I’m here to confirm the rumors… Japan is the coolest country ever. I might be a tad biased, but it is still a pretty cool place. As the end of my first week back home comes to an end, I reflect on my time in Japan. In the three weeks, I was asked many questions about how Japan is similar to and different from America. However, one version of the question really made me think about how cool Japan is.
“What things have you seen in Japan that are convenient?”, my first host dad asked me over dinner in an awesome food court. And, it really got me thinking. The word for convenient in Japanese is 便利 or Benri. Our last unit in Japanese was a traveling unit that dealt with convenience and inconvenience. Which is a significant factor in Japanese ideology. You can see the reasoning behind many things in their society, to make life more convenient for everyone. It is why the trains run exactly on time, and why there are vending machines on every corner. It also made me think about how not wasteful Japan is. My host dad thought my answers were interesting, so I thought I would share them here.
A few ways Japan’s highly developed society is convenient and not wasteful:
- Conscious of the visually impaired
Almost everywhere you walk there is a yellow strip on the concrete with raised bumps and lines. This is for the convenience of the visually impaired to feel on the ground. In addition to the sidewalk strip, there is braille for most of the signs. Also most of the crosswalk signals are accompanied by beeping and audio assistance.
- Communal sink outside the restroom, or in the middle of food courts
In restaurants outside of the restrooms, or in food courts in the middle of the room, there is often sinks. So instead of crowding into the bathroom when all you want to do is wash your hands, you don’t even have to go into the bathroom. Pretty convenient.
Paper towels don’t exist in Japan. Everyone carries their own handkerchief or towel with them. Talk about saving trees! So in the bathrooms, you always dry your hands with your own towel. In addition, they give you towels at restaurants before you eat. Or in food courts, towels are located in the middle of the room. Instead of paper towels they have an abundance of hand wipes that are individually packaged. Many restaurants also give out these at the start of meals.
- Trash disposal/ Communal dumpster
Instead of having a trash bin for every house, you take your trash to a communal dumpster. They are often located at supermarkets or key places in neighborhoods. So the trash is picked up at one spot, instead of every house. Trash is also sorted very carefully. While there are not many public trashcans on the streets, when there are trashcans they are divided into three sections for the most efficient recycling.
- Exceptional Public transportation
Public transportation is never late. Trains always run on time. If you are a minute late to your platform, you have already missed your train. Plus trains run every two to three minutes. In addition, there is a “women only” cart on some trains. My host mom told me that it was put into use after complaints of women being inappropriately touched in crowded train cars. I’m totally here for Japan making a deliberate effort for their women to feel safe.
Japan is notorious for their vending machines. Sometimes four or five on a street corner. We found it funny that water was the same price as tea. In truth, tea is their water. In addition, Marybeth found it especially funny that you can buy beer from a vending machine.
Outside of restaurants there is often a display case of their dishes. It allows you to see what their different plates look like. It is basically a trophy case filled with plastic food, but it is so helpful! For foreigners trying to order food, it is a lifesaver.
First off, everyone backs into parking spots into Japan. I don’t know if it is a law, but my host mom explained to me it was because the streets are so narrow and they want to make pulling out easier. Something I thought was really cool was paying for parking in a structure at the store. After you finish shopping you bring your receipt to a counter and get your ticket validated. You have to spend at least 1000 yen (or $10). I know we have this many places in America but usually it is on a time limit that expires, or it only validates a part of the parking price. So I thought it was very convenient to be spending your money on your groceries instead of your parking space.
I’m sure there are many more examples of how cool Japan is. These are just the notables from my experience. 🙂
America could learn a lot from Japan. It truly is a really cool country! And I’m missing it a lot. More than the country I am missing the people. I know I’m speaking for all of Trio when I say we miss you. Thank you YIC for showing us your beautiful country and kindness for three weeks.