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It's because Japanese society is backwards and unreformed when it comes to its dealings with the Internet. [1]

1. http://neojaponisme.com/2009/05/19/the-fear-of-the-internet/





No, not at all like the USA. Japan is at least 10 years behind when it comes to the internet. It's a completely different situation. You have to experience it to understand it. The Japanese simply haven't grokked the idea of moving large aspects of their lives online, or even why they should bother to try to understand the internet.


You are confusing 'different' with '10 years behind'.

Let's just stipulate that fiber-optic and mobile internet infrastructure is light-years ahead of the US, since you say you are only talking about utilization.

So no, Japanese people don't tend to do Facebook. On the other hand, they have 2channel, which was launched when Zuckerberg was still jerking off to Asian porn at prep school, and which 1 out of 10 Japanese people use. It's completely anonymous and pretty much the opposite of Facebook, but it's still the Internet.

Just about everybody you see on the train, old grannies included, is sitting quietly, not talking, accessing some type of Internet-delivered content on their phone -- and we doing so well before "smartphone" was a word and when people were still stocking up on canned goods for Y2K. (I was a "PDA" developer back then.)

My Japanese mother-in-law, as is typical, is fully conversant in using Skype, Flickr, Google+ or whatever... to check our the latest baby pics. Not to post her own stuff, because she certainly wouldn't want to do that.

So if by 'the internet' you mean 'moving large aspects of their lives online' (in public, where others can see what they are up to), then no, people aren't really into that here.

Privacy is a way deeper concept in Japan, both pre-Internet and in the present day. Even if people write blogs, they are often totally anonymous. They avoid putting their names on their apartment mailboxes and shun transparent garbage bags so that their neighbors can't see what's in their trash, too.

That's different, but it's not '10 years behind' any more than Japan is '10 years behind in watching Survivor and Hardcore Pawn reality shows'.

(Disclaimer: I'm not Japanese, but I don't use social networks either, and I like it that way.)

[1]: http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2010/04/06/reference/2chann...


You're forgetting about digital media: http://www.theverge.com/2012/11/15/3628376/japan-digital-con...

There's a lot more to moving your life online than social networking. I'm not big on social networking either. But that doesn't mean I still rent my videos at the corner store or go to the local record store to buy albums on CD.


I don't think I am forgetting about those things -- read the closing paragraph of the article you link:

    The real question, however, is whether or not
    Japanese consumers even want these services that
    we from the West can no longer imagine life without.
    Hulu and Sony are making good starts, but they 
    certainly have their work cut out for them in Japan.
    As far as I can tell, most people are pretty happy as
    long as they live within bicycle distance of a Tsutaya
    — that’s basically everyone in Tokyo, by the way — and
    its convenient, cheap access to rented media. Which,
    of course, can be copied and kept forever; a practice
    that Tsutaya has gone out of its way to encourage by 
    actually selling burnable discs and drives alongside its
    J-pop CDs. And for casual consumers, maybe it is a better
    solution. No DRM, no extortionate prices, and a sense of
    ownership. That’s the thing about Japan — for better or 
    worse, you can always count on the place to march to the 
    beat of a different drummer.
Like I said: different.

It reminds me of how Japan kept (and keeps) using fax machines. It seems archaic, but fax machines are dramatically easier to use and far more reliable than any email system every devised.

Part of what is going on here is that all the digital solutions suck too much ass. It took Apple ten years from when they launched iTunes Store to make the legal digital music scene actually better than CDs (when they finally shitcanned all DRM and stopped sucking more than the process of driving to Best Buy). It took an Amazon to make digital books not suck balls.

Nobody has done that with movies and TV yet (other than the bootleg torrent scene, I mean). But I note the article mentions Hulu is doing well in Japan. Well, the suck-ass Hulu that they have in America wouldn't do well here -- they had to make Japanese Hulu significantly better (no ads, faster speeds, subtitles, etc). It's still not good enough that I can say walking down the street to Tsutaya is Doing It Wrong.

I'm not saying the Japanese are the masters of the Internet, either. It turns out that the reason all Japanese websites look like shit is because that's how the Japanese want 'em. I spoke to an engineer for Rakuten at the last HN Tokyo meetup -- turns out Rakuten actually does have some designers and they've A/B tested their current 450-blinking-mini-banners-per-6MB-page against some clean and modern designs. The horrific eyesores won. The people had spoken. And what they said was, well, different.


> It seems archaic, but fax machines are dramatically easier to use and far more reliable than any email system every devised.

Are you kidding me? I have never had issues with reliability of email, but fax machines are always breaking down, running out of toner, and lord knows what else. That's why services like HelloFax exist.

> It took Apple ten years from when they launched iTunes Store to make the legal digital music scene actually better than CDs (when they finally shitcanned all DRM and stopped sucking more than the process of driving to Best Buy).

Uhh, no. Most Americans I know stopped buying CDs from Best Buy some time around 2005 or 2006. And those were the latecomers. The younger people stopped pretty much after Napster became big in the late 90s.

> Nobody has done that with movies and TV yet

Have you never used Netflix?

> It turns out that the reason all Japanese websites look like shit is because that's how the Japanese want 'em. I spoke to an engineer for Rakuten at the last HN Tokyo meetup -- turns out Rakuten actually does have some designers and they've A/B tested their current 450-blinking-mini-banners-per-6MB-page against some clean and modern designs. The horrific eyesores won. The people had spoken. And what they said was, well, different.

