Why Are Japanese School Buses So Much Better Than Our School Buses? Feb. 4, 2013
….The Japanese have some common concepts that we don't really have in much of the west, the especially relevant one being kawaii. Essentially, kawaii just means “cute” but in Japanese culture, there is a much more un-self conscious love of cute. Cute things pop up everywhere — industrial robots sing little electronic songs, guard rails are in the shape of little animals, sections of Tokyo all have their own little mascots. Enjoying cute things isn't considered necessarily infantilizing or not empowering, so there's less restriction.
That means if you can make a school bus cute and fun, why not do it? Sure, there's some extra costs, but the value of keeping kids excited to go to school must make that equation make sense. Without as an agressive cute-stigmatization, you can have a giant cat school bus and not worry that people won't perceive your school as a serious institution of learning. I don't think that would be the case in the US.
Also, there's a history in Japan of imbuing objects with, while not exactly something like a soul, some sort of feeling. Concepts like wabi-sabi and wu-wei from Japanese philosophy allow objects to contain a certain ability to hold and express a feeling. It's not exactly saying they're alive or anything, but it does open a society up to accepting the idea of objects as things that can be related with beyond simple physical interactions. These are also the same reasons (I think) why Japan has proven to be so much more willing to accept robots into their culture and identity… Continues…