Technology

Japanese Mobile Phones Smarter Than Average American

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You can't always get what you want.

But the Japanese can.

Check out this list of the five advanced technologies available only in Japan: True mobile digital TV (all the regular terrestrial channels at no cost), connected cars (with a navigation system connected to a cell phone), primary wave earthquake warning systems, and home-help robots.

And my personal favorite is Osaifu keitai–mobile wallets. They put my so-called "smartphone" to shame.

Phones have smart cards embedded inside, and these cards let you add applications like electronic money, your commuter pass, an airline mileage card, or a credit card just by downloading some software.

The strength of Japan's mobile wallet system is that the industry has settled on a single smart card, Sony's Felica. Once a person's phone has this hardware, he or she can add more functionality with software.

As a frequently pocketless woman, I'm looking forward to the era of implantable chips that function as keys, wallet, and ID. But until then, I'd sure take one of these phones.

For more reason on Japan, check out our take on Prince Pickles, the mascot of Japan's armed forces. Or read about sushi's global migration.

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  1. Why are the Japanese better than us?

  2. you forgot that they have Square Watermelons too

    http://www.cnn.com/2001/WORLD/asiapcf/east/06/15/square.watermelon/index.html

    Their superior technoraragy is neo-maximised for happy functionality in your home prefecture! Why not?

  3. it has to do with them being the children of the sun god

    the rest of us are just hairy barbarians

  4. Pockets are the reason that men rule the world, and not women.

  5. Why are the Japanese better than us?

    Because they have Takashi Miike and we have Michael Bay.

  6. Sacrilege! It’s sun-GODDESS to you.

  7. Japanese Mobile Phones Smarter Than Average American

    Hell, the TRS-80 was smarter than the average American.

  8. Amaterasu | February 11, 2008, 5:14pm | #

    Sacrilege! It’s sun-GODDESS to you.

    Aieeeeee!!! Humbly requesting maximum forgivements! protect the ghosts of my ancestors! I also put in 200hours work this week!

  9. I lived there a year to study and their phones are pretty ballin. all the vending machines have software that works with the mobile wallets so you just push a button on your phone and out pops a soda, cigarettes, beer or any other thing the japanese fell like putting in a jidohanbaiki (vending machine).

  10. THE JAPANESE ARE DECADES AHEAD OF THE WEST IN ROBOT SEX SLAVE DEVELOPMENT.

  11. How can you stand not having pockets? Where do you put broken pencils, twine, crumpled up paper and pennies?

  12. God, I love the stuff in Japan. I’m seriously thinking about buying one of those Toto neo toilets. Why shouldn’t you have a toilet with a remote and an emergency override switch? So much better than wiping your ass with paper like some kind of animal. 🙂

    I think that in the back of their minds they are thinking “How the hell did we loose the war to these people??”

  13. And High School Girl brand pork products.

    They beat out Krusty Brand 3 to 1 among otaku.

  14. Implantable chips? What the hell? That sounds like a recipe for freedom. Technology and freedom don’t always travel down the same path.

  15. How can you stand not having pockets? Where do you put broken pencils, twine, crumpled up paper and pennies?

    Man, I can never find enough places to put my twine.

  16. When I lived in the UK 18 years ago the TVs they had there were way ahead of what we’re still using here. What I really liked was the text-over that you controlled with 4 colored buttons from your remote, which gave you the latest news and weather. The screen definition was better too.

  17. When I lived in the UK 18 years ago the TVs they had there were way ahead of what we’re still using here.

    This has nothing to do with japanese superiority. Have this man ritually disembowel himself

  18. I think that in the back of their minds they (the Japanese) are thinking “How the hell did we loose the war to these people??”

    Did they?

    Late night TV Movie: John Wayne and Richard Widmark in a WWII tale of American Heroes fighting alongside the Valiant Chinese against the Ravaging Hordes of the Japanese.

    Brought to you by Toyota!

  19. Implantable chips? What the hell? That sounds like a recipe for freedom. Technology and freedom don’t always travel down the same path.

    I don’t mean to turn a fun thread about Japan into a tendentious (and tedious) debate, but this is something I’ve thought about a lot so I want to opine momentarily.

