I really have to hand it to Japanese society how convenient a lot of things are. In how many other countries is it possible to grab a hot meal, deposit money into your bank account, pick up some toilet paper and a couple of beers, purchase a couple of tickets to the upcoming Red Hot Chili Peppers show, and book a hotel for after the show all in the same convenience store in the middle of the night?*
Japan also happens to have among the most convenient cell phone functions in the world. Japan has been to this day a pioneer in mobile web-browsing technology, and the result has been a world of convenience. Shopping, purchasing concert tickets, GPS, song downloading*, e-mail (including web mail such as Hotmail), weather reports, local restaurant reviews and information*, and train schedules and transfer information are among a wide variety of functions that I would love to see happen in the U.S.
Just imagine being able to get step by step directions on your phone on which trains you need to take to get from point A to point B, how long each train takes, the exact waiting time in between transferring trains, the exact arrival time of each train, and how much each leg of the trip is going to cost. Not only do you get directions but among those directions you are given several options varying in accordance to price and the overall travel time. Cheaper ticket but longer travel time, or getting there quickly at the expense of a little extra money—the decision is conveniently presented to you on a screen the size of the palm of your hand. To get an idea of what this service is like, you can check out the full website version of Norikae-Annai (Japanese for “transfer information”).
*Unfortunately, for a lot of the above mobile services I mentioned that I’m aware of and use myself, they are as far as I know only in Japanese. Again, if anyone knows of such services offered in English here in Japan, please drop a comment. Of course, there’s also the option of just learning Japanese… :)