Daisuke Shimoda, ARUN Partner
Well, what should I write? Writing whatever I want for other people to see may be the first time since my elementary school free essay. It seems that I can write anything at all, unrelated to ARUN, but it would be a little embarrassing if I just write about my favorite sweets. I will write about something I thought of during my business trip to Vietnam, on the comfort of a society.
■ Vietnam and the Motorcycles
In July and August of this year, I had a business trip to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. People were friendly, the food was as good as I heard about and my weight increased steadily despite of its healthiness. But what impressed me the most was the number of motorcycles. As you may know, Ho Chi Minh City is the motorcycle mecca, and though I have heard about it, the real scene was overwhelming. The motorcycles were half, or depends on the hour and the location, more than 90% of the traffic. They were surrounding cars and it was a miracle that accidents did not happen. The pedestrians cross the streets, the motorcycles dodge them, and in the mixture, some bicycles zip… it was rather a shocking situation for a Japanese person from a tranquil society.
However chaotic, I also felt that each vehicle and object (motorcycles, pedestrian, cars, etc.) are meshed organically to form a city. In Japan, everybody moves according to the set rules such as the red light that indicates time to stop, blue is for moving behind a car you need to leave 10m. This order seems to create safety and efficiency, but it seems possible that Ho Chi Minh city is more efficient, where everyone determines their own space and move wherever they need to go. The moving speed was slow, but I didn’t experience a complete stop and waiting time, which was comfortable (although I would not want to drive there.)
■ What is Comfort?
On the contrary in Japan (mainly in Tokyo), even though the regulated infrastructure and the good manners may be more sophisticated than other advanced countries, it seems that the society lacks in the consideration of comfort. I sense the trend that the numbers such as efficiency and the turnover rates are highly valued, and when someone tries to pursue comfort, he is accused of inefficiency and being imprudent. When we commute, we are crowded into train cars as if to fill every empty space; at work, we are pushed into a small cubicle (my office); and even on our break, we have to fight for a small seat at Starbucks. We are far from being comfortable.
By the way, I hate commuting with trains. I don’t understand why I have to be pushed in with so many people, and I rented an apartment near my office so I can walk to work. Motorcycles seem to be the way to go, to be able to go wherever and whenever I like.
Of course, motorcycles have their weaknesses such as safety, vulnerability to weather, and you can’t drive when drinking. The true answer for the society is, however, to think merits and demerits of each option. That is why social investment exists (this may be a too forcible conclusion.)
How much does a certain activity provide comfort to people? What is the expectation for how advanced the society should be? Is the activity striving for something nobody has not been able to actualize? When evaluating social investment, it is important to have such criteria. It would be wonderful to see businesses being born that reverse import the investments to the developing countries.