Have you ever wondered how similar or different two countries are? The Country Similarity Index attempts to quantify how similar countries are to each other relative to other countries. The index is a statistically-based way to measure this. It weighs equally five major aspects of countries: their demographics, culture, politics, infrastructure, and geography. The methodology is exactly the same for each country. The research combines 1,000 different data points to arrive at the conclusions.
Top 10 Countries Most Similar to Japan
Japan is an East Asian country located in the North Pacific Ocean. Very few countries are similar to it. Buddhism is widely practiced in the four most similar countries, but the people in these countries tend to not be particularly religious. The four most similar countries also border the Pacific Ocean. With the exception of Singapore, the most similar countries to Japan tend to be quite mountainous as well. These countries also have well developed infrastructure and many of their people work in industry.
- Taiwan was once a protectorate of Japan until the end of World War II. Both countries are mountainous islands in the Pacific, with well developed shipping infrastructure. One difference is that Taiwan’s climate is more tropical. While Taiwan doesn’t drive on the left, it does use 3′-6″ railroad tracks and Type A, B electrical outlets with 110 voltage, like Japan. Both countries also use Traditional Chinese characters in their writing. However, their languages are unrelated.
- South Korea was annexed by Japan in 1910 and was part of Japan until the end of World War II. Both countries have a temperate climate and are well forested with deciduous trees. They also share similar sports culture, being most interested in baseball and soccer, while also excelling in the Olympics. However, Korea is more westernized. It has a large percentage of Christians and most of their males are circumcised. Both countries have potable water and a dense train network. However, its technology standards are more similar to Europe, since it uses Type C, F electrical outlets, standard gauge railroad tracks, and also drives on the right.
- China has had a great cultural influence on Japan due to its proximity. Japan initially borrowed its writing system, Kanji, from China. They also use the same symbol for money. In addition, Mahayana Buddhism came to Japan through China. However, there are several major differences. China is not a democracy and its people have a lower standard of living. Furthermore, China’s geography has much more variety. It has a large percentage of both subtropical and desert areas.
- Singapore is another densely populated island nation in the Pacific Ocean with many skyscrapers. Japan and Singapore are two of the most developed countries in Asia. Much of its population is ethnically Chinese. It was once a British colony, so it drives on the left, but it uses Type G electrical outlets and a higher voltage. Another difference is that their geography is significantly different. Singapore is mostly flat, has far less forested land, and a warmer climate.
- Italy is the most similar country in Europe to Japan, although other European countries have similar scores. Both countries are very mountainous and have a large amount of coastline. In addition, some aspects of their demographics are similar. The average age of their people is among the oldest in the world and their average income is similar as well. However, the personality of their people are opposites, as the Japanese tend to be much more reserved than the outgoing Italians.
- Thailand, 7. Vietnam, 8. Slovenia, 9. United Kingdom, 10. New Zealand
Top 10 Countries Least Similar to Japan
The five least similar countries to Japan are all located in Africa, most specifically in the Sahel region. They are all predominately Muslim countries. These countries all have a low standard of living as well. Not only is their infrastructure far less developed, but they drive on the right and use Type C electrical outlets. Furthermore, they are sparsely populated deserts with some of the highest temperatures in the world. They are also less mountainous.
- Niger and Japan are the two least similar countries in the world, according to the Index. Niger is a landlocked country located in the Sahara Desert. The country has the youngest population in the world, in stark contrast to Japan, which has the oldest population in the world. It also has one of the highest birthrates in the world, while Japan has one of the lowest. They also have little in common culturally, since their languages, writing systems, and religions are unrelated.
- Chad is similar to Niger. It is another landlocked, sparsely populated country in the Sahara Desert, that was once a colony of France. Its two official languages are French and Arabic. It also has been ruled by a dictator for more than 30 years, so it is far less democratic than Japan. There really isn’t much in common between the two countries.
- Mali is located to the west of Niger. It is another sparsely populated country located in Africa. While Japan is quite mountainous, Mali is predominately flat land. Furthermore, Mali is predominately Muslim and has more conservative laws than Japan. The possession of pornography is banned there, while same sex marriage is criminalized.
- Somalia is an anarchic, Muslim country in Africa with poorly developed infrastructure, due to ongoing civil war. It is a tropical desert in contrast to Japan’s wetter and cooler climate. However, the country does have a lot of coastline. In addition, both countries have a diet based in rice and wheat, although Somalians eat far less meat.
- Mauritania borders the Atlantic Ocean, so it is extremely far away from Japan. Like other countries on this list it is mostly barren desert. The country has little arable land, but sorghum is its main crop. Mauritania’s laws are also far different from Japan. It does not allow abortion or alcohol. It also has less strict gun control laws.
- Eritrea, 7. Sudan, 8. Yemen, 9. South Sudan, 10. Central African Republic
Japan is like if Taiwan was more like the United Kingdom
According to the Index, Taiwan is the most similar country to Japan, but these countries still have some significant differences. Interestingly enough, the data shows that the United Kingdom has many attributes of Japan that Taiwan lacks. They both have deciduous trees, since their climates are colder than Taiwan’s. Also, the governments of both Japan and the United Kingdom are constitutional monarchies with bicameral legislatures, in contrast to Taiwan’s. Furthermore, these countries both drive on the left side of the road. Unlike Japan and the United Kingdom, Taiwan is far less successful at the Olympics than and has never even qualified for the World Cup.
All data accurate as of 2020.