Boiling down the aspects of “good” transportation to fit only seven categories is a Herculean task considering just how much effort goes into every public transport system, but the seven we discussed in class do it as best as possible in a model which unintentionally prizes the Japanese rail system. Every aspect described has been pinpointed by the Japanese and optimized to the most extreme levels, and we can compare it to our own transit system to see just how true that is. For example, no one can beat the timeliness of Japanese transportation, which is always impeccably timed (with timing displayed in the most convenient ways possible on top of that), covering the “good use of my time” and “when I want to go” aspects discussed. Especially compared to Atlanta, in which being five minutes late is still considered on time and most trains still run late, this is an incredible feat. Even though some places like New York do timeliness slightly better than us, America’s transit as a whole is known for being less timely, just as American culture would predict. Especially considering just how many trains and stops and routes there are in Japan (with the sheer amount of stops making it easy to get where you want to go with freedom to change your plans), thinking of every single one as safe and reliable is almost impossible to us.
Safety is another huge factor in useful and good transportation services. A country or city could have the best technology available and run in the most timely and efficient manners, but if it is unsafe or people feel as though they can’t trust it or aren’t respected there, very few people would use said service. Luckily, this is not true of Japan. With guards every few yards and top of the line precautions in place, it is actually impossible to try anything suspicious without being noticed immediately. Another great cultural difference between Japan and America which causes some variance in transportation is comfort with crowding. Even somewhat knowing what I was getting into with Tokyo transportation, I was shocked at just how many people were crammed into every car, and to us Americans, this probably seems rather unsafe. However, since Japan as a culture and as a transit system is so safe, there is no reason to feel as though crowded should equate to unsafe, especially due to the incredible stability of the cars keeping people from stumbling or having any difficulty moving around.
With the already incredibly developed Japanese railway system and their tendency to always be on the cutting edge of something new, one has to wonder where their heightened technologies will take them in the near and far future. At the forefront of this development is the groundbreaking JR East, a company whose facilities we were fortunate enough to tour. They test everything ranging from earthquake proof concrete to laser gates to wheelchair accessible swiping systems within their grounds, but most of these have a sole focus on use in transportation. Overall, the goals for all their developments tend to revolve around bettering the safety and efficiency of the transportation system as a whole in Japan. They referred to it frequently as the “next generation” of transportation, but this made me further consider Japan’s next generation of people and how that could impact their public transport. Even with all the developments in railway technology, these developments are only as strong as the society that they serve, and with their rapid decline in workforce numbers, Japan may soon be forced to allow an influx of immigrants. This means people disobeying the unspoken rules which keep the system running so smoothly and, despite all the praise that I and many others have given the Japanese rail system, it makes me wonder if these rails can keep up with the serious cultural changes Japan may soon be experiencing.