Photo: iStock/ Recep-bg

Why isn’t Japan as tech savvy as it should be?

By Lillian Loescher

Computer literacy is basic, nontechnical knowledge about computing and software. However, it should also include digital literacy, such as knowing what websites may be harmful or how to interact with others online.

Japan is at the forefront of creating cutting edge technology to solve societal problems, and anyone looking for work in Japan has likely encountered the standard IT job posting. But while the country often stirs images of "Blade Runner," many people in Japan are actually not very tech-savvy.

Both the young and old seem to struggle with basic computer skills. So, why is this? Is there anything being done to change it? What does this mean for those searching for jobs in Japan?

After looking at the research and reporting over the last few years, things in the present start to make a little more sense.

A look inside some of the research

An article published in the Shonan Journal noted that “Japanese youths’ digital literacy is falling behind other developed countries.” For example, many students in Japan may have been taught how to use PowerPoint but rarely sit down and make a presentation.

Does this sound a bit strange? Well, there may be a reason as to why this is. In Japan, a traditional lecture style of education is still the norm, whereas an active learning style is adopted in many other countries.

So it appears that the nation’s youth are technically being educated on using specific programs, they lack the opportunity for actual hands-on experience. Essentially, this means students may not be be pushed to take an active role in their education. Japan’s low computer literacy skills seems to be an unintended consequence of this style of education.

Young and old alike

Click here to read more.

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Why isn’t Japan as tech savvy as it should be?

They're too busy clinging to their floppy disks and fax machines in order to continue the illusion of living in the glory days of the 80s.

0 ( +16 / -16 )

Because they are not innovative?

-1 ( +13 / -14 )

Because there is nothing wrong with holding on to what we are using. Why fix something that is not broken? People always seem to be such a rush these days to run toward the future as if it's some kind of race or something. Cultures and traditional ways are slowly dying. There is nothing wrong with going at a slow pace. Less IT and more balance with nature. I rather my kids learn how to build something using wood than to spend their days on a computer.

-16 ( +4 / -20 )

@Hiro nice excuses

7 ( +14 / -7 )

Why isn’t Japan as tech savvy as it should be?

Computer-literacy as in "lack of awareness of risks ( fraud, computer fraud, need for pc / smartphone protection, etc)": I would think that the while Japan is a "very safe place", this created a "100% safe place"-myth or belief making people lower their guard even in face of what can be very obvious risks.

Computer-literacy as in "not having much IT skills (i.e. use of IT-tools: Excel and formulas, Word presentations, Powerpoint presentations)": I would point to the same as the overall lack of English language skills where while everybody learns it, there is no real use / requirement for it or using it is "mendokusai" above anything else...

3 ( +10 / -7 )

Hiro. You do have a point. However, you are talking about addiction to digital technology which I believe it is a different topic.

It is not just Japan. Older generation in many countries find it challenging to adapt new technologies.

For example, many students in Japan may have been taught how to use PowerPoint but rarely sit down and make a presentation.

A student cannot use PowerPoint to make a presentation is of low computer literacy. What kind of example is this?

5 ( +8 / -3 )

Shoot: pushed the "post"-button by mistake.

Final one:

Computer literacy as in "being an IT professional": this obviously amounts to choosing a profession where keeping up to speed with all the developments in the technology field is challenging to say the least. The problem being that in Japan the reward / incentive (i.e. salary) is simply not there to justify it...

3 ( +5 / -2 )

Because almost no one in Japan uses a computer anymore. Most of the younger generation only use phones and tablets, and cannot do anything other than typing very slowly when they enter a company as a new grad. This holds true even for the graduates from elite universities.

I am pretty sure that the majority of Japanese classes are still focused on hand writing, and have almost no assignments to be done on a computer. The more traditional companies in Japan would also have their entry sheets done by handwriting, so there is very little opportunities for Japanese people to have experience with computers until they join a 1st tier company.

12 ( +12 / -0 )

People I talk to back home always say things like "You're living in the year 3000 over there" it makes me laugh looking at the average Japanese homepage, the sounds of the 2 fax machines in the office, 1GB Wi-Fi but no hardware in the PCs that support it. Practical thinking and application are just not in the cards here, and any suggestions that go up the ladder ends with an oyaji with a flip phone and a pager or something. I think a lot (ton) of it comes from them being spoon fed what to do, say, study for most of their lives. Haven't really had any chance to stretch those brain muscles.

13 ( +14 / -1 )

The Jetsons is the future.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

If a job can’t be done with a fax and a hanko, it’s not worth doing.

-5 ( +5 / -10 )


Because there is nothing wrong with holding on to what we are using.

Unless it is inefficient, unproductive, and incompatible with global standards.

Why fix something that is not broken?

But, it is broken. Very broken.

8 ( +14 / -6 )

Hmmmmm. I have seen a lot of terrible power points over the years and not from Japanese folks and it got worse during COVID.

It is indeed an important skill. It seems like 60% of folks just read from their power points. Very bad.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

Here are 5 things right now Japan needs to update and get digitized.

Land transportation office.

Every single Ward building in the country.

Do away with inkan sho mei system and digitize it.

Banking and online banking.

Japan uses way to much paper. Way to much redundancy. Way to much checking, double checking, triple checking, and then checking again. Then has the nerve to criticize other country's.

And why? Change is hard for the Japanese in most in every and all things...So much could be done online.

The (My Number Card) was a good start and it is used by foreign nationals more than Japanese nationals.

I wonder why?

Change is hard and painful here and doesn't have to be.

6 ( +9 / -3 )

Yep, change causes confusion, then inevitably a fuse failure in someone’s head, best to avoid that.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

Japan uses way to much paper. Way to much redundancy. Way to much checking, double checking, triple checking, and then checking again.

And yet, they still managed to send an entire town population's worth of stimulus payments, ¥46,300,000, to one guy.

6 ( +11 / -5 )

Japan needs to learn that making mistakes are good thing. Helps you to actually learn something. However, I do like fax machines. Can't figure out how they work.

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

Tech is driven by the young, Japan is run by old men.

2 ( +4 / -2 )

Most Japanese are afraid of change. Also, Japanese infrastructure is based on a minimalist mentality. If you go into a city hall you’ll still find computers running Windows XP backed up with a huge paper trail if red stamps. Getting a car registered is a paper trail of jokes as you hop from one building to another to get your red stamps. Renting a property is all done on paper. Japan does not use data bases. They use recycled paper instead. The direct debit system is virtually unheard of in Japan. Living in Japan is like living in the 80’s.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

Job protection!

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Well, in my opinion we all need a few steps back on everything, in all fields. Of course the 80’s and 90’ with the bubble economy were the top of the development. And as this is more a general statement, the same is valid for IT and digitalization. Personally, I went through almost all of it, from punching card machines , magnetic disc readers bigger than a washing machine, floppy disks, strict COBOL program lines, up to nowadays no-code AI , the whole spectrum so to say. And we even have had already in the 90’s microphones commanding a PC , 3D-Video conversion and VR-software. In fact it’s all only warmed up and more nicely packed and sold in new marketing waves, but for me it’s just not new at all, it’s more boring old. Remains one new thing, those cashless payments and supermarket cashless registers. Even those are slower than old cashing and inconvenient on many occasions. Also the possibilities to have money in the accounts for using the services are quite limited because of economy disasters all over. Let’s go back two, three decades, in economy and IT, you won’t regret it. Long live the bubble, with less data and more personal money!

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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