Sporadic Happiness (in Japan!)

(formerly) updated every Wednesday

#7 Japanese Cell Phones

Japanese cell phones are great.
I really enjoy them.  There’s a whole culture that goes along with them.
For example, almost all Japanese cell phones are flip phones, except for iPhones and a few similar touch-screen smart phones that are just starting to come out (though I’ve only seen one single person who has one out here in the countryside).
Also, many people decorate their cell phones with stickers or other decorations.  Some people just do one or two simple ones, while others bling them out with jewels and all sorts of things, such as this beauty here.

It’s generally women in their 20s or so that bling them out.  But most girls (and some guys) tend to decorate them in some way.  Here’s what I did with mine:

I used ballerina stickers which I bought at Loft, my favorite Japanese store ever.  I liked them because of the purple/pink/silver color scheme and the fact that they were a bit raised and added a bit of texture.  Oh, and also they’re sparkly, which is a huge plus.

When I studied abroad, I also had a pink phone and decorated it with stickers, though not quite as fancy stickers.

Which brings up another point.  Cell phones come in a lot of different colors.  I think in the US this happens sometimes too, but here in Japan each cell phone model comes in at least 3-5 colors, sometimes more.  You can get all sorts of colors.

As you can see, there are simpler colors too, like black, white, silver, or gold.  My boyfriend has a gold cell phone, which he doesn’t decorate.

A lot of people text in Japan.  All cell phones (or at least most of them) have both English and Japanese menus, and whatever menu you have is the default language to type in.  I keep mine in English because it’s just easier that way, even though I can read Japanese.  When I want to type in Japanese, in the text window I just change the input mode from there.
Japanese cell phones have a lot of cute little icons you can input into your text messages.  Women and girls in particular tend to use a lot in their messages.

Each phone has a lot of icons, and I believe you can download more.  Some of the icons even move a little, as shown above.

Most phones also have an English<->Japanese dictionary.  Some women that came to my adult conversation classes last year would often look up words on their cell phones instead of using an electronic or paper dictionary.  Convenient, eh?

Now, these are a lot of awesome things, but there’s one more very important aspect of Japanese cell phone culture that I haven’t yet pointed out (though maybe you noticed it on the picture of my current cell phone), and that’s the use of cell phone charms.

Cell phone charms are called sutorappu ストラップ or “strap” – an example of made-in-Japan English.
Pretty much everyone has at least one, sometimes two or more on their phone.  An yes, even men.  They tend to have simpler or sportier items.  Women have decorations that include lace, fake jewels, cute characters, small stuffed animals, etc.  Actually the stuffed animals don’t even have to be small.

I remember once seeing a man on a train when I studied abroad in Kobe, that had a fairly large (maybe the size of one’s hand) stuffed panda sticking out of his pocket….attached to his cell phone.  Some people have all manner of “straps” on their phone so that it takes up more space than the phone itself!
I liked having a cell phone strap when I first studied in Japan so much that when I went back to the US to finish my college degree I decided I’d continue the tradition….only to be disappointed that my new US cell phone didn’t have the little opening in the corner of the phone to put one on!  How sad.  Though some US cell phones do indeed have them – it just depends on the maker or model I guess.

Anyway, besides personal cell phone straps in Japan, many stores sell paired cell phone charms, where a couple will buy them and put one on each of their phones to show that they’re together.  Sometimes it’ll be the same design but a different color; sometimes it’ll be two halves of something that come together like a heart, or sometimes it’ll be two little stuffed animals that attach via magnets when brought together.

My boyfriend and I recently bought ourselves paired cell phone straps.  They weren’t sold as a pair persay, but they were the same thing only in different colors, and we liked them.  We bought them in Yokohama.  Here they are, in the center of the photo (surrounded by our other charms):

Our individual charms, while not paired persay, are actually from the same shrine in Kyoto.  The shrine is called Fushimi Inari and is known as a Fox Shrine.  His is a key from this shrine with some sort of significance of which I don’t know about.  Mine is Hello Kitty dressed in a fox outfit.  I bought mine when when my boyfriend and I went on our weekend trip back in November 2010.

Which brings me to a whole other topic……  the fact that Hello Kitty is an extremely versatile character here, and has been recruited for some time now to be a mascot for various areas of Japan.  That is to say, when you go to any city in Japan and hit up one of their souvenir stores, they will inevitably have cell phone straps, pens, pencils, handkerchiefs and other goods that display a hello kitty wearing, holding, or doing something that represents that area.  As noted above, for the fox shine in Kyoto, you can buy “goods” showing hello kitty in a fox outfit.  For a city in Hiroshima near me famous for maple leaves, Hello Kitty holds a maple leaf.  This is a widespread phenomenon all across Japan, and is definitely something to talk about in a later post ^_^  Look forward to it!
As for Japanese cell phones and cell phone straps, I’ve only scratched the surface for the kind of variety and colorfulness that can be found here.  It’s always interesting to see people’s cell phones and how they decorate them.  If you want to see more yourself, I recommend searching for “Japanese cell phones” or “Japanese cell phone charms” on google and browsing the images on there.  Have fun!