Japanese government's digital ambitions still stuck in piles of paper

By Tetsushi Kajimoto

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It all boils down to responsibilities which no salarymen want to take.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

get me that paper from the fax machine so I can stamp it lol

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Odd that no one has mentioned this very recen New York Times article that points out that the US relies heavily on fax for compiling data on the COVID-19 pandemic.


Fax is also widely use in the medical sector in Britain.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

before ”digital or paper” issue, 

Present Abe government who easily scrap or conceal or tamper with official documents must be ended.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

@ Brian Wheway

Very good points, sir! Sorry about your accounts getting hacked. And your son is right about fax machines being safer from hackers.

Maybe the Japanese government could try a mix & match approach? Go digital for non-essential things like applying for carparks, etc, but still use fax /cash for anything that involves one's money. Eg, you apply for car registration online with all the various parties involved coming together at one central portal (eg, police, car park company, insurance company, etc) then you make the payment physically at a local government office.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

@divinda Today 07:03 am JST

How to get Coronavirus New Case Numbers:


Thanks for passing on the link. Fascinating story.

Why not just use an Excel spreadsheet...

1 ( +1 / -0 )

most poster on J news this morning are pointing out the Japan needs to go paperless and get a computer for email etc, well thats all good, but since the UK has gone down this route, banks have closed village, and small town offices to save money and go online banking, but the flip side to this, my bank account has been infiltrated, and money has been stolen from various accounts, and its the same with contactless credit cards, especially when they have been stolen and used. and when you phone up the bank and have to go through the blasted automated system of pressing 1-6 -9 -4 options to get to talk to the right person, this takes up shed loads of my precious time! so what was simple has now become complicated and frustrating! my son also made a comment to me the other day, and it was that fax machines are more secure, and are harder to hack into so its harder to steal any information unlike emails, yes emails are quicker and we as a society need to cut down on the use of paper where ever possible. I totally agree that there needs to be a radical overhaul of the Japanese working practices, but some can and do need to stay. its like the old analogy of buying a new all electric car, I wont buy one because there is no charging points in service stations or in car parks in town, slowly but surly they are starting to put charging points in as cars become more popular, but it is a slow process, its all about wanting to change, and move forward.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Decades later, they are still trying to figure out how to make a digital hanko.

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try getting a car registered in Japan, not Kcar, need parking certificate from the police station, first youve got to fill out 4 forms, then if you have to rent a car park youll need to have a contract with a car parking company have them sign one of the forms and then take all the forms to the police so they can verify the parking space is legitimate and that your car size fits in that space, this takes at least 4 days to clear. Also why having your own home with plenty of parking spaces is a great advantage, you can save a lot on parking fees especially if you live in the city. many times the parking cost more than the registration. I can park 5 cars at my home.

after you've got the parking certificate you'll need to take all those to the registration office alone with a inkan shomei, have the car checked which takes 4 different stamps if the vehicle passes. Then take your parking certificate and another 4 other papers to the counter to get checked, oop forgot youll have to get compulsory government insurance for the vehicle from another company as well, jibaiseki. Once you've passed the inspection, present the papers as well as the parking certificate and government insurance to the front desk theyll issue you with a new registration document in your name and the accompanying registration seal .

The quickest you can hope to get a normal car , above Kcar, registered in Japan if you've done everything right is 4 days, assuming you get the car inspected and passed on the same day you receive the parking certificate.

Kcar doesnt require a parking certificate which cuts the waiting time substantially, apart from their cheap price its another reason why they're so popular

5 ( +5 / -0 )

Sorry, natsu823

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Or one of those Motorola 8500 brick phones, nastsu823.

Dad had one, Mum said he use to raise his voice to such a level, it would have been cheaper to open the window, the person on the other end of the call could have heard him perfectly.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

My Japanese grandparents were surprised I didn't have a paper bank book in the US.

and fax machine.

7 ( +7 / -0 )

Not surprising for a country that appoints a head of cybersecurity who can't use a computer.

I remember that. I also remember former 'PM' Mori pronouncing I.T. as itto. I'm sure he's doing great things for the 2020 Olympics now.

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To expat & marcelito:

Valid points. You're quite right.

At least e-forms/documents can be backed up in some remote region ( although there's always a problem of communist state sponsored hacking).

Let me pick all of your brains for this interesting topic.

Given that Japan is disaster prone, between going digital vs maintaining the current status of using paper ( because apparently it's more reliable), which method do y'all think is more reliable? I mean, in blackouts, you can't use PCs (but you may have backups in other regions). In floods or fires, paper documents get wiped out but these are 'once in a while' disasters and psychologically, humans prefer something they can hold in their hands.

What do you all think will take to get more people in Japan ( esp the bureaucracy) to shift to digital? Apart from government intervention, any other ideas?
1 ( +1 / -0 )

Indeed, paper records always survive ensuing floods and fires.

However not a shredder, circa: May 2015 Moritomo Gakuen kindergarten Osaka and records accompanying the negotiation of a 10-year lease for the property. Hey that for another day, another thread.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

@ Divinda

I thought it was a hoax, fake news or just plain humour.

