While traveling around Japan, I’ve noticed differences in people’s behavior, language, food, and modes of transportation. People in Keihanshin seem to be more relaxed and less rushed. There are still a lot of people who are serious and busy, but less than in Tokyo. We also talked about the differing dialects between the two regions. I’ve noticed the accent is a bit lower sounding here, but it’s hard for me to tell.
There are different food specialties in different regions around Japan. One of my classmates asked about the food I ate so far and I talked about Okonomiyaki from Hiroshima. He said I have to try Osakan style, because different regions have different versions of the food. I tried some yesterday in Osaka and watched the different way it was made. Personally, I prefer Hiroshima style, but I will try more to make sure. I’ve also noticed that there are more cars in Keihanshin. There’s been more traffic and we have to take a bus to get to class. We talked in class about how there are more cars in this region compared to Tokyo, but still a good amount of public transportation.
Japan has regional differences that are more easily defined than regions in the US. People from Keihanshin seem to have an somewhat unified identity, but it’s more difficult to find people in an area like the South with a collective identity. Americans define themselves as American, rather than a Southerner, for example. There are some regional differences in the US, such as accents and behaviors (laid back west coast, polite south, etc.) and some foods (deep dish pizza, pecan pie). Since Americans come from many different backgrounds, they each have their own traditions, but still share common traditions like thanksgiving. People are mixed all around the country and people within a region can be completely different. There are regionalistic similarities but it’s difficult to group these areas together because of the diversity of people living there. Maybe this is true in Japan too, but I haven't noticed it so far.
The Greater Tokyo area and the Keihanshin areas have similar contrasts much like the regions of New York City and Atlanta. Japan has a relatively small land mass compared to the United States, yet there are still observed regional differences within the country. Certain words are said different such as the word for “thank you” is “arigato” in Tokyo and “ookini” in Kaihanshin. People ride on the opposite side of the elevator. Every region has its customs. Similarly, within the United States, every region and city has its own subculture. The north references soda as “pop”. The South is infamous for its “yall”. Within every country every region has its differences. The Greater Tokyo area has a population of 37.8 million people and New York Metropolitan area has a population size of 20.3 million. The Keihanshin population size is 18.6 million while the Atlanta Metropolitan area is 5.6 million. Its been interesting to compare the different regions in different counties.
To start off with, the fashion in these regions are very different. In Tokyo, at any given moment when you ride the train, majority of the people in the car are in business clothes. I was alarmed by the amount of people, men and women, in professional attire during most of my time while I was in Tokyo. If they weren’t in professional attire, I noticed more fashionable “streetwear” among the general population. Whereas, in the Keihanshin area, I noticed more casual wear. In Kyoto, Osaka, and Kobe, I notice more people on the train are in casual attire. I still saw people in professional attire but not to the point where that is all I can see like in Tokyo. People here do wear streetwear, but I still saw more in Tokyo. Likewise, in New York, most of the people you see are in professional attire or more streetwear. In Atlanta, most people dress casually compared to New York. Tokyo and New York City shows how these economic hubs influence the fashion seen in between its skyscrapers.
Secondly, the differences in transportation in Greater Tokyo and Keihanshin is similar to New York and Atlanta. In the Greater Tokyo Area, the main mode of transportation is the rail system. Likewise, in New York City, the main mode of transportation is also the rail system. In Keihanshin, while there is still rail, there are more cars, bikes, and pedestrians on the roads. In Atlanta, there isn’t a reliable rail, but the main mode of transportation is cars with large roads and highways engineered to take people long distances to get to work. Transportation across these two hubs in Japan is similar to two different hubs in the US.
There is a stark contrast between the two regions within in Japan that is different with the two regions in the Untied States. The Keihanshin area, specifically Kyoto, has shrines embedded throughout the city. In Kobe and Osaka, not so much. Within Tokyo, there are also shrines embedded throughout the city, and some with massive parks that are in contrast to the bustling city surrounding the green space. In cities with such high population densities, any piece of land is very valuable. They dedicate a lot of land to their religion and history. However, in New York City and Atlanta, there are no religious monuments that have large amounts of land dedicated to them. Hardly any area is dedicated to green space. There are more parks in Tokyo when compared to New York. Atlanta is one of the more greener cities since it has many trees throughout the streets of Atlanta. In the aspect of religion, the regions of Japan and the U.S. vary in that sense.