    You’re right to say that technology and freedom don’t always travel down the same path, but at the same technology is remarkable as the only part of civilization that has been, and remained, truly anarchistic. I don’t mean that the worlds of science and engineering are dominated by intellectual freedom, as has often been asserted and as many conservatives have disputed lately. I mean that technology, being a material fact but at the same time a design in the abstract, can spread often out of the capability of tyrants to control but nevertheless restructure societies at a fundamental level.

    That isn’t to say that technology always advances individual freedom. There is a strong argument to be made that the gains in freedom from an automotive society have been superficial, that cars have bound us more tightly to constricted common networks. And of course, certain technologies will always be prized by tyrants and would-be tyrants for the knowledge/control they confer over the lives of subjects.

    However, the difficulty of technological advancement itself to control reassures me in an era when the idea of a political solution to our modern problems often appears to be disappearing under quicksand, and those offering us solutions from positions of power are not only wrong but a hundred thousand variations on the theme of dead wrong.

  20. That isn’t to say that technology always advances individual freedom. There is a strong argument to be made that the gains in freedom from an automotive society have been superficial, that cars have bound us more tightly to constricted common networks. And of course, certain technologies will always be prized by tyrants and would-be tyrants for the knowledge/control they confer over the lives of subjects.

    Bah. You just copied all this down from Ghost In the Shell dialogue.

  21. Eesh, I guess this argument needs snappier paragraphs. I never saw the original Ghost In the Shell and I don’t remember the sequel all that clearly.

  22. I think that in the back of their minds they (the Japanese) are thinking “How the hell did we loose the war to these people??”

    As they say, if the Japanese had won the war we’d all be driving Toyotas and eating sushi.

  23. Purses are better than pockets, because their contents don’t ruin the line of your clothes and you can also whack people in the head with them.

  24. Hey Paul, there’s a hole in my pocket!

  25. It’s easier to hide guns and sex toys in a purse than a pocket, too.

  26. I think that in the back of their minds they are thinking “How the hell did we loose the war to these people??”

    ‘Cuz we make a heckuva bomb!

  27. you forgot that they have Square Watermelons too

    Those watermelons taste like crap. Everything went into making them look perfect, and no attention was paid to their taste.

  28. Another interesting thing about Japan is that the state heavily subsidizes industry, public health, education, and transportation. You’d think it was some kind of socialist hell hole where people drag their relatives dead bodies around in donkey carts.

  29. E-

    You’d be interested to know they have a very low tax burden as well. Shouldn’t all their infrastructure be collapsing and their society roiled by vast inequality?

  30. First of all, in terms of technology being bad or good, I think the gun argument can apply – “Technology doesn’t enslave people. People enslave people.”

    And second … I can’t believe no one’s mentioned one of the more remarkable aspects of Japanese culture. I leave it to the peanut gallery to judge its virtue. They’ve come up with a single word … that’s right folks, ONE … to describe an act that requires a full sentence of explanation in English detailing a vile, yet intriguing act of sexual fetish. You guessed it … BUKAKKE!

    And they developed the practice itself as well, in response to draconian laws that prohibited the display of genitalia (but not semen, oddly enough) in Japanese porno. So in order to get around the government regulations and satisfy the market as well, they found a loophole. Let the censors blur the junk, but still get the same bang for your buck without any penetration. Now THAT’s what I call entrepreneurship in the face of government oppression!

  31. Doc | February 11, 2008, 5:30pm | #

    I think that in the back of their minds they are thinking “How the hell did we loose the war to these people??”

    Yes. People who can’t even spell!! ARRGG!! Your people have no Honor! No Discipline! No Fancy Pencil Holders and Hello Kitty Erasers! No Octopus Sandwiches! Barbarians!

  32. As they say, if the Japanese had won the war we’d all be driving Toyotas and eating sushi.

    As opposed to a Japanese family getting a bucket of KFC for Xmas, visiting Disneyland, Tokyo, catching a baseball game?
    I’m not to concerned about our allies contributing to the Sm?rg?sbord of Americana.

  33. Given the political views of most of the people on this board, we all probably would’ve ended up in a gas chamber if the Japanese had won the war.

  34. Cesar | February 11, 2008, 7:21pm | #
    Given the political views of most of the people on this board, we all probably would’ve ended up in a gas chamber if the Japanese had won the war.

    Fool! We would not filthy our gas chambers with your presence!

    We line you up and cut your heads off to practice sword skills!

  35. So … I’m confused. Are we soberly considering that the Japanese are forced into consuming our toxic American products against their will. By that rationale are we “forced” to consume sushi and Toyotas? Why not celebrate the trade in culture and commerce instead of engaging in gloomy miserabilist hand wringing.

