Welcome to the latest in our social media fast facts series, where we examine social networks, local influencers and popular brands around the world. On our whistlestop tour, we’ve taken in Western Europe, Russia and Eastern Europe, Latin America, and China. In this month’s installment, we’ll be looking at the social media in Japan.
Social networks: what’s popular in Japan?
According to Comscore, Japan’s online audience is older than the global average; only 34% of the country’s internet users are under 35. And as the country was an early adopter of mobile internet, most Japanese social networks have been developed for mobile.
In terms of etiquette, talking on mobiles isn’t the done thing on public transport, so text-based mobile communication is how many Japanese commuters choose to spend their time while enduring lengthy commutes.
Japanese society usually sees a high level of social conformity. Because of this, social networks can take a while to become popular. With Facebook it took two major events, and once the initial impetus had faded away, user numbers began to drop.
Facebook and its local language competitors
The number of active users has grown to almost 17 million, which is around 300% more than in 2012. The platform tends to be used as more of a business network, as Japanese people prefer to use pseudonyms online, while some business people use Facebook to market themselves. It’s more likely to be used by graduates to job hunt, than people who are mid-career.
Some refer to Facebook users as ria-ju (meaning really fulfilled) – people who lead successful offline lives, and who use Facebook to show off their accomplishments. Many people in Japan were hesitant to join Facebook due to the real name policy, but it experienced a spike in sign-ups after the 2011 tsunami and the release of the movie, The Social Network.
GREE (the name was inspired by the principle of six degrees of separation) was founded in 2004 and launched on mobiles in 2005. After launching what was billed as the world’s first mobile social game in 2007, Tsuri-Sta (fishing star), it shifted its focus away from being a true social network, and more towards mobile gaming.
It has around 190 million users worldwide, operating in nine countries and 14 languages. According to GREE, just over 15 per cent of its users are based in Japan – an impressive 29 million users.
Founded in 2004, Mixi used to be the biggest social network in Japan. Membership is by invitation only and restricted to those over 18. Mixi provides users with their own page, where they can blog, share photos and form communities.
The success of Facebook has put a significant dent in the popularity of the network. One recent game, Monster Strike, was a hit, and helped propel its mobile app users from 7.6 million in September 2012, to 12.5 million just one year later.
Twitter launched its Japanese version in 2008. Just over nine per cent of active Twitter users are Japanese. One of the best things about Twitter is the ability it gives its users to remain anonymous online. This privacy is highly valued by Japanese users (as it allows them to be less inhibited in voicing their opinions. However, users can still be identified if people try hard enough.
Japanese Twitter users regularly break tweeting records. At one point during the 2010 World Cup, Japanese users were tweeting 3,283 times a second.
The Miyazaki animation Castle in the Sky caused Japanese users to tweet 143,199 times per second during its broadcast in August 2013. Within an hour of the 2011 earthquake, more than 1,200 tweets per minute were coming from Tokyo. As a result, Japan was the first country to get Twitter’s new lifeline feature in September 2012.
YouTube and its local language competitors
The Japanese language version was launched in 2011, but cultural factors have limited the growth of the network. In a culture where self-promotion is discouraged, and job hopping is frowned on, there’s not a huge demand for business networking. As with Facebook, individuals who have yet to establish themselves in a career, and people who are interested in business leaders’ insights, are more likely to derive value from the site.
Japan has more than 124,000 users of Google Plus.
Other local networks
Influencers: brands, celebrities & sports stars
The most popular pages on Facebook are Facebook Japan (4.8 million local fans) and Facebook Navigation (more than 3.8 million local fans) – two pages focused on how to use Facebook- which makes sense, as Japanese users were initially hesitant to join the network due to its relative complexity when compared to domestic social networks such as Mixi.
Entertainers and business leaders have the most followed Twitter accounts in Japan. Comedian @ariyoshihiroiki has almost seven million followers, while the founder of SoftBank, @masason, has just over two million.
Language and cultural fast facts
Japanese is the official language of Japan, and there are more than 125 million speakers in Japan itself, and a further 2.5 million in the Americas.
- The British phrase ‘chinchin’, which we use as cheers when drinking, is also how they pronounce a certain part of the male anatomy in Japan – so be careful what you say in bars!
- The country is made up of more than 6852 islands.
- Japanese has a word for death from overwork – Karoshi.
- The Japanese Government places a strong emphasis on English language learning for school children.
Fast historical facts
- Japan has been inhabited since around 35,000BC.
- Although the current imperial family first emerged in around 700AD, political power lay in the hands of regional lords called daimyo, who each had their own samurai fighters.
- A federal government was established in 1600.
- In 1633 the sakoku policy (meaning locked country) banned foreigners from entering Japan, and the Japanese from leaving – the punishment for breaking this law was death.
- Isolationism (and feudalism) ended in the 1860s when the Meiji period began and Japan began to transform itself into a world power.