THE JOURNAL OF EDUCATION, COMMUNITY, AND VALUES
by Keaton Nguyen
Wireless technology is revolutionizing communication and the way people are able to communicate with each other. People are able to access information from anywhere, anytime, giving them greater freedom and agency than before. Wireless technology has not left a single country untouched, but its impact and penetration varies from the single digit to the triple digit. Only 42 percent of the United States population has a cell phone while Hong Kong is approximately 110%, as one person will have more than one phone. But it is not the penetration that makes the Japanese cell phone industry so interesting, it is how the keitai (Japanese for cell phone) has positioned the Japanese as no longer just "improvers of technology," but as the technological and sociological leaders in the wireless world.
In this first installment of two, the sociological phenomenon and impact of the keitai on the Japanese people and how the users have embraced the keitai's features to communicate, create communities, express themselves, and participate in commerce will be explored to explain and understand why the Japanese people have taken to the keitai as fervently as they have.
In the second installment, the keitai keiretsu, its members and their interactions will be examined to show not only its inner workings but also how it is different from the traditional keiretsu. We will also take a closer look at the leader of the service providers, NTT DoCoMo. From its history, we will come to understand how the wireless telecom giant was almost pre-destined to dominate the industry.
Demographics Who's Calling Whom?
In the discussion of the keitai and the Japanese cell phone culture, we have to ask two important questions: "Who are the members of this culture?" and "How important is it to have a keitai?" A survey conducted by Mobile Communication Research Group in November 2001 revealed the age demographics of the keitai owners (See Table 1). Youths are the heaviest users of the keitai, particularly e-mail, where they are able to send text, graphics, and photographs (Ito 2003).
|High school Students||78.8%|
Table 1: Keitai demographics (Ito 2003)
Furthermore, there is a difference in use among gender. Among college, high school and middle school students with keitai, 100% of all female respondents claimed to send email, whereas the college level boys follow closely with 96%, and middle school boys at 88%. In comparison, for adult e-mailers over the age of 20, the number hovers in the 70-80 percent range. The difference is even more striking as you get into the higher age brackets. Teenage text messaging numbers about 70 per week, twice that of the twenty-somethings. This is also true of web use (See Table 2):
|Age Group||Web Usage|
Table 2: Web usage (Ito 2003) 
In the gadget-crazy world that Japan is, the keitai is creating "the next social revolution" and to be without a keitai is to be left behind (Rheingold 2002). Beyond the keitai culture as a technological and social revolution, to be without a keitai is a conscious decision of disconnection, "to be walking blind, disconnected from just-in-time information on where and when you are in the social networks of time and place" (Ito 2003).
The Agency and Culture of Keitai
Manufacturers are providing users with a myriad of different applications for their keitai beyond its original purpose voice calls. While voice transmissions still make up the bulk of keitai traffic, some companies report that 40% of all transmissions is data, text messaging and e-mail (Trends 1999). Beyond voice calls, text messages, e-mails, sha-mails, and moblogs, keitai users exercise their agency but not in an individual-based and person-centered idea (Dissanayake 1996). Rather, the users' agency "manifests itself in and through networks of interactions" in their interpersonal communication regardless of the channel (Dissanayake 1996).
Interactions and Communities
The introduction of the keitai has had mixed results in family life. In a special report on NHK referenced in a keitai log entry called "Family 1: Distance within families due to cell phones" by Taro Matsumura, he wrote, due to "the development and penetration of cell phones and the Internet, it is becoming impossible for parents to grasp the scope of children's friendships and relationships" (Japan Media Review 2003). He attributes the increase in distance to diminishing of "phone connection" or "transfer." "Transfer" occurs when one person answers the phone for another person and transfers that call to the correct recipient. Originally, multiple households shared a phone, so phones were kept at the entrance of the house and phone transfers occurred between households. Later, when the phone became more popular and each household could have their own phone, transfers were limited to just that house. As a result, "the phone call became somewhat shared in the family." When a parent answered a phone call for one of the children, they were informed of their children's friends and had access to the conversation as the phone was fixed and in the public space of the household. In other words, the family was "sharing the phone conversation." With the development of the cordless phone and then the keitai, transferred calls and shared conversations ceased, resulting in a decline in the parent's involvement in their children's phone calls and, by extension, their lives.
On the other hand, the keitai has been able to help improve communication within the family as noted in Matsumura's follow-up log entry, "Family 2: Conversations via e-mails among family members" (Japan Media Review 2003). He noted that as more members of the family got keitais, "they gained a common tool for communication with their children." For example, Matsumura writes about a mother-daughter relationship that has improved because as they spoke and e-mailed more, they also started to talk more frankly and more often at home. Matsumura concluded that the cell phone did not necessarily create a distance between parent and children; it was just that the parents needed to use the same communication tools their children use.
