Japan, Living in Japan

The Truth About Japan and Technology

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My friends and family are always surprised on the days they hear me complain about technology in Japan. While Japan excels in other ways, technology use in daily life is one of the ways it misses the mark. It can be one source of my frustration since my perspective is that we have these fantastic advances to make our lives easier, so why not use them to the fullest?

Here are four areas where Japan seemingly refuses to take advantage of modern technology, thus making life more difficult.

#1 – Banking

Ok, I have to give Japan some credit. It has finally stepped out of the legendary age where ATMs close on the weekends (for the most part). Now I have the pleasure of dealing with horrible online banking platforms, confusion between credit/debit cards, and still not being able to open an account in most places without a damn hanko (name stamp/seal).

Online banking in the US has upped its game regarding features and functions. Japan, on the other hand, is completely lacking. For the two accounts I have, it is bare bones. The user interface could use a facelift as well, but considering the level of their regular websites, I shouldn’t expect too much. You can do the basics though. Don’t think about opening an account online. Some banks let you start the process, but ultimately they will mail the paperwork to you and correspondence will be through the mail until the process is complete. When you go in person to open an account, make sure to have your hanko ready to complete set up.

As for the credit/debit card business. We all know by now that cash is the preferred and most common method of payment in Japan. However, it seems like only recently has it been catching on to have debit cards as opposed to cash card just used at the ATM. I’m 100% percent not used to seeing commercials having to explain how debit cards work.

#2 – Computer Skills

I don’t think Japanese people use computers very often in their personal life. I don’t have any scientific information to back that up, but I’m basing this off observation. I’m always amazed when I have the pleasure of watching (or listening) people struggle with their computers, especially when it comes to typing.

I’m really not surprised though when I think about how much gets done by hand/paper here instead.

Which leads me to number three…

#3 – Paper

Fax over email. Paper over electronic. These are the golden rules for getting anything done in Japan. Also, remember not to mess up on your paperwork or in some cases you will have to write it all over again.

#4 – No Central Heat

No central heat. In case you didn’t hear me, no central heat. I also swear there isn’t much insulation in these buildings. Not in school, not in my apartment, nowhere. In school, they heat the classrooms with big kerosene space heaters, but the hallways are pretty much the same temperature as outside. It probably doesn’t help that my school keeps the hallway windows open during winter.

As for my apartment, even if I heat the central area of my apartment, going to the next room or the bathroom felt as though I was stepping outside. If you have a kotatsu and wear layers, I guess for a few hours the cold might not seem bad. I’m not sure I 100% believe my lies about it though.

And that concludes my list of four areas where there is a gap between Japan and technology. As I mentioned before, I think technology is supposed to make our lives easier, which is why I get frustrated some days in Japan when it isn’t being used for that purpose. But, if they like it, I love it, so I’m not asking Japan to change on my behalf, just sharing some observations from my time here.

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