Tech Review: Japanese Cell Phones

14 06 2010

Japan’s technology has been always on top ranks in the international market. Many Japanese companies release their products first in Japan, and after few months or years, with some modifications present them to other counties. Therefore, the technology being used in Japan is alway ahead of others. Cellphone market also follows the same routine.

Soft Bank, au by KDDI, and NTT DoCoMo are the three major communication and telecom operators in Japan. Soft Bank is more famous for being the most westernized company in this field, while NTT DoCoMo has the highest number of subscribers: over 56 million users.

The technology that is now used by Japanese people in their daily life, could be a surprise or dream to others. All the cellphones in Japan are equipped with high quality cameras. Depending on different models, the cellphone camera’s vary from 3.2 to 12.1 Mega-pixels. Cellphones are also able to read QR cosed through their camera. QR stands for Quick Response. Each QR code corresponds to a URL -Uniform Resource Locator. When the camera captures a photo of a QR code, it automatically browses the internet, and opens the demanded website. Here is sample of QR codes, which can be found all over the Japan, from a McDonald’s fries box to advertising billboards.

Japanese cellphones can be used as credit cards at countless shops and facilities. The Subway system in Japan uses Pasmo or Suica Cards, which not only are useful in paying the subway rides instantly, they can also be a paying option in convenience stores and vending machines. If a cellphone is equipped with the Pasmo/Suica chip, it will turn into a credit card. Using them can not be any easier, since it only needs to be touched by the subway gate or vending machine surface.

Japanese cellphones take advantage of high quality/resolution displays, often with touch screen functionality. The high resolution display, it allows users to enjoy face-to-face video calls, watch movies, and surf the internet on their finger tips. Rotatable display is one one most common cellphone designs in Japan, in which the phone will be working as a digital camera, or a TV -almost all Japanese cellphone can show national TV channels.

Many available phones in Japanese market are hundred percent water proof, and are placed under an open water tap for advertisement purposes.

What makes Japanese telecommunication more successful in terms of technology, is not only the device, but also the communication system plays an important role. Japan was the first country to launch 3G network system commercially. On October 2001, NTT DoCoMo announced its newest technology in communication(3G) with a speed up to 348 kbps, covering radius of 30 kilometers from central Tokyo. In February 2007, NTT DoCoMo announced its experiment results, in which they had reached a high speed rate of 5Gbps on 4G network. Today, NTT is offering 1 Gbps indoor, and more than 300 Mbps outdoor to its subscribers.

Gaming is very popular in Japan, and follows a culture for its own. Japanese game publishers count on the cellphone market much more than other countries . The number of subscribers allows producers to keep their prices as low as 100 yen per game, or 100 yen for monthly subscription. There are even books, novels, and other entertainments available on cellphone environment. Music player is also available as a basic option on cellphones, since it has dissolved in Japanese culture. Cell phone Emails, text messaging, and social networking websites are also taking a good portion of the time Japanese spend on their phones. There are also some social networking tools that are only available on mobile devices. This level of internal communication keeps them away from opening international networks.

All this amazing technology makes tech-lovers to think of having it in their home country. As far as cellphone market is concerned, all the handsets are sold with a two-year contract, and one can not buy a cellphone unless is a resident of Japan. Whoever is seeking for one of those, shall be patient until the global release of the product, or buy a second handed Japanese phone, which is not really reasonable.




JR: Japan Railways and Guidance

13 06 2010

In everywhere it happens that sometimes trains or flight are delayed, including Japan, even though Japan Railway is very very organized !

In a country this organized, a small delay could make many people worried and change/disturb their schedule. That’s when JR comes up with an idea to publicly display where the trains are, or why they are delayed.

Two different types of display were designed:

  1. 3Dimensional View
  2. 2Dimensional View

According to JR Surveys, older generation were more happy with the 2D type, and the new generation votes for the 3D view.

In order to have them both satisfied, JR redesigns the display structure, and adapts both 3D and 2D in one form.

Also, there is an other device designed, to give passengers directions. Simply, you ask were you want to go, and a 360˚ pointer will turn to an angle and show you the direction to your destination (almost exactly like a person.)

We also visited their experimental station, in which they test their new technologies and systems.