The keitai has given their owners freedom, not just from the geography of a land-based phone but also in the manner they interact with people. Before the keitai, when two people had an appointment, a fixed time and place was agreed on and if one person didn't show, it was an inconvenience to the other. The keitai frees the user from being bound to that fixed place and time, all that is needed is to agree to meet. Users will "exchange as many as 5 to 15 messages throughout the day that progressively narrows in on a time and place, two points eventually converging in a coordinated dance through the urban jungle" (Ito 2003).
Much of the communication between intimates is not phone calls but text messages. As noted earlier, data transmissions, mostly text messages, take up 40% of all transmissions . But that's a technological definition; if one phone call equals one text message, then text messages far outpace voice calls according to a J-Phone executive (Trends 1999). This is evidenced by a young couple in a study by Professor Ito  where they exchanged 30 text messages over three hours as they watched TV, ate dinner, and did their homework, before engaging in a hour-long phone conversation. This was later followed by 22 more text messages. The beauty of the keitai for those who chose to adopt it is that it allows users to create a "portable, virtual peer space" and keep "in persistent but lightweight contact with a small number of intimates, with whom they are expected to be available" (Ito 2003).
Interestingly, the proficiency of these text messagers has caught sociologists' attention. Keitai text messengers are able to thumb their messages at the equivalent speed of 100 characters per minute on a standard Japanese language keyboard (Trends 2003). This group, according to one estimate, number at least 1.5 million people and have been dubbed the oya yubi sodai or the "thumb generation." To understand this feat, the phone keyboard is structured after the Japanese hiragana system where the 1-button brings up the series (a-i-u-e-o); the 2-button brings up the series (ka-ki-ku-ke-ko), and so on (Japan Forum 2001). To type , the keitai user would have to press the 1 button 5 times. The language of text messaging "is its own language, some borrowed from e-mail. It is a truncated language, a language of spontaneous thought and shorthand" (Copeland 2002). The extensive use of the thumb in text messaging has broadened its reach into the keitai user's everyday life in that young people "even point at things and ring doorbells with their thumbs" (Copeland 2002).
Etymology of "keitai"
The word keitai itself does not mean portable cellular phone but just "portable." Pringle's discussion on the word keitai explains its evolution from keitai denwa in the kanji form to keitai in the katakana form (Pringle 2002). The proper form for "portable phone" is keitai denwa (), written in kanji (Fig 1).
Fig. 1 "Kyakuseki de no keitai denwa no go-shiyoo wa"
"The use of mobile telephones at tables is... "
In popular usage, the "phone" part or denwa is dropped because it's understood the object is a phone and thus superfluous (Fig 2).
Fig. 2 Use of keitai
In informal writing and in advertisements, it's more common to write keitai in the katakana form, . The advertisement in Fig. 3 shows the use of the katakana form.
Fig. 3 Keitai advertisement
In advertising, it's ideal for the sentence and picture to flow while bringing attention to the product. The sentence, "Watashi wa, kirei na keitai" meaning "I [have] a pretty phone," in the advertisement above flows visually. It is clean and uncluttered yet the word "keitai" stands out because it is in the katakana form.
The keitai has also affected the way people shop and engage in commerce. Keitai users have the greater agency or freedom to conduct business with their keitai whether as consumers, vendors, or businessmen. For example, NTT DoCoMo and two other mobile carriers have introduced a system for shoppers to pay at convenience stores for items bought on-line . The keitai user places orders of merchandise or tickets from websites that are keitai enabled. The vendor then simply transmits the billing information in the form of a bar code to the keitai. The keitai user flashes the bar code at a local AM/PM, a chain of convenience stores, and pays at the counter (Knight Ridder 2003). Though not revolutionary, many vending machines are now keitai-enabled. Similar to the previous transaction, the user simply swipes their phone in front of a sensor on the vending machine, makes their selection, and the amount of the item is added to the keitai owner's monthly bill. I remark that this is not revolutionary because the Swedish and Finnish have already achieved this, but instead of a sensor each vending machine has a phone number, which is then dialed.
Additionally, airlines have also established their own foray into the keitai world. Japan Airlines has launched a system to not only sell plane tickets but also complete boarding procedures for orders placed on the keitai (Knight Ridder 2003). While some of the processes are not the most elegant , they are evidence of the keitai users' increasing capabilities.
Another area, though anecdotal, is in the area of cyber-counseling. A keitai website for the keitai called Sotsuen Netto, Japanese for "Net for Quitting Smoking," now helps individuals through the trials of quitting smoking (Trends 2001). Users keep a smoking diary where a successful day helps the growth of an on-line pet character. If the smoker feels they are about to give into a craving, they can send out an SOS signal, and based on the level of stress determined by the lack of nicotine based on the user's personal data, i.e. how many days since they've started and how many cigarettes smoked since, the keitai website sends out one of hundreds of pieces of advice.
