Monday, May 20, 2013

Everything in its place

     So I'm on the street outside Hiyoshi Station waiting for the light to change and I look up and see a flickering green graph under the light which tells me how long I have to wait until the light changes. The graph starts at 30 seconds. It's nice to know I have 17, 16, 15 seconds to wait, I suppose...
  Some bus stops in Tokyo have a digital display telling people waiting how long it will be before the bus comes.
Many, many streets and crossings are fitted with yellow plastic squares with raised bubbles, so blind people can find their way. And also for blind people, the tops of railings will have the location written in raised braille.

I go to the supermarket to buy some sardines. Every aisle has a sign in Japanese and English describing what's on its shelves but I'm in a hurry so I ask a scurrying minion where can I find the sardines and she asks me to follow her and she takes me straight to the shelf of canned sardines. She knows exactly. Everybody knows exactly where everything is. They probably have to pass a test.

Same thing in department stores. If you work in a department store, you may spend your career on the fourth floor in Men's Shoes but you are still expected to know what's where on every floor, so you can advise wandering customers. When a department moves, everyone is informed the next day in the short section meeting that occurs every morning before the store opens.                                                                                 Play a little game. Go to the Information Desk on the first floor of Tokyu Hands, the amazing store in Shibuya that sells just about anything you can think of except food and everyday clothes. (You can buy a diving suit there should you require one.) Ask the perky young lady at the counter, "Can I find a mortar and pestle here?" She will smile and say without a moment's hesitation, "Yes sir. On Floor 7-C you will find a small selection of mortars and pestles.  Just to the left of the elevator, on the third shelf."
On the train, at least on the Toyoko Line, when you board and sit down you will see a notice telling you that you are in Car No. 6 near Door No. 3. Over the door you will see a digital display working hard to deluge you with information. It will show you where Car No. 6 is in the whole train. It will display the name of the next station (which will have a number, so you don't even have to remember its name) and tell you how many minutes it will take to get there. It will show you where the next station's stairs, escalators, and elevators are located in relation to Door No. 3 of Car No. 6, so you will know whether to turn right or left when you get off.       Once off, you will be treated to a barrage of signs directing you to the best exit to use to leave the station to get to to a particular point of interest. (This is indeed useful information because major Tokyo stations are complicated, with dozens of exits.) 
In Tokyo, there is a feeling that if everyone doesn't know where they are the system has somehow broken down. This is why the essential task of the koban police box in every neighborhood is direct people to where they want to go using detailed maps. (That and to make sure bicycles are properly parked, of course.)

--Anna-Marie Regenbogen

No comments:

Post a Comment