Japan, the Land of the Rising Sun, home to the mesmerizing cherry blossom tree, known for its infrastructural efficiency and captivating cultural isms.
While in recent years the world’s image of Japan has become notoriously associated with earthquakes and the unforgiving fury of the ocean, most of us have perhaps forgotten about how truly amazing the archipelago country is.
Considering how small Japan is geographically, and how extremely overpopulated it has grown to be, the country has done well in keeping up with its endless upward expansion, both practically and innovatively.
The following is a list of 8 things the rest of the world could learn from Japan. (P.S. good sushi is an honorable mention…)
8) How To Make A Real Toilette
No, I’m not referring to the squatting type of toilette, although I’m sure very practical in some situations.
I’m talking about their infamous bidet-style toilettes, or ‘washlets’, an innovation most Westerners couldn’t even dream of. Features of this toilette can include background noise to cover any sounds that the user may make, a warm cleansing spray, self-warming seat, built-in water-saving sink, and many other impressive features.
Bucket list? Yes please!
7) Using Underground Bicycle Garages
Ha! Try this one bike thieves.
How does it work? Hop off your bike and guide it onto a small platform, insert your card, and voila. Your bike is stowed away out of sight and out of the way, safe and sound, so that you never have to worry about those insistent lock snippers. And it only takes about 10 seconds to retrieve your bike back.
These garages are built entirely underground (average about 38 feet), and can hold around 204 bikes.
6) Better Vehicle Parking Garages, Because They’re Automated Of Course
Automated (car) parking systems (APS) are mechanical systems designed to minimize the area and/or volume required for parking cars.
An APS provides parking for cars on multiple levels stacked vertically to maximize the number of parking spaces while minimizing land usage.
The benefits?: Increased vehicle security, minimized parking lot damage, physically safer as no one is walking through, reduced engine emissions, better handicap access, minimized construction time, and reduced overall space needed for the garage.
5) Touchscreen Menus At Upscale Restaurants
While some may argue that the use of touchscreens in restaurants is just another nail in the coffin for social interaction, I believe this idea to be a step forward with regards to efficiency and customer service. How often do you find your waiter/tress too busy to take your order? Or how often is your order taken down wrong to your disappointment?
4) Shinkansen Get The Job Done – Japan’s High Speed Bullet Trains
Japan’s main islands of Honshu and Kyushu are served by a network of high speed train lines that connect Tokyo with most of the country’s major cities. These bullet trains are called shinkansen.
Running at speeds of up to 320 km/h, the shinkansen is known for punctuality (most trains depart on time to the second), comfort (relatively silent cars with spacious, always forward facing seats), safety (no fatal accidents in its history) and efficiency. Thanks to the Japan Rail Pass, the shinkansen can also be a very cost effective means of travel.
These bad-boys could take someone from Vancouver to Toronto (a trip that normally takes 4 days driving) in about 14 hours. The question is, what the heck are we waiting for North America? Follow suit!
3) Say Hi To Japan’s High-Tech Indoor Veggie Factories
It’s no secret that man is openly vulnerable to the random and unforgiving fury of mother nature. Droughts, storms, floods, and many other natural events could at any time, and anywhere, wipe out a major agricultural hub.
But no worries, Japan came up with a solution to this issue. Japanese plant physiologist Shigeharu Shimamura, along with GE, recently developed a special LED fixture that emits light at wavelengths optimal for indoor plant growth.
They allow Shimamura to control the night-and-day cycle and accelerate growth. The systems allows him to grow lettuce full of vitamins and minerals two-and-a-half times faster than an outdoor farm. He is also able to cut discarded produce from 50 percent to just 10 percent of the harvest, compared to a conventional farm. As a result, the farms productivity per square foot is up 100-fold.
Furthermore, the LEDs last longer and consume 40 percent less power than fluorescent lights. Ding-dong! This could possibly change the way the world grows food.
2) An Organized Approach To Garbage Disposal
Although not as eco-friendly as Costa Rica or certain countries in Europe, Japan stands as an innovator when it comes to waste management and organization.
In Tokyo, trash (gomi) has to be divided into three categories (combustible trash, non-combustible trash, recyclable trash) for proper disposal. Each category is collected separately on a designated day. Signs in the neighborhood inform residents about the weekdays on which what type of garbage is collected. Burnable garbage is usually collected on two or three days during the week, while non burnable garbage is usually collected once a week.
Norimitsu Onishi of The New York Times put it beautifully,
“Lipstick goes into burnables; lipstick tubes, ‘after the contents have been used up,’ into ‘small metals’ or plastics. Take out your tape measure before tossing a kettle: under 12 inches, it goes into small metals, but over that it goes into bulky refuse.”
“Socks? If only one, it is burnable; a pair goes into used cloth, though only if the socks ‘are not torn, and the left and right sock match.’ Throw neckties into used cloth, but only after they have been ‘washed and dried.'”
Kamikatsu, a rural town of 2200, has gradually raised the number to trash categories to 44 varieties, including tofu containers to egg cartons, plastic bottle caps to disposable chopsticks, fluorescent tubes to futons.
While incineration may not be the best option, Japan makes effective use of the heat energy released during the burning process, such as for power generation and water heating.
1) There Are Almost No Homeless People In Tokyo
Given the fact that Tokyo is the most populated metropolis in the world (39.2 million), one would naturally think there would be a high number of homeless people, similar to major metropolises in North America (such as New York and Mexico City).
Thankfully this isn’t the case however. Last year, Tokyo hit an all-time low number of homeless people, a surprising 1700 (7500 for all of Japan, as compared with 600,000 for all of the United States).
Japan has historically had one of the lowest rates of inequality among developed countries. But where Japan is really surpassing the United States, instead, is in the social safety net it offers its citizens.
The Japanese Constitution guarantees its citizens “the right to maintain the minimum standards of wholesome and cultured living.”
Another reason for the low number of homeless may come from the strong support system of Japanese families. Though it is a difficult to quantify, the tradition of Japanese families remaining tight knit and supportive of each member is undeniable.
Time To Learn Something From The Japanese?
These are but a few of the amazing advancements playing out in the Land of the Rising Sun. Of course, no country is perfect, and Japan definitely has some things to work out (i.e., nuclear energy plants being built on fault lines…)
Needless to say, however, if you have an issue, Japan has your tissue.
Be sure to share your thoughts on Japan’s innovations with us in the comment section below!
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