Social, Digital and Mobile in Japan

Simon Kemp

It’s time for another one of the bigger reports in our Social, Digital and Mobile in Asia series now, as we explore the landscape in Japan:

Japan has been at the forefront of technological innovation for many years now, but the country’s level of digital sophistication doesn’t get as much attention in the West as we believe it deserves.

This may be partly due to the language barrier, because the majority of tech news in the country is reported solely in Japanese.

This is a real shame though – many digital developments that would get the average US tech blog in a flutter already seem old news in Japan:

As we’ve seen across many other Asian countries in this series, while the numbers themselves are pretty impressive, it’s the context behind these figures that is most revealing.

Much has been said about Japan’s ageing population – almost one quarter of the country’s population is over the age of 65 – but the country’s demographic balance has some particularly interesting implications for the country’s digital landscape and behaviour.

The ‘senior skew’ is even reflected in social media: more than 70% of Japanese Facebook users are over the age of 25%, in stark contrast to the situation in Indonesia where the same proportion is below the age of 25. 14% of the platform’s users in Japan are aged 45+.

The Japanese are particularly fond of blogs, and their combined blog reading adds up to around 6 million years every year.

Mobile phones in Japan have had email functionality for years, and this means that almost every phone in the country is data-enabled. Email is still the most widespread data-driven mobile activity, although younger Japanese internet users are shifting increasingly towards social networks for their day-to-day communications.

Mixi still rules the Japanese social landscape in terms of registered users, but Twitter seems to be the platform of choice amongst the country’s more active social media users.

Microblogging came to the fore during the events surrounding the country’s tsunami earlier this year, when a quarter of all worldwide tweets originated from Japan. Twitter has continued to grow ever since, and roughly 6% of the platform’s total global tweets are now in Japanese.

Meanwhile, the shift towards smartphones is another particularly interesting trend.

While almost all Japanese cell phones are already sophisticated even by Western standards, until recently, their text-oriented interfaces have hindered a ‘full’ web experience.

However, this looks set to change dramatically during the course of 2012. Nearly half of all phones sold in Japan in the last quarter were smartphones, and we predict a new wave of innovation in the mobile internet landscape in Japan in 2012.

The future looks exciting.