Japan often conjures images of cutting-edge technology. In numerous ways, that's true, but living here reveals a landscape sprinkled with what may appear as outdated or inefficient practices (such as a notable reliance on fax machines).
My internal efficiency alarms blared when, after purchasing a house here, I encountered a practice called “kairanban” (回覧板). This involves a periodic neighborhood memo, circulating perhaps 2-3 times a month, which shares updates on local festivals, check-ups and vaccinations for children, neighborhood clean-ups, garbage schedules, and the like.
Is it emailed? No.
Sent by text message? No.
An app or website? Nope.
It’s physically printed, placed in a folder, and walked to your neighbor's house by you or another neighbor. After reading, you bring the folder to the next house, passing it on.
My tech-oriented mind spontaneously brainstormed at least 10 ways to streamline this with minimal effort, but those ideas fortunately remained unvoiced.
Over the years, I started to see the value in this analog method. I know all my neighbors. The entire area is on a first-name basis. There are huge benefits to this.
Safety, community, harmony.
Reluctantly, I admit that these relationships and this environment stem partially from this analog practice that necessitates interaction.
Without kairanban, I might engage in 30 fewer conversations per year with my neighbors. You might think, “I don’t want 30 conversations with my neighbor,” but the robust social fabric, born from such interactions, greatly enhances safety, security, and community cooperation.
When was the last time you spoke to your neighbor?