All About Japan

Understanding Japanese Phone Culture

| Photography , Smartphones

What are some of the things that foreign visitors and residents in Japan notice about Japanese smartphone culture? A recent article from Yahoo! Japan listed up 10 of the most common observations made by foreign contributors.

1. 'Japanese people have excellent phone manners on the train or elsewhere in public'

In Japan, chatting on the phone on the train is considered extremely rude and generally isn’t tolerated. Even the Top Gear guys got told off for using a phone on the Shinkansen during one episode! People are also generally careful about when and where they speak on the phone, since causing inconvenience to others and drawing attention to oneself in public is something a lot of Japanese people would rather avoid. Not so in many other countries, where some people don’t seem to care who’s listening to their conversation, and even watch videos on their phones without using headphones.

2. 'Lots of adults can be seen playing smartphone games'

2. 'Lots of adults can be seen playing smartphone games'

Who said video games were for kids? The assumption that only kids would be seen playing games on their phones is very narrow-minded, and in a country like Japan—which has a huge industry built around smartphone games—that kind of thinking doesn’t hold water. Since many people have long train commutes here, smartphone gaming is a convenient way to pass the time. You’ll also notice plenty of adults of both genders playing handheld consoles on the train, too.

3. 'Lots of people use iPhones'

When smartphones first started getting popular in Japan, we definitely noticed that a lot of people were opting for iPhones, and they’re incredibly popular. These days, you can spot a full range of models in people’s hands as other companies have brought out their own smartphones as the market grew. Samsung, Sony and LG rank pretty highly on the list, but so too do models made just for Japan’s own mobile phone carriers.

4. 'Nobody really uses hands-free to talk'

This one we can definitely understand. If you're from the U.S. or U.K. it's always a bit of a shock when you go back home because it seems like everyone’s walking around talking to themselves. By contrast, we hardly ever see anyone chatting hands-free on the phone in Japan, and if they do they’re using headphones and holding their phone, bottom edge closest, up to their mouth. Perhaps it’s got something to do with not wanting to draw attention, or not wanting to look like you’re having a chat with your imaginary friend.

5. 'They communicate by sending food pictures'

This was an unusual one to see mentioned in Yahoo!’s article since, although the food-picture-taking craze may have originated in Asia, thanks to Instagram we’re pretty much seeing this trend happen on a global scale. No need to be surprised when it goes on in Japan, surely?

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