While traveling across Japan during the past 3 weeks, I noticed a lot of different technology that is implemented here that increases livability for citizens in Japan. There were innovations in construction, transportation, business, and parking. The first thing that stood out to me, aside from how efficient the transit systems in Japan already are, were the automated robots that train stations are starting to incorporate as a method to help travelers find information. While in Tokyo station, I had the chance to observe a member of our group test out one of the robots. We were looking for Ramen street, a popular place to eat Ramen that is located somewhere underneath Tokyo station. My friend spoke clearly, in English, to the Robot, saying, “Where is Ramen street?” The robot replied in English verbally as well as displayed a map of the station and the route we needed to take to get there. It was extremely helpful and quick.
Another smart innovation that I’ve observed across Japan is the earthquake-proofing that is being done to many buildings. Japan is a nation that frequently experiences earthquakes, and it is both safer for the people and financially beneficial for Japan to be taking these steps to make their structures stronger.
Another technology I found innovating was in businesses. When I went into a makeup store with my friend, I noticed that the way a customer would purchase a product there is to go to one of many machines along the wall, select what you want, pay there, and it will dispense the product. This seemed like a very efficient way to conduct business, especially in the heart of Tokyo where there is a high concentration of people and shoppers. This technology eliminated the inconvenience of waiting in line to purchase products.
Finally, one technology that struck me as especially smart and sustainable was Giken’s underground bike and car parking. This company designed a type of parking lot where you could drive your car or bike into an enclosed area, and once you were out of the way, it lowered your vehicle into the ground and parked it above or below another vehicle. There are spots in car parking that accommodate larger cars like vans, or spots in bike parking that accommodate bikes with child seats attached. This was a very innovative design and made a lot of sense considering the high density of population in urban areas in Japan.
Japan is very technologically advanced in many ways, as exemplified by the innovations I witnessed during my time here thus far. However, they could use their technology to improve lives for their citizens in many other ways. For example, they could investment more research and technology toward green energy. There is much room for growth in Japan regarding harvesting solar, wind, and wave power that is being underutilized because of government preference for nuclear energy.
Also, with so much innovation, Japan could invest in creating eco-friendly alternatives to plastic wrapping. They could design compostable plastic bags or containers and find new ways to use less single-use plastic wrapping and bottles. They have the financial capability to invest in creating alternative materials to plastic, they just need to be willing to do it. Overall, it seems Japan could invest more of their innovative technology into environmental causes, which will in turn benefit the health of the environment and the sustainability of their society.