Etsuo’s corner: the differences between New York City and Tokyo


Etsuo Fujita

The Statue of Liberty overlooks the New York Harbor.//Photo by Etsuo Fujita

Editor’s note: Etsuo’s Corner is a weekly column for World & Nation by Etsuo Fujita, an international student from Japan. Fujita features other international students or writes about his adventures and impressions as he learns about the cultures and customs at Guilford and his travels in America.


Over my fall break, I spent time in New York where I had longed to go ever since I started studying English. While there, I visited Central Park, Yankee Stadium, ate Japanese food and saw other locations which are popular in Japan. During these adventures, I noticed several differences between New York and Tokyo where I lived.

Because New York is one of the most modern and important cities in the world, I started dreaming of visiting there when I was 12 years old. It was one of my encompassing images of the U.S. In addition, I have watched several Hollywood movies which were filmed in the city and further attracted me to the city. For example, “Night at the Museum” and “The Intern” are some of the movies that influenced me and gave me a motivation to go to New York.

In New York, I witnessed representation of various countries’ cultures. For example, there are not only Japanese restaurants, but Chinese, Korean and a variety of restaurants and cuisines available. The very first thing I did when I arrived was go to a Japanese restaurant where I could eat “real” Japanese food. I had not eaten authentic Japanese food for two months, so I almost cried as I ate the delicious Japanese noodles. I also enjoyed tasting a variety of pizza in several Italian restaurants. Through these experiences, I realized that New York is a diverse city where people from all over the world live. In some of the biggest cities in Japan, however, there is not nearly as much diversity. That variation defines one of the main differences between the U.S. and Japan.

Reflecting, I noticed other differences between New York and Tokyo. Although both cities are some of the most famous cities in the world, they have significant differences. Besides diversity, the other major variation is a gap between rich and poor. I was astounded by the size of many high buildings in the city such as the MetLife Building. I could clearly recognize New York as the center of international economy by seeing those buildings and a lot of workers who wore suits. On the other hand, there were many homeless people in the city who asked people on the street for money. This was significant difference between New York and Tokyo, which surprised me. In Tokyo, there are not as many homeless people. In everyday life, I did see some, but not as often. In my opinion, this difference might be explained by Japan’s insurance system. In Japan, there are support systems for those facing economic hardship, such as losing their jobs. I am not familiar with this country’s system, but I have heard there is less support for individuals undergoing financial troubles, which may contribute to the higher homeless and poverty rates.

Currently, the majority of the world’s wealth is occupied by a few millionaires. Although the Trump administration has made some conflicting policies, I think supporting poor people and filling the gap between rich and poor is one of the most important missions. My lessons from New York have reinforced my belief that this should be a common mission all over the world. I learned a lot while in New York, but one of the most important lessons came from witnessing this gap between the rich and poor.