a fascinating place and this barely covers it. If you get opportunity to go whether it’s through placement, a uni trip or some other way I 100% recommend you do. As an artist it was intensely inspiring but it will appeal to people from all walks of life I’m sure!