A salute to creativity and innovation
Bumpy yellow paths and platform doors
by Alexandra Juhasz
There are several common eye diseases; some are very serious, and can eventually lead to blindness if neglected. For the safety of the blind, bumpy yellow paths have been installed at major train and subway stations in Japan to guide them or show them where the platform ends. There are also platform doors functioning as safety barriers to keep people from falling onto the tracks.
One does not need to be visually impaired to get into an unpleasant situation at stations even people with proper eyesight in Japan fall off rail platforms or bump into things while mesmerized by their own smartphones. In most cases, they walk away unharmed though some suffer from a red face. They certainly don’t have to pay with their lives. Yet, imagine such an irresponsible scene in nature, such as a zebra that is paying all its attention to the grass around its hooves. It’s a story that would certainly end tragically if there were a lion around.
Our world is changing more rapidly than anything witnessed by previous generations. We have to be watchful and adaptable if we are to keep up with this extraordinary lightning fast transformation of our everyday lives. We should also be aware that, due to the current economic situation, the dominant social psychology is considerably pessimistic, which darkens people’s future and generates dreamless youngsters in large numbers.
We don’t have to be helplessly lost in the dark because luckily there are many “bumpy yellow paths” and “platform doors” prepared for us in our society. If we don’t want be attacked by a hungry lion, we would be better off focusing our attention on the world around us, and not just on our own toes.
BRINGING THE OLYMPIC FIRE FROM SOCHI TO JAPAN
A 39 year old truck driver in Tokyo named Kobayashi recently found a way to use a “yellow bumpy path” and experience the global happenings more intimately. “I usually listen to the radio when driving long distance to kill time,” he says. “I first got to know about the Sochi Winter Olympics last December when a radio news program was introducing Sochi city and the Olympic mascots. I like manga and animation, so I wanted a mascot figure for myself.”
Kobayashi soon found out that the mascots were not on sale in Japan; if he wanted one, he would have to purchase it from overseas. That gave him an idea! By the time the opening ceremony of the 2014 Winter Olympic Games was aired on Feb. 3, 2014, he already had several mascot items and other Russian souvenirs listed on his Yahoo! Auction booth for sale.
On his tablet, he points at a picture of a 28cm animal toy. “I never thought that a mascot with the Sochi logo would be worth ¥25,000 to somebody,” he says in an excited voice. “But that’s what it actually went for.”
The demand was there and he was ready to deliver. Within 10 days he sold all of his 50 items and generated as much profit as two months’ worth of his salary, simply because no one else offered such items in Japan at that time. As Olympic fever increased in Japan, more people visited his auction booth, and his items were viewed by thousands of visitors a day.
“We can’t control the color of our skin or tomorrow’s weather,” he explains. “But there are things we can change here and now.”
What Kobayashi did required neither special knowledge nor a university degree; it was simply a matter of envisioning new possibilities. Inspiration came from a conversation heard on the radio. He simply summed up the situation, then actively used tools that already existed in Japanese society the internet, a smartphone camera, a language translator program, the shipping services at convenience stores, etc. and let the media do the rest for him.
“The Sochi Olympics taught me how to walk with my eyes and ears wide open, and I enjoyed it,” he says. “The most difficult part was convincing my elderly mother that the money which I sent home was earned through hard work done in a modern style.”
Amidst all the uncertainties of the modern world, we must be agile and able to adapt quickly. However, most of us don’t have the time to read the newspapers from top to bottom, or watch numerous television channels to look out for upcoming trends. Nor do we have the knowledge to simply understand and foresee the direction the economy is heading.
Taking the initiative to make things happen and to look into the near future in terms that are within our control are choices we can make. Practicing small acts of change in everyday life, like Kobayashi did, renews the self. He is proof that anyone can find their own news with which they can step out of the comfort zone and start walking on the “bumpy yellow path.”
Alexandra Juhasz, from Hungary, is a student at the Sanno Institute of Management in Tokyo. She is interested in a career in science journalism. The article was edited for publication.