Apparently, it remains a crazy world.

Yeah, it is just to get people busy doing "anythi'g".

Like the two oyajis needed to wave a stick before and after a 3 meter long roadwork...

I await to see that Ponzi scheme about how much money from thin air a country can create before falling.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Actually, now that you mention it, he does have a valid point. In disaster prone Japan, how does going digital or paperless affect work if there IS a nationwide blackout or earthquake?

I wager that if power goes out in an earthquake, fax will be equally useless? thank God for smoke signals.

If it weren’t for those warm pulsing water jets, I would be at the airport right now!

Lol..that, plus the food and the ladies.

9 ( +9 / -0 )

The Japan National Tax Agency handles taxes digitally (e-Tax), and have done for many years; though they send a lot of the documentation and explanations by post!

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You know, now I come to think of it, whenever I visit Ino prefectural office chamber of commerce I rarely  witness a bureaucrat without a fist full of paperwork.

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YubaruToday 07:14 am JST

Two decades after Japan rolled out an ambitious plan to go digital, 

One guy I worked with, now in his 40's, used to comment, "We HAVE to learn how to do it analog, because what happens if the power goes out and we cant use our computers!"

Actually, now that you mention it, he does have a valid point. In disaster prone Japan, how does going digital or paperless affect work if there IS a nationwide blackout or earthquake?

-3 ( +1 / -4 )

Not surprising for a country that appoints a head of cybersecurity who can't use a computer.

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World's third largest economy? Let's check in in a few years.

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If it weren’t for those warm pulsing water jets, I would be at the airport right now!

8 ( +8 / -0 )

Go into any kuyakusho or most offices for that matter and it’s like the movie, Brazil

12 ( +12 / -0 )

Overall, it could cost the government 323 million working hours per year if it doesn't go digital,

When people back home find out I'm living in Japan often the first comment is "I've heard its really hi-tech and efficient". To which I just have to laugh.

The toilets are pretty hi-tech though. I think I've spent about 323 million hours on glorious Japanese heated toilet seats.

16 ( +16 / -0 )

Reminds me of the old days when Tokyo created an office and department to motivate and educate salarymen to stop working so much overtime and spend more time with their families.

The office closed it down because all of the workers were working too much overtime.

21 ( +21 / -0 )

Two decades after Japan rolled out an ambitious plan to go digital, 

One guy I worked with, now in his 40's, used to comment, "We HAVE to learn how to do it analog, because what happens if the power goes out and we cant use our computers!"

16 ( +16 / -0 )

I needed an official paper from my city office.

Had to go to 2nd floor. Was given a couple of forms to fill in and told to take them to another building. 20 minutes walk. Gave them the forms and I was given another form to take back to the original building. Went back to the 2nd fl and told to take it to the 3rd floor. At the 3rd floor I told to go to the 1st floor and buy special stamps from payment place on another form. Finally back to the 3rd floor and got the document.

4 forms and 5 different people.

19 ( +19 / -0 )

70 odd years of inertia combined with a fear of change an infexable education system resulting in a refusal to take any responsibility. Pretty easy to see why this has happened. If only the system cared about the people who pay for it, rather than complicating interaction just for the sake of complicating interaction. What a beautiful world. You Shine Japan you shine.

16 ( +16 / -0 )

How to get Coronavirus New Case Numbers:

Every morning, before 9:00am, all Tokyo health centers are expected to FAX an individual A4 case sheet for every new case to the city's health ministry. Email is not allowed, only fax.

These faxes (again, one per new patient, so nowadays its hundreds per day) are then compiled and counted by hand, and organized by age, sex, etc and route of transmission, and this is how they get the new daily totals. If a fax arrives after 9am, its put into the next day's totals.

Obviously, the lag time can be several days between when the test was taken, the case report filed, the report faxed and counted, and then when it is finally announced.

Read more about this high-tech process here:


22 ( +22 / -0 )

I've gotta troop to a neighboring building to but my seal on the work attendance form. I only do it once a month and just hit every day at a blow. My coworkers do the same. It is BS but somehow necessary.

14 ( +14 / -0 )

Embarrassing to say the least...but that's what happens in a seniority based system s where decision makers are the top of bureaucracy are inflexible old dinosaurs stuck in their time bubbles. Nothing demonstrated it better than the Minister in charge of cyber security I think it was , who never used computers at office / smartphone being appointed by Abe into that position. What a joke.

23 ( +24 / -1 )

On the bright side, Japan's old paper analogue trail for tracing TB has proven itself as the gold standard for tracing COVID-19.

-5 ( +4 / -9 )

They’re too busy fixing fax machines

21 ( +21 / -0 )

Japanese even keep their medieval organizational methods into digital systems.

We went into digital signature at my back then Japanese company only internally in 2014 and not for all document validation.

The good thing is that once Japan will move on to No paper world, it will be effective.

We are talking about in 2050 only...

17 ( +17 / -0 )

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