Other keitai websites are linking employers to employees. Truck drivers have been trendsetters, choosing to make calls to headquarters from their keitai rather than search for big-rig parking spaces next to public phones (Sakamaki 2000). Drivers are only paid when they are carrying a load and prefer to not return from a delivery empty-handed. With the deployment of a keitai website called TraBox, truckers are able to deliver cargo, then search or respond to email bids so they can carry cargo on the way home. Most telling is a truck driver's statement, "I-mode has changed the way I work" (Sakamaki 2000). As vendors, employers, content providers and service providers offer their goods and services through the keitai, they help extend the user's agency beyond just a network of interactions with intimates to include organizations and corporations, large and small.
The keitai is a tool that community members use to communicate with each other and hence maintain the integrity of the community. However, when mobile e-mail was in its infancy, the keitai's e-mailing capabilities played a greater role in that it defined communities. Many carriers offered e-mail services in their own format: DoCoMo offered Short Mail, J-Phone offered Sky Walker, and Au offered Cmail (Japan Media Review 2003). Sending text messages would only become a problem if you wanted to send an e-mail to someone with a different service. The process for producing an e-mail was so cumbersome and laborious to the point that it was a nuisance and thus avoided. "This led to the formation of two segregated mobile communication communities" that socialized exclusively among themselves. Fortunately, the keitairetsu agreed on standards easing inter-service emailing.
These e-mail communities are indicative of more than just a need to deliver a message from one user to another, or even from intimate to intimate, but simply a need to communicate. Young keitai users have meru-tomo, or mail friends that they communicate with via e-mail through the anonymity of handles or nicknames (Japan Forum 2001). They initially meet at deai-kei or meeting sites to begin their e-mail friendships. Fifteen-year-old Asami Yuzawa sends about 50 messages a day to her intimates as well as her meru-tomos (Sakamaki 2000). She claims to communicate with over 100 cyberpals, including people she has never met. The e-mail walls between different network operators have disappeared, so what is now left is the keitai users, e-mails, and, most importantly, their desire to communicate. This communication through their keitai is what links each member of this community through some sense of primordiality, some sense of "we-ness" or "an attachment that bonds small, intimate collectivities, usually based on those attachments that bind small, intimate collectivities" (Appadurai 1996) .
Beyond the e-mailing communities, keitai users are able to participate in communities as they seek out various forms of entertainment, in this case on-line games. Dwango, a Tokyo game developer, released an on-line game called Samurai Romanesque, a weather-affected massive mutli-player, Java-based i-mode game for NTT DoCoMo's i-Appli  content service (Scuka 2001). Players take on the role of the samurai where they share information with each other, obtain various tools, while learning the art of sword fighting through practice and "real battles." Each player can take one of 16,000 unique appearances choosing the one that fits closest with their on-line samurai persona. What's interesting is not that the game's on-line world is tied to real-world weather or that players are able to meet, communicate, and interact in real time, but the system monitors this communication and strips out any e-mail addresses or phone numbers. This serves to reduce the possibility of players meeting in person, in compliance with DoCoMo's strict "no social networking" security policy for i-mode. DoCoMo has erected the walls between the on-line world and the real world to preserve the user experience by keeping it bound to the world of Samurai Romanesque, hence leaving it untainted. Also, as games can become competitive, particularly in battles, the death of a samurai may result in real-world reprisals.
The Price of Self-Expression
Keitai users have many opportunities to express their individuality through their keitai. The keitai is "virtually a part of themselves that they spend so much time and money customizing it" (Trends 2003). Users are able to customize their chakumero or ring tones either by purchasing and downloading them from a provider or programming the harmony themselves. Furthermore, the keitai manufacturers have extended the phone's ring tone ability to allow the user to assign specific chakumero to specific people. While the current technology has reached the level of 16-chord ring tones, this advancement may be short lived. As 3G and FOMA become more prevalent and accepted, transmission of MP3s will soon become the norm. Already, fifteen-second clips of MP3s are replacing ringtones and are available for a few yen (Blokland, Feb 11, 2004). The keitai user can also download pictures and characters to use as their screen background to appeal to their tastes. Keitai users can further decorate their phones with sticker photos, decorative straps, colorful faceplates, light-up antennas, and carrying cases. All these additional accessories, digital and physical, come at minimal costs, ringtones are ¥300, straps from ¥500, and sticker photos from the Photo Club machines are ¥300. Possibly the easiest win for the wireless aftermarket vendors are those providing animated screen characters. For a subscription of ¥300 a month, keitai users can download a new animated screen character each day. While ¥300 a month may not sound significant, scaled to a factor of 10,000 users, it would yield ¥36 million annually.
