When I lived in Japan I had a very simple prepaid cell phone, but it still ranked at the top of my list out of all the mobile devices I’d had in the past.
People in the states like to plop a case on their phone, probably their favorite color. But in Japan, cell phone decorating in a trend not to be underestimated. I used to sit on the train and people watch the keitai culture. Young children had key-charms hanging from their keitai denwa (携帯電話) or cell phone , the gyarus and Harajuku girls had “blinged” out deco rhinestone cases and even business men had a more mature charm or two for decoration on their mobile device.
While intense cell phone decoration is mainstream in Japan, it is gaining some underground exposure in the States. Many artists online are making and selling decked out cases, charging about 50 dollars a pop and making a mint!
My favorite thing about my SoftBank cellphone, in addition to the keychains and rhinestones I hung from it, was the cute little text message pictures. Besides my Hiragana, Katakana and Romanj keyboards another “alphabet” known as Emoji (絵文字) was included with my phone.
While it has been common practice in the states to use internet lingo and photos in text messages such as “<3” for a heart or “=)” for a smile, Japan has been going above and beyond that with actual tiny colored images rather than symbols that resemble the sort. The Japanese are not shy in expressing their emotions with their Emoji and I found that text messages from friends were never without a colorful heart, musical note or flower at the end of it. Even if the photo did not directly relate to the words typed, it always seemed to put a smile on my face and set a more cute and cheerful mood!
Emoji has now become popular in the United States among iPhone users. One of the top iPhone apps of the past year was Emoji Free! By Awesomest Inc. The application takes only a minute to download and allows users to add a full authentic Japanese emoji keyboard to their keitai denwa (携帯電話) The Emoji free app features over 460 icons of animals, people, food and landmarks.
Now I can send my friends emoji of onigiri, mochi, and a bowl of udon and feel like I am using my old Japanese phone! Yet another cute Japanese trend spreading to the states…..