  36. And they developed the practice itself as well, in response to draconian laws that prohibited the display of genitalia (but not semen, oddly enough) in Japanese porno. So in order to get around the government regulations and satisfy the market as well, they found a loophole. Let the censors blur the junk, but still get the same bang for your buck without any penetration. Now THAT’s what I call entrepreneurship in the face of government oppression!

    This is entirely wrong. Bukakke dates back at least to the Edo period, when it was used as a method of punishment for women who cheated on their husbands. Every man in the village would “come” together, so to speak to punish her for her behavior, stigmatizing her socially. It became popular in porn because of censorship, but that wasn’t why the practice was invented.

  37. Shem, I’m not calling bullshit but –
    Source? Linky link?

    R/
    J sub D

  38. Why not celebrate the trade in culture and commerce instead of engaging in gloomy miserabilist hand wringing.

    I think we are.

  39. My mistake Shem. I always imagined that the original form of the act involved shouting a victorious “BUKAKKE!” somewhat akin to “BONSAI!” upon um … completion.

  40. J sub D | February 11, 2008, 7:36pm | #
    Shem, I’m not calling bullshit but –
    Source? Linky link?

    Dude, be careful. He might actually HAVE a link.

    The fact that a guy shows up seeming to have detailed insider information about the “historical origins of Bukakke” is a signal to me to RUN AWAY AS FAST AS I CAN. Some people’s hobbies are none of my fucking business.

  41. GILMORE, that’s probably good advice. BTW, you just gave me a smile.

  42. I dunno, you guys. I didn’t find all of their technology to be very life-affirming. More dismaying and confusing than anything else. That’s just my take though. I did meet a nice piece while I was over there though. Hot damn.

  43. Japan is unreal in the way it implements technology in society. Don’t forget about all the AI and use of robots popping up everywhere.

    I lived there for 8 years (Kyushu) and every time I returned to the States it just baffled me how far behind the US really was and still remains. Yes the US is much bigger, but come on. Hell I had incredibly fast Internet that has yet to even be talked about here in the States, well it is talked about just not implemented yet.

    A good story would be the Internet cafe culture that has blossomed in Japan, pretty crazy. As far as the porn industry, you can buy some crazy sh*t out of vending machines that are in plain site to everyone, even kids.

    I am now getting ready to move back in March (Tokyo) for 4 years or longer. I am glad to be leaving the technology blah America for more technology offerings than I know what to do with in Japan. Besides the advanced mobile phones I am really looking forward to IPTV service.

  44. Good advice Gilmore. I hope I don’t become known as “that bukakke guy.”

    As for you, J sub D, unfortunately, I was unable to find a link, so all I can offer you is the word of my sociology of deviance professor and the support of a drunken professor of Japanese history who would probably stammer and insist that she never said that. So, take it as you will.

  45. Deny that she knew anything about the subject, not that I’m right, in case that wasn’t clear.

  46. In Japan they use English as package decoration.

    I bought a paperback SciFi book at a bookstore and the clerk constructed a perfectly fitted cover out of paper.

    I asked for a bunch of stamps at a post office, and the clerk asked for my mail. He put a stamp on each envelope.

    I have hundreds of pics from one of our trips to Japan on my site.

  47. Speaking of English and Japan, everyone should check out Engrish.com

  48. Could KM-U clarify the headline:

    “Japanese Mobile Phones Smarter Than Average American”

    Is the claim that Japanese mobile phones are smarter than the average American mobile phone, or that the Japanese Mobile Phones are smarter than the average American?

  49. But, we have central heating in our homes, along with washing machines and dryers. And, we don’t have to sort our trash into a dozen different bins for collection on seemingly random days.

  50. Cesar, if only they’d lower their tax burden relative to their GDP to Mexico’s, they’d be as prosperous and libertarian as Mexico, the land of Freedom!

  51. Yeah, smart phones and super-fast internet is great, but I have to ask — are the Japanese doing stupid shit like forcing their citizens to use low-flow toilets and showerheads? How about the idiocy of mandating CFL lightbulbs? Are they doing that, too? Because if not, that’s the definitive proof that country is smarter than this one.

  52. We conclusively proved our technology is better a long time ago. Yeah, they can make your life better with cool electronics. We can blow shit up better than anybody. Cool electronics fails in the face of thermonuclear fire.

