Ten Ways The Japanese Do It Better

5) Robotics: Circuits Maximus

REAL HardbodyREAL Hardbody
Ever seen one of those "Robocon" competitions on Japanese TV and wonder what those ingenious student geniuses do when they graduate from university? You guessed it, they go into business designing robots and trailblazing new robotic technology. Japan is a world leader in robotics and you'd better believe that ASIMO, the FT "female robot " and the metallic menagerie of robotic pets flying off toy shop shelves are the steely shape of things to come. (image via robo-garage )

6) School Lunches that Look Too Good to Eat

Cute CuisineCute Cuisine
Remember the school lunches Mom used to make for you? PBJ sandwich and a banana in a brown paper bag? Day after day after day? If so, you didn't have a Japanese mother, because if you did you'd be bringing a different work of edible art for lunch every day of the week - and nobody would be impressed because they'd have their own beatific bento boxes. Truly, these women must each take a course in Zen and The Art of School Lunch Design. Michelangelo would envy some of these masterpieces! Creative mothers can use specially made utensils to turn hotdogs into octopi and carrot slices into flower blossoms. More ambitious Moms can even compete in "Character Bento" competitions lie the one recently held in Tokyo ("Frog on a Rainy day" was the winner). Food, glorious-looking food... how then do Japan's people stay so slim?? (image via Bento Corner )

7) Mass Transit: My Way or the Subway

Cruisin' in StyleCruisin' in Style
As a crowded, island country whose major cities are relatively close to one another, Japan seems made for mass transit - and mass transit has been made to fit the country's needs. Sleek "shinkansen" bullet trains have been ricocheting from city to city since 1964. The Tokyo Subway map resembles a double-helping of multicolored spaghetti slammed against a brick wall, but the system itself runs nerly flawlessly. Futuristic watercraft ply the waters of the Sumida and other rivers, and for those who must travel by car, there are Japan's legendary taxis. Privately owned, immaculately clean and bedecked in lace doilies, be prepared to smile as the driver opens the rear door for you - just by pushing a button. (image via Tokyo Water Cruises)

8) Waste Disposal: Trash to Treasure

In Japan, Garbage RulesIn Japan, Garbage Rules
Cram 127 million people onto a chain of islands with a land area slightly smaller than California and garbage is going to be a big problem in short order. To deal with the constant flow of effluent generated by Japan's affluent society, authorities have instituted what may the world's most stringent waste management program. In fact, the myriad rules governing trash disposal are so complex it's led to people and companies illegally dumping garbage in rivers, forests and even the slopes of national icon Mount Fuji. Household garbage must be left out in clear plastic bags so the trash collectors can ensure your garbage has the right stuff, and if not... expect to see it back on your doorstep along with a stern lecture. Now that's what you call Trash Talk! (image via Insomnia )

9) Anime: In Toon with the Times

Drawing you in...Drawing you in...
Japanese Anime is to cartoons today what Hanna Barbera was 40 years ago - in other words, it rules the roost. Things sure have come a long way since Speed Racer, including Pokemon, Sailor Moon, Yu-gi-oh, Naruto, Digimon, Touch, Akira, Gundam... and the list goes on and on. Anime's signature style, different from anything western eyes had seen before, has revitalized everything from cartoons to graphic novels (manga) to full length films - and don't get me started on the marketing. "Gotta catch 'em all!" indeed! (image via Digital Battle)

10) Pacifism: Giving Peace a Chance

Not your Father's Japanese ArmyNot your Father's Japanese Army
When is an army not an army? When it's a Self Defense Force. Specifically, Japan's military is organized into the Ground Self-Defense Force, the Maritime Self-Defense Force and the Air Self-Defense Force. Article 9 of Japan's post-WWII constitution states that "The Japanese people forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as means of settling international disputes". Looks like it's working - North Korean nuclear saber-rattling notwithstanding, the JSDF has been a force for stability in the post-war world. As for nukes, Japan took the hit - twice - and won't be walking down that road again anytime soon. The recent use of JSDF personnel on humanitarian missions in Iraq and elsewhere also serves to show the world that Japan can use its military for good, and not just bankroll the efforts of other nations. (image via Time )

So there you have it, Ten Ways The Japanese Do It Better than pretty darn most anyone else, and I didn't even get into the toilets - so to speak. Now lest you believe that I'm Japan's biggest cheerleader, stay tuned... every silver lining has its cloud, so watch this space for Ten Ways The Japanese Do It Worse!

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Steve Levenstein
Japanese Innovations Writer

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Jul 9, 2007
by Artan (not verified)

Blue Ray japanese???

Just because Sony helped in the development of the Blue Ray dvd, doesn't make it a japanese invention!

CD & DVD (Including Blue Ray) are Dutch inventions by Philips, where it used Sony as a partner that's all. HD DVD on the other hand IS a fully japanese invention, though not quite as good.

I like the article and I do agree Japanese do it better, but the credits for Blue Ray do not go to the Japanese - but to Royal Philips in Holland.

Jul 10, 2007
by Steve Levenstein
Steve Levenstein's picture

my point exactly...

First two sentences: Time and time again, Japan has been handed a ball someone else made and scored a touchdown with it. Forget about "made in Japan", more like "made BETTER in Japan!"

Jul 10, 2007
by ad (not verified)

they still don't have their

they still don't have their own army.  .. and its probably only because they have the time to spend on such inventions.

Jul 10, 2007
by random drifter (not verified)

You do know why they have no

You do know why they have no military, right? It's because they were forced to agree not to have one after WWII. If they had so much as handed a citizen an empty pistol and said he was a soldier, the US would have come in and nuked them. AGAIN.

Actually, I heard that the restriction was recently lifted, and that they do now have a military, it just sucks because it's the product of a couple of months of setup and such, rather than the 200+ YEARS that the US has had. Funny how such a time difference can matter, huh?

As for the whole research capability, the lack of a military is the major reason for their educational and scientific capabilities. They decided that, since they could not have a military power, they would conquer the world via knowledge and research. The majority of the budget that would have gone to military went instead to education. Amazing what a bit of history tells you.

Jul 10, 2007
by that one dude (not verified)

Your almost right.  The

Your almost right.  The Japanese do have a military.  The Japanese Self-Defense Force (JSDF).  They were barred from having a military capable of doing anything other than defending the nation (limited in size and resources).  But at the same time we obligated ourselves to helping them in a time of need.  The were never entirely without a military and even if they were there would only be a 60 year difference between us (the end of WWII) not 200.  Also they didn't intend to conquer the world with science and knowledge.  But since they had a restriction on their military the next logical place for the government to spend money was in financing the R&D in the private sector.  Thus the massive technological gains they made post WWII.  

Jul 11, 2007
by Anonymous (not verified)


You are right. I live i Belgium and their is always a rivalery between the belgians and the dutch but i still heva to give Philips credit here. Philips is a world class manufacterer of electronics and will hopefully continue to be. I personally have never had a complaint about any Philips product what so ever and i own a dozen Philips products.

Dec 4, 2007
by Anonymous Tyo (not verified)

Excellent work!

Wow, that was lots of fun!

Mar 11, 2008
by Anonymous


I totally agree with you with the anime thing =D. The shows are great, and the art and manga art are spectacular.

May 10, 2008
by Anonymous


so if japan hasn't had an army for decades, and have spent all this time working an the environment and science. now that the ban is supposedly lifted, would it be imprudent to say that Americans should be afraid of them?? i mean the only thing Americans do is build their military forces. but what would happen when Japanese brains are let loose on weapons? whoohoo! go japan!