My Observations From Being in Japan: Efficient but Not Simple

As you can see from the archives, I didn’t publish a post here in the first two weeks of July. The reason is that I went to Japan with my family. It was the first time I go there. It’s exciting to observe and experience a new culture!

I’m going to write my observations below, but because I was there for just a few days, they might be wrong or incomplete. Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.

Without further ado, here are my observations from being in Japan.

1. It’s very punctual.

Every time we took a train there, it always departed on time. If the schedule says 09:56, then at exactly 09:56 the train will depart. It’s not late by even one minute. Coming from a background where being late is considered normal, it impresses me.

2. Everything that can be automated is automated.

Well, maybe not everything, but that’s the impression I got. If there is a way to use technology to replace human labor, then Japan does it. Two examples are coin laundry and coin lockers. There are also restaurants where customers use touch screens to place orders and the food will stop right in front of them on a high-speed conveyor belt.

3. When necessary, human labor is minimized.

Of course, not everything can be automated. But when human labor is needed, the number is minimized. A restaurant that we visited was run by just three people who did everything from taking orders, preparing the food, and washing the dishes. To help them do these, the layout of the restaurant has been designed to minimize their walking distance.

4. There is room for improvement in simplicity.

While Japan is highly efficient, it has room for improvement in simplicity. The subway system, for instance, is complex. There are many operators and options. And for every option, there are usually exceptions to be aware of. It took me a lot of time to study the options and find the best ones for our situation.

5. Many elderly people are still working.

There are many elderly people in the workplace. Many taxi drivers, for instance, are old. From what I read, many of them are retirees who want to stay active, but I’m not sure about this.

6. It’s difficult to find trash bins.

I’m not sure why, but it’s often difficult to find a trash bin. We often had to carry the trash until we found one. It’s different from, say, Singapore where trash bins are everywhere. My guess is that it has something to do with minimizing human labor: it’s expensive to pay the people needed to empty those trash bins.


Those are my observations from being in Japan. Again, they might be wrong or incomplete, so feel free to share your thoughts in the comments!

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