  53. I don’t own a mobile phone. I have decided to sit out that technology altogether and wait for the implanted chip thing. It will be truly hands-free babbling, guaranteed to disturb everyone around me. Antisocial? Of course. But hands-free! An info-flood 24/7! Yeehaaw!

  54. They seem to be far more efficient than us. Reasons?

    They’re a homogeneous population. They have had to maximize space better out of necessity. They have a dominant ruling party. They don’t spend much on defense. I’m sure there’s more.

  55. There is a strong argument to be made that the gains in freedom from an automotive society have been superficial, that cars have bound us more tightly to constricted common networks.

    That’s what Hummers are for!

    I agree somewhat with your basic point, but would point out that private autos are much more liberating than wagon trains, streetcars, railroads, or traveling around South America on a sailing ship.

    On topic, I would point out that it might be easier to implement technological solutions in a homogenous population where no one lives more than a hundred yards from his neighbor.

  56. I have some questions about this Japanese system that bear on its libertarian-appropriateness:

    1. How was the single standard attained? I honestly don’t know, so this is not a rhetorical question. In my state of not-knowing I would guess that it was attained by government fiat, with one standard picked as the “winner” – but maybe this was the result of pure cooperation. Does anyone know?

    2. Does anyone besides me think that de-cashifying a society is inherently anti-freedom? Having a smart card might be convenient in certain situations, but a society run on cash is much harder to track and to tax.

    But hey, I’m cool with the robot house servant thing. No complaints there.

  57. So, take it as you will.

    That would be with a healthy dose of NaCl.

  58. Cool electronics fails in the face of thermonuclear fire.

    If Japan decided to become a nuclear power, how long do you think it would take to have a working fission bomb?

    I’d guess 6 months, max.

  59. Actually, this article is part of a growing trend at Reason – the tendency to favor the “better” technology, even if it’s not necessarily the pro-freedom technology.

    For example, there seems to be a lot of resentment here about efforts to encourage developing nations to construct electricity networks that are decentralized and based on renewable sources, because oil and gas burning plants are “better”. This shows a pretty shocking lack of recognition of the fact that the model of centralized electricity generation and distribution in the West and particularly in the US is the bastard offspring of the state. Centralized electricity generation lends itself to monopoly utilities and has done so everywhere it has been introduced. If early electric utilities had not been granted monopoly charters, fiat property variances and rights of way, etc., our centralized model would not exist, and we would probably have widespread microgeneration of electricity using generation methods clean enough for people to choose to install on top of their own living spaces – in other words, exactly the type of generation being advocated now for Africa and elsewhere.

    Reason has to realize that shilling for Big Technology is not always the pro-freedom path. As a general rule, if you need the state to coddle your technology, it probably sucks and its defects will become clear over time. As another general rule, once you employ the services of the state to help you roll out your Big Technology, you will never get rid of it, and mission creep will set in. How much more powerful is the state today because we enlisted its aid in rolling out electricity, the automobile, the telephone, television and radio networks, nuclear power, etc.? Because we wanted quick and easy deployments instead of organic ones? These new technologies will be no different.

  60. Cool electronics fails in the face of thermonuclear fire.

    If Japan decided to become a nuclear power, how long do you think it would take to have a working fission bomb?

    I’d guess 6 months, max.

    Bomb building is a big project.

    And, I’ve seen a couple of Japanese industrial builds in operation. These guys were methodical and safety conscious to a level that made me think of OCD. They were also good at it. Very good.

    I make it a year or 18 months. But they would probably debate it in the government and the press for several years before they began.

  61. Would electricity roll out have been delayed if it didn’t come about how it did? I don’t know I’m just asking.

    If it would have been delayed, is it reasonable to assume to technological advances such as personal computers also would have been delayed. The internet has increased freedom, has it not?

    I don’t see how better technology necessarily hinders freedom, unless we’re talking about lojacks for everyone. If communications are increased knowledge spreads, and then ideas are set free.

  62. As another general rule, once you employ the services of the state to help you roll out your Big Technology, you will never get rid of it, and mission creep will set in. How much more powerful is the state today because we enlisted its aid in rolling out electricity, the automobile, the telephone, television and radio networks, nuclear power, etc.?

