Japan: no longer high-tech but wide-tech
Sanne van Oosten
Before we visited Japan everyone told us to expect all the high-tech appliances we could ever think of. Japan is the country of the gizmo’s and gadgets! But to be completely honest with you, we were somewhat disappointed. After having visited all of coastal China and Korea, we thought Japan was more Oldskool than anything else.
Granted, Japan is the place where we saw the most machines substituting human jobs. In no place is efficiency taken as seriously as in Japan. Sushi trains that deliver your sushi, automatic beer tappers and vending machines for just about anything you can think of.
Also, we’ve never seen as many kids glued to computer games as in Japan. Sega, Joyworld and urinals that make peeing into a computer game. It seems like human attention is replaced by computers in as many ways as possible.
Still, we were disappointed at the newness of it all. Japanese machines are all over the place and definitely efficient… but no longer what you would call high-tech. Since the economic boom of Japan mostly took place in the seventies and eighties of the last century everything has been kind of standing still, a development called the the law of retarding lead. In many thing the Japanese were the first, but since then they have been surpassed many times by so many Asian countries.
If you look at Japanese vending machines you can’t help but notice they look quite old-fashioned. Then you have the ticket machines at train stations. Yes, they are everywhere, but in many cases the tickets they dispend are actual punch cards and the buttons look like they came straight from an 80s movie. Also, we didn’t have any more trouble finding an ATM that would take our international cards as in Japan. Most machines were just too old to be compatible. If you ask at any household if they have wifi, they’ll point to the cable and tell you that you can plug in your computer right after they have finished the things they have to do on the internet. Oldskool, anyone?
What remains is the widespread prevalence of technology in Japanese daily life. No matter in what kind of small village you are, all kinds of technology are readily available. Nowhere else do computers and machines of all sorts substitute the jobs that are usually carried out by humans, if it is delivering your sushi to your dinner table or giving your child some attention. It might not be the newest of the new, but it is extremely widespread. That is why I want to coin a new term to describe Japanese technology. No longer call it high-tech, but wide-tech.