When you hear “Japan,” what do you think first? Anime? Sushi? Some may think of “high tech” (ハイテクhaiteku) first. But sadly, the Fukushima incident and COVID-19 have revealed that Japan was a pretty low-tech (ローテクro-teku) country.

Photo taken and used with permission from Dalton Waldock.

Japan has been famous for (〜で有名な de yuumeina) robots for factory automation and entertainment (娯楽goraku). But none of their technologies worked when the Fukushima Nuclear incidents happened. Almost none of their robots were usable in the highly radioactive and highly technology-unfriendly environment, and the first robots that entered the facility were donated by iRobot of the US.

But we had the toilet that cleansed you with just the appropriate temperature and force of your choice. And we had a brilliant toy dog from Sony to keep you company. And who could live without Nintendo and PlayStation? I believe Japanese technologies focused on comfort and fun, instead of risk management.

When the tsunami attacked the Fukushima nuclear facilities in 2011, the emergency electric power system stored in the basement (地下chika) was submerged in water and became inoperable. The facilities are close to the ocean. Didn’t they think it was not really a great idea to have the emergency system in the basement?

This reminded me of the technology that a Japanese consumer electronics company marketed in the 1990s when I was a high-tech analyst. There was a new video deck that you could program to record your favorite TV programs up to 365 days ahead…. OK, was it practical (実用的 jitsuyoteki)?? Did we know our favorite TV programs would be still produced then?

I have to think that something has been missing in the Japanese high-tech industry from these two examples – lack of risk management and lack of reality. However, I …continue reading