Sounds like a few of my former students but in this case we are talking about a robot who is waiting to greet me when I walk into Tokyo's Mitsukoshi department store the next time I go there, which will be never.
The concept of having a greeter at a department store is not new in Japan. But they are able to pull it off here with a bit more style, grace and dignity than the blue-vested specimens at Wal-Mart. When I do find myself walking into a department store in Japan - likely to use the bathroom - my knees go weak with the smiling, the bowing, the precise, sweet words of welcome from the girl standing by the entrance who seems genuinely delighted that I have come to use the bathroom.
I'll then head for the elevator for more of the same from another sweet, demure Japanese girl whose job it is to make me feel safe and comfortable as she puts a practiced, protective hand in front of the not-yet-closed elevator doors, totally pushing my buttons. Plus she will answer me when I ask her where the bathroom is.
Mitsukoshi's Aiko Chihira, however, is not human. She's a machine that can "move in several ways". Meanwhile there is no shortage of sweet, demure Japanese girls willing to stand by an entrance or in an elevator and push my buttons in several ways. So really, I don't get it.
Make people grow? Through an encounter with a human-ish machine that can't even tell us where the bathroom is?
Thanks but no thanks. I'll take a sweet, demure Japanese human instead.
Even if she doesn't know where the bathroom is. Just keep pushing those buttons, honey.