Let us move on

I still get so many comments, e-mails and even phone calls about the mishap last Friday.

But as Elvis Costello sings "Accident will happen" and there are some bright sides to it, too.

First of all, that mishap generated so much interest about Japanese cell phone market.
Second, it generated so much traffic to this blog which sort of make me motivated to start writing what's going on in Japan right now.
Third and above all, I got this wonderful words on my facebook wall from Sam Furukawa, the guy who started Microsoft Japan (although he is the man behind Microsoft Windows success here in Japan, he is also one of the first Japanese to bring the original Mac back home to Japan and so with the iPhone):

Nobi-san, your qualification as a Professional Jounalist will never be changed with such a wrong quote. It is a good chance to ciculate your deep insights of the iPhone in Japan.
I had hundreds of such wrong quotes for last 30years, but the myth I learned was, not try to accuse the publisher nor poor writer, but to stick with what you belive in. 
I myself and whole of the audience are at your side!
Thx, SamF

(perhaps, by 'the myth I learned', he meant 'the lesson I learned')

 He may not be as well known as Bill Gates, but Furukawa-san has been running Microsoft Japan for almost 20 years and as being such, it would be very easy for us that how many times he had become upset by wrong quotes; this kind of incident happens around the globe all the time.

 I happened to be a victim this time but I am not a saint nor a journalist without a dirt.

 In Japanese, because Japanese has so many modes and our spoken language and written language are a bit different (especially in traditional print publications). Modifying quotes are done very often. And once you start doing that, journalists are tempted to modify quotes to match the story line they had drawn. 

 Of course, to avoid conflicts with the interviewee, I would interview people for long time going around the same question over and over and try to reach the real message behind. And we (I+the editors) would ask the interviewee for approval for that quote.
 Sometime, especially before the summer or winter vacation, these approval can take time to be responded and we waited making two versions of stories, one with the exact quote (with mode modification) and one with the slightly bigger modification.

 In anyway, there were bitter side but also brighter side of that mishap.
 It won't be a mishap, if it happen twice but for now let's just forget about personal attacks and focus more on what's going on in Japan.
 I will try to provide as much info as possible in the time allowed.
 That should be more constructive at least.

投稿者名 Nobuyuki Hayashi 林信行 投稿日時 2009年03月02日 | Permalink

The story behind emoji


I just read a story on Ars Technica that says Apple issued App Store wide Emoji app take-down order:

I found this as very interesting story that I posted a few comments there but let me describe what I told over there.

Not many people (even in Japan) realizes but the Emoji on iPhones today is called SoftBank Emoji and it is the Emoji designed by SoftBank, the operator that sells iPhone here in Japan.

In Japan, there has been a rumor about NTT DoCoMo, one of the oldest (and largest) operator might also get a deal with Apple. It didn't happen for the past seven months but I believe both Apple and NTT DoCoMo is anticipating such deal in the future.
 But if SoftBank emoji became the standard on iPhone/iPod touch, it would make that deal difficult.

 I think there could have been some tactical aspect in SoftBank asking Apple to put SoftBank emoji on iPhone OS. Masayoshi Son is one of the most genius guy in Japanese IT industry (he might be one of the only few who is serious about the future of IT in Japan).

 Now some of you might ask, why it's SoftBank emoji and not universal emoji?
 Universal emoji has been my dream. I begged for it on my Japanese blog in August 2008;

 But you have to realize Japanese mobile phone operators are so close minded.

 They don't allow people to SMS to users of other operators. 
 And they don't like people sending emoji e-mail to people who are using phones from other operators.

 And because of this close culture, things don't work in Japan as it supposed to.
 For example,  if you are an iPhone users visiting Japan, you may find that you are not receiving any SMS sometime. Well that's because you are roaming on NTT DoCoMo's network; as soon as, you switch the network to SoftBank, you will start receiving SMS again (each SMS would cost a $1 though).

 And because of this close culture, all three major operators have different set of emojis and they are incompatible until recently when some company came with server-side conversion service.

