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.
Image 2: JR Maglev being tested. (Source)
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.