Archive for August, 2008

iPhone: Don’t Believe the Hype?

My brother was one of the thousands to get an iPhone when it came out on July 11. He lives in the sticks of southern Kyushu so all he did was glide into the store and lay down the cash. It was a breeze compared to Tokyo. When it comes to cell phones, Japan is a bountiful candy store. Even so, he and every other tech geek was itching to get this new American idol. It’s sleek, comes with a multi-touch display, and if Americans were lining up for it then, goddamnit, so should they.

Soon after bringing home his new toy he realized things were amiss. For one, both phone and 3G Wi-Fi signal were spotty. Granted, rice fields outnumber cell phone towers in the area, but then again he’s never had problems with previous phone carriers.

And when he finally started texting friends, it never went through. iPhone carrier Softbank (no, not a bank) created exclusive email addresses for their customers (@i.softbank.jp). But they’re so exclusive that other cellphones are unable to recognize it, so they’re filtered out. My brother fell completely out of the loop with friends. Like many young people today, he prefers to text than call. Must’ve been like being the only kid benched on the playground.

There’s other drawbacks with this new phone: not being able to use cute emoticons integral for playful conversation; having to use both hands to operate the thing; and not having a loophole built in for charms. These all might seem trivial to most Americans. But believe me, for Japanese school girls it’s like removing oxygen from the atmosphere. I nearly died after coming back to the U.S. and realizing I couldn’t string in my Hello Kitty plushie to my clunky Nokia.

So obviously the brains behind the 3G iPhone were drinking on the job when they decided to approve the phone for the Japanese market. But the question remains: Why would thousands of people line up for hours, or in some cases days, to purchase an obviously flawed product? My guess is that they were simply attracted to iPhone’s unique touch screen. That’s something completely new to them. But $200 for something you can press your greasy fingers against? Silly, if you ask me. Then again, this is a country that eats bread topped with corn and mayonnaise. Silly is the norm.

Himawari

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Thinking of doing business in Japan? We can make it easy for you!
JPBizDirect, a Los Angeles based company, provides practical solutions for U.S. ? Japan business projects. Our experienced Japanese staff will support all phases of your business project to seize business opportunities and turn your vision into a reality. >> Learn more
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August 5, 2008 at 10:04 am

Taxicab Confessions: New Ranking System Lets You Pick a Good Driver

Ever wish you could tell right away if your taxi driver was a good one? In London, the cab drivers must pass strict tests, but in most cities it’s all a crap shoot. How many times have you found yourself trapped in a taxi with a chain-smoker, a dawdler who takes the longest route, someone who treats you rudely or a speed demon who swerves in and out of lanes while you fear for your life?

In Japan, there is now a handy-dandy vetting system. (Thanks, Stippy!) Cabs with three stars on top of the roof let you know at a glance that the driver has passed a test from the Tokyo Taxi Center and has been designated a “Master Driver.” This means a perfect record of customer satisfaction, as well as no traffic violations. Here’s the punchline: only about 10% of taxi drivers qualify right now.

It’s still good news for passengers who disembark at Shimbashi station, near the Yurikamome line, because they can head directly to a stand that provides Master Drivers only.

Regardless of who your driver is in Japan, it’s becoming less likely that you’ll get stuck with a cab that smells like an ashtray; Koichi Yasui, a self-employed taxi driver since 1975, has been fighting to make all taxis smoke-free. He was sick of the effects of second-hand smoke each time his passengers lit up. (Some even insisted on keeping the windows closed.) He filed a lawsuit in 2005, and now 60% of cabs are smoke-free.

Smoking is still fairly popular in Japan. According to the Christian Science Monitor, 40% of men smoke and 13-15% of women do. A total ban on smoking in taxis may be a ways off, but at least there are more options for those who want them.

Sarah S.

—————————————————————————
Thinking of doing business in Japan? We can make it easy for you!
JPBizDirect, a Los Angeles based company, provides practical solutions for U.S. ? Japan business projects. Our experienced Japanese staff will support all phases of your business project to seize business opportunities and turn your vision into a reality. >> Learn more
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August 1, 2008 at 12:30 pm 1 comment

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