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Two dozen years

17 Oct

Today is October 17th, 2014. I came to Japan on October 17th, 1990. Twenty-four years ago.

I was born and grew up in America. But I only lived there for twenty years. I’ve lived most of my life in Japan now.

I’m sure you can imagine, Japan was pretty different 24 years ago.
Even Japanese people in their twenties or younger can’t imagine if I tell them what Japan was like when I first came here!

One big change is that there was no internet or cell-phones when I came here.
Everyone, including me, had phone cards for pay-phones in their wallet. If it was announced that a train was running late, suddenly everyone on the platform would line up to use the payphones (that used to be on every train platform) to call their office to tell that they might be late.
Nowadays, people take out their cell-phone to either call or e-mail their employer if the train is late.

Also, train stations didn’t have escalators or elevators like they all do now.
If someone was in a wheelchair, the train station staff would carry his wheelchair up or down the stairs!
When my kids were babies, my wife and I had to carry their strollers up and down the train station stairs when we used the train.

Now, all train stations in Japan have automatic ticket gates and IC cards (I wrote a post here about them).
But when I first came to Japan, every train station…even the big major ones…had staff with hole punchers at the ticket gates.

To enter the train station, commuters would hand their ticket to one of these guys and get the ticket punched and handed back to them.
Then when they exited, these guys collected the tickets…and they’d tell you if you owed more money on your fare.
They were really fast! Especially at busy stations like Tokyo Station or Shinjuku Station!

Punching a ticket

As I said, there were no cell-phones or email in 1990. Nowadays, if the person you’re meeting is running late, you can just call or email their cell-phone. Life wasn’t always like that.
When I first came to Japan, there were chalkboards at every train station that anyone could use to write a message to the person they were waiting for.
There were always messages on them such as “To ____, I went ahead. I’ll wait for you at the restaurant.” or “To_____, you were late so I went home.

These were commonly used in Japan before cell-phones.

I’ve seen a lot of changes in Japan since 1990. I wonder what changes the next decades will bring!