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It is an experience many in Japan now know: a visit to a SoftBank mobile phone vendor that ends in an attempt to converse with a small, white machine called Pepper.

The presence of such robots would seem to confirm the stereotype of Japan as a high-tech utopia full of strange technological experiences. The truth is rather more prosaic, as long-term residents discover. The fax, for example, remains alive and well in the nation’s offices.

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