Misconceptions About Japan

Don't worry, this really is the Japanese flag.
Don't worry, this really is the Japanese flag. / Kenta Harada/GettyImages

In the minds of many people in the West, Japan is a crowded, tech-obsessed country with unfamiliar habits and unhinged game shows. But how much do those perceptions align with reality?

Since the salad days of the Sony Walkman in the 1980s, many Americans have classified Japanese people as being engrossed in the latest and greatest gadgets. Electronics marketing helped reinforce that point. Sony televisions were pricey; most household devices, like VHS and DVD players, had Japanese origins. People bought Panasonic phones, listened to Duran Duran on Sanyo audio equipment, and sat in front of Hitachi big screens. It all gave way to a sense that a typical Japanese household must be living in the future, with robot butlers and toilets that talk to you.

While there are undoubtedly gadget-focused residents just like anywhere else, on the whole the Japan tech scene isn’t necessarily light years ahead of here or anywhere. And in certain areas, it’s actually lagging a bit behind. For example, plenty of Japanese businesses still use fax machines, where sending and receiving messages on paper is a common form of communication.

A fax machine
Not quite the latest and greatest in tech. / Piyapong Wongkam/Shutterstock

According to the BBC, the use of things like handwritten faxes, tapes, and outdated software is likely due to small independent businesses making up most of the commercial landscape in the country. Without major corporations mandating new tech and ultra-efficient advancements, many people in Japan are content to keep things relatively simple at work and at home.

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