Friday, October 13, 2017

Are Environmental Friendliness and Good Service Mutually Exclusive in Japan?

In his recent world travels, the author has gotten used to the idea of having to ask for bags when he goes shopping.  In the US, for instance, plastic bags are no longer free, so shoppers are expected to either do without them, bring their own reusable ones, or pay a fairly expensive price for one.  In more politically aggressive places like Rwanda, the very idea of using plastic bags have become obsolete as plastic bags themselves are completely banned from the country.  To those not used to having to carry around their own bags, it is a bit of nuisance, to say the least.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

In an Automated Society, What If the Algorithms Stop Working?

If there is anywhere that proves the world-leading level of automation Japan achieved, it would be the country's public restrooms.  To prevent the spread of bacteria, more often than not, the use of levers and buttons have completely been made obsolete.  To flush the toilets, to let water out of spigots, to turn on the machines that blow-dry hands after washing, and even sometimes for turning on lights, sensors do the job.  A swipe of the hands in the right places, without any physical touch, allow accesses of these services.  Clear signs show first-timers where to put their hands.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Is Popular Patronage of the Arts a Luxury of a Rich Populace?

Roppongi, one of metropolitan Tokyo's most cosmopolitan neighborhoods, host an all-night arts event every year.  Museums open through the night, performance artists strut their stuff, and temporary exhibitions pop up all over the plazas and the streets.  Thousands upon thousands crowd into the buildings and alleys, gathering for concerts, little musicals, and displays in otherwise inaccessible hours.  They bring their down jackets to the unusual chilliness of 4am, huddling to witness relatively unknown artists trying to get their five minutes of fame one after the other, battling their sleepiness and fatigue. 

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Can the IT Idea of Fashion Take Over Asia?

If there is anything that visually identifies a Japanese adult, and especially a female adult, it is the sense of fashion.  People in Japan's major cities are absolutely meticulous about how they dress in public, even in the most casual of situations.  Countless magazines advise both males and females on proper coordination of shirts, coats, and pants, while various TV programs show how to properly apply makeup and introduce shops that help those with subpar sense of fashion.  Even those who do not care too much about visual presentation inevitably have to conform to the fashion sense just to feel socially acceptable.

Friday, September 22, 2017

The Danger of Gaps in Expectations during Social Events

Tokyo is a fine city for meeting new people.  Dozens of organizations ranging from students doing it on their free time to fully professional outfits run social events that bring together complete strangers from all walks of life to help them expand their often limited number of friends and acquaintances.  Generally, what makes these events so fun is that people go in with an open mind and very little expectations, making them extremely conducive to conversations with literally anyone.  In a Japanese society where social status and looks can be paramount, such situations, to say the least, can be quite rare to find.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

When Food Becomes the First Line of Institutional Globalization

In any university, often the cafeteria becomes a sort of the student body's microcosm.  The cheap and hearty fare of the speedy provided lunch menu is a godsend for poor students with tight class schedules.  Even for those with time to spare, cafeterias are perfect places to meet up with friends within the college, as they are usually centrally located, easily reached from offices and classrooms scattered around the school campus.  It is over the busy lunch hours when student life at its most basic social aspect becomes apparent.  Gossip, stories, and laughs fly across food halls unusually loud by Japanese standards.