Tokyo and Keihanshin areas showed resemblance to New York and Atlanta regions . The differences in fashion and transportation modes resembled the differences in the US as well. They differ in regards to how both cities value religion and history compared to New York and Atlanta, despite its dense populations. Seeing the differences between the two regions and comparing them to places we know back home has been vey enlightening.
Although Japan’s land size is the equivalent to that of Montana’s, it is still divided into multiple regions, each with a unique culture. Through my travels, I have been able to experience life in two of Japan’s major regions: Tokyo, including its surrounding metropolitan area, and Keihanshin, consisting of the cities of Kyoto, Osaka, and Kobe. These two regions serve as stark contrasts of each other, as each area has distinct cultures and environments.
When I traveled within Tokyo, I was initially struck by the sheer number of people I was surrounded by. The streets were packed with swarms of people rushing from one place to the next. The picture below depicts the famous Shibuya crossing where Tokyo’s dense population is very much evident. Especially later in the day, trains are packed with people occupying every possible space, leaving little room to even breathe. The congestion in this region only continues to worsen as the region expands. In Keihanshin, the area is far less populated and has been experiencing population decline over the years. Because Tokyo has to accommodate its massive population and fast-paced environment, it prioritizes creating an efficient transportation system and incorporating the newest technologies. While the Keihanshin region certainly has superb transportation, I have noticed that many of the trains appear to slightly outdated, with less technological advancements, and longer wait times.
The crowds at Shibuya crossing.
Tokyo is also a global city, serving as the headquarters for a multitude of major corporations, which has attracted a middle-aged professional population. Thus, their culture is very much work-oriented and has formed a rigid atmosphere. Everyone appears to be consumed with the work ahead of them. There is always someone to meet or someplace to be, contributing to a rushed environment. Interestingly enough, a fellow classmate from Kobe University mentioned how owning a Suica card, the transit fee card typically used in Tokyo as opposed to the Icoco card used in Keihanshin, is often associated with a stuck-up nature.
View of Tokyo from a government building.
In Keihanshin, life moves slower. Rather than seeing businessmen rushing to catch the next train, it is typical to see elderly women strolling to a nearby grocery store. Because Tokyo has been subjected to the forces of globalization, it is often indistinguishable from other major global cities with its landscape boasting of high-rises and other corporate building. On the other hand, places such as Kyoto have more distinctive characteristics and local flavor with its plethora of traditional temples and shrines. Instead of tall skyscrapers, there tend to be more small stores and residential areas, as well.
A residential area in Kyoto.
As with many countries, regional differences are particularly evident in the dialect that is used. For example, in Keihanshin, the word for “different” is chau, while it is chigau in the Tokyo megaregion. These linguistic differences are immediate ways that indicate which community an individual is a part of.
Upon discussions with the Kobe University students, it is evident that people strongly identify with their respective region. Similar to Japan, in the United States, people have strong ties to their region. Having lived in both California and in Georgia, I am familiar with both the West Coast and Southern culture. Just how in Japan, there is a particular dialect used in Keihanshin, in the South, the Southern drawl and the excessive usage of the word “y’all” distinguishes it from other regions of the United States. Because of the different historical and geographical features across regions, differences in culture and customs are bound to happen. Although regionalism appears to be similar in Japan and the United States, one possible difference could be seen in politics. In the United States, the South is generally more conservative, adhering to the Republican party while the West is typical more liberal and more supportive of the Democratic party. From my understanding, there does not seem to be clear regional differences in terms of political affiliations; however, it may be just because I have not resided in Japan long enough to understand its political climate.
Despite Japan’s homogeneity, each region has defining qualities, as evidenced by the differing atmospheres in Tokyo and Keihanshin. As I live here, I am learning more and more about the nuances of Japanese culture, and it has been absolutely fascinating.
