It's only 11 hours on a plane, but the Land of the Rising Sun has come to represent a stereotyped vision of a super-advanced sci-fi future ever since the days of the bubble economy.
Ridley Scott famously modelled the landscape of Blade Runner on parts of the Tokyo skyline. But does Japan really deserve the label? Taking a trip back there last week, I found some surprising contradictions.
Technology in all its shiny, showy glory is hard to miss walking through the insanity of Tokyo's Shinjuku or Shibuya districts. It's in every glaring neon sign and giant plasma screen towering over you in the street.
It's in the Yamanote line trains with their LCD displays over every door pushing out travel and weather updates and endless advertising, it's in mobile phone networks that seem to be five years ahead of our own and, yes, it's in those Buck Rogers toilets which do everything but flush.
Then there's the lower tech stuff, ingenious Heath Robinson inventions which have become near-ubiquitous, like the automatic beer pouring machines which manage to pour the perfect pint every time, or the train seats which swivel 180 degrees on their axes allowing passengers to always face forwards.
Then there are the coin-operated noodle restaurants, where the customer buys a ticket from a vending machine to hand over at the counter for a no-nonsense speedy service.
But that's all what we kind of expect, isn't it? What you'd expect a little less is that, in this apparently technologically advanced nation, most homes still do not have central heating or double glazing despite harsh winters in many parts of the country. Most still rely on kerosene heaters and table-like contraptions with built in electric heaters called kotatsu.
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