"Even their manholes are thoroughly done and look amazing! What is even going on!?"
They can still make me smile every now and again when I visit, and I really admire the "Japanese sense of" (I don't know if it's particular to Japan) putting lots of effort into something seemingly mundane; putting effort into something which yields no practical return on investment. I wish there was more of this artisanship in the everyday city-life around us, to keep remind us how lovely life can really be. It's easy to forget sometimes.
Oh and that’s not getting into the whole BS about purity and skin color he gets into.
It’s nihonjinron at its finest.
Modern cities and buildings are all about quick bucks and ROI.
Even our costly monumental works (museums and such) are built by inflated-ego architects for the bucks, and with no sense of public beauty -- just their modernist or post-modernist personal ideology.
That's one thing that gets me about people suggesting to others to "just move" to find a job, and that they don't have to have any ties to any place (e.g. their home state).
In the end, this means treating every place as a temporary residency, sort of like a hotel, and having no civic concern and pride in it. In other words, it ends with ugly cities and dystopias.
The inverse would be the pride with which people like old New Yorkers loved their city (and of course old Europeans cities like Vienna, Paris, and so on).
An ironic thing is that, not caring about immediate ROI and budget justifications in the past (and investing in public parks, nice buildings, etc), is what makes some cities tons of money (from millions of tourists every year).
Will ever a new city (born under the "quick ROI is everything/who cares for beauty" mindset) be as nice as to attract visitors in the future? I seriously doubt so.
(Shanghai, which is largely built lately, was also an treasure of a city for many centuries, and spends a lot in the impressiveness -if not construction quality- of its modern buildings and skyline).
There is always a war over budget. There are 10 projects that 'they'd like to do but can't'.
Every city wants more buses, has potholes, has sewage problems, needs infrastructure.
'Pretty manholes' might not make it to the top unless someone really, really cares. Or it's part of a secondary budget.
For child abuse for poor people? Budget cuts.
Lol Graffiti Artists.
I could see it happening. Portland, Oregon has an art tax that goes towards things like large scale murals in public spaces. An extra 5-10% on the cost of a man hole cover would fit within this, easily.
This adds substantial material costs, but more importantly adds a lot of skilled labor to a process which is usually just simple casting.
That can be applied to the Sydney Opera House, though on a slightly different scale.
I've started making the trip by ferry to Circular Quay to have a coffee at a cafe by the water. The Opera House an amazing building and I marvel at the political will required to get it started (and finished). It took 14 years to complete and went 14 times over budget. It had a lottery created to pay for it!
The nearby Harbour Bridge is another construction that went further than was necessary at the time. Both are spectacular.
Recently Pierre Taki was arrested for Cocaine, and the manhole with him on it is in an interesting debate, the town is thinking about covering it:
That's the funny thing about Japan. Regarding outrage and celebrities. I have seen that over and over in the past 10 years, it goes like that (not talking about manholes here):
- Celebrity X is super popular and well loved
- Celebrity X gets into trouble for something that is frowned upon in society.
- Mass media rush to eat Celebrity X alive and paint them as a horrible person.
- Celebrity X will do public apologies on TV.
- Suddenly all media ties/advertising ties with Celebrity X are severed. In fact, you won't see or hear about Celebrity X for quite a while (usually a couple of years).
- Then, without any prior notice, suddenly you will see Celebrity X coming back on a talking show at some point, "just to test the waters".
- Celebrity X becomes accepted again, just because time has passed.
It's... largely nonsensical.
Note: exception for drugs. People who have done drugs are usually burned forever. For example, the famous band "Dreams Come True" used to have 3 members, and one of them was arrested for drugs at some point, and since then the band continued with 2 members only, and all material they show about "the past of Dreams Come True" is carefully edited to remove any memory of that person. It's like he had never existed. Astonishing.
This is all for show.
I'm no expert but I gather it has a lot to do with how powerful the talent agency involved is, and the relationships between the agencies and the news outlets.
In comparison Usual Suspects is still on sale on iTunes.
No, because zaibatsu are, as you hint, derived by a powerful government that meddles into economic affairs to allow such things to occur.
 "we clearly don't"
When I was first visiting Japan, I asked an architect friend of mine who had lived in Japan: what should I see?
His response: see how much attention to detail has been paid to even some of the most mundane things.
At first I was, WTF. I was looking for recommendations about places to see. But when I got there, his advice made total sense. I was not disappointed.
Counter example, about every residential building is so damn ugly, so I am not sure where the attention to details has gone there. I could go on on how poorly designed work offices are, how poorly designed the furniture is in general (enabling IKEA to actually have a market here), and that's enough to refute that kind of blanket statement.