Starting in Tokyo and ending in Kobe, I have noticed several differences between the two cities that belong in their respective megaregions, the Greater Tokyo Area and the Keihanshin. While the Greater Tokyo Area is comprised of Tokyo and neighboring prefectures, the three primary cities of the Keihanshin are Kyoto, Osaka, and Kobe. With Tokyo being a small island country, the two megaregions are located relatively close to each other, yet each area has managed to cultivate their own distinct culture. The cultural differences are easily distinguishable between the two, given their language, lifestyle, traditions, and even food.
The first difference that stuck out to me immediately in Kobe was how everyone walked on the right side on both the sidewalk and escalator. In Tokyo, however, this was not the case as everyone stood on the left side of the escalator. Additionally, people living in Keihanshin have their own dialect of the Japanese language, in which the verbal and written forms of certain phrases are different but still hold the same meaning.
As for lifestyle, the people walking on the streets in Tokyo live a more fast-paced lifestyle, who seem to constantly rush from place to place, especially those commuting to and from work. In contrast, those living in the Keihanshin megaregion are more laidback and relaxed. They also dress more casually, while the former appear to dress more professionally and perhaps stylish.
The Greater Tokyo Area is similar to New York in which it is also a heavily populated metropolis. New Yorkers are extremely impatient and seem to walk at the speed of lightning; if you're walking slowly and also happen to be blocking someone's way, you will either get told off by them or glared at. I personally experienced something similar while in Boston a few years back; I was staring at my phone trying to use Google Maps while slowly walking on a bridge looking out onto the Charles river. I wasn't even about to bump into a lady walking hurriedly in my direction, but as she passed by me, she loudly proclaimed for me to "wake up."
Furthermore, the United States has a lot more megaregions than just two, but those located closer in proximity to each other seem to have a similar culture and lifestyle. For instance, there are three megaregions in the North: Chi-Pitts, Bos-Wash, and Tor-Buff-Chester. While I am not as familiar with this area, they seem to share a similar lifestyle in that everything is relatively fast-paced, but each region does have a unique accent. The food is also extremely different, with Chicago known for its deep-dish pizza and Boston for its seafood. The South, however, has its comfort food, which is comprised of fried chicken, pecan pie, and sweet potato casserole. For those who grow up in the South, such as in the Charlanta megaregion, there is the "Southern drawl", in which people "draw" out their vowels while talking; many also use "y'all", while those in the North say "you guys."
Despite being the closest thing the world has to a perfect nation-state, Japan is not without its regional differences. Ironically, these differences are one of the biggest similarities I have found between Japan and America. Though we are, indeed, the United States, we often see large idealistic gaps between geographical regions, mainly between the north and south, and Japan surprisingly has similar tendencies even if they are expressed in different ways. In going from the greater Tokyo area to Japan’s other megaregion, Keihanshin (Kyoto, Osaka, Kobe), there were a number of differences that were very easy to spot and others that took more of a trained eye and some background knowledge on Japan to discover.
One of the biggest and most obvious differences given our initial focus on transportation was the stark increase of personal vehicle use in Keihanshin. Though a majority of the population, including ourselves, still commute, and there is still an extreme lack of Atlanta-like traffic, there is still a very noticeable increase in personal vehicle usage in the area. This is, of course, in large part due to Keihanshin’s smaller population and larger land area, which creates a slightly less imperative need for public transportation, but it is still on a far greater level than any transportation in America. It is also harder for Keihanshin to build railways and subway lines, as the area is situated within mountain ranges (which we have experienced firsthand on our daily class commute), as opposed to Tokyo which is situated on relatively flat land surrounded by mountainous areas.
Despite its slightly more rigorous physical layout, however, Keihanshin has managed to develop into a travelable and workable megaregion. Whatever gap exists in technology between itself and Tokyo, it makes up for with rich cultural experiences and history. As the first long-standing capital of the country, Kyoto specifically has literally countless shrines and historical hubs which, although present in Tokyo as well, are far more frequent and sometimes significant than their other megaregion counterpart. Most of Japan’s unique cultural icons are the most present in Kyoto, for example, Torii gates, geisha, and ancient battlegrounds are the most abundant in this area.
