My Observations While 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 while 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.

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

18 Comments

  1. Hi Donald

    I have also never been to Japan but have heard that Japanese are
    quite Quality concious and tidey …Have you got any observations
    during your trip to Japan about such features of Japanese people?

    Plz do share ,

    Thanks

    • Hi Nadeem,
      I agree that they have that characteristic. I think the punctuality of the transportation system is a good example. It’s not easy to keep a huge transportation network running in such a precision. That shows its quality.

    • Japan has a over aging society.
      It is got diffcult their life if older people not work.

  2. GREGORY OMOREFE
    GREGORY OMOREFE

    Japanese are known to be very organized.It’s something we must take from them…Thanks so much Donald for sharing your experience.God bless.

    • My pleasure, Gregory!

      Speaking of organizing, there is a popular book by a Japanese author titled The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. I haven’t read it but I heard many good things about it.

  3. There is a word in Japanese Language, “KAIZAN” which means “Countinuous Search For Improvement”. This is not just a word, this is actually a way of life. With this, they always set new targets, raise bar above from before, and strive to achieve new goals.
    They have put this word in every thing. Education, technology, social activities, I mean everything.

    They strictly follow 5S;
    1) Sort (Seiri)
    2) Set in order/Simplify (Seiton)
    3) Shine/Sweeping (Seiso)
    4) Standardize (Seiketsu)
    5) Sustain (Shitsuke)

    That’s how Japan stand apart(in terms of development) in the World.

  4. This seems to be quite great blog post. Even one of my friends who is in Japan says that it is one of the best countries.

  5. Hi Donald,
    Thanks for a nice description. Always wanted to visit and this made me even more excited!
    /Johan

  6. Udaypratapsingh
    Udaypratapsingh

    Nice sir, it seems that i have also taken a site of japan after reading this article.

  7. Very interesting Donald. i hope you enjoyed your stay. I would like to visit there some time in the near future.

  8. Thanks for stopping by, everyone!

  9. I like restaurants where customers use touch screens to place orders so you don’t need to scream to call waiters. Oh, by the way, I thought both coin laundry and coin lockers are other countries too. I saw them in Ireland, for example 🙂

  10. Hey Donald, I enjoy reading all your posts. Thanks for sharing.

    About trash bins not being there – Japan as a culture promotes reducing waste (did you observe this in their packaging and selling practices?) and accepting responsibility of waste created by your own self. Most Japanese, will carry their trash with them in their bag and dispose it later in their home or a place where they find the trashcan.

  11. Thanks Donald for sharing your observations, and am blessed for being a partaker.

    As for me, I have not live my country to any other country as I have not been opportune to do so though I have been looking for such opportunities.

    God bless you and family for sharing

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