And, a group shot is always required to finish the visit…

Mount. Shosha and Himeji

13 06 2010

The Last Samurai, staring Tom Cruise, is one of the most successful movies of all the time. Mount. Shosha is the place that this movie was recorded.

Our hiking journey started here …

We hiked up to see some temples and the actual movie plot… We were lucky to have Bryce as our leader up there …

I’m not quite sure why, but this is like a movie poster , and every one is posed so well … I assume the atmosphere of the Last Samurai had some minor effects on the group …

Specially on Bryce…

And here is the place that the movie was captured.

And here we headed back to take the bus to Hyōgo.

We reached Hyōgo, and got the chance to see the Himeji Castle.

Even though our happy faces do not show, we only could see it from outside, since the castle was closed to public for maintenance.

It would have been so nice to walk into the castle and see how kings used to live in Japan. The castle is surrounded by a huge moat, in order to protect the king. Moreover, long walls with gourd towers were making it more secure.

Over all, it was a long and memorable day.

Tōdai-Ji Temple

13 06 2010

“Tōdai-ji (東大寺, Eastern Great Temple) is a Buddhist temple located in Nara City, Japan. Its Great Buddha Hall (大仏殿 Daibutsuden), the largest wooden building in the world, houses the world’s largest statue of the Buddha Vairocana, known in Japanese simply as Daibutsu (大仏).”

You see here that from schools, kids come here (Organized Japanese kids!)

This place was HUGE, and very beautiful…

Like many other times, as foreigners we were in center of attention of Japanese girls… You can see how existed Eric was about them…

This Buddha also was very different in terms of shape (It should be, since it is the biggest of in the world.) I think Buddha’s hand was bigger than me !!

And, time for some adventure…

Japanese believe whoever passes through this hole, will be blessed by the Buddha.

The hole was so small !! SO SMALL !! Almost every one needed help to get through that. I have some nice shots taken during Vida, Carly, and Bryce are passing.

Here Bryce was so happy, because he couldn’t believe he had made it through …

I passed as well. It wasn’t as hard as it seams here.

When the kids were going through, they were like a train passing one after another; we took much longer …

By the way, did anyone feel the blessing of this hole yet ?

Traditional Japanese Tea Ceremony in Yokohama

13 06 2010

May 25th, we got an other chance t learn more about Japanese tradition and culture. We enjoyed a traditional Japanese tea ceremony in Yokohama Royal Building.

The ceremony itself was incredibly traditional ! All the staff were dressed in a very traditional way.

This lady was preparing the tea in a very classic way. It almost took her 10 minutes to make that tea, but it was worth the wait …

This is how one should appreciate for the tea…

Here is the view from up the building …

These two are very delicious hand made sweets…

She gave us some Origami Crane birds, that she had made them herself…

And here are our group shots in the Tea Ceremony…

After the ceremony, we went to Yamashita Park; a beautiful place next to the Tokyo Bay …

This ceremony once more showed how in the Japanese tradition one respects others, regardless of who they are. You appreciate the servant that prepares a cup of tea for you. On thing more that I realized: Like other Eastern Cultures, they hand objects to others with both hands. This is also practiced in my country, and is considered very respectful.

Shibuya: The Most Crowded Intersection in the World !

13 06 2010

Shibuya, 4 minutes away from our home station Aoyama Ichone on Ginza line to south west, is called the most crowded intersection in the world !

I had heard that 3000 people at the same time cross the street in rush hours in Shibuya intersection. I could not imagine seeing that many people in one street! But when I went there, I totally believed it !

This picture was taken on May 12, our first visit to this beautiful intersection. From high tech to high heel, in Shibuya you find variety of stores. It is also a fashion mega place, with Shibuya 109 shopping mall, which is an attraction for tourists.

OK, 3000 people ! But, how would all these people cross ? Answer: So organized ! All the people start at the same time, in 5 directions. In Japan, all the routs for side-walkers turn green at the same time, which is different than other countries that they need to wait for the next cross rout to turn green. Almost no one gets hit while passing next to 3000 people.  In my country if that many people cross an intersection, they might hit others to open their way.

These Japanese people are amazing…

Subway Time

13 06 2010

If you want to know what ‘Subway Time’ means in Japanese, here you go:

  1. Reading books,
  2. Text messaging,
  3. Sleeping,
  4. Or, listening to Music !

Sleeping in train is so normal for Japanese, and they have their very unique ways of doing it. For me sleeping in train with all the unexpected moves and shakes is almost impossible !

