Narita Express

Posted on May 18, 2011 in Hiroko's Blog

When I visit my country, each time I find some improvements in our society, especially in technological and service areas.  This is a story of Narita Express which transports Japanese and foreign visitors between the Narita International Airport and the city of Tokyo in 55 minutes over a distance of about 60 km.  Today when you are on board of the Narita Express you find bright written information displays and recorded announcement in four languages – Japanese, Chinese, Korean and English.  The large luggage storage compartment which sits at the end of each car is now equipped with a new lock system for each traveler’s bags so that you can enjoy a relaxed journey without worrying about your luggage be.  The lock is a combination number type where each user sets his own combination.  During the ride a recorded voice announcement repeatedly reminds us that if we forget our combination number in order to unlock our luggage at our destination station, we are asked to continue the trip all the way to the end of the line.  Our unfortunately imprisoned luggage can then be unlocked by the station staff and given back to us.  Therefore the traveler need not be panicked on the occasion of forgetfulness.  This little anecdote is so characteristic of Japan every matter and problem is considered in advance and is taken care of very well by professional and thoughtful hands in this country.  You can enjoy your stay.

But there is one difficulty with this approach to living whereby if a problem is foreseen, a solution is put in place reassuring those who might suffer. Sometimes not every possible scenario and problem has been considered, and so actions and remedies have not been carefully designed. When that happens there is sometimes chaos, because Japanese, unlike Americans, are often unable to design and quickly implement ad-hoc solutions to problems that have not been previously studied.   This, I believe, is exactly what has happened at the Fukushima nuclear power plant disaster.  No one planned for coping with a huge magnitude 9 earth quake followed by a monstrous tsunami.