Our travel week is over :( but now we're in Kobe studying with a class twice the size of us! We talked about smart cities in our first lecture together. A smart city is one that uses digital ICTs (Information and Communication Technologies) and other new technologies to improve citizen's lives. These new technologies can help promote sustainable development by providing data and increasing efficiency for all groups of people. They also have the potential to make a country more resilient, as seen in earthquake-resistant structures. There are several ways that I've seen Japan fit the mold of a sustainable city. Although some of these technologies seem unnecessary, Japan is a clear leader for integrating smart technologies for environmental efforts and social inclusion.
My immediate observations about tech here is its appearance in food. On Ramen Street, we ordered by pressing a button. Other places, I've ordered by an app.
Toilets are also honestly an amazing technology here. As a combination of western design and eastern bidet practices, it is amenable to many people. The toilets in our new apartments have a built in sink that also pours water in to refill the tank.
Both the food and toilet technology may seem small, but they're contributing a lot to sustainability issues in the country. Tech in restaurants helps limit the number of people needed to run it—and for a country that's losing its workforce this is a practical solution for the future. Toilets with built-in faucets help conserve water and space.
Our tour of Giken way back in week one was another example of smart technologies. Their silent press-in system helps eliminate noise emitted by construction. Their Eco-Park design also conserves space and saves people time by providing an automated valet.
When I think of unnecessary technologies, my usual frame of reference is thinking about how that time/money could have been spent more effectively. For example, when we visited Fukushima, our tour started with a movie played at the TEPCO decommissioning archive center. The video was combined elements of digital and paper media to illustrate the explosions, and part of the video was projected on the ground. It was a really well-designed movie but it lacked any discussion about how TEPCO is trying to make a change. What else could've been done in the time to make that very tech-savvy video? Maybe increased efforts to help people more who were personally affected by the mistakes made during the nuclear disaster.
That being said, smart technologies are being introduced in Fukushima. Solar panels are becoming common, and hydrogen as a source of power is being explored in the region. New sources of energy can help improve citizen's lives and safety.
As seen, there are many instances where Japan is investing into smart technologies. Some are small, but almost all are improving citizen quality of life. Other efforts may not really be necessary, but I also recognize the functionality of technology also varies by the person. The fact that Japan is working on tech-involved parking systems and forms of energy illustrates how much of a leader it has become in the realm of sustainability.