COVID-19 INFORMATION What you need to know about the coronavirus if you are living in Japan or planning a visit.
lifestyle

10 things foreigners in Japan notice about Japanese phone culture

34 Comments
By Evie Lund, RocketNews24

Life’s really changed since we all graduated from flip-phones to smartphones. Now we all have tiny computers in our pockets which we can use to stay connected (and browse funny cat videos). But in Japan, which has always had its own unique smartphone culture, the change from "gara-kei" flip-phones to smartphones has been even more pronounced.

So, 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”

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, I 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 I can definitely understand. I always get a shock when I go home to the UK because it seems like everyone’s walking around talking to themselves. In contrast, I 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?

6) “Lots of people use their phone while walking”

Known as "aruki-sumaho" (literally “walking-smartphone”) this practice is generally looked down upon in Japan, and yet it happens absolutely everywhere. In crowded cities like Tokyo, a smartphone-screen-gazing salaryman can become a serious pedestrian hazard. It’s even more dangerous on train platforms when one misstep could land you on the track. Some Japanese smartphones these days even come with an inbuilt feature which warns you—and sometimes prevents use entirely—when the phone detects you’re walking. Of course, it’s only an optional feature.

7) “Lots of people use pictures of their kids or popular characters as their avatars”

A lot of people in Japan have a strong sense of privacy, and many use pseudonyms online as well as opting out of using pictures of their face on social media. If you’ve ever browsed a dating site in Japan, you’ll find lots of people attempting to hide their face in their pictures (because everyone knows that looks don’t matter in online dating). It’s a strange phenomenon in this world of online over-sharing, but with many people in Japan drawing a clear line in the sand between their work and private life, it’s often essential.

8) “People get angry if you try to look at your smartphone during work”

We’ve all heard about how Japanese people work extremely hard. What we haven’t all realised, however, is that it’s often purely for show. Japanese companies are notorious hotbeds of time-wasting, with pointless, drawn-out meetings, excessive redundant paperwork, and plenty of slacking off. However, the important thing is to make it look like you’re working hard. That’s why you’ll often see staff at shops running like headless chickens from one end of the store to the other to perform some routine task, despite that fact that it’s actually dangerous to do so. I used to work in city hall in Japan and I observed the “work dash” on a daily basis—one brief glance at your smartphone would ruin the illusion of diligence.

9) “People often mess with their phones during dinner”

I think we can skip this point, because doesn’t this happen in every country in the world where people have access to smartphone technology? It sucks, but it’s not unique to Japan, sorry Yahoo!

10) “They don’t use Siri”

Perhaps this goes back to the imaginary friend theory from number four? Or maybe they’re all too busy playing with Rinna instead.

Source: R25 Yahoo

Read more stories from RocketNews24. -- Oh the things you’ll see when glancing at a nearby passenger’s phone on the trains of Japan -- Customer reviews on Amazon Japan are more priceless than the expensive items they’re about -- “Denki Anma”: The Japanese traditional torment that you’ll be glad stays in Japan

© Japan Today

©2020 GPlusMedia Inc.


34 Comments
Login to comment

I think using your phone during dinner, or whilst you are talking face to face with someone is absolutely the height of poor manners. It shows a lack of self control and a lack of respect for the people you are talking to. Be it in Japan or anywhere else.

13 ( +16 / -3 )

Top ten click bait.

Funny story: went out to pick up some take-out food at a local izakaya here in Nor Cal. Everyone outside was glued to their phone. Entire families going out to eat, each staring at their own phone. Went inside. Same story.

Like Wall -E.

I hope we all laugh at ourselves comes 10 years, just like we now laugh at, oh, I don't know, 70s fashion.

If not, we are all doooooooooooooomed.

6 ( +7 / -1 )

I wonder if Maxwell Smart is getting any royalties...

1 ( +1 / -0 )

If you’ve ever browsed a dating site in Japan, you’ll find lots of people attempting to hide their face in their pictures

This notion of hiding one's face on dating sites is actually very prudent, especially considering near future technological advances.

Few people think about it, but for instance Facebook already uses very good facial recognition technology that can identify faces in photos, and that technology is bound to get much better and much more prevalent. As such, in some years time it will probably be very easy to identify names of people in photos of faces posted online now, or to do an online search of a person's face to find other photos of that same person.

Some of our future grandchildren many decades from now will probably do searches of grandma/grandpa and find pictures we posted in our younger years that we would rather forget.

I used to work in city hall in Japan and I observed the “work dash” on a daily basis.