 NTT DoCoMo has the biggest accumulated number of customers in Japan. And they want to build their success on it; so they wouldn't license their emoji, so those people who receives emoji e-mail often would want to switch to DoCoMo. KDDI did the same. And SoftBank had to follow that tradition.

 Maybe, the root of the problem is within the Japanese culture but they are incapable of making international standards especially making it collaborative way;  Most of the previous Japan made standard such as VHS vs beta or HD-DVD vs Bluray ultimately came out from winner-takes-all games.

 Thus we have to rely on American companies such as Apple or Google to standardize the Japan-born emoji.
 Actually, those two companies are working hard right now to put emoji characters into the Unicode standard.

 BTW. some of you may ask if the emoji conversion can be a built-in feature on the handset.
 Of course, it can be but it won't happen.

 Japanese handset manufacturers are not allowed to have their own opinion or suggestions (or at least that is how they feel); in Japan, most phone specs are decided and approved by the carriers. Most manufacturers sit and wait.
 I think this ill-fated tradition in the Japanese mobile phone industry made all Japanese mobile phonesSO UNATTRACTIVE.
  You would believe the handset manufacturers has to take careful look on their customers and make the handset that customers want.
 Well, this simple and most basic theory doesn't work in Japan.
 In Japan, the manufacturers are like the slave of the carriers; for every action or decision they would make, they have to ask if its master (i.e. carrier) like that idea.
 And in most cases, it is the Japanese carrier who decide such thing as "on the next Spring model, we will want you to put MP3 player as well as built-in TV."
 Japanese mobile phone industry is such a big bureaucratic shit.

 And because the carrier can only operate within Japan, they have no interest in making international standards, etc.

 You will see that strangeness everywhere:
-Japanese cell phone has very different set of Bluetooth profile
-Japanese cell phone uses older version of vCard because they are using IrDA standard which involves older version of vCard
etc. etc.

 Nokia phones and iPhone were very special cases in Japan; they've opened the flood gate for many other foreign handset manufacturers while Nokia retreated just as they were finally becoming  popular in Japan.

after posting above, I found this very interesting article about emoji on CNet Japan:
Emoji opened up the Pandora's box
by Katsuhiro Ogata

This article describe the history of emoji as well as how complicated the emoji conversion could be without a universal emoji table which covers emoji from all three carriers such as Unicode.

 On the last page of the five pages article, Mr. Ogata had interviewed the representative of al three characters about how they feel about Google's effort of integrating emoji into Unicode standard and if they would support that effort:

NTT DoCoMo: Interested. Will watch their effort / don't know yet if they would cooperate
KDDI: don't know the detail but will watch / will consider
SoftBank: Standardizing emoji is very important. We will watch its effort / we are not ready to discuss

Ogata-san said Emoji opened the Pandora's box.
But if it were not iPhone, this Pandora's box have not opened; and I think the future generations would have to appreciate iPhone for making this change happen.

If it were not iPhone, Japanese still would have kept that 2-3 phones per year development cycle and produced mass waste of mobile phones and Japanese yen without making any technological progress.

投稿者名 Nobuyuki Hayashi 林信行 投稿日時 2009年02月28日 | Permalink

My view of how iPhone is doing in Japan by Nobi (Nobuyuki Hayashi)

Sekai Camera World Premiere

 I have to thank Brian X. Chen for helping me diet; just before I had a late night desert in Roppongi, I used my iPhone to check what's hot in the Twitter-sphere using an app called Summizer.

 One of the hottest topic read "Why Japanese hate ..."
 I said "Hmmm. What could it be?" I opened the article  (it has been edited since I first read it):

I found Brian's name and said to myself  "Oh, I know this guy. I've got an email from him yesterday. He has already finished writing an article with my replies? Within less than 24 hours? wow, He's fast! "

 I read on and found I was quoted for something I haven't told to Brian at all.
 Here is how it read:

Hayashi's cellular weapon of choice? A Panasonic P905i, a fancy cellphone that
doubles as a 3-inch TV. It also features 3-G, GPS, a 5.1-megapixel camera and
motion sensors for Wii-style games.
"When I show this to visitors from the U.S, they're amazed," Hayashi told
Wired.com. "They think there's no way anybody would want an iPhone in Japan.
But that's only because I'm setting it up for them so that they can see the cool

What P905i is my cellular weapon of choice?
I don't even charge it these days!!

