Japanese Quiz

Last week was busy --- lots of prep work for my courses … when the technology would let me that is. As I said before … Life, wherever you go there it is. Well, with technology it seems like wherever you go, there it isn’t. Doesn’t matter where you go, technology is frustrating … kuwarawashi, in Japanese … annoying, irksome. And when it did work, I spent hours staring at a computer screen writing assignments and quizzes for the classes.

So … this is a quiz, sort of. I always tell my students, other cultures aren’t right or wrong, they are just different. I am going to post a bunch of pictures. Various things I've noticed that are different in Japan. Can you figure out what’s different, unusual or amazing?

Elevator numbers go up in columns, not across in rows. Can’t tell you how many times I’ve wound up on a floor I didn’t want to go to or went in the wrong direction. For some reason, in the apartment building, I seem to stop at 6 and 18 frequently. Who knows. They are the level of my hand I guess.

The number arrangement may be difficult but … the open door and close doors buttons …

Finally! A couple of icons that I can figure out at a glance. I can’t ever figure out which way those triangles are supposed to be going on the US icons. The “open” arrows look like doors closing to me, and vice versa with the “close” arrows. By the time I think about it, decide which button to reach for to keep the door open for someone, the door is shut, and the car is two or three floors away.

And this is a lesson for SEPTA, sort of. Granted, riding the subways and trains in Japan is much more complex than in Philadelphia. Shoko has a 400-page book that details just the subway lines. It shows a map of all the subway lines — quite a complicated web, the station layouts – where the stairs, elevators and escalators how, how they relate to the various lines going through that station, and which car to sit in to get off at whichever exit you want to take. So if you want to leave the arrival station by exit 14, for example, it will tell you to sit in car #3 of a 7 car train, car #2 of a 6 car train etc.

However, once you are armed with all that information, figuring where to get on the correct car is not a problem. Where to stand to get on a particular car is marked on the platform. People line up at the boxes in an orderly fashion, unlike SEPTA where you have to guess where the train is going to stop and jostle the other passenger to see who's going to be closest to the door. I thought this one was interesting though … check out the numbers above the info boxes for the particular 7 or 8 car boarding spot.

One of the big issues in Japan is that it is an aging population.

It’s interesting though, that since I’ve been here, I have seen more babies, bicycles with multiple child seats, and young families with multiple children then I ever remember seeing before. And let me tell you, those young mothers with the two kids and the shopping bags dangling from the bicycle going at a fast clip through the rush hour crowds are terrifying. I can just see my obituary now:

“Terrified Temple professor dies in collision with young mother and two children on bicycle on busy Tokyo sidewalk. Winds up with her head in a shopping bag.”

Anyway, back to what this picture has to do with anything. In the 30+ years I’ve been coming here, I’ve seen many adaptations to deal with an older population … more elevators, more escalators, more ramps with those dangerous little steps on the sides of them (if the mothers on bicycles don’t get me, those will). How about this double rail at the train stations to accommodate people of different heights, maybe the kids as well as the "rojin” (old folks). Of course, it may have nothing to do with that. It may just be a “courtesy” thing to have rails at different heights for different size people.

And lastly … the socks. Notice anything odd?

The “L” and “R” … for socks?




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