High-Tech Myth

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Japan is a high-tech country. Or so people say. Japanese people love to think of their country as very advanced and high-tech. American news media also like to present that image of Japan. However, the truth is a little harder to put the finger on.

Elementary school kids walk to school with cell phones that track their location, send emails, surf the internet, transfer funds at cash registers, scan special bar codes for information and discounts, and many other amazing features. Certainly this one image gives the impression of living in a high-tech place. However, many counter examples come to mind. Two peculiar ones I will mention here.

Since I arrived in Japan there has been a lot of news about asbestos and its hazards. In one class I was explaining about how the long, irritating fibers cause cellular growth in the lungs that can easily turn cancerous. Everyone was amazed because I was spouting the latest learnings in this field. When I talked about how America went through this 30 years ago most of them didn’t comment. Nobody likes to talk about their country being decades behind on information that can be publicly accessed in America. It is amazing listening to the news stories: it feels like a trip through a time machine.

This weekend another interesting item popped up. I was asked to help a Japanese friend comprehend a letter that an American friend sent to them. The American was invited to an event and politely declined. One sentence seemed to be the catch in the understanding gap: “…since my wife will be giving birth to our new son in early December…”

He couldn’t understand how they knew it was a son if it wasn’t born yet. I explained what ultrasound was and how it worked. Even after that, he seemed hesitant to believe that bouncing soundwaves around could give an image that would show the gender of the baby. I’m sure the hospitals are using ultrasound here, but perhaps it isn’t very common.

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3 Responses to “High-Tech Myth”

  1. sunkissd1 Says:

    Interesting. So close yet so far away…

  2. kevenker Says:

    I wonder when they will figure out that smoking is bad for you?

  3. びっくり Says:

    JT, the large evil tobacco company, is actually posts ads about being courteous smokers. I think this may be required as a kind of settlement, but I’m not sure. Some of the ads talk about being careful where you walk so that people don’t get your secondhand smoke. Of course, these are just bland, plain-text ads and don’t necessarily have any impact on anyone.

    On the manners side of things: many people carry keitai ashtrays. Often you hear me mention keitai, meaning cellphone. It is really an adjective meaning pocket or portable. The pocket ashtrays come in all shapes and styles and seem to be very fashionable.

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