Japan Is A Beacon Of Inefficiency 02

I’m a fan of The Great Courses college courses and listen to a lot of them in the shower with a waterproof iPod shuffle, which I consider to be one of the premier inventions of mankind. Recently I decided to listen to a broad economics course. At first, I felt silly: I’m an adult who’s been running an Internet business for 24 years, what could I learn from a general economics course? But I really enjoyed it, learning or re-learning all the concepts of how economies work, and especially how everything pretty much flows from personal productivity, which is essentially the number of useful goods and services each of us generates in a year, the country’s GDP divided by its population. The course made me focus on my own personal output, making me increase the quantity and (I hope) quality of my blog posts, to help out J-List.

I was reminded of the audio course the other day, when I went out of my apartment in Tokyo and saw a guy sitting beside the road with a manual clicker, counting the cars and trucks that drove by each hour. It’s something anime fans might know from episode 2 of K-On!, when the girls get a part-time job counting cars, and Ritsu starts jamming on her clicker as if it were a musical instrument. Seeing the guy sitting there, manually clicking away as if it were 1969 instead of 2019, made me reflect on how terribly inefficient Japan can be at times. Why is Japan so inefficient?

There are dozens of examples. Banks that have 15 employees doing various tasks despite there being only two customers receiving service. Taking two hours to make a new cell phone contract. The fact that J-List still receives information from distributors via fax every night instead of the Internet. Japan’s love of employing elderly men to guide cars to parking spaces in shopping centers, despite the fact that people can generally find their own parking spaces without help. Or that time a train overpass was being erected (right next to the location of the Shinonome Research Lab from Nichijou, by chance), and the clearance level was too low for trucks to pass under safely, so to ensure an accident didn’t happen while the road was lowered, our city employed staff to stand by the road, watching for too-tall trucks, 24 hours a day for more than a year. All in a country that has a terrible labor crunch and an unemployment rate of just 2.5%.

Of course, it can be nice when some things are slow to change. The attraction of the world of Japanese dagashi, the old-timey candies and snacks from the Showa Period, is that they haven’t changed since your parents were kids. One of the distributors J-List buys from holds promotional events where they show off their new products, mostly stationary and study supplies. I like to visit attend the event it’s like traveling back in time, as the company is very old and it feels like I’m back in the 1980s or so, with nary an iPad in sight. But in a world where smart companies in South Korea, Taiwan and China are changing the world through aggressive use of technology, I think Japan should make some kind of “five-year plan” and try to upgrade its approach to productivity going forward.

Any other thoughts on why Japan is so inefficient? Got any other questions about Japan, or topics you’d like us to write about? Hit us up on Twitter!

New Anime Figures 02

Great news! We’ve got new sexy figures from Japan to show you, super kawaii offerings that would look great on your figure shelf, from Asuna wearing a Coming of Age Day kimono to Alisa from God Eater to a Tales of Berseria figure. Browse the new anime figures here.

About the author

Peter Payne

I live in Japan and I run J-List, an anime shop famous for shimapan and Tentacle Grape. I love being able to bring Japanese culture to the world.