Fax machines remain important in Japan because of language and culture

Chico Harlan
Washington Post

June 8, 2012

TOKYO — In Japan’s businesses and bureaucracies, in home offices and hulking companies, the fax machine is thriving.

Yes, the clunky device has fallen out of favor in so much of the world, a refuge for dust bunnies and stray cover sheets. But it is humming here.

Japanese still fax party invitations, bank documents and shopping orders. Business people call the fax a required communication tool, used for vital messages, often in place of e-mail. In the early hours of last year’s nuclear crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi plant, operators informed the government of an emergency seawater injection by dialing up Tokyo and sending a fax.

Japan’s continued fax devotion may be an endearing quirk, what with the country’s reputation as a high-tech playland, all bright lights and flawless trains and chirping micro-devices. But it may also represent a deeper sign of the nation’s inability to change and to accommodate global standards, even as it cedes economic ground to Asian rivals such as China and South Korea.

Read full report here


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