The expression of their individuality takes form in more than just the personalization of their keitai; it's also in how they communicate, from the use of words to symbols. As mentioned earlier, the language of text messages and keitai-based emails is truncated and borrowed from pc-based e-mails. For example, in English, the phrase "I love you" can be shorted to "ily." With the use of the normal characters and special keyboard characters, e.g. ()^_#*:;+, the users can create kaomoji or face words in Japanese (Japan Forum 2003). Using the kaomoji, users "can express various nuances of tone and attitude that are hard to express in words." High school students often use these kaomoji, but usually among close friends as meanings behind these face words are meant to be interpreted in the context of the relationship. The (^_^) (smiling, happy face) is often used to convey agreement, happiness, or simply an acknowledgement of a message. However, without the map of the relationship, the kaomoji's meaning cannot be precisely defined. From the m(__)m (apologizing) to the (^__^)/~~ (good-bye), the choice to use the kaomoji or to type out "gomenasai" or "sayonara" is more than just a shortcut but an act of reaffirming the relationship between intimates.
In fact, many young girls are leading the communication trends in the keitai world with their own set of language and kaomoji, called gyaru-moji, a mixture of Japanese syllables, numbers, mathematical symbols and Greek characters. It's like a secret code used by teenagers; at first glance, the code resembles hieroglyphics (Blokland, Nov 6, 2003). As gyaru-moji takes twice as long to enter than just normal Japanese characters or basic kaomoji, some manufacturers have some gyaru-moji pre-programmed while other vendors offer quick conversion tools easily downloaded off the MML-enabled website . In fact, though, the most recent trend among young girls is to not send e-mails or text messages anymore. These young girls take advantage of the increased bandwidth by handwriting their messages on paper, taking a photo of it and mailing the photos to each other. In whatever form it takes, "Girl's Talk" is generating a lot of revenue for the mobile carriers.
Keitai users, particularly the youths, have seen their communications methods change from the shared medium of the family phone to the more private cordless phone to the pager and, most recently, the keitai. As they move from one medium to the next, their conversations become more private and more personal, but this does not necessarily separate or divide people. In fact, it potentially strengthens relationships, but only if all parties choose to be a part of the new communication community and adopt the new technology.
In the adoption of the technology, users redefine their worlds by maintaining this portable, virtual peer space giving them the agency of self-expression through personalizing their keitai, and through the expression of their thoughts through text messaging, e-mail, sha-mail, and moblogging. Keitai users do not have just a space or vehicle for self-definition, but also one from which to act.
The keitai has evolved from simply a communications tool to include being a status symbol, a day-to-day necessity, and a fashion accessory, all the while giving the users greater agency to communicate, participate, and operate from the locus created mainly from the interstices between various subject-positions (Dissanayake 1996). They are able to conduct business in one or more roles consumer, vendor, employer or employee. Perhaps NTT DoCoMo aptly named their third generation phone technology, FOMA, Freedom of Mobile Multimedia Access, because never have people had greater Freedom, been more Mobile, experienced as much Multimedia, or had more Access to it.
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 Web usage statistics for Thirty-somethings were not provided.
 All transmission, whether voice, SMS, web activity, etc., are broken into smaller pieces of data called "packets." In this calculation, the sum of all voice packets and data packets take up 60% and 40%, respectively, of all transmissions.
 Professor Mizuko Ito is a Visiting Scholar at the Annenberg Center for Communication at the University of Southern California, and a Visiting Associate Professor at Keio University. She is engaged in an anthropological study of technology use, focusing on youth and children's relationship in new media.
 All references to on-line are meant in the context of using the keitai.
 The process of having to go to a convenience store for payment is an unnecessary step as shown by the some Finnish mobile commerce systems where the purchase amount is added to the keitai's balance.
 While Appadurai argues that the primordialist argument is flawed in its attempt to view "ethnicity [as] a historically constituted form," I think his outline of the argument is effective in this application to the keitai users. I agree with him that ethnicities and communities created from primordialism are too simple, but sometimes it is that simple, particularly in this case where technology effectively created and separated the different e-mail communities.
 Some explanations:
Weather-affected real-world weather will impact how the game is played in real-time. For example, if it is raining, the samurai may have a harder time moving and fighting.
Massively-multiplayer Dwango claims they can support up to 500,000 players.
Java the programming language used.
i-mode the technology that allows access to the web and emails.
i-Appli the technology that allows applications to run on the keitai.
 MML is the acronym for Mobile Mark-up Language, the language standard for websites on the keitai.