Sunday, May 8, 2011

Technology in Japan

Either Japan or the rest of the world has done a great job at perpetuating the idea that they’re very technologically advanced. Of course they are a very modern country and quite ahead of the curve on some things, but we were surprised to find the ways in which they were lacking in this area.

We'll start with computers. Our c-workers do not use email. Memos are printed and placed in every teachers’ mailbox thus wasting tons of paper (we recycle nearly all of them as we can't read the memos anyways). Some teachers we work with do not seem very familiar with simple google searches. No doubt it is difficult to type with kanji, which is one of the reasons they are behind in the computer usage area, but I also read that because of the hierarchy, those in charge do not appreciate the stratification of power brought about by email. They prefer top down information dispersion. In Japan they like to literally stamp their seal on things. I had to tell my tax preparer that sorry, I didn't have access to a scanner. We fax(!) our monthly reports to our company.

Japanese consumers generally favor flip cell phones versus android/smart phones. This may be because of kanji as well, but in Korea everyone was watching TV on their phones and doing things most Japanese do not seem to have widespread access to yet. The internet is fast but it took us 2 months to get it. When our predecessors left they detached the fiber optic cable and gave it to another household. We had to wait until another one became available or something. The houses are not made to last and have no insulation. They use archaic heating systems such as kerosene heaters which were banned in the US in the 50s because of their carcinogenic outputs and asphyxiating tendencies. You have to turn the water heater on when you want hot water and it fires up anew each time you twist the hot tap - most inefficient. It's still very much a cash culture and we pay our bills at the convenience store or the bank. We could go on and on.

In general terms, of course, Japan is technologically on par with the rest of the developed world. It's just that they're simultaneously quite behind in some regards. That incongruence is perhaps one of the most interesting things about living here.

Japan is speeding ahead in their bullet trains AND their feet are stuck in the mud of their rice paddies.

Speaking of which, they've been flooding the rice paddies lately and some have even started planting. It's nice to note the passing seasons in terms of the most important food in the culture.

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