“Fuben-Eki” is a Japanese acronym that stands for “Further benefits of a kind of inconvenience”.

It is a design concept that introduces inconvenience into processes, where the inconvenience would actually be beneficial (forcing you to improve hand-eye coordination, to slow down and notice something, or to improve your memory skills).

Here is a freely accessible video from Japan’s NHK show “Design Talks Plus” about different applications of this unusual concept:


Only if the video above is inaccessible, you can watch my own archive copy of the show here:

Professor Kawakami Hiroshi from the video runs this site http://fuben-eki.jp/en/ . It appears that the fuben-eki Facebook page has the latest interviews and writing from his team.

And here is a link to an academic paper introducing the Benefits of Inconvenience [archive PDF link].

In my mind, in the West, we apply fuben-eki in the following ways already:

  • Slowing down our response to others’ emails. By introducing a delay, we’re giving others an opportunity to solve their own problem. We are also giving ourselves more breathing room.
  • In a factory: cross-training people, and rotating them through different duties in a day.
  • Reducing credit-card spending using the trick where you freeze the card in a block of ice, and have to wait for it to thaw in order to make an online purchase.
  • Traffic calming techniques like the ones listed here (additionally, there is a technique where you force drivers to be vigilant by intermixing pedestrian & vehicle traffic together)