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Japanese Convenience, Innovation, and Design

Updated on December 28, 2019
Uly Huerta profile image

Originally from Los Angeles, California. Now living in Osaka, Japan.

Upon first arriving in Japan, I was truly amazed by all the small innovations that made daily tasks and practices so convenient. Everything seemed to be perfectly designed around the Japanese environment and making the most of small spaces. The constant on-the-go lifestyle of urban centers like Tokyo and Osaka has influenced the popularity of these innovations, even in the Japanese countryside, where I lived for a year.

Now I live in Osaka, and after being in Japan for 6 years, I’ve become accustomed to the daily conveniences that make living in Japan such a unique experience for foreigners. I decided that over the course of a weekend, I would make an effort to revisit examples of Japanese creativity that I now take for granted. My plan was to take out my phone and record every time I came across an interesting innovation that I wouldn’t find in my home country. By the end of the weekend, I would compile all my findings in a short video.

After finalizing the video, I found a few things that really stood out in terms of how my daily habits have changed while living in here. Here are the top 3 that I found most interesting:

Japanese Toilets

Equipped with heated seats, background noise effects, and customizable sanitary functions, it’s no surprise that Japanese toilets have now gained worldwide recognition. Personally, I think the most impressive feature is the water reservoir.

Not all, but many toilets found in homes and public restrooms have a re-usable water system that allows you to wash your hands with clean water after you flush. This water then flows into the toilet’s reservoir, filling the tank for future use. It’s a simple, yet creative design to manage water efficiency around the country.

Just be aware that the water is not temperature regulated, making it a feat of courage during the cold winter months.

Convenience Store Printers

In every convenience store you’ll find a full sized, office style printer. Apart from the basic printing, scanning, and faxing options, it also has some impressive features that can be very useful for visitors from abroad. The printers at 7-11, for example, have an option to upload your pictures online. Once you’ve entered the designated code, your pictures can be printed as high quality postcards. It’s a great way to show off all your great travel images and make your friends and family wish they had taken the trip with you.

Place Racks Everywhere

While these are not uncommon back in my home country, the Japanese people have found a creative way to put them exactly where you need them. In supermarkets, shopping carts will often have hooks and loops built into the frame for a handbag or umbrella. At the register, you'll find an indentation cut into the counter to rest your umbrella, which will keep it from slipping while you make your purchase. Similar designs can be found at train stations, banks, ATMs, restaurants, and office buildings throughout the country.

Omotenashi (おもてなし)

Some of these examples might seem simple and not necessarily unique to Japan, but it really showcases the Japanese ideal of omotenashi: a responsibility to take care of your guests. And although it’s easy to become accustomed to, once you do, the responsibility of hospitality inherently passes onto you.

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