Impressions of Japan

Last Updated:  July 2, 2015
Written by Lorna Shapiro

Arriving in Japan, I encountered sophisticated technology on the counter of the customs and immigration agent. With signals and no English, the agent indicated that I was to place my index finger on a scanner and look into a retinal scanner, both of which, I believe, took photos of the scanned part of my body and placed them in some database. I assumed it could be used to identify me if I was later picked up by the police for doing something inappropriate! So, one might expect that a country with such sophisticated technology capabilities would have ready access to wifi in all the places we’ve come to expect wifi in Canada, like supermarkets, public malls, coffee shops, hotels, you know… all those places. Not so! Wifi is still rarely available in Japan, and Starbucks is the only place I found where I could reliably count on getting wifi access. I was grateful for American colonization. It kept me in touch with my family and friends back home.
I had been in Japan for only two days. The only place we had found where I could use wifi to email or text my family back home was in Starbucks. Starbucks in Japan looks much like Starbucks in North America: people sitting around with a half-drunk coffee, working on a smartphone or tablet. Many people. It took until the second day for me to notice that while most other patrons were texting on their iPhone, just as I was, their iPhone wasn’t making clicking sounds as they typed. And their iPhone didn’t go “whoosh” as it sent a text message. Their iPhones made NO NOISE WHATSOEVER! Suddenly, the implications of what my Japanese women friends had explained to me about the emphasis in Japanese culture of not intruding on another person’s “space” started to register in my psyche. I was the only person in Starbucks whose iPhone was clicking and whooshing away, and I needed to find a way to make mine stop doing that! It took some frantic searching for me to do that, but by the end of the second day, I, too, had a silent iPhone. 🙂