Come for the culture shock, stay for the attention to detail
February 13, 2018 3:59 AM   Subscribe

 
About five years later, websites moved to using floats in CSS because tables were not semantic.

About five weeks later we were weeping in a corner and babbling about how we wished we could do layouts in Java Swing instead
posted by thelonius at 4:23 AM on February 13 [3 favorites]


Boy, I’m going to bed right now but could definitely offer context/explanations on a ton of these (like the sea level sign)
posted by DoctorFedora at 5:13 AM on February 13 [2 favorites]


I think the sea level signs are for tsunami. They can give out emergency tsunami warnings that say how high above sea level you need to be to be safe.
posted by RobotHero at 6:26 AM on February 13 [2 favorites]


I just spent a minute fantasizing about having a warning before every place that might erupt into terrible noise. That decibel level sign is the best thing.
posted by grandiloquiet at 7:20 AM on February 13 [2 favorites]


Aw, love this! Japan really has so many delightful little conveniences.

Immediately upon my first arrival, the thing that most impressed me was eki-melo, the little melodies that play when a train stops at a station. I was so jet-lagged and overwhelmed I didn't even realize they were different melodies for each station. But hearing a little tune instead of BEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEP was like realizing that life could be better than American public transit.

After a few months in the countryside, what utterly blew my mind - and I always told Japanese people this when they asked me what surprised me about Japanese culture, and they did NOT expect it and thought I was nutso for answering this instead of "lol chopsticks" or someting - were construction sites. The equipment is purple and pink! Road barriers are shaped like cartoon animals! There are LED flowers! Construction workers in the US would never stand for this! One time while stopped for some roadwork I saw an LED sign with an animation of a man in a hard hat bowing to apologize for the inconvenience. The best thing I ever saw was a fucking animatronic road worker waving a flag to direct people away from the site of an accident.
posted by sunset in snow country at 8:06 AM on February 13 [15 favorites]


It might be nice to live somewhere where you didn't have to think that the designers of everything you interact with actively hated you.
posted by octothorpe at 8:16 AM on February 13 [18 favorites]


Basically every time I am thirsty in public I miss Japanese vending machines. Getting warm coffee in a can without having to stop in a store is the best. I was only there for a week but they left SUCH an impression on me. That and bidets and kotatsu; we got both of those as soon as we moved apartments. Excellent life improvements.

And I am so happy he eventually spotted the yellow sidewalk ridges for visually impaired people! I couldn't figure out what they were for at first, and then once I did, I wondered why we don't have them everywhere. The same with door location labels on train platforms. All I want is to know where to line up on a busy platform during rush hour, and my city's transit can barely manage not to catastrophically catch fire on any given day.

This thread is great! I can't wait to go back to Japan for another visit and look for the things I didn't notice the last time.
posted by bowtiesarecool at 9:14 AM on February 13 [3 favorites]


One that I like is that washroom doorknobs usually have a visual indicator on them so you can tell if they are locked without having to try the door.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 12:09 PM on February 13 [2 favorites]


Every day there's something I miss about Japan but top at the moment:
Waiters let you be so you can enjoy your meal and conversation. No jarring "How is everything?" mid-chew or mid-sentence!
posted by Sockin'inthefreeworld at 12:39 PM on February 13 [1 favorite]


Yeah, as alluded to earlier, the sea level signs went up in coast-adjacent cities nationwide after the 2011 tsunami. I once saw a building-side ad commemorating its fifth anniversary or something with a clear and explicit “this is how high up ten meters was,” around the fourth floor of the building. It was a hell of a thing.
posted by DoctorFedora at 2:23 PM on February 13 [2 favorites]


The bit with 28:00 I'm not sure how I feel about that.

On the one hand, when it's paired with 23:00 it makes it more explicit we're talking about something that takes 5 hours. On the other hand, it feels wrong to refer to the same time of day in two different ways rather than keep it consistent.
posted by RobotHero at 5:08 PM on February 13


Yeah, it's absolutely a convention in Japan to use times greater than "24:00" for business hours especially, when talking about stuff that's past midnight. It definitely looks weird to see restaurants open "18:00 to 26:00," but it also makes it easier to grasp intuitively (if you say "2:00 in the morning on Saturday," it is all but guaranteed that someone will need to confirm whether you mean it's actually on Saturday morning or on Sunday morning).
posted by DoctorFedora at 6:10 PM on February 13 [6 favorites]


I will freely admit, incidentally, that I expected the thread to be about stuff like "why does the Japanese web still mostly look like GeoCities"
posted by DoctorFedora at 6:16 PM on February 13 [3 favorites]


(This thread is also kind of a collection of "stuff DoctorFedora has been spoiled by grown used to, which is why he gets kind of annoyed when visiting the US")
posted by DoctorFedora at 6:37 PM on February 13 [1 favorite]


(This thread is also kind of a collection of "stuff DoctorFedora has been spoiled by grown used to, which is why he gets kind of annoyed when visiting the US")

TBH The biggest things I appreciated on my last Japan visit included "much lower chances of getting shot in the streets or mass shooting of the day" and "not worrying that an ER visit would bankrupt me."