Despite its homogeneity as a country, the regional differences in Japan are actually very pronounced. The citizens further this by showing regional pride, something which I found many similarities to from an American perspective. While some of the regional differences in Japan were created inadvertently and shouldn’t necessarily be seen as cultural statements, some of the differences were self-created and mirror the petty rival culture we have between the north and south of America. For example, in many parts of Keihanshin, I noticed that people walked on the right side of escalators, stairs, etc. I discovered that the cause of this was a refusal or unwillingness to follow Tokyo’s standard (which was followed by virtually every other region in Japan), which reminded me of silly rivalry things we do between the north and south in America. Although historically in our own country the implications of one region going off on its own tends to be very negative, however, in Japan it is less malicious and more just a petty act. This difference, I would argue, comes mainly from cultural backgrounds and the fact that Americans speaks their minds against other countries and amongst ourselves, but Japan is more prone to small actions that have strong implications in a very high context. That said, I still find it funny that, upon further research, I discovered that Keihanshin, specifically Osaka, likes to be very explicit regarding their differences from Tokyo and take pride in being the odd one out in the typically silent Japanese culture. Perhaps the homogeneity heightens differences between regions or perhaps they are just very proud of their unique regional cultures, but either way, the dynamic is one that surprised me in regards to its similarity to America’s.
From my time traveling around Japan, I’ve been able to compare this country to America fairly comprehensibly. I’ve traveled from Tokyo to Fukushima to Kyoto to Hiroshima and now reside in Kobe. This span of travel has also showed me many similarities and differences between the regions of Japan.
Some regional differences between Greater Tokyo and Keihanshin were fairly obvious. In Tokyo, people stand on the left and pass on the right when riding an escalator. In Osaka, people stand on the right side of the escalator and pass on the left. In Kyoto and Kobe, it is usually mixed. There are also differences in language between the two megaregions. Some words only slightly change in meaning while several words are completely different. For example, “I don’t know” in Tokyo is “wakaranai” but in Keihanshin it is “wakarahen.” Another blaring difference is the intercity transportation. I don’t believe I will ever see a subway and train system as complex and efficient as Tokyo. In Keihanshin, the train systems are still very impressive, but they are not nearly as extensive as Tokyo. Bus and bike travel seem to be more prominent in the western region. The dress between locals in the two megaregions also differs. More women in Tokyo wear high heels than those in Keihanshin. This may be due to the types of transportation women use; biking in high heels is no easy task.
A final difference I have observed between the two megaregions are the shops. In Greater Tokyo, tall department stores are everywhere. The multifloored department stores and malls are in Keihanshin as well, but on a much lesser scale. In their place are more smaller, local shops. A regional difference that I have not witnessed, but have heard rumor of, is the demeanor of each region. Tokyo residents are said to be more cold, impatient, and aloof, while Keihanshin locals are supposedly more friendly, humorous, and welcoming. Despite the rumor, everyone I have met in Japan has been extremely kind and hospitable, regardless of region.
Regional differences within a country are not unique to Japan. The United States has its own set of regional differences that are just as observable, if not more. I grew up in rural Maryland and attend university in Georgia. While both of these states are along the east coast, they have their fair share of regional differences. A change in dialect from the Northeast to the South is prominent, with the most renowned difference being “you guys” and “y’all.” But just like Japan, we have different words for the same thing. “Pop,” “soda,” “cola,” are all soft drinks. “Tractor trailer,” “eighteen-wheeler,” “semitruck,” are different regional words for the same large truck that pulls a container on the highway. Just like Japan, transportation differs based on region as well. The entirety of America is a car culture, but large pickup trucks are more prominent in the South and Midwest than either coast.
Two regional differences between the Northeast and the South that I enjoy are the differences in etiquette and food. The South is renowned for its kind, welcoming residents often referred to as “Southern hospitality.” People are more open and willing to chat. They will hold doors open for others and often say “good morning” to strangers passing by. The food in the South is also delicious, although rarely nutritious. Fried chicken, barbeque, sweet tea, Cheerwine, and pecan pie are a few Southern delicacies. The Northeast has its own set of regional food as well, including Utz potato chips and Cheese Nips.
