Waste management in Japan is very different than in the United States. Japan primarily incinerates all of their waste while the United States disposes of their waste in landfills. Japan, on the other hand, does not recycle a lot of their waste compared to the United States. However, Japan does use their old landfills to generate energy. We had the chance to tour a solar farm that had been built on top of an old landfill.
The main reason that Japan incinerates their trash and the United States landfills is due to the amount of available land. The United States obviously has more land, so it is more feasible to dispose of trash in a landfill. Japan on the other hand, is only about the size of California, and only 14% of its land is flat enough to live on. Therefore, there is no room to be disposing of their trash in landfills. It’s a lot more practical to incinerate the waste.
Japan also has cultural reasons that have an effect on their trash disposal. I think their shame culture helps prevent a lot of people from littering. Japanese people are likely to be afraid of being called out or “shamed” if they are seen not disposing of trash properly. In the United States though, there is more of a guilt culture. However, some people in the United States will not feel enough guilt to not litter.
The difference in trash or MSW (municipal solid waste) disposal between Japan and the United States is one difference that I have been really surprised by. Japan takes trash disposal and recycling way more seriously than the United States despite there not being trash cans everywhere you go. In the United States, you’ll see multiple trash cans on almost every street corner, and people will still litter and not seem to care about disposal.
Another difference I was surprised by was the amount of MSW that people produce every day. People in Japan produce an average of two pounds of MSW, and in the United States it’s up to four pounds a day. This is way higher (and honestly a little worrying) than what I would have expected. I was thinking it would be more along the lines of 1 pound a day, but that is usually only in certain parts of Africa where MSW production is that low. The trash in Japan is often separated into multiple types such as combustibles, plastics, and cans/bottles. Whereas in the United States, trash is usually disposed of in one or two types: non-recyclables and recyclables.
The trash cans in Japan are also clearly labeled which isn’t too different than in the United States. However, the trash cans in Japan are also divided into the different types of waste which is different than most trash cans in the United States. This makes it easier for people to dispose of their waste properly, but in the United States the waste often gets mixed up and recyclables are lost in the regular trash.
After travelling through the Keihanshin and Greater Tokyo megaregions in Japan, it is easy to notice some differences between the two. Even though there are no formal boundaries to these two megaregions, you can still have an idea of which one you’re in by the differences in culture. While there isn’t one exact reason for these differences, it is likely that some of these are caused by varying locations and environments.
The Keihanshin and Greater Tokyo megaregions have multiple differences that I have either learned or noticed myself. The big one I learned about yesterday was the difference in language for the two regions. I probably wouldn’t have noticed this myself because I do not speak Japanese, but after being told, it is very obvious that completely different words are being used to mean the same thing. There are also some smaller differences I have learned about. For example, in the Keihanshin megaregion people stand on the right side of escalators while in the Greater Tokyo megaregion people use the left side. I’ve also experienced a difference in food in the two regions. For example, I ate Hiroshima’s famous style of okonomiyaki as well as okonomiyaki in Tokyo and they were very different from each other. An even smaller food difference that I learned about today has to do with bread in the two regions. Loaves of bred are sliced into six slices in Tokyo, but 5 slices in Keihanshin.
Similarly to Japan, the United States also has many different regional differences. They also can appear in things such as language and food. One iconic difference we talked about in class was accents such as the use of the word “y’all” in the south. In terms of food, I know there are many regional differences. For example, the northeast is notable for different seafoods and the south is known for their southern comfort food. Another regional difference I would say I’m familiar with is the idea of southern hospitality. This is the notion that southerners are usually nicer and more welcoming to other people.
Over the past three weeks, I have been observing many different examples of smart technologies in Japan. A smart technology is anything that improves the everyday lives of all citizens of an area. The technologies have emerged out of Japans megaregions because megaregions are usually the sources of technological innovation. Cities that implement these technologies are referred to as “smart cities” are usually leading cities in sustainability.
The first smart technologies I witnessed in Japan were the underground parking garages for cars and bikes. These were essentially parking hubs that robotically stored one’s car or bike and then returned it when needed. These improve people’s lives and preserve the beauty of the city by eliminating massive above ground parking structures or cluttered parking lots. The automated parking systems have been implemented in certain areas of Tokyo, but I have yet to see them in other cities in Japan. I also feel that the United States could benefit from implementing a technology like this because a lot more people own and drive personal vehicles. The underground parking garage technology could also be used for Bird and Lime scooters, which would help clean the streets of scooters laying around everywhere.
I also witnessed a variety of smart technologies while touring the JR East Research and Development facility. The people over at JR East were working on multiple innovations that will improve the lives of every utilizing their transit systems. The most impressive technology I observed there was the adjustable train station ceiling. If implemented, this ceiling would adjust in height to correct airflow depending on how many people were walking through the station. Another innovation that JR East was working on was their new prepaid card scanner. This is almost the same thing that is currently being used, however, its aim is to make scanning in or out of train stations easier for wheelchair users by placing the scanner at an angle to the gate.
These are just a few examples of smart technologies that have been developed and implemented in Japan, however, there are still many ideas that can be produced to improve our lives.
After being in Japan for two weeks, I have become familiar with many types of transit such as Shinkansen, subways, and buses. The main one we have been using more recently is the Shinkansen. These are the faster trains that take you from city to city.
Compared to the other transit systems I am familiar with, which is basically just MARTA, the Shinkansen is far better in many ways. First off, it is just as punctual as the other trains in Japan even though it travels much farther. Secondly, it also feels as safe and clear as other forms of transit, especially when compared to something like MARTA. The other people on the Shinkansen tend to be even quitter than on something like the Subway. The main thing, however, that stands out to me about the Shinkansen is how comfortable it is. The first thing I noticed is how much leg and seat room I had, which is something that has always been a problem for me as a tall person. The ride itself is always smooth and calm and there is plenty of space to sleep, eat, or do work. Overall, I feel like the Shinkansen is an incredible way to travel long distance in Japan.
