In the West, you are being taught your whole life that you are living in a first-world country. ”Life is the best here; we have the best infrastructure, the best health care, the best technology, the best et cetera et cetera.” But what if you live in an even greater place, but there is a place that is even greater. A country in the Far East where people still managed to be a step ahead of you. A country where people who are never satisfied until they reach perfection. When you always try to achieve perfection, you learn to have an eye for great detail.
Now imagine yourself at home around 11:00 PM, and you would like to bust open a bag of delicious crunchy chips, but you are out of chips. What do you do? Well, if you are in the Netherlands, you are out of luck. The supermarkets are closed at 8:00 PM. If you are lucky enough to live in a big city, then the Albert Heijn might be open till 9:00 PM. But the thought of those salty chips is now marked in your mind. You really want that Lays chips land on your tongue. Wouldn’t it be convenient to have a store open 24/7 and be located around the block so you can buy yourself some of that quality chips?
Again imagine yourself on a summer evening outside in a park. It has been a long hot day for you. The thought of drinking a can of cold soda passes your mind. However, the closest shop is kilometres away from you, and you are just too tired to go all the way to the store. ”Man o man, what I would do for a cold can of Fanta.” Wouldn’t it be great if there is a vending machine around the corner that has a cold Fanta ready to be devoured by you?
When I arrived in Japan, there was one word that kept coming back in my mind. I have studied the Japanese culture for quite some time, now and I knew about this, but I totally forgot about it due to the excitement of being here. It is namely: convenience. The amount of convenience is very apparent in Japan. The moment you arrive at the airport you start to notice it. At first, very subconsciously, but later, you begin to see it everywhere. At Narita airport, three people stood there close by the door and just greeted you by saying ‘Konnichiwa.’ At first, you will think this is odd as these people add nothing here on this spot, as you can just follow the signs stating where you need to go. They were standing close to the door, and behind the door, there was nothing. Only more walking involved getting to the luggage carrousel. So the place they were standing was quite irrelevant.
The more I started to think about it, the more I understood the reason. They were standing there for any questions you might have. Was it necessary to have these people here? Well, in this context, it was not, but it was convenient. They are standby for anyone.
Later that day, I took the metro, and I noticed a sign on the wall stating what the previous name of the last stop was, what the current stop is, and what the next stop will be. I have never seen this before, and I was thinking again: ”Is it necessary to show what the previous stop is and what the current one is?” The answer was ‘no.’ But was it convenient? The answer was ‘yes.’
Later that day, I made use of the public restroom. Luckily for anyone who visits such a restroom in Japan, they are very much clean and maintained. I sat down on the toilet, and I got freaked out for a split second, as I had never experienced such a thing before: a heated toilet seat. I learned that many toilets in Japan have a heated toilet seat. It was pleasant, I might add. And again, the question passed my mind: ”Is this necessary to have?” The answer is ‘no.’ But is it convenient to have? The answer is a ‘yes.’
In the last 2 weeks being here in Japan, I can say that this country is very far ahead when it comes to details. You would not think about many small things, but the Japanese have, and that is what makes this country very special. Japan has always been well known for her remarkable eye for details, and this can be seen, felt, and be tasted everywhere.
For instance, on a rainy day, many Japanese just magically summon an umbrella and pop them open and walk around town as if there is no rain. I have never seen so many umbrellas on one street. Whether it was a big city like Tokyo or a smaller city like Beppu. Everyone has an umbrella ready. Compared to the Dutch, where rain is our fellow citizen and never seems to leave the country, I do not see so many umbrellas as here in bigger cities. Because there are so many people with umbrellas when it rains, a store prepares an umbrella plastic sheet holder (This is my best attempt to give it a name). Before you enter the store, you put your then wet umbrella in a plastic bag. You push your umbrella in the bag, and the holder will then seal your umbrella. This way, your umbrella will not be dripping water inside the store. *MIND BLOWN*.
Why does this small yet remarkable piece of equipment not exist in Europe? Is it necessary, I would say debatable, but it is very convenient! This is precisely the type of detail the Japanese understand, and we Europeans do not. There is so much to learn from the Japanese.
In Japan, you have something that is called a Konbini, aka a convenience store. These stores are open 24/7. You might compare them with something like an Albert Heijn ToGo, a small supermarket-ish store with all the necessary things you require, such as Lawson, Seven-Eleven, FamilyMart, and many more. These stores can be found EVERYWHERE. The ones mentioned Konbinis are the big three. You want to buy deodorant at 2:00 AM, well you can now! Having a headache in the middle of the night? Go to the nearest (and with near, I mean they are really close by) Konbini and buy some pain killers, the Konbini is open and at your service! That bag of chips you crave for? Sure thing, all sorts of chips ready to be stuffed in your mouth.
In Japan, you also never go thirsty. It is impossible to go thirsty even if you wanted to. There are vending machines EVERYWHERE! Below you will find an Imgur link with all the pictures of these vending machines. Is this necessary? No, it is not, but I found myself thinking about coffee (my drugs, especially in the morning). Before I knew it, I found a vending machine selling me my daily fix. There are so many of these machines you cannot miss them. They sell water, (cold) coffee, (cold) tea, soda, and more.
There are many more examples of the high level of conveniences in Japan. For that, I invite you to come to Japan and experience it yourself. Life can be hard, but the Japanese know how to make it easier for you. The Japanese are indeed cunning people. My experiences so far are extraordinary. If there is a reason for you to stay in Japan, then certainly the amount of convenience is one of them.