Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Japanese mobile phone culture
In Japan, mobile phones have become ubiquitous and much of the population is equipped with such a mobile telephone including enhancements such as video and camera capabilities. This pervasiveness and the particularities of its usage lead to the development of a mobile phone culture, which is also known by the name "keitai culture" after the native Japanese term used for mobile phones.
Japanese mobile telephones (as well as many in the Western world) can be connected to the Internet through service such as i-mode (a service popular in Japan). Japan was also the first to launch 3G services on a large scale. Teenagers send and receive a very large number of E-mails daily, and often these include an attached picture.
However, this new culture is seen as having negative aspects. Radio waves are believed to cause interference with heart pacemakers and other medical devices. Public etiquette is often violated by young people answering their phones in certain public places, and due to the Internet connectivity, spam has become a problem. In Japanese culture, it is now recommended that talking using a cell phone on a train should be avoided and announcements recommend passengers to turn their ringers off. Signs declare that people should turn off their mobile phones when around seats reserved for the elderly and handicapped, or when on a crowded train. In hospitals, it is expected that one should turn it off entirely. Talking on the phone while driving is prohibited.
Mobile phones have become an inseparable part of everyday teenage life. It is so rapidly evolving that the information found in this article could soon be considered obsolete.
It is believed that the paging devices used in late 1980s to early 1990s that predates cell phones could only display numbers were the ones responsible for seeding the cell phone culture. Although this ability of pagers was supposed to inform the user of the number to call, it was quickly used to convey a short message. A complex sets of numbers were developed that communicated everything from greetings to everyday emotions. Most were based on various ways numbers could be read in Japanese. Some of the few that can still be recognised are 4649 (Yo-ro-si-ku, literally 'nice to meet you' or 'hello') and 3341 (Sa-mi-si-i, meaning 'I feel lonely').
With the rapidly falling prices of cell phones in the mid 1990s, people 'graduated' from paging devices and began experimenting with the short message service that the mobile phone companies started offering. When the i-mode service became available, the mobile phone culture began flourishing in earnest as this service offered an E-mail application. Magazines and television regularly make specials focusing on the 'current trend' of how mobile phones are used by young people.
Japanese mobile phones have the capability to use very large sets of characters and icons based on JIS standards that define characters for industrial appliances. More than thousand characters including all of the Latin alphabet, hiragana, katakana, kanji and special characters like cm (centimeter), arrows, musical notes, etc. can be used to compose messages. Japanese use also emoticons different from the Western (see Emoticon#East_Asian_style Japanese emoticons).
These character sets are used extensively, and often in a way that do not use their original meaning by relying more on the information based on the shape each character has. For example, '\' may be attached at the end of a sentence to show that they are not happy about the event described. A sentence like "I have a test today\" (translated) might mean that he or she didn't study enough, or that the test itself is depressing. Some of these usages disappeared as suitable icons were made but these newly made icons also acquired a usage not originally intended. Another example deals with the astrological symbol for Libra. It resembles a cooked and puffed mochi, and is sometimes used in a happy new year's message as mochi are often eaten then. The symbol for Aquarius resembles waves, so this would be used to mean 'sea'. The number of icons gradually increased and they are now colored on most cell phones, to make them more distinct. ASCII art is also used widely and many of them are faces with expression. (see also Shift-JIS art)
One very distinct form of writing is called 'galmoji', ('girls' characters'). For example Lt wouldn't correspond to the Latin characters 'L' and 't' but instead it would correspond to the hiragana け ('ke'). Notice that it looks very similar when written. Many hiragana, katakana and kanji are taken apart and reassembled using different characters including alphabet characters. It is unclear why this usage is now seen. Some believe that this started as a way of making secret messages that a quick peek wouldn't reveal, while others claim that it was just for fun. This can be related to the way the English language hacking culture uses l33t language to hide the meaning of the words typed.
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