Saheli*: Musings and Observations
Tuesday, February 01, 2005
 
Back in the States

I've actually been back for a couple of days. After leaving Japan late Sunday afternoon I arrived on Sunday midmorning. I love the sun. But a turbulent, weirdly pressured flight made for some nasty jetlag.

A few observations on Japan before I forget them. I wasn't completely blown away by the prevalence of technology like some people said I'd be. The cell phones were a little fancier, the plasma screens were a little more common, the LED text displays were a little bigger and more detailed--as they have to be, in order to display Japanese characters. It was amusing to see LCD screens in subway trains displaying commercials. My favorite ad campaign was the ostriches skiing, shouting "We want snow!" as part of Japan Rails's Japan Snow Project, trying to get people to take the train north. (Click here for a Windows Media File.)

There were, however, four little gadgets/customs that I think we might do well to adapt in some form.

1) In Kamakura, at the train station, we saw a rail official taking care of a boy in a wheelchair. He first went up the escalator, put up gates at the top, shut it off, turned a key of some sort, came down the stairs, put the boy on the bottom three stairs, shut a gate across the bottom so that no one could follow them up the escalator, and then turned it back on. Voila! The three steps he and the boy were on never separated from each other, but rode up the whole escalator as a single platform. I'll have to spend some quality time with an American escalator to see if I can figure out what's different (something seemed different to me, but I couldn't put my finger on it) but I don't see why this can't be more prevalent here. I don't think I've ever been to BART without a sign announcing that some station has a broken elevator, and this would be a nice back-up plan.

2) At almost every restaurant I went to someone handed me a little soapy handy wipe in a plastic packet. The environmentalist in me was horrified--plastic! paper!--but the public health worrier was impressed. The fact is most people--including me--often don't remember to wash their hands every time they buy a croissant, and sometimes it just isn't practical. But I wonder if there can be some happy medium--a way of making it easy and convenient to disinfect your hands without going through so much paper. At a few restaurants the alternative were two small rolled up towels--if they just wash them in boiling water afterwards, that seems somewhat preferable.

3) There are plenty of methods for taking care of the dripping umbrella in a store problem which seem better designed for making sure you don't lose yours. I mean, seriously, there's nothing wrong with just having a bucket in the front, and if someone runs off with your umbrella, well, that's the stuff of novels, right? But I still thought it was pretty nifty that in the Yamaha store they have a machine for encasing your umbrella in a plastic bag that you then give back to them when you exit. Requiring no plastic were little umbrella lockers in front of the Tokyo National Museum.

4)The famous vending machines had recycling boxes attached directly to them. It made recycling very easy to find, and if you wanted to just stand there and chug your drink, it was very easy to then recycle the bottle.

Nothing earth-shattering. Just kind of cool.
 


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Saheli Datta started this when she was a journalism student at Columbia in New York. Now she lives in the Bay Area. *Old people call me R. New people, call me Saheli. Thanks! My homepage. Specifically, my links. Email me: Saheli [AT] Gmail [dot] Com

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Blogs I Read (Or Try To)
113th Street
american footprints(Nadezhda & Praktike)
ANNA's Diary
Apartment Therapy
Armchair Generalist
Back To Iraq 3.0 (Chris Albritton)
Dave Barry
The Bellman
Mine's On The 45 (Brimful)
Campaign Desk (CJR)
ChennaiCentral
ClimateBoy
Combing the Sphere
Crooked Timber
Daily Dose of Imagery
The Daily Rhino (Bong Breaker)
Dark Days Ahead
The Decembrist
Brad DeLong
Atanu Dey on India's Development (Deeshaa)
Daniel Drezner
Ennis
Ephemera
Cyrus Farivar
Finding My Voice
Forsv
Neil Gaiman
Ganesh Blog
Geeky Chic 2.0 (Echan)
Geomblog
Green Ink!
Heliolith
Alexandra Huddleston
Iddybud (Jude Nagurney Camwell)
Indeterminacy
India Uncut
InSpiteOfEverything
Intel Dump: Phillip Carter et al
The Intersection (Chris Mooney)
Jesus Politics
John and Belle Have a Blog
Mark A. R. Kleiman
KnowProse (Taran Rampersad)
1Locana
Maenad (Nori Heikkinen)
Scott McCloud
Mind Without Borders
Electrolite: Patrick & Teresa Nielsen Hayden
Corey Pein
Political Animal(Kevin Drum, formerly Calpundit)
Kevin G. Powell
QuakeHelp (South Asian Quake)
Radiation Persuasion (Nick)
Reneebop
Rhinocrisy
Scott Rosenberg(Salon.com)
Rox Populi
Felix(&Rhian)Salmon
samVaad
Nick Schager
Idea Spout: Daniel Sanchez
Sepia Mutiny
Amardeep Singh
Snarkmarket (Robin Sloan & Matt Thompson)
South-East Asian Earthquake and Tsunami Blog
SreeTips: New To Sree
Steprous (Bear)
Robert Stribley
Subjunctive.net:klog
Talking Points Memo: Joshua Micah Marshall
Tech Policy
TiffinBox
A Tiny Revolution
To The Teeth
TreeHugger
Unfogged
VatulBlog
Venk@
Manish Vij
Vinod's Blog
War and Piece
Nollind Whachell
Wonkette
WorldChanging
Matthew Yglesias:Old
Yglesias:Tpmcafe
Zoo Station:Reuben Abraham
Ethan Zuckerman
Zwichenzug



Some Categories

Blogs focusing on policy, politics, and national security:
Armchair Generalist
Back To Iraq 3.0 (Chris Albritton)
The Decembrist
Brad DeLong
Daniel Drezner
Eschaton(Atrios)
Green Ink!
Iddybud (Jude Nagurney Camwell)
Idea Spout: Daniel Sanchez
Informed Comment: Juan Cole
Intel Dump: Phillip Carter
The Intersection (Chris Mooney)
Irregular Analyses
Jesus Politics
Mark A. R. Kleiman
Liberals Against Terrorism(Nadezhda & Praktike)
Political Animal(Kevin Drum, formerly Calpundit)
Talking Points Memo: Joshua Micah Marshall
War and Piece
Wonkette
Yglesias:Tpmcafe

Photo Blogs
Daily Dose of Imagery
Ephemera
Alexandra Huddleston
Radiation Persuasion (Nick)
TiffinBox

Columbia Journalism Folks
Apartment Therapy
Back To Iraq 3.0 (Chris Albritton)
Campaign Desk (CJR)
Ranajit Dam
Cyrus Farivar
Alexandra Huddleston
InSpiteOfEverything
Corey Pein
Nick Schager
Zoo Station:Reuben Abraham

Literature, Fiction and Entertainment
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Neil Gaiman
Electrolite: Patrick Nielsen Hayden
Scott McCloud


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