This P905i is the phone from late 2007. Almost all Japanese manufacturers make two generations of phones in ONE year which means this phone is more than 2 generation old; and I don't even bother to use P905i.  The latest from Panasonic is P01-A which has a gimmick that can WOW you all called 2 WAY-key. You want believe your eye, if you see it. But that's not my point.

 My cellular weapon of choice, of course is an iPhone and my cellular weapon of choice to the foreigners is INFOBAR2 and I don't even dare to charge my P905i these days.

 I skipped my desert get on the train and started to Twitter, how I was upset with the article.

 On the way back, Brian twittered me that he quoted me from an old article written by Lisa Katayama.

 I am assume he is mentioning this article right here:
 in which I described although Japanese phones have many fancy features and gimmick, the usability is so low and iPhone has so much potential here in the Japanese market.

  As a matter of fact, I believe the article came out on the worst possible timing. I've just heard from my friends that there were people waiting in queue to get iPhone today in some of the SoftBank stores in Tokyo because SoftBank has started giving away 8GB iPhones to customers who sign a two year contract.

 Anyway, I can't agree with what Brian's article had to say and here is how I view the iPhone market in Japan.
Actually, this is the full text of the e-mail I have sent to Brianat least a few hours before the Wired Blog was published (the time stamp in the e-mail shows Japan Standard Time GMT -9 ):


fromNobuyuki Hayashi <----@nobi.com>
to"Chen, Brian" <----@wired.com>
dateFri, Feb 27, 2009 at 4:01 PM
subjectRe: Wired press inquiry: iPhone in japan
hide details 4:01 PM (9 hours ago)
Hi Brian,

I tried to reply briefly but as I started writing, I started to feel that I want to summarize how I see iPhone and SoftBank are doing here in Japan in English, and it turned out as  a very long e-mail.

I hope you'll enjoy it:

To answer your question, I don't think iPhone is such a big failure in Japan.

The perception of iPhone being a failure was created by a newspaper in Japan, Sankei Shimbun. Last fall, it wrote although Softbank tried to sell one million units by the end of 2008, they only sold about 200,000.
This article was wrong in two fronts.

One is that Softbank nor Apple never publicly claimed they would sell 1 million units.
Second, their estimate of 200,000 units were also wrong.
Although Apple nor Softbank releases the real number of shipment, today, it is strongly believed that they have shipped more than 300,000 and possibly near 400,000 units in Japan.

 Interestingly, despite the negative press, Sankei Shimbun did release one of the most successful iPhone app in Japan after that article in which you can read the full Sankei Shimbun newspaper.

 Also on January 11th, 2009 they looked back how iPhone did in the first six month and seem to have concluded it wasn't that bad after all; I was in San Francisco that day and didn't get to read the article but I was interviewed for the article.

Now let's talk if 400,000 (or 300,000) is a strong or weak number.
I think this is not at all a weak number especially if you are talking about 2008.

 In December 2007, accumulated number of cellphones in Japan surpassed 100,000,000. Today, more than 90% of Japanese adults have one or more cell phones. And some analyst have started warning the slow down of mobile phone sales in Japan.

 Some were optimistic because Japanese people change their cell phones so often. Many people change their phones in 1.5 - 2 years and those techie geeks would but a new phones almost every six months or so.
 But this had to change, too.

