For Japanese people, a home just isn’t a home without a television. Granted, the majority of the population doesn’t have cable TV, it’s by far more common in a household than a computer.
I am often told “Japanese are so technologically advanced!” but this is so far from the truth you’d need binoculars to see it. In fact, most people who own a home PC or laptop rarely use it for much in Japan. At least in my school, when I was a kid, we had computer classes every week and sometimes every day in any given school year. Here’s a story about Japan:
First a background: My school is a typical public school in semi-rural Japan. We have 700 students and 38 faculty members.
I found a
room storage closet full of computers. Prior to that, I hadn’t seen any semblance of a computer lab in the whole school.The tops of the computers and screens were caked in dust. I asked a teacher about it and she said, as she took a chair from a pile in the back corner,
"This is the computer lab!"
"Well, they haven’t used them in a while…" blowing off a patch of dust.
"Ah, yes because computer classes are not until the summer semester."
"They only use computers for ONE SEMESTER?"
"Yes!" she says cheerfully.
They don’t get a good background in using computers so they 1) don’t like computers and 2) don’t trust computers. Honestly, kids in middle school still go to the library for information from books in Japan. When faced with the daunting task of Googling something, most kids would rather piss and moan and play phone games or inform me that all the information on the internet is untrustworthy and often plain lies (classic internet paranoia).
Speaking of phones, Japanese technology used to be ahead of the curve on cell phone tech (think 2000-2007). However, now that they are using the same smartphones as most Americans, they’ve gone back to ??? at most technology. (90% of my students have never seen an iPad or other tablet before and 60% still don’t understand how to use an MP3 player.)
I actually voiced my concerns about that to a Japanese friend once and her response was simple:
"Well, at least they still play outside unlike Americans. We don’t get fat."
"Fat people still contribute to society. Jump rope skills don’t translate the to 21st century office."
"But we don’t use the computer very much in the office. I do most of my work on paper."
"Don’t you work at a bank?"
Japan has some of the longest living people in the world, and part of that translates to who runs companies in Japan. In America, passion, gender, and ability often play into who runs a company but in Japan it’s a waiting game. You have to build up to it over time meaning that most CEOs in Japan are grandfathers (notice I don’t say grandmothers here, but that’s a whole other issue.) Thus, the tech is gravely behind and speaking up from the bottom rung is a quick way to find yourself being kicked off a ladder.
The misconception that Japan is ahead of the curve actually stems from the 80s when Japans economy was in a bubble and they had more money than they knew what to do with. At that time, they upgraded their country with all sorts of cutting edge technology and were seen as some sort of Jetson’s era metropolis. However, since that time they haven’t upgraded much of anything— their family register was only recently transferred to computers (before, if there was a fire at the records house, you might cease existing) and some places still haven’t switched to this system.
"You’re neither a book, nor a cell phone. What use could you possibly have?!"
Okay, but there is some cool tech in Japanese homes and life. Like rice cookers that can make bread, air conditioners that double as heaters, chargeable lipstick sized phone batteries for charging on the go, heated toilets, video screen ordering at select restaurants, etc. (My favorite is that they have shelves that lower for short people— I can put up a video of that later.) But in general, most of the tech you see from Japan is only at trade shows or in factories but is not common in Japanese daily life.
So, TV yes, Computers No. And no robots, basically.
Disclaimer: Blanket statements aside, of course there are some people in Japan who are gifted with technology, but it’s far less common here in the general population than you experience back in the states.