In my Japanese class my teacher has me using a textbook in which each chapter is an article for a magazine or newspaper. Most of them are between 5 and 10 years old but they are generally still relevant.
The latest one is about Japanese Elevators. Somethings I’ve noticed early on while when I first got here:
- Most Japanese elevators come fast
- I’ve never seen a Japanese elevator with light censors that stop the door from closing if there is something in the doorway. Most American elevators have those. The Japanese ones still have the floor to ceiling rubber pressure switch to prevent the door from closing on someone though.
- The “close door” buttons in all Japanese elevators work and work IMMEDIATELY. American “close door” buttons seem to be placebos and have no effect
Well, this article I was reading in Japanese class talked about this.
According to the article Japan has the most aggressive elevator competition in the world. The main competitors are Mitsubishi, Hitachi and Toshiba. Where as in America it’s not uncommon to wait over a minute for an elevator, at the time the article was written, 1996, the average wait in Japan was 30 seconds and the competition at the time was to get it under 25.
The article goes on to explain they accomplished the new speeds through the use of computers which had become cheap enough and small enough to install in the elevator control rooms. The computers monitor elevator usage and can use the info from previous days or weeks to adjust where the elevators will tend to wait or go first throughout the day. For example mornings tend to be picking lots of people up on the bottom floors, lunch times see a different usage pattern, etc. They can also be set to favor “more important” floors.
One part I found particularly interesting though is the article claimed that Japanese people are impatient, that if a Japanese business man is made to wait more than 30 seconds he’ll get angry where as an Western person will put up with over 1 minute waits. I don’t accept that explanation. Everyone I know of hates being made to wait so long for an elevator. There are tons of comedy skits about it as well as references to people pressing the button over and over and over hoping that will make it come faster. I think the truth lies somewhere else.
My guess as that as much as we hate the wait there is little to no competition in America. Maybe there are less elevator manufactures or maybe buildings get created far less often than in Japan where they tear down any building more than 30yrs old regularly. I know that I always hated the wait but I think my attitude was “there’s nothing I can do about it” where as in Japan there is, don’t buy a crappy elevator for your building.