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Tea Leaves

In Japan, transport companies really do deliver

As online shopping booms, couriers seem to be everywhere, all the time

Wherever you go in Japan, such as here, near Tokyo's Nakameguro Station, at any given moment, someone, somewhere is delivering something to somebody. (All photos by Edward M. Gomez)

Imagine a contemporary version of Shakespeare's Hamlet, brooding not about the merits of existence ("to be, or not to be") but rather about whether or not to make an online purchase. A decision to buy would trigger a chain of events in a complex system in which labor, finance, advertising and the distribution of goods and services converge. To click, or not to click, that is the question.

Shopping online has become commonplace in the era of COVID-19, during which the pandemic has turned even ordinary supermarket forays into stressful, infection-threatening affairs. If today's version of the metaphysically tortured Hamlet decides to go ahead and buy, the result of his rumination-fueled action in much of Asia will be the delivery of a corrugated cardboard box to his door.

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