Things the USA should steal from Japan

Just got back from two weeks in Japan. Had an amazing time and ate a LOT. Here’s a slice of what I learned.

Sushi cookies! Photo by Andrew Cummins

Things the US should steal from Japan:

Nothing is half-assed. If they have it or do it, it will be good, if not excellent. Finding an excellent cup of coffee easier to do in Tokyo than in Europe. And apparently, just because food comes from a train or train station, doesn’t mean it has to suck. Who knew?! I have no idea how one culture might recreate this sort of pride in their work. I assume we’re hopeless.

Shinkansen bento box, somewhere north of Tokyo. Cost: about $14

Service employees are there to serve you, rather than try to do as little work as possible. Seriously, no matter how long the line is behind you, they will tick every box in their coffee and doughnut serving process and you will always get a wet towel. And a plastic bag. For every doughnut. And each bag will be taped closed.

Gayoushi tea shop in Yanaka. Cost for tea and cake: about $7.50

Picture menus! They really do bridge the gap across all languages. I mean, just look at this uni we got by pointing (kudasai):

Uni in Otaru. Photo by Andrew Cummins.

Cycling in Japan is amazingly easy due to its commonplace embeddedness in their culture. Despite their lack of infrastructure, I felt safer biking in Kyoto than I ever have in New York City. I was biking alongside old men and women running errands, and no one wanted to kill me. While we’re activity fighting here for better infrastructure to physically restrict cars from running people over, Japan seems to (I don’t really know the stats, please comment if you do) enjoy safer streets simply because they’re not assholes. Or they’re just used to having bikes around. Again, I assume we’re hopeless on this one, too.

Butt cleaning toilets — EVERYWHERE!!!

Incredible self-sufficiency to the point of public trash cans not being needed anywhere. Are these people eating their Coffee BOSS cans? (See above: no litter!)

The neat bathroom mirror treatment so that they don’t fog up. None of the bathrooms I’ve ever showered in at home have this feature, cause, who would want to see themselves after a shower???

7–11s could learn a thing or two… apparently they don’t have to be gross.

Things Japan should chuck:

No trash cans ANYWHERE. I did get used to this, however. Just keep one of the many plastic baggies you’ll receive in your backpack as your own personal trash can.

Plastic bags for everything. Bags inside bags. Aren’t these supposed to be killing our oceans or something?

Extreme process for the sake of controlled consistency (and perhaps excellency) can get in the way of simple changes that would improve efficiency. Lots of paper.

In conclusion:

You might get frustrated constantly taking out your paper JR Rail pass, but your ass will be cleaner than ever!

Okochi Sanso Garden, Kyoto
A delicious strawberry treat at Rejiig / Isetan (8th fl of the Isetan Mens department store), Shinjuku, Tokyo
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