Design for the (Japanese) World: Vol. 2

Sunday, November 23, 2008 - 09:34 PM

More great design solutions that I wish we could bring back with us to the US:


Say you're shopping in a department store with your toddler and you need to go to the bathroom... where do you stick the kid? TOTO, maker of the world's most amazing (and complex) toilets offers another great product, attached to the corner of the stall.


The Japanese are known for being extremely considerate -- but sometimes, even they need reminding. Or perhaps they'd like to politely remind their visitors? This public courtesy campaign is in train cars and stations. This is not your brain on drugs -- rather, it's a gentle, rational reminder not to be stupid:


"Texting while walking means putting a blind-spot in the center of your field of vision."



We've enjoyed staying 20 stories above Shibuya, one of the busiest pedestrian intersections in Tokyo. So busy, in fact, that they've done away with crosswalks: at the signal, hundreds of people cross every which way, then clear out completely to make way for the cars. The wash of people -- like four dark waves, crashing into each other and then receding back onto the sidewalk -- takes my breath away every time. Especially since I know we'd never be capable of sharing the street so efficiently and gracefully in Times Square.

- Jenny Lawton

(Frustrated Writer/flickr)

(Frustrated Writer/flickr)



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Comments [3]


I disagree that the all -way-cross intersection would not work in New York. Having lived in both New York and Japan, I think New Yorkers and its many visitors navigate the sidewalks better than the Japanese do their sidewalks.

The Japanese have to be aware all the time of those around them, those in their group. This is of fundamental importance and failure will lead to being put outside the group, the greatest fear in Japan. So while they walk in the street, it is not really a time to pay so much attention; it is down-time so to speak.

I was once walking along with a young lady who was carrying an umbrella, she unintentionally whacked several people with it. Neither they nor she said anything about it.

Feb. 11 2009 05:17 AM

Item 1: the toilets here in the US are like outhouses with splintered toilet seats by comparison to Japanese ones

Item 2: One of the wisest comments I heard about Japanese culture was in response to a comment by a tourist that "The Japanese are all so nice." "No" replied the long term Tokyo resident - "Some are nice, but nearly all are merely polite." (Because of strong social norms and expectations.)

Item 3. I used to cross Shibuya twice every day. I miss the "being in a school of fish" feeling sometimes.

Nov. 26 2008 10:58 PM
Allan Murphy

Item 1 - there's a good story for you to do on Japanese high-tech toilets. There's often a control panel like on Star Trek's Enterprise; many options. When you stand up, the flushing is automatic.

Item 2 - There are a lot of "helpful" signs in Japan. Many treat the train passenger or pedestrian as an idiot - and there is little or no enforcement. Lots of young people sit in the "silver seats", reserved for the elderly, and pretend to be asleep. I have a collection of photographs of bicycles parked in the "no bicycle parking" zone. When you understand more about Japan, you will realize that signs are a substitute for personal interaction / confrontation which the Japanese dislike.

Item 3 - Shibuya kosaten (crossing) is a trying experience; quite remarkable. The You Tube video does not do it "justice" at all. Typically it is a surge of people in all directions. The Starbucks at the north side of the crossing is the busiest in the world. In Tokyo, Shibuya is popular solely because it is popular.

Nov. 24 2008 10:35 AM

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