Furniture in Japan is often practical and low to the ground which might not appeal to some people. People used to spend their time exclusively sitting on the floor of their homes. I wouldn't be surprised if the majority of Japanese still do.
Someone on city council has to approve budgets for this ...
2. I could see US cities doing this, except they would probably use the space for advertising. This would be annoying.
In most cases, the design is just imprinted in the cover, but in some cases the covers get another touch—colored resins flooded into voids like enamel on jewelry
It's more like slabs of plastic (you can see the thickness in the first picture), which won't easily wear away, but I suspect if/when it does, they get redone.
I can swear I saw this one somewhere the other day. Unless there's another one just like it. I didn't think much of it at the time, but I remember clearly giving it a glance when I was walking somewhere. I want to say the firemen were monkeys though.. maybe a different one, same depiction.
They use English as window dressing because it’s cool. Most Japanese kids will take English in school, but few will ever attain any real fluency in the language. So if you sprinkle in some gratuitous English into your signage, clothing and television scripts or character designs, then you are cool, and you can still effectively communicate to some degree because while almost no one is fluent, they can still understand at least small amounts of English at a time. I’m not sure that still holds up with younger generations, but at least at one point it was the case.
> The company's products include meaningless excerpts of Japanese text generated by machine translation.
If you visit Japan for any length of time, you will notice English phrases used all over the place, from restaurants, to street signs, to advertising and television, to the clothing people wear. I lived there for a few years right around the time Obama won the election in '08, and I encountered kids probably 6 years old who would shout "Yes we can!" when they saw me pass by. They tend to be more culturally aware and interested in Western culture (particularly American culture) than we do of them (which is saying something, given that Japanese culture is fairly popular in the West).
There's also the fact that you could (statistically) also forget your Macbook Pro in a crowded public park in Tokyo and come back 2 hours later to find it there untouched (and unstolen).
Tell me if I'm wrong. But, I see your "still" as if things were better in the past.
In litte towns, as everybody knows everybody, the rules are different. As more and more people moved to cities there was no family presure to behave. So, things were worst because family pressure desapeared and there was no substitution to get good behaviour. Big cities were a source of trouble.
But, I have seen an improvement everywhere I go. I saw this kind of transformation in Spain. As the country become less corrupt after the dictatorship, economics improved and a safety net was expanded Spaniards become more civic in the big cities.
Also, Japan takes care of its citizens. Japanese expect the goberment and the company they work for to take care of them. Societies that promote a every-man-for-himself approach have a harder time to ensure public civic behaviour.
My comment was about comparing past and present, and how some times people overstimates how good the past was. I agree with you that it is not only about big cities vs little towns.
We walked a bit in the city and my spouse wanted to take pictures of me in a park. She put the flags on the ground for a minute (with me thinking: you can't do that!) and went tops 30m away from them to get a better angle. When we were done, they were gone. I'm actually certain they were not stolen, but some Japanese just cleaned up.
In general, the collective effort of the Japanese to keep their cities clean with basically no public bins around is amazing.
I came back an hour later to find an old lady, having occupied my former spot, waiting a while to see if the owner returned before taking it to the nearby police box. I was all over myself apologizing and thanking her in my crappy Japanese, but she didn't get what I perceived as abnormal about the situation. She didn't even take me up on my offer of a baked sweet potato.
Another time, I accidentally sprayed 500 yen (so, roughly $5) coins all over the floor at Comiket when trying to extract change from pocket. Being Comiket, a coin rolling a few meters may as well have been a mile off due to the sheer crush of bodies. Since I was at the head of the line and didn't want to inconvenience everyone behind me, I mentally wrote them off as a loss and continued buying my hen^Wartbooks, only to have all the coins immediately returned by a guy who saw what had happened and went scrambling around for them. He, too, refused all thanks and melted back into the crowd.
So, although I can't attest to the laptop thing, it definitely wouldn't surprise me. The similar anecdotes in this thread seem to agree.
(Of course, whatever Japanese culture might be, Japan now also has millions of tourists each year, with whom, YMMV).
Been bicycling daily here for 10 years, never lock my bike. It's been stolen once, but with a bike costing <$100 I figure I'd rather save the 10 seconds per day vs. not losing one bike per ten years.
Forgot an iPhone once on a bench outside. Person who found it immediately called my contacts to find out how to return it.
Dropped my wallet once in Tokyo. It was returned to the nearest police box in less than an hour.
My friend lost her passport in Kyoto, it turned up at the lost and found. Peering in through the window they had a little bit of everything, and roughly a million umbrellas.
In Canada I just assume anything not bolted down will get stolen. I left company laptop on a taxi before and it got stolen, even so I called the taxi company 2 mins after.. lol one of the many reason I have no problem with Uber screwing cabbies.