Understanding regional cultural differences is important when it comes to promoting sustainable development. If a development is in conflict with a culture’s values or characteristics, it is not sustainable. A sustainable development in one culture may not be sustainable in another culture.
Over the past two weeks, we made our way from one megaregion to another as we traveled from Tokyo to Keihanshin. In both places, it is easy to tell why they are called megaregions. Looking over the skyline of both regions, all that can be seen is buildings for miles and miles. Although both regions are very highly populated and are centers of economic output, they each have their unique cultures, lifestyles, and traditions. Below is a picture of the Tokyo skyline.
The first thing I noticed once exiting the train in Keihanshin was the fact that people stood on the opposite side of the escalator than people in Tokyo. In Tokyo, it is customary to stand on the left side, but in Keihanshin, people tend to stand on the right.
Another difference I noticed almost immediately was the way people dress in Keihanshin versus in Tokyo. In Tokyo, we were constantly surrounded by big corporations and businesses, and the commuters were primarily people making their way to work in these businesses downtown. In Tokyo, it struck me how nicely and professionally everyone we encountered was dressed, in the mornings, daytime, and at night. The people there seemed overall to be very professional in their dress and behavior.
However, in Keihanshin, I immediately noticed that people were dressed and acted in a more casual manner. In this region, I don’t see quite as many people dressed in suits or blouses making their way to work in a corporate office. Instead, I see many more young people and I see many more people dressed less professionally. Overall, I get a sense that the dress and culture here are more relaxed, whereas in Tokyo, it all seemed very business-oriented.
The transit cards that are used in the two regions is a symbol of the differences between the two areas. People in the Keihanshin megaregion use rail lines under JR west, while people in the Tokyo megaregion use those under JR east. The transit card that allows you to use trains or buses in JR east is called the Suica card, while the one in JR west is called the Icoca card. Through talking to people in the Keihanshin area, I learned that for people here, the Suica card represents something about a person. When people from Keihanshin see someone with a Suica card, they assume that the person is more stuck up because they are from the Tokyo megaregion, where, to them, the culture is more uptight.
The final difference I noticed between the two megaregions is in how homogeneous the region as a whole seemed to be in a cultural sense. In the Tokyo megaregion, there is only one central city, and everyone is a part of the megaregion around Tokyo. However, in Keihanshin, there are 3 major cities that make up the megaregion: Kyoto, Osaka, and Kobe. From talking to my classmates who live in the Keihanshin region, I learned that each city has its own unique culture. It means something different to be from Kyoto than from Osaka. So, this megaregion has a less uniform definition of what it means to be from the Keihanshin megaregion, whereas in the Tokyo megaregion, everyone is centralized around one city – Tokyo – so the way people identify with the region is more uniform.
I see similar patterns to this in the United States. Growing up in the south, I have noticed a distinct cultural identity that develops based on the region of the US where you grow up. From my point of view, although it is different to grow up in Georgia than it is to grow up in North Carolina, I see the culture of the Charlanta megaregion as being more similar to regionalism in Tokyo in the sense that it’s more unified. People in the south tend to culturally identify with one another, no matter if they’re from North Carolina, South Carolina, or Georgia. However, I feel that the regionalism in the Bos-Wash megaregion is different. It is very different to grow up in New York than it is to grow up in New Jersey, and it seems that people from each of these areas don’t feel like they had the same experience growing up as people from the other area. This megaregion seems to line up more closely with Keihanshin in the sense that people don’t identify with the region in the same way. The image below highlights the southern states of the US.
Overall, I have noticed that although megaregions share many traits such as high population densities and high economic outputs, they can differ in many ways depending on the people that live in them.
Japan incorporates “smart technologies” into its sustainable development and has areas where it could incorporate more. They have technologies within the train system that are energy efficient and more equitable for the passenger. They also have technologies in daily life that are also more energy and water efficient, as well as some that are not.