When it comes to navigability, the Shinkansen doesn’t lack there either. It is very easy to gather information and find your way around, especially for someone who doesn’t know Japanese. The tickets, seats, and cars are numbered clearly, and the announcements get repeated in English. Despite how different it is, the Shinkansen is definitely the best form of intercity travel.
During the travel leg of our trip, I was able to notice some big differences in sustainability between the interior and exterior of a megaregion. Even though there were differences, I wouldn’t say that one area was more sustainable than the other. However, I would say that sustainable development practices were easier to notice in the exterior of the Keihanshin megaregion.
The main difference in sustainability that I noticed was transportation. On the outside of a megaregion more people own and drive cars than in a place like central Tokyo. There is less of a reliance on public transportation, so there aren’t as many trains, stations, and rail lines that run in the outside of a megaregion. Although quite small, another difference I noticed was a lot of domestic greenhouses in the outside of the megaregion. Smaller greenhouses like these have multiple sustainability advantages as opposed to a large commercial greenhouse. They often aren’t constantly being supplied with heat, so they use little to no energy to run. Also, the plants produced in these aren’t usually treated with large amounts of damaging chemicals. The last main difference in sustainability between the parts of the megaregion I noticed was the abundance of solar farms as well as homes that were powered by solar panels on the roof. Obviously, this reduces the use of nonrenewable energy as well as reliance on imported energy.
While in Fukushima, I also learned about resilience and how the March 11th disaster affected and still affects that area. Before I got to Fukushima, I was expecting to see nothing but a ghost town as all I heard going into the visit was about how the place was abandoned. However, now I can say that is not the case at all. There were areas that were definitely still abandoned, but for the most part, Fukushima was surprisingly resilient compared to what I was expecting. The area was being cleaned up by over 400 workers and many structures such as houses and roads have been rebuilt and reopened. One thing I really enjoyed learning while there was how the people of the area are using the disaster to learn and help prevent future disasters. Their goal is to never forget what happened but also never stop working to recover.
After taking another deep look into Japan’s transit system, it’s easier to see how it compares to the United States system. However, the first thing I want to talk about is what makes up a good transit system. In order to have good transit, the system must take you where you want to go when you to go there, be worth it, and be reliable. This means that the transit must be coming and going frequently while still being on time. It also means the price has to be affordable for millions of people to use. Lastly, when I say reliable, I mean the system needs to be clean, safe, and the user should trust that their travel is going to go well.
Japan’s transit implements all of these traits into their system, however, if we take a look at the United States, they don’t exactly do the same. Unfortunately, most transit in the United States doesn’t always even get you where you need to go when you need to get there. Compared to Japan, many systems in the United States are often extremely late. Another key difference in the two transit systems is reliability. I think it’s pretty safe to say that trains in the United States are not as clean as trains in Japan, and many train stations in the States often feel unsafe.
During the tour of JR East yesterday, I was able to witness how Japan has developed their transit system so well and what they are working on currently. JR East was busy working on multiple new projects such as their sustainable air conditioning and adjustable ceilings for train stations. One major difference between Japanese and American trains that I noticed was energy consumption of the actual train itself. Some of JR East’s new train car designs featured batteries on the roof that were charged by catenaries. This allows the train to always run on electricity and not have to switch to diesel when disconnected from the catenaries. Overall, the visit to JR East really showed how Japan is working to build the next generation of transit by applying energy saving technology.
Despite how overwhelming and expansive it may seem, the transit system in Tokyo is actually efficient and easy to use. After our tour today, I understand why the trains and subways are the best and most popular forms of transit in Tokyo. In fact, I think the reasons for this are high efficiency and accessibility to information about the system.
Tokyo’s transit system is probably the most efficient transit system in the world. The most obvious and famous reason for this is how timely the trains are. It has even been national news when a train was only one minute late. Now a one-minute delay would not usually seem like a big deal for people in other parts of the world, but it is for Tokyo transit. This is because their transit system is designed to eliminate as many delay factors as possible. For example, using rapid transit, trains cannot be slowed down by street congestion or other types of traffic. The monorail represents this well because it operates above other infrastructure and is completely independent of traffic. Tokyo transit even tries to prevent external accidents, such as accidents while boarding and suicide attempts on the tracks. By replacing normal train alert sounds with a short, peaceful melody, the transit system reduced the amount of accidents that were caused by panic and rushing on and off trains. This is in addition to the blue platform lights that promote happier thoughts and feelings which has led to a large reduction of the amount of suicide attempts on the tracks.
Along with heavy accident prevention, Tokyo’s transit system is also good with handling the large amounts of people that use it. Millions of people use Tokyo’s transit system every day, however, I think that the business is handled well. The main way this is done is by having trains depart every few minutes. Another observation I had today was that the stations had multiple entrances and exits which prevented large crowds from gathering in one place to enter and exit. Having a prepaid card such as the Suica card made moving in and out of the stations even easier and prevents long lines from forming for tickets.
One final reason I have to explain why Tokyo transit works so well is how easy it is to obtain the information you need to travel. Along with signs and announcements, there are also other sources of train information that provide even more details. For example, there are many signs that have clear animations that show everything related to the train you are on such as the line, stops, direction, and more. However, if you want to take it up a step, I learned that Google Maps will even tell you which train car to use to get in and out the quickest. All of these little tools help made riding the trains in Tokyo a lot less stressful. Even when I didn’t know exactly where I was, I still felt confident enough to navigate on my own.