This is a typical scene in a Tokyo subway train:

Useful time for Japanese…

Text messaging is also very a popular way of spending time while in subway.

But many times they just fall sleep easily ! In this unique picture, 5 people are sleeping.

Doesn’t really matter if they are sitting or standing, since they sleep anyway!

This random guy was standing and sleeping, and all the time I was wondering. I had my camera ready to capture the moment when he looses his balance, never happened !

Music, is a major part of Japanese life style. As you see, sleeping doesn’t keep them from enjoying their subway ride with their music collection.

Comparing it with other countries and cultures, spending time for looking around and checking out other people is pretty much most people do. Japanese use their time very efficiently; I like that.

JR: Japan Railways and Suicide Attempts

12 06 2010

JR East is one of the major rail companies in Japan. We used JR pass all the time in our trip.

←This is a JR Pass.

It was $325 for a one-week pass, but very useful for us. Our schedule included 8 different destinations all over the Japan. Using it was so convenient. With this pass we could also take some cruise rides as well; for instance: Nara Island.

In our visit to JR East, which was scheduled at the end of trip in order to know the value of this company, we got the chance to see their lab as well.

According to JR representer, JR East itself transports over 16,000,000 passengers daily.

Japan has one the highrest rates of suicide in the world. One of the most common places to attempt to this act is subway. According to JR, at least one person everyday attempts to suicide. Approaching to Christmas time, the number increases to even 100 per day. Each attempt has its effects on the runtime of trains, and also the people who witnessed the situation. In order to reduce this situations, JR is now installing some shelters and gates also next to trains. As shown in the picture below, this gates are closed, until the train has fully stopped in the station. Then the gates will be opened. In some stations the gates are as tall as the ceiling. Moreover, based on a research in UK, using Ultra waves in subway will reduce the chances of depression and suicide attempts.

Mai Dreamin’ Café

12 06 2010

Mai Dreamin Café

I can’t say much, pictures are a worth thousand words…

This café is one of the typical Japanese Maid Café, in which you will be the Boss, as long as you are sitting there.

In these shops, you are not allowed to take a photo !  But, I did it anyway ! 😀

What you see up there, is Bryce’s, Carly’s, Eric’s, and my order. It contained ice cream, fresh and dried fruits, jelly, cereals, and cream on top. It was delicious…

After you’re done, as a part of service they provide, you will have a chance to take a picture with those maid waitresses . We all gathered to take a group shot, but they caught me before I could get everyone in the frame. Though it is not very good framed, it shows around well enough. This place was designed and adorned with colorful walls and frames. The maids or waitresses were dressed up, and had beautiful make up. They were really cute…

When they bring your order to your table, they sing a song, and ask you to sing along with them again. I couldn’t understand what they meant, but from hand gestures I would say, I was about love and friendship.

As a part of service, they also provide a small birthday party. So, I told her that it was my friend’s birthday, Bryce; and we want to make a memorable birthday for him. They brought this birthday dish for him with his name on it, and later asked him to join them on the little stage they had, to sing a “Happy Birthday Song.”

Happy Birthday Bryce !! 😉

Who’s picture should be on money bills ?

12 06 2010


Fukuzawa Yukichi (福澤 諭吉, January 10, 1835 – February 3, 1901) was a Japanese author, writer, teacher, translator, who founded Keio University, a very famous high-ranked university in the world.

Hideyo Noguchi (野口 英世, November 24, 1876 – May 21, 1928), also known as Seisaku Noguchi (野口清作), was a prominent  Japanese bacteriologist, who discovered the agent of syphilis in 1911.

Natsu Higuchi (樋口 奈津, May 2, 1872 – November 23, 1896) was a Japanese author, also know as her pen-name: Ichiyō Higuchi (樋口 一葉)

This is how Japanese are respecting their culture and cultural background.

If we compare it with other countries, all we see on banknotes are politicians, presidents, or supreme leaders.

Authors and artists form cultures, and politicians run it. Besides money, are we really honoring authors good enough ? Countless artists or authors died while starving, and had no money to live. On the other hand, politicians pay unbelievable amount of money to achieve some positions.

After all, who is really appropriate to be printed on money bills ?