"Work dash." Love it. I'm definitely going to use that. I see the work dash all the time, particularly in my tiny neighborhood grocery store where workers are incessantly and aimlessly running from one place to another. I get tired just watching them.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Japanese culture only? I think this list applies to many other countries as well.

Ah wait....rocketnews. Never miiiind.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

I think using your phone during dinner, or whilst you are talking face to face with someone is absolutely the height of poor manners.

I agree - mostly. If it's to look up a translation, or to pull up a picture or whatever, then it's ok. But if you're reading stuff or mailing someone or basically doing anything that isn't part of the conversation you're having with the person you're at dinner with, it's horrible manners.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

"Siri, what is the translation for Siri in Japanese?" "Rump, ass, bottom." Maybe Japanese do not like the idea of talking to a butt ( シリ).

1 ( +1 / -0 )

What does "Siri" mean?

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

other japanese phone use: mother on mamachari-bike, 2 kids, one front one back, one hand holding umbrella against sun, one hand driving, phone hooked between face and shoulder

3 ( +4 / -1 )

"Siri, what is the translation for Siri in Japanese?" "Rump, ass, bottom." Maybe Japanese do not like the idea of talking to a butt ( シリ).

尻 (shiri) is rarely used by itself, it's almost always お尻 (oshiri). They are also pretty used to using homonyms, since there are so many in Japanese, so it's unlikely this would be an issue.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Japanese people usually don't chat by phone in train because almost everyone care others, what they talk. Smart phone games are popular for adult. There are a lot of iPhone users, me too but I use hands-free to talk.

And I totally agreed the others as well!!

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

Siri is absolutely useless. The tech for this kinda app is still years away.

-2 ( +4 / -6 )

Siri is absolutely useless.

Not really, I use it every day. When it first came out, it wasn't very helpful at all, but in the past few years it's gotten quite accurate.

0 ( +3 / -3 )

Nobody uses Siri because it's only really support in English the most of the functions work primarily in the US. Google is a whole lot better in Japan. Oh don't let your phone ring on the train in Japan people will look at you like you just killed their dog in front of them, I even had a glaring look from children like it they were my parents.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

4 may also be at least in part attributed to crime. I live in a fairly safe city in the UK, but the most common crime I hear of is people having their phones taken while they're talking to someone whilst walking on the street.
0 ( +0 / -0 )

11) Japanese take pictures of the 4 changing seasons which only Japan has.

7 ( +8 / -1 )

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

BS, I see every single day people talking loudly with their phone in a café or restaurant. In fact, most people sitting in the same room as me respond to their phones and start to talk inside the room instead of getting out first. Japanese have no better manners, being phone manners or in general. They have actually pretty bad manners.

Lots of adults can be seen playing smartphone games

Sure but the fact that the author makes it appear as a positive thing is ridiculous, again the usual excusing attitude towards Japanese. People doing this are sick. Seeing grown adult play with silly games (it's often not what you could call sophisticated games) really bring doubts on the intelligence of those people. During long commute you say? Yes sure why they don't use their smartphone to inform themselves and develop their knowledges instead of insisting to stay dumb>

Samsung, Sony and LG rank pretty highly on the list

BS, Samsung and LG are totally irrelevant here.

They communicate by sending food pictures

The problem is not food pictures (although people tend to only be able to speak about food), the problem is that they often communicate using excessively childish characters and things like that. And this is really annoying, just show how immature people are here.

as well as opting out of using pictures of their face on social media

Total BS. Dating site like JapanCupid have a ton of people with their face picture online. Just look at Facebook, people share their photos with their face crystal clear on them. At this point the author is just spreading non sense.

People get angry if you try to look at your smartphone during work

BS, I see it on a regular basis.

I think we can skip this point, because doesn’t this happen in every country in the world where people have access to smartphone technology? It sucks, but it’s not unique to Japan, sorry Yahoo!

No、no and no. Sure people eating together may look at their smartphones in other countries but this is often considered really impolite. Here this is a another scale all together. Not only people keeps silent while they are looking at their phone, but it is also considered totally normal to do so. And actually looking at a phone is just an escape path for people as it allows them to keep silent and avoid communicating since they are doing something else. I see it very often here more than anywhere else I know. And I went to a lot of countries.

They don’t use Siri

Well when it comes to new tech, Japanese are not the first to understand it. There is an amazing number of people who can't use properly their smartphones (even iPhone).

Siri is absolutely useless.

Stop trolling, you obviously did not use it.

Nobody uses Siri because it's only really support in English the most of the functions work primarily in the US. Google is a whole lot better in Japan.

