The dream of the nineties is alive in Tokyo, according to The Washington Post. Apparently people over there still use fax machines. And not just for sending…what documents do you send via a fax machine, anyway? Whatever, they use them for sending absolutely every kind of document.
Bank statements. Grocery lists. Fine howdy-doo's. Etc.
In fact, the Japanese sort of sound like a bunch of wealthy villains from a 1980s teen comedy, holed up in their homes with their fax machines (as of March, 59 percent of private Japanese homes had fax machines) sending one another party invitations (party invitations are apparently an exceedingly popular item to fax).
Can you imagine trying to fax someone a party invitation in America today? Or even ten years ago? Even if you were doing it ironically—and you would be, oh, how you would be—no one would be able to appreciate your hilarious ironic gesture because no one understands fax machines or where to find them or how they magically work or anything like that.
While the Post piece sometimes skirts the border of pure fetishism with regard to Japan's peculiar affinity for the faxed word
"With their traditional reverence for paper and handwriting, the Japanese…"
it also provides some interesting hypotheses as to why email does not enjoy the level of untouchable workplace dominance in Japan that it does in other countries.
One theory points to the nature of Japanese writing itself.
One reason is that computers, at the outset, never worked well for the Japanese. The country's language - a mix of three syllabaries, with thousands of complex "kanji" ideograms - bedeviled early-age word-processing software. Until the early 1990s, Japanese was nearly impossible to type.
However, as noted by The Post, China, plagued by similar typing difficulties, has not continued a similar love affair with the fax.
Then again, when you get right down to it, what's not to like about faxing? (Apart from all the obvious things, I mean.)
The paper reports that, in 2011, Japan's national broadcaster NHK launched a service that sent out faxes of recipes to viewers of a weekly healthy living program, for a small fee.
Listen to the description of those faxes:
"Unlike with e-mail, those recipes came out warm, on standard A4 paper, and were perfect for filing away."
Piping hot standard A4 paper. Doesn't that sound lovely?
Please fax all responses.