(First of all: apologies in advance for pictures being sideways and videos being linked instead of embedded. GT is giving me an error when I try to embed the images and videos. I will try to fix the issues for next post.)
In some areas, Japan’s technological progress has amazed me. However, I am surprised that such an advanced country is lacking in other areas.
One of the technologies that I first encountered, and have grown to love, are the toilets. There are so many options to make the experience comfortable. Often, there are cleaning wipes so you can sit directly on the seat (they are heated!). Most of these features are more for comfort than sustainability, but there are environmental and social features too. Many of the toilets I’ve used have settings for different flush levels to save water, including the toilets in our dorms. This toilet also has a faucet on the top, so when you flush it refills the toilet and you can rinse your hands simultaneously (not gross toilet water, regular sink water). This feature saves water, although I am still trying to figure out where hand soap comes in this process (I feel weird not using soap, so I wash my hands after the toilet rinse). There are also baby holders in some of the public bathrooms I’ve encountered. This is helpful for mothers to bring their children on errands so they can be more time efficient. I doubt there is the same in the men’s restrooms, but if they incorporated that, it would be great for increasing gender equality.
Another technology I have encountered is sliding automatic doors. In the states, most automatic doors are in supermarkets where you would be carrying bags. In Japan, almost all doors I’ve encountered are automatic doors. I’ve become so used to them that when I encounter a door I have to push or pull, I do a double take. These doors help prevent germs from spreading since there are no handles. They are also helpful for older people or people with disabilities who might have a hard time opening the doors. They allow for people to have their hands full, maybe carrying a child or bags. Another benefit is that the sliding doors take up less space which helps with the high population density. Overall, automatic sliding doors are a sustainable in a variety of ways. One downside might be that they use electricity, but this can be a neutral effect if the electricity comes from a reusable source.
One smart technology that has the potential to be so much more sustainable are vending machines. There are so many vending machines in Japan. Unfortunately, almost all the bottles are made of plastic. While there are receptacles for these bottles specifically, reducing plastic use is much more effective than recycling in terms of sustainability. In my opinion, the vending machines don’t have to disappear, but they could instead use dispensing vending machines. There are fancy Coca-Cola machines in Atlanta that pour a huge variety of drinks while being easy and fun to use. They don’t incorporate a payment system, but if the price was set by the type and amount of beverage, this could eliminate the need for bottles. At Tech, everyone carries around a water bottle. If people in Japan had personal water bottles and refilled them with any drink from a vending machine, the plastic use would go down dramatically while still being profitable. One minor issue is figuring out how to refill these machines, which would be harder than with bottles but certainly doable.
Japan has many smart technologies that make the country sustainable. There are areas where they could improve, and I hope they do. I also hope we implement some of these useful technologies in the US and other countries. One major lesson I’ve learned on this trip so far, is that all the countries in the world could learn a little bit more from each other; that would be nice.