Japan is generally considered to be one of the most technologically advanced cultures in the world. With companies like Panasonic, Toshiba, Canon and Sony all hailing from Japan, it really isn't a surprise. Here are five technologies commonplace in Japan I wish we had in Australia.
The first thing any Westerner does when they arrive in Japan for the first time is head straight to the toilet. But not because the long-haul flight left you with a full bladder or a stomach cramps - it's because the Japanese use of electronic bidets is fascinating. With a wide range of features, from automatic seat-warming to the "joys" of having a jet of heated water shooting up your sphincter, the Japanese toilet is a necessary addition to all Australian bathrooms if we hope to develop as a country. Especially if we adopt the model with a built-in speaker that plays a loud flushing sound over the sound of your poop.
Ubiquitous vending machines
Sure, we have vending machines all over Australia. But do we have multiple vending machines all lined up in a row next to each other on every street corner in each capital city? No. And while I've been mildly surprised at the lack of variety in available product for the vending machines over here, it's hard to argue with the advantages of having the ability to buy a bottle of water every five minutes while you're walking around in 35C heat.
The Japanese subway is the envy of the world. Fast, efficient, clean and affordable, it makes travelling throughout Tokyo a relatively painless adventure. Considering that the Japanese system has been in place in some shape or form since 1941 and now transports over 6.33 million people each day, it makes Australia's train system look archaic. Not only that, but their RFID-based Pasmo contactless cards make buying tickets even easier than using the automated machine, which says a lot about how good the service is.
Compared to the last time I was in Tokyo back in 2005, one big technological change has taken off in Japan - near field communication (NFC) payments using mobile phones. At pretty much every convenience store, in taxis and in fast food restaurants around Tokyo, a circular dish sits next to the cash register which will charge a linked credit card when you place your NFC-enabled mobile phone on it. According to a very unscientific guess from a Tokyo-based friend, about 70 per cent of Japanese people now use an NFC-based phone, which offers the added benefit of reward points, which can then be exchanged for different reward points. Personally, I just want to pay for stuff without having to take out my card from my wallet...
Tokyo is a rather crowded city, but they've come up with some pretty ingenious ways of creating parking within a limited space. Big rotating discs are located in many carports, turning the car to either make a sharp corner or even just turn it around so drivers don't have to reverse onto a busy Tokyo street. Then there's the bike garages that we've seen before on Giz, which use a robotic arm to store your bike in an underground vault, with an RFID card to identify your bike among the thousands. While cycling is nowhere near as prevalent in Australia, a similar concept is available for cars in different parts of the world.
Sure, we don't need an entire district dedicated to the selling of gadgets. But I'd still love to see at least one nine-storey building packed full of gadgets somewhere in Australia. So long as prices were competitive, of course. And there's a level full of robots.
Nick's in Tokyo courtesy of Sony.