Japan like none other.


Wow, my last post was when my daughter turned 1. She turned 5 this July 4th, so here's a new one after 1.4 years. I visited Japan in May 2018 and here are few interesting views I learnt and caught on camera.

Travel

I have always imagined all flights to Japan going east via the Atlantic or west via the Pacific depending on the origination location. But it was surprising to me that it flew north over the Arctic! Apparently this route helps both airlines and passengers save few hours and reduce costs (less fuel). It also makes it less of a bumpy ride.

[BOS] -> [PEK] -> [NRT]


Saw this carpet at Narita airport that would disinfect your shoes! An idea that is simple yet effective. This could be a quick and less intrusive way for companies to reduce spread of germs on premise.


Japanese roundabouts are very different from the ones I have seen in the US/other countries. The design to keep the traffic flowing smooth seems to be working.

Transportation

Transportation punctuality in Japan is unlike any other place in the world. 7 minutes after flight landed and I was out of the plane. The ticket said 14:50, and the bus arrive on the dot at 14:50. If the train leaves 25 seconds early one day, that shows up on the front page of the daily newspaper! Something other countries could learn from!


Panasonic’s (Matsushita Electric Corp) electric assisted bike is a piece of marvel. Not common outside Japan, It is the right balance of workout and ease of use between man and this machine - A “Jidoka” bike indeed! Definitely has a large market outside of Japan.


Ease of use is one thing, utility and purpose is another. Japan never fails to think through when designing products. Look at this family bike. Very common, I could see more of them in the suburbs. It must be selling like pancakes!

End user experience



Yes, Attention to detail! - chairs at each reception counter in many hotels that can sit a bag or a person. Makes it easy to search things in the bag with both hands during check-ins/outs!

Japan roads are filled with guiding pathway rails. An ingenious idea that helps blind people find their way through complicated and crowded streets. Different rail patterns gives haptic feedback about beginning of a crosswalk, an intersection, etc. making it easier to navigate around.

Japan has a very visual way of delivering general information to customers be it what’s within a store or a building or things that can / cannot be done outdoors giving tourists a fun filled exploration experience.

Attention to detail is engrained into Japan’s innovation and culture. Usually it is difficult to find the “You are here” spot in a mall floor map. Well, how about placing a Red blinking LED to make it easier to find where you stand? 💡!


AEON Co. Japan - Japan's biggest retail store by sales.
In order to deliver high quality translation service during meetings and conferences, large companies kept two language translators. They used a kitchen timer to take turns every 15 minutes to reduce fatigue. This reflects the importance and dedication to high quality of service.

Shopping


Most streets in Japan have one or more of these convenience stores. They serve everything from pins to food to personal hygiene products. They also provide other value added services like banking, shipping, etc. Talk about convenience!



When it comes to major food and fashion brands, look around and it feels like any other city in United States. Japan has definitely increasing scope for western flair businesses. Helps minimize home sickness for tourists and mall mice :).

Entertainment and Food

Karaoke (which was developed in Japan) is big part of Japan’s culture. Like convenience stores, Karaoke entertainment parlors are everywhere. They cater to local as well as global audience with vast collections of national and international songs. The idea of bringing people together to have a good time never becomes old.



Fashion is BIG in Japan. There is social pressure to be hip, looking very pretty/handsome amongst teens and adults. You can find so many automatic beautifying selfie kiosks that would change the shape of your face, add make-up and accessories to make one look younger. Look at my make-up 🤢.



Just like other things, Japan has a range of dishes from very traditional to international fusion. How the food looks is equally important as how it tastes. That's one of the reasons why you see food plates displayed in showcases outside almost all restaurants. It also makes it easier to pick a restaurant or food when you are on the run. Did I mention the food displays look so real and delicious it always induces hunger.


Toyota Automobile Museum gift shop, Nagoya, Aichi Prefecture
Interesting Fact - Toyota sells Curries! Yes, the original curry was made for visitors of the Toyota Automobile museum. The dish became so popular that people started visiting the museum just to have the curry! So Toyota started selling these popular curry flavors through the gift shop. Different ways of attracting customers! Talk about complimentary services :)

A lot of restaurants have an ATM like Kiosk to order food and pay for it while waiting in line. Your food is ready when by the time you are seated. Some restaurants use special handheld tablets for waiters to send your table order to the kitchen.

Japanese whiskey is considered one of the best in the world. Rooted deep in the history of Japan, whiskey has been a favorite of Samurais and emperors. Price of a bottle of Japanese whiskey can range anywhere between ¥1000 to ¥500,000. They are not easily available outside of Japan.

Japan can be considered the Mecca of strange vending machines! Not only do you get hot soups, toilet papers, kerosene, alcohol, etc. but also live puppies, designer condoms, used panties and random girl's phone numbers! Yep..


Just like vending machines, almost every place you go in Japan you find Gashapon. ‘Gasha’ being the 360 degree cracking turn of the vending machine and ‘pon’ being the dispensed spherical ball which has a toy in it. Digital adaptation of Gashapon characters have become part of Japanese culture and video games.

Definitely there is affinity for anime fantasy / gaming / gambling in Japan. Tokyo and other big cities are filled with gaming and gambling arcades.

Convenience & experience innovations


Almost all toilets in Japan are fitted with automated bidets with warm water jets. First hand knowledge - it is convenient and hygienic due to hands free operation. See that music button, that helps mask "unwanted" noises that could bring shame while you are at it 😃. Anyways, with more people learning about the benefits, there will be more global demand for such bidets for sure. Of-course I got one for my home in US from Amazon!

Marriott Hotels, kyoto, Japan
Japan has some fully automated hotel rooms. Using a tablet, you can control the TV, lights & air conditioning, order room service, shop, provide feedback, checkout and even turn room privacy on or off without getting up from your bed! Rest of the world needs to catch up.

Convenient cordless Iron boxes - easy to iron clothes, heats-up when placed in the stand.

You’ll see a lot of these B2C robots across stores and businesses. It clearly sees and tracks your movements, greet you, hear your question and has intelligence built-in to provide meaningful answers. Recently started noticing them at tech events for flair.

A shopkeeper at a gifts shop, Narita Airport. Japan
Not all gadgets in Japan are high-tech. Japanese are well known for developing methods and tools to enhance speed and quality. This handy tool helps count coins quickly! As a tourist, you accrue a lot of coins. So this tool helps airports shops count them easily and send customers on their merry way fast.

To summarize, Japan's culture and it's core values are multifaceted and engrained in everything! It is inspiring to see how Japan continues to believe, cherish and proudly share it’s core values with the outside world without reserve.

Here's the video compilation of my trip! 


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