This may be true to some extent (although support for more features in Japan is coming), but that's really not the main reason. The main reason is that people have no clue about what for this is supposed to be used and how. With Google or Siri. Does not matter.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

8) “People get angry if you try to look at your smartphone during work”

Ha. Hahahaha. Holy cow, wow.

Where I work I routinely see Japanese people using their phones. Some people in positions of power play game apps daily.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

Nobody uses Siri because it's only really support in English the most of the functions work primarily in the US.

Huh? Siri functions just fine here.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Excellent phone manners depends on the person not the nationality. I always see families texting during dinner, on the train, or talking on the phone while driving.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I have to say that Japanese are way more polite and respectful to others when using their phones. Nothing worse than sitting in a public place or in a que at the bank or fast food outlet and have some idiot talk loudly totally oblivious to where they are and the people around them. Kudos to the Japanese ????????

1 ( +2 / -1 )

@Omninaut001

11) Japanese take pictures of the 4 changing seasons which only Japan has.

Hands down, best comment on here!

1 ( +1 / -0 )

where some people don’t seem to care who’s listening to their conversation

Is this a joke? Almost daily I have to tell people on the train that I am not interested in their story...especially at 5:45 in the morning. Almost always teenagers and old ladies with the freekin Neeeeeeee!

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

Only Japan has 4 seasons? This is news to me

1 ( +1 / -0 )

This happens all over the place, not just Japan. For example I don't use my mush on any avatar because I don't want my face all over the internet. As an adult I play some games on my iPhone,

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Japanese culture only?

No, it's a Tokyo thing, rather than a Japan thing. Osakans have some of the worst phone manners I have ever witnessed in the world (and I've been around). It's actually really refreshing to visit overseas cities and not have to dodge smartphone zombies on the street, or listen to long and loud phone conversations in the public toilets, while the rest of us queue up with our legs crossed. And some of my adult students seem to think it's perfectly acceptable to take phone calls during the lesson. A couple of them literally spend the whole lesson time glued to their screens, I wonder why they bother coming in at all.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

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

I always see Japanese people talking on their phones on the train. Who are they trying to kid? Most times the ones doing it while sitting in the priority seats are the obasans. They think that making a show of covering their mouths while doing it makes it ok, when their phone are not even supposed to be turned on while sitting there.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I find the phone manners here in Hokkaido as excellent. Actually I really appreciate how courteous the Japanese are to one another.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I don't ride the train as often these days as I used to, but when I do, I pretty much never see anyone using the phone on the trains.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

The sight of hordes of shuffling, self-absorbed zombies totally immersed in their smartphones reminds me of scenes from The Night of the Living Dead, and is just as terrifying.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

I always notice it when Japanese people pick up their phones with chopsticks and put them on top of the rice.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Sensei: Yes, I see those baba with the mouth covered too screaming into the phones at the special seats. Really wrong. I do not give up my seat to any of them any more anywhere. Last time I did, an old later bowed and said thanks and put her bags on the seat, stood their and got her phone out and made a call. So, I essentially gave my seat to her bags. Really wrong. And her breath was horrible. I had to move.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Yeah, returning home abroad I notice the poor phone manners of my own tribe. Unthinking, dumb.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

We’ve all heard about how Japanese people work extremely hard. What we haven’t all realised, however, is that it’s often purely for show. Japanese companies are notorious hotbeds of time-wasting, with pointless, drawn-out meetings, excessive redundant paperwork, and plenty of slacking off. However, the important thing is to make it look like you’re working hard. That’s why you’ll often see staff at shops running like headless chickens from one end of the store to the other to perform some routine task, despite that fact that it’s actually dangerous to do so. I used to work in city hall in Japan and I observed the “work dash” on a daily basis—one brief glance at your smartphone would ruin the illusion of diligence.

So so true! And it just goes to show that there is very little substance in japan; its all show. But kudos to JT to actually writing about it. I personally think its hypocritical to get upset at someone using their phone. Its none of your business. And anyway, if people sat down and actually worked instead of worrying about whether or not other people look like they're working, they might be able to get something done.

I think using your phone during dinner, or whilst you are talking face to face with someone is absolutely the height of poor manners. It shows a lack of self control and a lack of respect for the people you are talking to. Be it in Japan or anywhere else.

Not really anymore, considering the shmuck sitting across from you is probably doing the same thing.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Login to leave a comment

Facebook users

Use your Facebook account to login or register with JapanToday. By doing so, you will also receive an email inviting you to receive our news alerts.

Facebook Connect

Login with your JapanToday account

User registration

Articles, Offers & Useful Resources

A mix of what's trending on our other sites