What I personally was wondering the most, seeing that Tokyo can be seen as one of the most technologically advanced places in the world, is in what kind of place the Olympics would take place. A few years ago in Beijing, the massive construction in which the games were held was AMAZING! Flashy lights, artsy architecture… it certainly had a very modern feel to it. This time, and don`t forget we are talking about a few years ahead in time; the host will be Tokyo right? In what kind of building will the Summer Olympics of 2020 – or as the Japanese formally call it “kaki gorin” (夏季五輪), literally meaning “summer season 5 rings” – take place?
Amazing right? さすが東京 (sasuga toukyou). Just what you`d expect from Tokyo! I am already secretly expecting amazing light shows, automatically moving stages and perhaps even some robots inside of this building. (By the way, if you`re into robots, you should visit the Robot Restaurant in Shinjuku!).
Some people might say that I am exaggerating a little bit and yes, Tokyo is not all hyper ultra modern and technologically advanced all over the place. In fact, I know a lot of people who do not even know how to use a personal computer. But from my daily experiences in Tokyo, I can say that, coming from a tiny European country, some technological features that might seem very basic for an average Tokyo dweller really blow my mind. Just the fact that anywhere I go there are machines talking to me (vending machines, hot water regulators etc.) keeps catching me off guard anytime.
Here are 4 things that I came up with.
Automated/Mechanical Parking Lots (kikai shiki chuushajou; 機械式駐車場)
This is something that really blew my mind, but others might think of it as ordinary or just didn’t expect anything less of such as crowded place as Tokyo. Because of an evident lack of space vs. people who need a place to park their cars, in many places people can literally stack their cars together on ground level parking lots outside. This is what it looks like:
It kind of looks like a system we have for bicycles in the Netherlands. In the case of the bicycles however, you just manually grab the stand your bicycle is standing on and pull it to the ground like in the picture. So how do you get the top car on the ground? Here`s the deal: the lower half of the machine actually sinks into the ground and you can just get in and drive away.
And if that didn`t amaze you, maybe this will. Imagine driving your car into a garage, making the ground beneath it rotate in order for your car to take a sharp turn, and then driving your car into a sort of container. With a few pushes on some buttons you should probably have some idea about what you`re doing, you send your car into a kind of storage. Then when you come back, you simply select your car and the automated parking lot system will retrieve it for you…. from underground! Here is a step-by-step video of how to park your car into an automated parking lot.
2. Automated Vending Machines (jidouhanbaiki; 自動販売機)
Ok, so this might not be the first time you read about Japanese vending machines, but I would still like to describe how jidouhanbaiki really were a shock and remain to surprise me in my Tokyo life. What you might have read about, are the various kind of products you can get out of a Japanese vending machine, ranging from cold and hot canned and bottled drinks to the supposedly worn panties of some random high school girl.
Recently, the jidouhanbaiki itself has also been through some amazing changes. Equiped with a camera that utilizes face recognition, a touch screen panel vending machine will start talking to you about recommended drinks and how to operate the machine. Here is what it looks like.
3.(Automated) Sushi on the Rapid Lane (tokkyuu lane特急レーン)
I guess you might have heard about kaitenzushi or rotating sushi. I personally love such restaurants as you are literally in control of for example how fast, what kind and how much you want to eat. In some of these restaurants, a second “konbea” (コンベア probably an abbreviation of conveyor belt) exists for individual orders, as opposed to the sushi that keeps rotating on the lower konbea for anyone to pick out and eat. When I go to a kaitenzushi restaurant, I usually order something just so I can see how the sushi almost comes flying to my table; it is very amusing and I recommend trying it out to anyone.
Recently however, restaurants with just the upper konbea and an ordering system that uses a sort of touch screen (actually, very much like a vending machine!) have been popping up.
4.Automated Toilets (jidou toire 自動トイレ)
So, you get where this is going to right. In my imagination, anything in Tokyo can be automated; including things you might wonder if there really is a need to. For me, that includes automated toilets. I am not just talking about an automated flush system or such, I mean almost the WHOLE process of going to the loo. From the automatic opening of the toilet seat when entering the bathroom to the automated cleaning and closing of the seat when leaving; heck, you don`t even need to wipe yourself as you can make the toilet do that for you.
Admitted, in the Netherlands we have some public toilets, mainly on train stations that have almost the same functions (really except for the bidet functions; I believe those to be particular to Japan). But what even surprises me more is that most people have these toilets in their homes (including me, but not with automatically moving toilet seat, that is yet one step up in the range of how awesome your toilet can be). Also, most public toilets in Tokyo have many of these functions as well and as you might know, most public toilets in Tokyo do not charge any fee. Something I love about Tokyo.
Check it out this video out if you want to know more:
All these amazing technological features for me really add to the amazing experience you get from being in Tokyo, especially as a foreigner. If you are thinking of visiting Tokyo for the Olympics in 2020, do not hesitate any longer. In fact, don’t wait 7 years to come; I recommend anyone with the budget and time to come to Tokyo anytime!