2008 was a big turning point for Japanese mobile industry. In early 2008, Japanese ministry of internal affairs and communications asked all the mobile phone operators to change the way they sell their cell phones.
 Before that Japan was abundant of 1 yen cell phones and even 0 yen cell phones with the real cost hidden in the 2 year contract and higher than international average monthly fee. The ministry asked to display the real cost of the phone unit at the store front. And because R&D cost for the Japanese high-tech phones kept going up for the past few years, the customers finally realized the real cost of the handset were actually more than 30,000 yen (about $300) for the mid-range and more than 80,000 yen ($800) for the high-end phones.
 Although, few people are paying it in full and are rather paying it monthly for 2 years; still this notion of the real price deeply discouraged people from buying a new phone.
 Then came the bad economy.

 So 2008 was the year that Japanese mobile phone industry sunk; the total unit shipment of all operators combined went down for 18.7% (according to Japan Electronics and Information Technology Industries Association) to 42 million units which makes iPhone almost has the 1% share; In January 2007, Steve Jobs said he will have 1% share of the worldwide market. 
 Well, in Japan, too. They got that number of share in this very competitive market.

 Of course, I think iPhone can do much better here in Japan.

 The Japanese media talked so much about iPhone during the first week, but all they were talking about were:
-touch interface
-you can't use emoji (please goolge it, if you don't know what it is)
-you can't watch TV on it; 86.3% of all phones shipped in Japan has built-in TV tuners
-you can't use it as your Osaifu-keitai:

Softbank, the operator in Japan did a very good  follow up job by pusuading Apple to support emoji on iPhone as well as inventing a way to watch TV on iPhone and actually selling that device which also works as an external battery.

Still the lack of Osaifu-keitai is a serious thing for those living in Tokyo.
Although I am perhaps, the most famous advocate of iPhone in Japan, I still use other phones to use the Osaifu-keitai feature.
I use it to get on train (so I don't need to purchase tickets), with it I don't have to go to the counter at the airport and go directly to the boarding gate (because it works as your electronic ticke for airplane, too). I can ride a taxi with it and buy almost anything and eat/drink any thing at any of those shopping complex run by Japanese Railways group.
 But some iPhone fanatic are doing a work around for that, too. They attach an equivalent Felica IC card behind iPhone like this:

But despite the hardwork of SoftBank and the iPhone fanatic, these facts are shared only among iPhone owners in Japan and are rarely known for most of the other Japanese. SoftBank did send out a press release for the TV & Battery device but it didn't make such a big news. I asked on SoftBank official casually why they don't advertise more on this device. 
 And his answer was " we need to get approval from Apple for most advertising marketing effort." So SoftBank like perhaps, most of the other iPhones operators around the world are not in the liberty to publicize their own good effort.

 For majority of Japanese, iPhone looks interesting but it is the device they read on the newspaper as a 'failure.' They haven't even touched one.
 So as soon as I give lecture, show it to them and let them play with it, they change their mind and become a fan of iPhone.

 I think iPhone sales in Japan can improve much more here in Japan.
 But in order to do that, I think SoftBank has to have more control in how they market / advertise the device here in Japan.
 They know the market much better than Apple does.
 And they know how to make TV commercials that would appeal to Japanese consumers.
 SoftBank is doing a wonderful advertisement job in Japan, and they have their TV ads have been chosen as the most favored TV advertisement for almost two years for consecutive months; they didn't win only the overall prize but they are winning the best actor, best actress and almost all the prizes awarded by CM DATABANK ( http://www.cmdb.jp/ranking/2008.php).

 Sure, Apple is a global company and they succeeded by controlling their brand value  so well; and the vector of that branding may not match the branding of SoftBank (as with any other operators around the globe). 
 Apple can push the "Apple-way" to their partner like SoftBank claiming they "Think global"   (just like the George W. Bush pushed the America-ism to the world), but  it doesn't necessarily means the consumer would buy it.

 The same tug-of-war like problem is happening in the enterprise area.
 As you may have already read somewhere, one of the first and largest iPhone installment in enterprise took place in Japan at the Bearing Point System's Japanese branch office; they swap all their 1,000 NTT DoCoMo phones to iPhones; and most of the employees seem to be pretty happy with them.
 But if they try to do any serious enterprise staff, they don't know if they should turn to SoftBank or to Apple.