    An interseting point. The TVA is still around isn’t it?
    OTOH, are we better off today because of the government assisting/encouraging the development of the mentionrd technoligies? With the exception of nuclear power, the technologies were developoed before the government came aboard saying “this is good, we’re here to help”. And what company wouldn’t accept free assistance to expand their market?

  63. I make it a year or 18 months. But they would probably debate it in the government and the press for several years before they began.

    I’d wager that the groundwork has been done, designs exist, and it would merely be a matter of assembly. I’ll make the argument that the Japanese government would be irresposible to have not already done that.

  64. Bomb building is a big project.

    Depends on what you want to do with it. Small nuke in a shipping container? 6 months at the outside. Not a challenging task.

    ICBM deliverable with ignition reliability of 1 after 20 years in storage? Several orders of magnitude more complex, and probably on the order of 5 years with a whole bunch of money and people.

    I’d wager that the groundwork has been done, designs exist, and it would merely be a matter of assembly. I’ll make the argument that the Japanese government would be irresposible to have not already done that.

    Hmm. The country as a whole is pretty phobic about nukes, and let’s face it, they’re next to useless for most countries. I doubt they’ve bothered.

  65. Bomb building is a big project.

    Depends on what you want to do with it. Small nuke in a shipping container? 6 months at the outside. Not a challenging task.

    Perhaps it is not challenging, but it is still a major industrial undertaking. An enrichment line suitable for mass producing reactor fuel—which the Japanese certainly have—is not the same thing as one suitable for building a fission explosive—which they only have is JsubD is right.

    Tool-up takes time. Even re-plumbing the existing facilities.

    There is a reason that non-proliferation types spend a fair amount of time and energy on detecting, inspecting, and stopping the industrial underpinnings of bomb building.

    Fey. What do I know. Bombs are way out of my field of expertise.
    Perhaps you are right, but I’d take some convincing.

    Cheers.

  66. okay, but we can all at least agree that Japan is super cool and has been since at least the late 70’s, right? I mean, come on: samarai, ninjas, sushi, anime, bukkake, hottest school girls ever, the best rpgs, j-horror movies, anything you want out of a vending machine and their tech…. Yeah, if it’s destined that 1 culture is eventually going to be dominant then my vote goes to the japanese. Have you seen what they have on television!?!? totally awesome.

  67. and don’t forget karaoke, totally awesome.

  68. I don’t see how better technology necessarily hinders freedom, unless we’re talking about lojacks for everyone.

    It isn’t the technology. It’s when the state says, “The market’s failure to deploy this technology fast enough has to be corrected,” or “This technology has features that aren’t compatible with the market, so we have to intervene on its behalf.”

    I would submit that the entire “mixed economy” mode of thinking is an outgrowth of early decisions made on behalf of emerging technologies during the last two centuries.

    State microregulation of industry was facilitated by the acclimitization of the public psyche to microregulation of utilties.

    The germ of our surveillance society can be found in state licensing of activities related to the automobile, as well as early intervention of behalf of the telephone.

    Microregulation of the use of private property can be traced to decisions made to facilitate the rollout of the automobile as well.

    The modern debate about the freedom of political speech as it relates to campaign finance can in many ways be traced to state intervention to make television and radio viable large-scale commercial enterprises.

    None of these things was fated to turn out only the way it actually turned out.

  69. And sumo! fat dudes trying to push each other out of a circle? totally awesome!

    okay, i’ll stop now.

  70. 1 more:

    ASIMO!

  71. Peter | February 11, 2008, 7:52pm | #
    My mistake Shem. I always imagined that the original form of the act involved shouting a victorious “BUKAKKE!” somewhat akin to “BONSAI!

    NO!NO!NO!NO!NO! YOU WIDE EYES GET NOTHING RIGHT!!!

    BanZAI!!! ZAI!!! BONSAI ARE FUCKING MINIATURE TREES!! I cant believe we loose… I MEAN LOST!!! ARRGGGGG. Ach. Need oxygen cafe now. And oyster juice.

  72. Their TV shows over there are pretty friggin awesome. I hate our government censorship. And in lots of countries you can walk down the street drinking alcohol. Not here. Fascists!

    (deep breath, back to mindless work)

  73. So, take it as you will.

    That would be with a healthy dose of NaCl.

    I completely understand.

  74. And in lots of countries you can walk down the street drinking alcohol.

    Haven’t been to Louisiana, I take it?

  75. Hi…
    I also thought that Japanese phone are better than America phone .In this sectors japan is top of the word

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