What makes one have the right to decide what is somebody else’s ‘NORM’?

So I was watching this video, because a very artsy friend of mine shared it and she linked vending machine and automation to artisan work. In any case, after watching the video, I actually felt slightly offended.

Why?

Many people like to comment about Japan. Even more people like to say that they love Japan’s culture. Now about the latter, I think I should write a separate post on it, because I’ve always found people, who go for a holiday for 7 days or even 15 days or even 1 month in Japan and come back saying they love Japan’s culture, very amusing.

Because how can you figure out a country’s culture just from an overseas trip on a holiday when you don’t live in a normal citizen’s estate, make friends with normal Japanese, or work there? Perhaps, as usual, it is the way I define the word ‘culture’. To me, it is a very deeply embedded thing that can’t be determined just because strangers helped you when you were lost on the streets, or because every service staff bows, or because the toilet is clean. I think a country’s culture is much more than just that.

And I digress (and I wonder who I caught this from). Anyway. About people commenting about Japan.

I don’t particularly love Japan. I wouldn’t go as far as to proclaim that I love it because at best, I appreciate it. If there’s one thing I do love about Japan, it is the language and the style of writing, in terms of the lyrics, as well as the attitude portrayed in many media, especially in manga, songs and movies, which always advocate for 希望と情熱 when pursuing dreams and aspirations. I really, really, like the spirit and motivation that it gives to viewers. And so, apart from these, I do not comment much about Japan to the people around me. In general, there are two ‘teams’.

Team A: Love Japan, adore Japan. Different motivation for feeling so but mostly love the food and the well mannered people they come across in Japan.
Team B: Finds Japan screwed up, sick as a society, terrible place to work, with fake people.

Initially, I feel the need to defend both but in the end, I gave up. Because I realise I’m what you can say, on both or neither team, because I agree with both of them, lol.

And omg, main point, main point.

MAIN POINT is that, in the video, the dude gave quite a bit of statistics about Japan. From birth rate, to vending machine per capita ratio, to cost of manpower, as well as property. He also poignantly pointed out that there are many automation but Japanese still retained their focus on artisan products, like handcrafted coffee, as well as chopsticks. Which is all fine.

What annoyed me was how he seemed less amazed but more judge-y about the whole situation. Sure, he sounded amazed-ish (I use -ish cos I don’t think he was actually amazed but more like shocked) when describing the coffee making process, but to me, it seemed more like a situation of omg-they-automate-everything-and-then-over-obsess-with-handcrafted-stuff-and-process-that-isn’t-necessary-at-all (shock) instead of omg-they-are-so-efficient-yet-they-retained-their-roots (amazed). 

Then, he went on to express his sentiments about coinage issues — that there are just too many coins in JP and the under utilised credit card situation. I believe it was intended to bring it back to how JP has a lot of vending machines but the way he expressed it, again, makes me feel annoyed because even if the norm to him, is to get rid of coins and go cashless, what makes that a norm for somebody else? I think it is alright to say that he found the coins troublesome or confusing, but I find it too over the top to coin (lol) it as an issue just because where he comes from or what is happening elsewhere is so.

Of course, as usual, I might have been too defensive while watching the clip and his intention wasn’t as what I assumed. Or perhaps it is the way he talks that make it seem like he is sorta disgusted or in disagreement to the situation in Japan. =/ I don’t know.

okay, ending it abruptly here.

Byebye.

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3 comments

  1. GJH

    While I do not particularly feel an intention to provoke in the video, there are some points I felt wasn’t fairly presented.

    The boom in vending machines in Japan started in the 1960’s during a period of high economic growth. And a UN paper reported that between 1960 and 1975, Japan’s replacement rate maintained at near replacement rate. Thus, the reason for the large numbers of vending machines can hardly be attributed to low birthrate.

    There are several factors contributing to Japan’s massive number of vending machines as opposed to overseas. Some of which are Japan’s low crime rate and outstanding technology. With a low crime rate, business owners are more willing to use vending machines that do not run the risk of getting damaged or looted. Also, the machines here are more trustworthy in dispensing products and returning you your change as opposed to overseas where the possibility of the machine eating up your money is relatively higher. In my almost 8 years here using the vending machine on an almost daily basis, never have I experienced the machines not giving me my products or not returning me my money, although very rarely, they do give me the wrong product. -_-” Civil Japanese people also do not litter, which makes easy access to canned/bottled drinks less costly for cleaning services.

    In the early days of its introduction, vending machines had to be purchased and so, there wasn’t as many of them as there is now since the risk is quite high for small shop owners. However, beverage makers later decided to rent them out for free to make money off beverage orders rather than the machine sales, thus greatly reducing the risks taken by business owners, leading to the boom in the huge amount of such machines across most large cities where population density is very high.

    It is unfair to make it sound as though Japanese are the only people obsessed with automating everything. Look at the start-up culture now. Many of them are trying to automate something. Granted, low birth rate might have been a contributing factor, but I personally feel that even if replacement rate was at 2.1 across the world, automation is going happen because of pragmatic reasons such as convenience and lower operating cost. Humans have been known to create tools for convenience and automation is no exception.

    While the maker of the video claim that everything is cash-based with lots of coins in Japan and that there is a lack of credit card acceptance, I respectfully disagree with that point of view. The older generation Japanese are known to keep huge stacks of cash, no doubt. However, the amount of e-money options here are abundant. If I choose so, I can basically live my life without using cash because I can use my contact-less card for public transport at many shops including convenience stores, restaurants, and (wait for it…) vending machines. I even pay for my bicycle parking with e-money.

    While it may seem incredulous that the largest coin value is 500 yen, the currency actually used to be notes. However, due to the fall of currency value in the Japanese yen, 500 yen became more and more frequently used, so it made sense to change notes to coins which do not deteriorate as easily.

    Finally, a very small issue on “automated taxi doors.” You can’t really call it automated. The driver opens the door up for you by pulling a lever. One can think of it as the driver getting off the car and opening the door for you, except that he no longer has to get off his car. It’s not a button or switch that opens the door but more like using a broom stick to push it open for you, so I wouldn’t call that automation.

    • Shining Broken Soul

      ahhh very interesting and legit points on this issue. I esp agree with payment using cards being common in JP, like paying with suica at combini. In any case, Asians are more into cash than credit. As such, it is only normal that cash will never be truly gone. And being an Asian, I think its so much better than living on credit. So, coins, anytime. lol

      • GJH

        Ah, yes the credit issue. Yea, America is huge on credit though, with a personal finance site revealing that the average American household owes $8,377 on credit alone. But the Asian me doesn’t like owing too much on credit either although I do see how it can help us manage our finances, if we are disciplined enough to do that.

        The other aspect on Japan actually being pretty huge on e-money is that there are machines stationed at the airports here that allow you to convert your foreign currencies (esp. coins) into e-money denominated in JPY. That’s gotta be a winner.

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