 I love iPhone and I think iPhone can be a bigger success here in Japan, but in order to make it so, Apple has to trust SoftBank and reinvent the relationship;  I think SoftBank is very different from any other operators in the world which other operators in the world, have you seen going direct to Apple and ask to include certain features to the iPhone?

 Of course, SoftBank is not perfect.

 In my perception,  SoftBank has a few glitches as well.
 One is the wireless coverage. Although the coverage is more than 97 or 8 % (can't find the figure right away, will check, if you need it) much better than the average of US operators, it is still lower compared to NTT DoCoMo and KDDI.
 But there is a reason. The other two major carriers have access to 800 MHz frequency which the new comer SoftBank was not allowed to use; SoftBank expect the government will license it but it won't happen until 2015.

 Second, even though they make the most beloved TV commercials still they lack credibility from the older traditional Japanese.
 Just as there are so many Windows users who would never even bother to try a Mac, there are so many NTT DoCoMo users who would never even bother to switch the operators.
 Because you can trace back the root of NTT DoCoMo to the government owned Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Public Corporation, people just trust it by it.
 And because SoftBank is a company run by Korean-Japanese businessman, Masayoshi Son, some older generation are skeptical. Perhaps, there could even be racial discrimination involved, but whatever SoftBank does, bad press follows it.
 SoftBank is struggling to build credibility toward Japanese press about the "SoftBank would soon go bankrupt" rumors; if I go to quarterly report, most of the American Financial analyst and press (and some Japanese) seem to be convinced by what Masayoshi Son says, the bad press still continues.

 But if that turns out to harm the iPhone sales in Japan, I think Apple will change their deal with SoftBank and start selling iPhone through NTT DoCoMo as well. Actually, Japanese press, including me, has been writing this for a long time; and I think this has been harming SoftBank iPhone sales, too. Those iPhone fans who use NTT DoCoMo right now kind of waited until the DoCoMo version comes out. Some gave up and switched to SoftBank, some can't switch, so they added iPhone as the second phone, but there are still many who can't take either way and sticking with the old NTT DoCoMo phone.
 After iPhone came out, NTT DoCoMo had to go through a major re-organization but I believe they are still interested in iPhone.

 Anyway, it has become a long e-mail but this is how I see iPhone and SoftBank is doing in Japan right now.
 If you want to use any specific numbers and credit the source, tell me, and I will try to send you the link or the name of the source.

I believe you will be only using a small portion of this e-mail in your article. So if you don't mind, I would like to edit this a bit and post to my English blog because I haven't updated that for a while;  perhaps, with an affiliated link to the issue of Wired magazine, you will be writing this article for or something.



_____________________________________________________________ n o b i _

                    N o b u y u k i   H a y a s h i
- Hide quoted text -

On Fri, Feb 27, 2009 at 2:51 AM, Chen, Brian <-----@wired.com> wrote:

Hey Nobi --

Leander Kahney passed along your contact information to me. I understand you're pretty knowledgeable about cellphones in Japan, and I was wondering if you could happened to know why the iPhone is failing there. Would you mind sharing your insights in this e-mail?

Thanks in advance,



投稿者名 Nobuyuki Hayashi 林信行 投稿日時 2009年02月27日 | Permalink

Join our "Press reception" on Jan. 7th during MACWORLD EXPO and find hidden gems from Japan

iPhone launch Softbank Omotesando

I, Six Apart and a dozen iPhone developers from Japan will be hosting a special press reception on Jan 7th (during MACWORLD EXPO/ SAN FRANCISCO).

Considering that yen went up so quickly, I believe the travel expense for the US press to visit Japan is much higher this year. So I brought the Japanese developers over to the US.

Most of them speak English and will be available for individual interview as well (I believe).

Unfortunately, the size of the room is limited and the event is only open to the member of press (bloggers and podcasters).

