With several thousand characters to contend with, how were the Japanese able to use typewriters before the advent of digital technology? The answer is the kanji typewriter (和文タイプライター or 邦文タイプライター), which was invented by Kyota Sugimoto in 1915. This invention was deemed so important that it was selected as one of the ten greatest Japanese inventions by the Japanese Patent Office during their 100th anniversary celebrations in 1985. Here are some photos of that first model. (Photos courtesy Canon Semiconductor Equipment.)

Almost every change Yabe-san introduced risked decreased efficiency and quality of service in the short term. Having the cleaners distracted from their jobs by talking with passengers, decreasing measurement and oversight. Even making the cleaning crews more visible to the customers went against the hospitality and travel best practices which hold that this kind of work is to take place out of sight and all friction for the customer is to be removed.

But everything Yabe-san did increased the possibilities for human connection. Not the usual, scripted staff-customer communication or the usual manager-staff meetings, but inefficient, unnecessary communication not directly related to completing the task at hand.

Rather than managing for control and compliance, he was managing for transparency and connection.

Internally this not only resulted in a skyrocketing of morale but an outpouring of creative ideas. The Tessei staff not only came up with innovations that improved their own jobs, but helped design the shape of the bins on the new Hokuriku Shinkansen Line, and they came up with the idea for the nursery and baby areas in Tokyo Station.

And, of course, it was this feeling of human connection that resulted in passengers cleaning up after themselves because they did not want to create extra work for someone they had just seen working so hard.

It led to people realizing that we are all on this train together. Yes, it eventually made processes more efficient and less expensive, but more importantly, it actually made life a little bit better for everyone involved.

Well, actually, there are a ton of different ways to say “father” in Japanese, and what better day to take a look at them than today?

"Today" being yesterday, the third Sunday in June, or Father's Day (父の日).

Not so long ago, we found out that Tokyo’s Akihabara Station has a bank of vending machines stocked with a huge array of delicious milk-based drinks, with all sorts of fruit, tea, and coffee flavorings to tempt you. But while those are great for quenching your thirst or satisfying your sweet tooth, what about when you’re feeling hungry?

Japan’s National Theatre has risen to the occasion after the cancellation of Yoshitsune Senbon Zakura (Yoshitsune and the Thousand Cherry Trees), which was originally scheduled to open for audiences in Tokyo on March 3 of this year. Instead, the performance, sans audience, will be posted to the theatre’s online YouTube channel. In fact, the play, split into three videos, is available for viewing right now, and will be free to watch to your heart’s content until April 30, 3:00 p.m. JST.

Japanese language exercises aimed at school children but also great for non-native learners like me. For me it didn't work in Firefox, which is my preferred browser, but this could possibly be because of my paranoid privacy-enhancing browser extensions.

It is one unintended consequence of the Fukushima nuclear disaster almost a decade ago, which forced Japan to all but close its nuclear power program. Japan now plans to build as many as 22 new coal-burning power plants — one of the dirtiest sources of electricity — at 17 different sites in the next five years, just at a time when the world needs to slash carbon dioxide emissions to fight global warming.

The Kabuki Play Guide provides synopses and highlights of major works in the Kabuki canon for those interested in learning more about Kabuki theater.

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Saw my first live kabuki performance today in Tokyo and absolutely loved it.

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