It’s all the attention to the small details that impresses me about Japan. Sometimes its just solving some kind of problem that only really exists in Japan. Other times its just pure ingenuity.
For example, the subway ticketing system. When the subway and train systems started really to acheive critical mass, they introduced automated ticket checkers since humans clipping tickets just wasn’t cutting it. Then they moved to having rechargeable plastic/magnetic fair cards. This type of thing is available at most subway systems around the world these days. But here’s where they go just one little step more: so what happens when you’re about to run out of the fair on one card? there are several options here.. force people to insert the card to a vending machine, and recharge it, or just throw it away, or something similar. Instead the Tokyo system takes another approach.. instead of forcing you to get in line at some annoying time to recharge your card.. you just have to remember to buy your next card when your first one is about to run out, and when your first card finally doesn’t have enough to let you exit, you simply jam both your old card and your new card into the machine at the same time. It’s smart enough to realize that you’ve stuck in two, and to expire the old one and charge the remainder on the new one. This is probably the most mechanically complex solution, yet it solves a practical and relatively annoying problem. The recharge approach works just as well.. but with the huge lines in front of the ticket vending machines as it is, it’s not hard to imagine why they went with this.
Another example: they recently started selling wasabi in slightly modified tubes. These tubes have a crease built into them near the top, which exist soley for the purpose of giving you leverage when you’re trying to squeeze the very last bit of the inside out.
And then there’s the plainly stupid things:
Why can’t I return a product if I find out it doesn’t work for me? Most stores in Japan have abysmal return policies. Hey I want to buy this clever induction heating based table top stove, but can I bring it back if it doesn’t work with the pots that I have? sorry.
Why can’t I use my stupid ATM card anywhere? It’s not like they don’t have ATMs, but they have a bazillion other systems, none of which are Interlink, PLUS, or Star. I mean come on, my card worked in Morocco for god’s sake.
Why the hell does Windows XP full version cost $350??

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