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Making a Trail

Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.

Becky and I had the pleasure of taking a bullet train from Tokyo to Kyoto and back. The technology here is impressive. Everything is beautifully effecient. There is something really awesome about zooming by the countryside at more than 150 mph. Even more impressive is when you can see Mt. Fuji out your window.


All this efficiency has a cost though. There are so many people here. So many taxis. So many subway cars. All zooming past eachother. The sheer scale of things, and surgical efficiency, has led to the awesome and bizarre.

Becky and I went to a ramen place that had a few sparce hallways with seats at booths. It felt like what I imagine old school peep shows would be like. But when the sliding door at your booth popped up, a bowl of ramen greeted you, not a smiling woman. Indeed, after being seated we did not see the face of any worker in the restaurant. The side panels on the booths made sure we didn’t see the other guests either. Total efficiency. Total isolation.

That bamboo screen slipes up for your ramen delivery.

You press the buttons to order more or signal you are leaving.


This big board, coupled with hallway cameras make sure no seat remains empty for long.

It was really strange. I experienced a bit of culture shock. Generally I associate eating with family and friends. Sharing food and stories, a social experience. That notion was completely absent from this meal. While it wasn’t necessarily bad–it was just really different.

I don’t fancy myself an expert on anything, including cultures I see a sliver of for only a handful of days. But still, I think you can get an idea. Here, it seems like it would be easy to forget you’re a person, or that the warm body standing next to you on the subway car is a person too. And that you need more than food and sleep to exist. Japan seems to have traded some of its efficiency for humanity. People aren’t getting married. More adult diapers were sold than baby diapers for the first time in the country’s history. Similarly, less people care about dating or intimacy. Why bother when there are easier, more efficient means?

Japan is an impressive country. It was safe clean and there were no late trains, but I’m not sure its all worth the cost.

The trains sure are pretty though.