I will freely admit, incidentally, that I expected the thread to be about stuff like "why does the Japanese web still mostly look like GeoCities"

I know, right?! Never understood why, for a culture that's generally big on clean graphics and visuals. C'mon, Muji-fy those webpages!
posted by Sockin'inthefreeworld at 6:49 PM on February 13


Japan has this weird ability to simultaneously have outstanding, refined taste and terrible, tacky taste. It's like some holdover from the bubble era or something.
posted by DoctorFedora at 7:21 PM on February 13


re: websites - as explained to me, it's largely due to japanese custom or convention that puts more value in more text, that they go out of their way to explain as much as possible in a glance, and not just websites, and they definitely carry this custom outside of Japan - I go every so often to a hair salon by an expat Japanese here, and the amount of text bubbles that accompanies every visual of the service they provide is very them.

this thread largely makes me appreciate that a number of those design details are normalised here, so I was a bit bemused going through it, like the raised tiles for the visually impaired pedestrians. At the same time, there are stuff that're just ported over with no cultural adaptation (as is usually the case in my part of the world), like 'sorry for the inconvenience' stickers at renovation sites that are cartoon figures of a japanese construction worker in mid-bow, and would only make sense if you know where it's from and what it means.
posted by cendawanita at 11:06 PM on February 13 [1 favorite]


My best explanation for why the Japanese web perpetually looks outdated is simply because, as a whole, Japan is not very tech-savvy, and even today, having an Actual Computer at home (instead of just using your phone for everything, and having access to an Actual Computer only at work) is still kind of a hobbyist thing. On the other hand, stuff like Wix is catching on in Japan, so the "Japan looks like GeoCities" thing is admittedly something that is gradually disappearing. On the other other hand, just last week, I came across an official company website that still used frames. In the year 2018.
Also, unrelated, it occurred to me not long ago that my mental image of "the dark web" was, for some reason, basically "GeoCities, or Japanese hobbyist websites." Perhaps you too have this unexamined mental image.

And oh BOY there are just SO MANY phrases that give me hives as a translator. It takes all my strength to remember that, in English, it's perfectly fine to just say "put your luggage in the locker" without compulsively adding "please" like the Japanese language does. Lots and lots of set phrases, too, that are untranslatable for reasons that are cultural, rather than linguistic, in nature. And the real new year starts on April 1 in Japan, so grumble grumble etc.

There's a lot of really good, cool stuff in everyday life, though. My one local supermarket recently introduced a brand new system (seen rarely elsewhere even in Japan, in my experience) where the cashier scans all of your items, then points you to an automated payment kiosk, where you do your slow money-handling stuff with a coin slot and automated paper money accepter (that takes multiple banknotes at once). The main bottleneck at cash registers is the actual payment part, so having the ability to keep the cashiers (who have more experience) scanning, and to have more people paying at once than there are cashiers currently working, is super great. I hope it catches on nationwide.
posted by DoctorFedora at 12:17 AM on February 14


And I am so happy he eventually spotted the yellow sidewalk ridges for visually impaired people! I couldn't figure out what they were for at first, and then once I did, I wondered why we don't have them everywhere.

I was surprised by his surprise (and yours). These are common in Australia. But yay! Now more people know about them and can ask for them or support local councils who are installing them!
posted by harriet vane at 3:59 AM on February 14 [1 favorite]


I always hear people gushing about the train system in Japan, but there are just so many annoying UX failures in the way the technology is implemented.

Like those displays on the train that tell you what the next station is. Except if you happen to be absorbed in reading a book, with headphones on, and glance up at the display as you're pulling into a station it's already too late - the station name is gone, and now it's telling you which side of the train the doors open on.

It also happens between stations - there are many times I've given up and looked at Google Maps on my phone to figure out where I am because the display is telling me about how to report suspicious packages instead of what the next station is.

There are displays in the station that tell you when the next two train is scheduled to arrive, but when you get to the platform and you've just missed a train, they're flashing some message about how the train system is on high alert because there was a terrorist incident in 1995, so you end up having to check the sign over and over until it finally tells you when the next train is.

When you buy a ticket for the subway from the ticket machine, you put your money in, press the appropriate buttons, and the machine starts beeping, so you reach for your ticket but it's not there yet. It just starts beeping as soon as you press the button, not when the ticket is dispensed. Then after you take your ticket it KEEPS beeping, so you check to see if you've forgotten your change or something, but no, it's just designed to keep beeping for no reason at all.

On a postive note though, my prepaid Suica IC card automatically deducts money from my bank account, so I never have to top it up with cash. That's pretty convenient.
posted by Umami Dearest at 11:59 PM on February 14 [1 favorite]


I also like the PSA-type posters on subway platforms politely asking you not to punch any station staff members. That's a nice touch.
posted by Umami Dearest at 12:05 AM on February 15 [2 favorites]


my prepaid Suica IC card automatically deducts money from my bank account, so I never have to top it up with cash. That's pretty convenient.

They did something like that in my town and then it went horribly awry.
posted by RobotHero at 9:25 AM on February 15 [1 favorite]


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