I’m teaching Comparative Economic Systems this semester and we just finished discussing Japan. Among other things, I had them read Bending Adversity: Japan and the Art of Survival, a new and terrific book by David Pilling. I also had them read selected chapters from an oldie but goodie called Japan: Why It Works, Why It Doesn’t : Economics in Everyday Life (edited by Kazuhiro Igawa, Shyam Sunder, James Mak, and Shigeyuki Abe). The book was published in 1997 and I really wish the authors had put out a more recent edition, but it still is a fun read. Here are some of the chapters I had my students read:
Why Do Students Take it Easy at the University?
Why Do Japanese Companies Hire Only Spring Graduates?
Why Are There So Many Small Shops in Japan?
Why is Japan a paradise of vending machines?
Why do ATMS shut down in the evening?
The chapter on vending machines made me curious about what innovation in this industry might have taken place since the book’s publication. There’s supposedly a machine for every 23 people in the country, so there is a lot of room for creativity. Here’s one site that lists a lot of cool new vending machines and a couple of my favorites:
You could buy transportation and be set for dinner!