Within their goal of achieving sustainable development, they have also included features that make it more convenient for the passenger that are “smart”. The metro cards, such as Suica, are able to be uploaded to your cellphone and a passenger is able to just touch their cellphone. The card may also be used in convenience stores within or near the train stations. This is very convenient for the passenger and gives the passenger a reason to also be sustainable with their mode of transportation.
Image 1: Suice on an Iphone X's Apple Pay. (Source)
The train company JR East is also investing resources towards creating more equitable and energy efficient technologies. JR East is currently working on creating check in stations that are more accessible to those that are handicapped and having a screen that is also accessible, not just from a standing position. They have designed seats that have raised edges that creates equal seating for men and women. They have also created trains that are electronically efficient with batteries to use when the trains do not have access to electricity. They are also constructing a train called the Maglev, which is magnetically powered which can be more efficient than conventional high-speed trains. JR East is also researching the potential energy transfer from one train during its deceleration to another train’s acceleration, drastically reducing the amount of power needed to accelerate trains, which is when energy is mostly consumed. JR East is invested in creating more equitable and energy efficient innovations.
Japan’s restrooms have also shown energy efficient features. Smaller restrooms such as within the National Olympic Youth Center and the Tokyo Palace Hotel have had motion sensors that turn off a lot quicker than any other restroom I have seen. Not only are the rooms energy efficient, but the toilets are also water efficient. Many toilets have a sink on top that pumps water out automatically. A lot of them also have the option to flush lighter, which is water efficient. However, many toilet seats are always heated and come with a touch panel. The seat is always heated during the day for the few minutes a person sit downs during a day. This seems like the use of energy is not being used to its maximum capacity. The toilets require an electrical input that seems like an abundant amount of electricity is being used for a few minutes of comfort.
Image 3: Japanese toilet with side panel and sink (Source)
Likewise, in the name of comfort, Japan uses a lot of plastic in order to make life more comfortable and convenient for the consumer. There is a lot of plastic packaging and items that come with products that are not sustainable. Many drinks and cups come with plastic straws or utensils. The grocery stores are lined up with numerous small items. It is a very difficult to buy in bulk as you would in the United States. Many items are individually packaged for the sake of using that one item and disposing it right after. There are bags that often have smaller individually packaged cookies or chips. Despite having modernized check-out systems and technology, there is a significant amount of plastic consumption.
Image 4: A store with plethora of small plastic packaging. (Source)
The last few weeks in Japan has shown me many instances of “smart technology”. Their transit is efficient, and JR East is looking towards creating more efficiency and equity within their trains and train stations. The bathrooms have also given me a glance of areas that Japan is efficient and in other ways, where it is not. The features on the toilet are great, but in regards to energy efficiency, are not so. The grocery stores are also another place that highlights where more technology could play a factor in their reduction of plastic consumption. Like all countries, including the United States, Japan has many areas with smart technologies and areas that are still working on in achieving sustainability.
Our group has observed many technologies in Japan that make living and commuting easier and more sustainable. These smart technologies are incorporated in all aspects of life and society and are sometimes more related to policy measures just as much as technological innovation. One example of these smart technologies are the rail line cards, such as the Suica card that we used to move between rail stations throughout Japan. The Suica card can be scanned in and out of stations, allowing for lines of passengers to move quickly and efficiently. These cards can easily be obtained, and money can be added conveniently at any of the stations when needed. This technology is one of the cornerstones of the Japan rail system. While such systems also exist in other places around the world, Japan’s system is the most extensive and convenient, as the Suica card can be used in any location in Japan, rather than being restricted to a single city or megaregion.
One other example of smart technologies in Japan is the presence of more compact personal transportation vehicles. Cars in Japan tend to be much smaller than those in America, allowing for more to fit on roads, and to drive down narrow roads in which pedestrians and bikers share the path. Mopeds are common in the streets as well, taking up even less space than cars and therefore allowing for more efficient flow of traffic. While not cutting-edge technologies, these vehicles and their implementation in the streets of Japan is nevertheless sustainable, allowing people to travel as directly as possible between locations and decrease idle traffic.
