May 25Liked by Anton Howes

Very interesting! Your comment about the Japanese bathrooms made me think immediately of Chris Arnade‘s recent column about why we can’t have nice things. The Japanese society is terribly different from America. (disclaimer: I’ve never been to Japan).

Chris Arnade characterizes societies along dimensions of trust and regulation. Because the US, and presumably the UK, are high-regulation+low-trust societies public services like Japanese style bathrooms cannot work.


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Anton! I was wondering when I'd read your next piece. Withdrawal symptoms were emerging. Regarding worlds' fairs, I can't imagine how amazing these would have been to experience first-hand.

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I just happened to return from Japan today, and saw your article while trying to both fight jet lag and dig myself out from a mountain of interesting articles.

With regards to Japanese toilets, it’s not the technology, which has existed for at least a couple of decades, but the sheer ubiquity and near-perfect maintenance of public toilets that amazed me. In most of the West, you really need to plan ahead when it comes to using a toilet in public. But not in Tokyo or Kyoto, which I just visited. There, toilets just seem to be wherever you happen to need one. Clean. High tech.

I was chatting with a bartender and he mentioned that this was not always the case, and that he was old enough to still be surprised about it.

Another aspect that surprised me was the virtual absence of trash bins, combined with the spotlessness of every corner of the country I saw. Paris has bins everywhere, people visibly cleaning everywhere, and results far below that of Tokyo. Again, the bartender said this happened in response to terrorist attacks (9/11?), and people just dealt with it.

My first stop in one of the WCs in the Brussels airport went about as poorly as you can imagine... And the, ahhh, convenience of the overflowing bin on the train had me wondering if Brussels manages anything at all on the level of Tokyo. Beer, perhaps.

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