How traditional Japan is getting an electronic upgrade
Written by Jeff

Traditional mixing with modern technologies

There are some very interesting mash-ups going on...

Japan is a culture divided between on-going traditions, and lots of new innovation in many domains. But how does these two aspects of Japanese society converge together? Sometime the results can be very surprising... Let get into three very surprising mixes of old and new!

1 - Electronic offerings at temples

One of the most traditional images people have of Japan, are their Jinja (shrines). When visiting these beautiful pieces of history and tradition, it is customary to offer a 5-yen coin as a donation whilst you pray to the deities for favors. (The 5-yen coin is due to it being pronounced “Go-en” which has a similar pronunciation to “good fortune” in Japanese).

This leads to several potential problems, as people in general dislike carrying loose change, and they may not always happen to have 5-yen coins on them. Other problems include the need to collect this money and potential theft, which leads to extra work for the shrine workers. In an effort to adapt to the modern age, some locations in Japan have begun experimenting accepting digital currencies as payment for these offerings.

The system is still in its initial testing phase in a few locations and has no comments have been made yet as to its popularity, but given the current social trends that favor convenience, I think this could become more widespread in the future. I guess making offerings to Japanese deities will possibly become like taking the subway or buying a coke at a vending machine then?

Note: the association of Shinto Shrines has stated that digital payments will most likely not negatively affect the deities impression of you. Offerings are about giving something of value to the deity, and in the past, this offering used to be rice packaged in white paper. This slowly evolved into money over time, and in the eyes of the association, digital currency is merely another change into what we consider as value.

http://www.jinjahoncho.or.jp/iroha/omairiiroha/osaisen/ (Image Source: Rakuten Today)

2 - Online graves

Remember how you are sometimes ‘too busy’ to go home for Christmas, Thanksgiving and other family events? At the very least, you can’t say that for visiting the graves of your ancestors and loved ones anymore.

Online graves is a concept that bears two main formats. The ‘coexisting’ format, where you have both a digital grave and a physical grave, and also a ‘solely online format’ (or as i call it, the ‘soul-ly online format’). The coexisting format is where you have both a physical grave and an online grave.

This allows for the best of both worlds (pun intended), as people can still physically go the the graves if they so wish, and those that live overseas, or are otherwise unable to visit the physical graves for whatever reasons, can still pay their respects. Some services even offer to place webcams and speakers near the grave so that you are literally looking at the physical grave, through the internet.

On the other hand, the solely online format is where a physical grave is not present at all, and all respects paid to them can only be done online. Depending on the service, you may even be able to offer digital flowers, and even save precious memories of their voice recordings and photos onto the grave for you to access at any time. So, placing any moral issues aside, what are the benefits to this?

Aside from online graves providing greater convenience, the biggest factor is that physical graves can be quite costly in Japan. Whilst you can theoretically get something for as low as 150,000 Yen (~1,300 USD), most people spend upwards of 1,000,000 Yen (~8,800 USD).

Another side-benefit to online graves is that you can limit the people who are able to access it. A constant worry for some is that the interpersonal problems of the deceased in question may carry on after their death, and any enemies they have made may deface and even spit on their graves. Now with online graves, people can password-protect their beloved, and preserve their memory without worry.

Note: If you feel like an online grave is lacking something, there are services in Japan where you can pay for someone else to visit, clean and make offerings to physical graves for you.

https://syukatsulabo.jp/article/6788 (Image source: Google Images)

3 - Clothes Shopping

Clothes shopping in Japan isn’t something that is unique to Japan of course, but many Japanese people still like to visit Japanese department stores, or even go on clothes shopping dates.

Even though online clothes shopping has become very popular over the years, a common worry that consumers share is that because they cannot try it on in person, they’re worried it would not fit.

To combat this problem, Zozotown has come up with a unique solution. The borderline-hilarious Zozosuit, is an innovative solution that allows for users to buy clothes that perfectly fit them. Zozosuit comes free for any users of the service (one per person), and uses a smartphone camera to accurately measure your physical size and shape.

Whilst brands tend to have different definitions as to what an “L-size” should be and etc., this zozosuit measuring system allows for you to accurately purchase clothing online. Another side benefit to this is that if you feel that you’ve lost or gained weight, you can always just re-measure your size whenever you want!

http://zozo.jp/zozosuit/3ddemo/ (Image source: zozo.jp)

So, how exactly does this affect traditional Japan?

The zozotown catalog is not only limited to modern clothing, but also provides many options for buying Kimono and Yukata. The fitting tests for Kimono often consume a lot of time due to the complexity of putting on the clothing itself, and it can be assumed that the zozosuit will make purchasing kimono significantly easier in the future.

Testimonials on the zozosuit seems to be quite positive online, and many are expecting this to increase in popularity with people favoring e-commerce over physical shopping in the future. The only real downside here is that you look like a dork when doing the measurements.

Do you think tradition is catching up to technology in Japan? Or should tradition just stay as it is and not attempt to change?

Either way, everyone has their own opinion, and I guess we’ll just have to see how it goes!