Another smart technology that can be seen in Japan are the vending machines spread across the country. Like convenience stores, their presence is as much of a policy decision as a technological innovation, but it is one that allows for citizens to quickly get food and drinks at almost any location. Vending machines are also used at stores such as ramen shops to speed up the process of ordering food. Like Japan’s personal vehicles, these machines have a small footprint, which is particularly useful in Japan’s densely populated environment. The widespread pervasiveness and accessibility of the vending machines also means that people will never need to worry about finding a place to eat if they are away from home.
There are, however, some aspects in which smart technologies can still be introduced to Japan. One example of this is the dryers in Japan. In my experience so far, Japanese dryers are rather ineffective, and while that may save energy in the long run, it is also inconvenient. One technology that could be implemented is a more energy-efficient system that is capable of drying clothes, or even just a retractable clothesline system in rooms that allows for clothes to be dried without taking up much space. Another potential area for implementation of smart technologies in Japan is in transit for schoolchildren and college students. This is particularly important to me as the transit time to and from the Kobe University campus in which we are taking classes is 50 minutes despite only being a few miles from the dorms. The existence of an express rail system or designated roads for buses could lower the commuting time. While Japan already has a number of smart technologies that increase the country's overall sustainability, there is always room for future innovation.
Japan has been forced into a position of being the world’s leader in creative and smart technology; being an island nation with few resources and a miniscule percentage of usable land mass means that they must create valuable exports or suffer economic dependence on other countries. Even coming from America, another tech hub, I have been incredibly impressed with the advanced nature of every technology I have encountered since arriving. Everything from transit to toilets is far beyond anything that I have ever encountered in my lifetime, but that is not to say that everything here is all perfect. One thing I find very interesting about Japan’s technologies is the gap between them; for example, they have the highest-class transit on the planet and yet cannot create functioning dryers. Putting my nitpicky observations aside, though, the way that Japan has handled their technological development is wildly impressive.
On a large scale, Japan is filled with metropolitan hubs packed with millions of people in tiny areas, and the fact that they can sustain this packed population is only made possible by their technological development with regards to public transit. Were it not for their timely, convenient trains and top-of-the-line shinkansen, the country would not be able to withstand their own people. Even just the thought of Tokyo’s population attempting to use something as underdeveloped as our own transportation system, MARTA, is enough to send chills down one’s spine. Going so far as to investigate how the country would run if the same percentage of people used cars here as were used in Atlanta would be catastrophic when considering traffic and emission levels, but every area in Japan has ensured that they are more than equipped enough for inter and intracity travel.
On top of the much-discussed transit system, Japan is also known for their state-of-the-art computers, televisions, and entertainment systems. We experienced this first-hand all over the country, but especially in Tokyo (namely Akihabara), the sight of the neon electo city is enough to make anyone’s head spin. While at first glance all the technology seems excessive and over-the-top, I realized while I was there what a tourist hub it is. Though this may sound superficial, tourist traps are actually incredibly important to Japan’s sustainability, as they bring in a large amount of revenue to the country with a rapidly declining workforce. Yes, the neon lights and games and technology centers may seem unnecessary, but they are part of Japan’s international identity, and this identity could end up making or breaking their economic sustainability in the near future.
Even aside from large-scale technologies which have gained the island a lot of international attention, some other less talked about technologies have also impressed me a lot since arriving. The first thing that blew me away technologically speaking was, believe it or not, the bathrooms here. Even just a single Japanese toilet has an astounding amount of environmentally friendly technology. From built-in sinks in many residential buildings to solid and liquid waste options, Japan has created several inventive ways for something so mundane to be an icon of environmental sustainability. There are other day to day technologies which have also impressed me here, for example, showers that time how long you need water, fridges that remind you to shut the door when cold air begins to escape, etc, are also ways in which Japan is trying to create an environmentally sustainable future.
Japan is not, however, without its shortcomings with regards to technology. As mentioned, the dryers barely work, but this is because Japanese people tend to air dry their clothes as an alternative. That being said, however, with an ever-growing tourist industry and the necessity to make up for a dying workforce with foreigners, perhaps it is time for Japan to make a few tweaks to daily activities such as drying clothes to be truly sustainable in the long run.