Here is the registration info:

Join us for a special press event to find out iPhone secrets from Japan such as:

- Watching TV on your iPhone – the hottest topic right now in Japan
- Draw on your computer screen using an iPhone
- Real-time 3D animation on iPhone
- Beautiful mahjong games
- Samurai chess
- Enjoy a private geisha dance for only 99 cents

WHEN: JAN 7 6.30pm 
WHERE: a venue 10min walk from Moscone Center

At this event, Nobuyuki Hayashi (aka Nobi), one of the most famous Mac/iPhone journalists from Japan will be briefing and taking questions about iPhone market in Japan.

You will also meet ten of the top iPhone developers from Japan including:

Conit (Samurai Chess), GClue(iKoto, iGeisha), HIcorp (Mascot Capsule), Hudson Software, J’s Avenue (Realtime 3D animation library), JYProduct (FingerPiano), PokeDía (PokeDía), Royal Gadget, SunSoft (Mahjong Solitaire), UEI (aka Zeptotools, showing ZeptoPad 2.0, ZeptoLiner, iShodo).

Watch our video:


Info about individual products:

( a few more developers has joined after the list was completed)

[1] ZeptoPad 2.0 & iShodo – Zeptotools / Lifestyle
ZeptdoPad 2.0 will let you draw on your computer screen using iPhone wirelessly.
Whatever you will draw on iPhone will be displayed on you computer screen live.
Zeptotool also can show iShodo (a Japanese caligraphy app) and
ZeptoLiner (an outline processor)

[2] iGeisha + iKoto – GClue, (+HIcorp) / Lifestyle or Music
iGeisha will display a traditional geisha dance in 3D using HIcorp’s
mascot capsule technology. You can change the view angle in real time.

[3] MascotCapsule eruption / Development platform
Mascot Capsule eruption is a 3D library that will help you create a 3D avatars on your iPhone. It has been used for iGeisha by GClue.

[4] Samurai Chess – Conit / Game
multiplayer network chess game with Samurai twist

[5] PokeDia – PokeDia / Lifestyle (but he will depart on 8th)
PokeDia is a very unique freeform diary software for you iPhone.

[6] Mahjong Solitare – SunSoft /Game
There are many mahjong solitaire for iPhone but this is the one with
Japanese aesthetic; it will even let you zoon into the mahjong piece.

[7] Finger Piano – JYProduct /Music
There are many piano applications for you iPhone, but this one has
some built-in score and can be used to practice those score.

[8] 3D demo application – J’s Avenue/ Game?
J’s Avenue has a background in gaming. They are porting there 3D
background/character animation library to iPhone.

[9] Teru Teru Bozu – Royal Gadget / Lifestyle (but he’s departing on 8th)
Young entrepreneur, Fumiyasu Takaura, has turned Japanese traditional
lucky charm, “Teru Teru bozu” into an iPhone app. He will show how you might even change the weather using your iPhone.

and more ...

投稿者名 Nobuyuki Hayashi 林信行 投稿日時 2009年01月03日 | Permalink

Web 2.0 in your pocket.

Those who has been using iPhone since 2007 are already experiencing this.

But the most notable change that iPhone (and Android) will bring would be this:

Let's say this is an example of Web 2.0, yesterday.
Web 2.0: Yesterday

Then this would be the Web 2.0 tomorrow:

Web 2.0 in your pocket. 

This isn't merely a question of lifestyle. It will connect the socialmedia to the real world. It would connect not only to e-commerce but to the commercial activities around you. It would be the first big step into the Augmented Reality. It would also help those non-social Internet addicts back again to the real world. I think "Web 2.0 in your pocket" is great not just because you can take out Wikipedia or facebook just when you need it, or do a google search in front of the refrigerator for tonight's recipe, but also because you can turn off the screen and put it back in your pocket so easily and help you get back to the normal and healthy real life.

投稿者名 Nobuyuki Hayashi 林信行 投稿日時 2009年01月01日 | Permalink