Life On Batteries

The Japanese rarely need to look outside for sustenance and existence. Yes, their agriculture industry was diagnosed as ‘sick’, but it is still feeding its people, healing gradually. They have ample resources to fish their staple diet and enough equipment to help them enhance its flavours. For a smooth survival on this planet, they have their own Lexus cars, Daikin air conditioners, Hitachi home appliances, Sony smartphones, and Mitsubishi for almost everything that requires borrowed energy to function – all of which are manufactured in this island nation and demanded worldwide.

No wonder a visit to Japan leaves you with an impression of its population being happy and contented. Observing their handicap with English alone, it seems they don’t feel the need to learn a second language. The next generation is still learning to be confident in being bi-lingual, and Japanese businessmen often have interpreters to help them shake on a deal. This is all because they produce everything the world needs for survival; and what they invent is only ahead of its time. The art of simplifying life is inherent in them – if I may be so bold to make this anthropological statement.

7894280190_3d4fd56e5aWith fuel prices on the rise and conscience concern for the ecology, Japan has switched to electric cars, which are all the rage. Not just in cities, move between any of the 47 prefectures by road and every pit-stop that is equipped with restrooms and fast-food kiosks will also have recharge stations for their new-age cars. Shockingly the Japanese rank second after America in their use of such automobiles. And not very surprisingly, the Japanese multinational corporation, Nissan rules over the world’s market share in highway-capable all-electric cars.

Perhaps this isn’t the best endorsement of Japan’s hi-tech way of life. This is where their love for vending machines 569021033_8d9f2e5cdewaltz in as a saviour of face. It is no joke that they are known to host the largest number of vending machines per capita in comparison to the rest of the world – roughly one for every 23 persons. And so they have little rooms filled with vending machines that spoil you for choice. Forget a supermarket or even a restaurant. Help yourself to their dispensing machines for anything from a simple hot chocolate to a full meal. You actually read about these in sci-fi comics, but in the land of the rising sun, it is a verity in entirety. They have machines for cigarettes, drinks, toys, floral arrangements, umbrellas, sandwiches, eggs, barbequed meats – the list is exhaustive!

With a futuristic way of life on the go, at your fingertips, and literally, your expectations seem to want more. Their capital city has an entire zone dedicated to electronic goods and gaming parlours. Virtual reality games take you to a different ecosphere in four dimensions. Tech-geeks may as well set camp here for this is where those bizarre innovations that we hear about land up. If a bum massager isn’t your pick, maybe battery-operated slippers that promise to chisel you into shape may interest you more. Did anyone say walk the talk?

13733638973_da4fb0d3aeConceivably the world is catching up to this rage of vending machines and mechanical devices for everyday use. But Tokyo’s entertainment is enough to scream evolution when you walk into its Shinjuku district for a dazzle of lights, burst of gastronomy and a plethora of amusements. Just around the corner from the station into Kabukicho is the Robot Restaurant. It draws in huge crowds by multitudes for a show like no other. Flashing neon lights and loud trance music make an ambience for dancing robots manned by bikini-clad women. I had to book my ticket a week in advance. Every tourist has been guided to this party from the future. Aware of their popularity, they aren’t shy of giving you a sneak peak at the entrance, in a modest sized ring, where robots dance and pose for photographs. If that is enthralling enough, you can book your ticket and walk right in. The robots serve you, interact with you and put on a dancing show as well. At one point the androids even engage in a little exchange of fists to complete the drama of a drunken gala.

2872255067_d7ed533b1eYou would imagine that with such advances in fashion and lifestyle, much ahead of the rest of the world, the Japanese must be a brazen lot. Au contraire, for they are a shy lot. This I found out when intrigued by the number of buttons on every chamber pot I had used. I have travelled most of the world and never have I experienced buttons on my toilet, let alone that many of them – even in public loos. There are options for how you would like the flow of the bidet to hit your bottom and another to dry a wet fanny. The more luxurious ones allow you to warm your seat for a cosy poop-job in the cold winters. Surprisingly there weren’t any to powder the bum – perhaps because it may be unsanitary? One button remained constant on all the W.Cs though – that for a flush sound. The degree of coyness in Japanese culture refuses to let them answer nature’s call without fearing the risk of a second person hearing their body’s involuntary sounds. The audio is commanded to run so long as the person is sound-free.

Lesson: when in Japan, if you must do as the Japanese do, be modernly polite even when on the privie!

(Written for Verve Magazine | November 2014 | Volume 22 | Issue 11)

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