Yesterday I read a short article in an Austrian newspaper about the upcoming 2020 Olympics in Tokyo. To cope with the expected influx of foreign visitors to the country, it is planned to have a number of robot models greet and assist passengers on the airport in Tokyo. The robots are supposedly able to perform easy tasks (like carrying bags), doing instant translations, or answering simple questions. The goal is to show off how modern and cool Japan is.

My first reaction to that one: I laughed out loud. I’m not sure, maybe it’s Kyoto, but somehow the “modern Japan” has still not permeated the whole of my city here… Let me illustrate this:

Recently, I have started contacting companies in Kyoto about the What’s up in Kyoto event calendar (actually, a friend is helping with this one). First contact is per phone, we tell them about the event calendar and what we want and then, at some point comes the “more information” part of the call. When this happens, we inevitably get an “oh, just send us a fax with the details, okay?”


Have you heard of emails? 21st century and such? To be fair, those are not IT companies, but still, all of the places we are contacting have websites, often quite beautiful and elaborate ones. Still, no emails, they want a fax. And finally, they want you to show up in person and do the whole sales pitch again, of course.

This is the fascinating thing about Japan: On the one hand, they have robots in all shapes, sizes and intelligences. And on the other hand, they are holding on to technology from the 1980s because that’s just what they do. This country will never cease to amaze me.