Not sure if this belongs on a search marketing blog, but can’t help myself. Visiting Japan is as always enlightening. Growing up in an ethnocentric US culture, one naturally believes the world revolves around you and the rest of the world are the great unwashed masses. Turns out this thinking is a bit wrong. In fact, after several time lapsed exposures to Japan, it’s easy to wonder if we are the unwashed.
My mission was to find out about how Japanese use cell phones. Surely, they have all switched to the iPhone by now. US technology must have turned the corner on the Japanese and become the leader; not follower. Yet, that’s not what I’m observing. Most consumers are using flip phones, with large screens and touch keypads. Upon further probing, these phones not only offer music, games, email and navigation; but, simply flip up an antenna and receive your favorite TV programs. Apparently cost is a big factor, as these multi functional devices cost about ½ the price for a monthly plan than an iPhone and are ubiquitous. They are not only functional but fashion statements.
In this formal, polite and highly sophisticated culture; a cell phone is a natural extension of a well dressed woman tapping away clickity clack with her well manicured nails. Being driven around very narrow streets, on the wrong side of the road, with no sidewalks, motorcycles buzzing by, pedestrians everywhere, while the driver converses cell phone in hand, takes just a little bit of getting used to and a whole lot of guts.
A couple of other technology notes:
- Toshiba is big – When I mentioned to my brother in law that he had about half a dozen Toshiba devices in his house, he was surprised and mentioned he never realize that and I was the first to point that out. TV, microwave, laptop, refrigerator etc.
- Parking lots look like new car dealerships – Received a couple of explanations for this. 1) Culturally Japanese want to have a new car every three years or so and 2) the government has strict safety regulations for annual car registrations. As a car gets older, it gets prohibitively expensive to comply. So, in Japan it’s cheaper not to keep her.
- Most cars I’ve driven in have navigation installed. This appears much more popular than in the US.
- Laptops – I thought I had the latest and greatest mini laptop, but I walked into a brother in laws home only to find a “Toshiba” netbook that was thinner, lighter, had an optical drive an HDMI slot; so it could naturally Sync with the Toshiba TV. Rats! I looked online and could not find an English version of this laptop, so I assume it’s being saved for the great washed only.
- Toilets – This could be the subject for a college course. Just suffice to say they do things that would not be appropriate to mention on this family oriented channel. OK, one thing we could use at our office. Apparently Japanese are very sensitive about bodily functions and are very environmentally conscious. Historically, women would flush the toilet while doing their duty so others would not hear the tinkling. Therefore, the technology driven Japanese solution to this dilemma is the simulated sound of flushing water. I am not joking.
- Assisted Talking – It’s hard not to notice that almost every technology talks to you in a very professional female voice. Thermostats, buses, cars; you name it, it talks.
- Napkins – Don’t expect this technology on any dinner tables. It’s apparently expected that you can eat, using chopsticks, without spillage. Well, la de da; no problem for a guy from Jersey!
I am only half way through this adventure, and I hope to be able to learn more and report back to the unwashed. Till next time, this is roving technology reporter Jon Lisbin. Think happy thoughts!