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.