A/B testing is not the be all and end all of website design: http://www.codinghorror.com/blog/2010/07/groundhog-day-or-th...

And I wouldn't use Rakuten as an example of shining engineering (or design) talent. I interviewed with them and quickly realized that it was a place where engineers went to get super shitty. Not to mention that Mikitani's famed "B2B2C" model is just plain idiotic. Surprise surprise, give people too much control over their "store pages", and they turn to shit. In America we'd already learned that lesson from MySpace, but it apparently never translated over to Japan.

And if the Japanese like crammed and messy designs so much, why have the iPhone and iPad been such big hits? Shouldn't they have just kept using their Galapagos keitai, with the horribly confusing byzantine UI and tons of features that no one ever used?


Real quick:

1.) Yes you have had reliability issues with email. And so has everybody else who has ever used it. It's inherently unreliable by design, and errors can happen anywhere along the chain and often don't reported back.

2.) I have used Netflix. It's the best legal solution I've seen so far, but the selection still sucks and it doesn't work internationally. Not solved.

3.) Most Americans you know may have stopped buying CDs in 2005, but not most Americans I know, and (more to the point) not most Americans in general[1][2]. I dabbled in buying digital music back then, but it was inferior, crippled, DRM-laden shit. iTunes didn't fix that until 2009[3]. US digital music sales didn't surpass physical sales until 2011.

4.) I wasn't using Rakuten as an example of shining engineering or design. I'm saying the horrible, garish store pages on Rakuten -- apparently as shocking to your sensibilities as they are to mine -- are actually what the Japanese people, in aggregate, seem to prefer. Understanding that goes a long way toward understanding why all my Japanese bank websites look so heinous[4], why my coworkers here prefer Yahoo to Google for web-searching, and so on.

The iPhone? Well fuck it, that must be the exception that proves the rule. ;-)

But before you diss those old Galapagos keitais, people did use the hell out of those. I know 50 year olds who can still reserve a flight way faster on one of those things while driving down the street than I can do with my iPhone using both hands.

My point in all of this was just to say Japan isn't "behind" the US in Internet use (in terms of per capita users, they are very similar, ranked #14 and #13 respectively[5]), they just use it differently.

Some differences I like (e.g., not prematurely accepting cunty DRM-ridden systems that aren't really as good as the old systems they purport to replace).

Some, I don't like (e.g., bank website design).

And some, like not really having digital books here yet (outside of manga, anyway) are a just function of the USA's global economic dominance -- those markets take an Apple or Amazon to spearhead. Japan is not those American companies' first priority. It'll take more time before those products are available here.

OK, I lied, that wasn't real quick.

[1]: http://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20120105005547/en/Niel...

[2]http://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20130104005149/en/Niel...

[3]: http://www.pcworld.com/article/162732/drm_free_itunes_meanin...

[4]: Yep, including this one (lol!): http://www.rakuten-bank.co.jp

[5]: http://www.nationmaster.com/graph/int_use_percap-internet-us...


> Yes you have had reliability issues with email. And so has everybody else who has ever used it. It's inherently unreliable by design, and errors can happen anywhere along the chain and often don't reported back.

Uh, no I haven't. I cannot remember a single instance in which I sent an email and it failed to arrive in the recipient's inbox. Just stop and think about it - you're actually defending fax machines, which are KNOWN to regularly break down.

> I have used Netflix. It's the best legal solution I've seen so far, but the selection still sucks and it doesn't work internationally. Not solved.

The reason it doesn't work in Japan is because Japan is way behind when it comes to the internet. Because Japanese companies are lumbering behemoths loathe to adopt the internet. Because consumers don't show interest in streaming their movies and TV shows instead of going to Tsutaya.

> Most Americans you know may have stopped buying CDs in 2005, but not most Americans I know, and (more to the point) not most Americans in general[1][2]. I dabbled in buying digital music back then, but it was inferior, crippled, DRM-laden shit. iTunes didn't fix that until 2009[3]. US digital music sales didn't surpass physical sales until 2011.

Of course digital sales didn't surpass physical sales for a long time - with digital sales, people started buying singles instead of whole CDs, so they were spending a lot less money. And a lot of the people were just pirating their music instead of buying it. You would have to compare total digital vs physical music consumption, not music sales, in order to figure out how quickly digital music was adopted. Just because someone purchased a $10 CD doesn't mean they actually listened to all the songs on it. And just because someone who listens to music all the time has never purchased a song digitally doesn't mean they buy CDs (they could have pirated it all).

And what about Japan? How is digital music doing there in comparison to the US? Oh yeah, people are STILL buying/renting and listening to CDs.

> I'm saying the horrible, garish store pages on Rakuten -- apparently as shocking to your sensibilities as they are to mine -- are actually what the Japanese people, in aggregate, seem to prefer. Understanding that goes a long way toward understanding why all my Japanese bank websites look so heinous[4], why my coworkers here prefer Yahoo to Google for web-searching, and so on.

How much concrete evidence is there that the Japanese don't prefer cleaner website designs? You could've said the same thing about American websites in the 90s, but things have changed.

As for preferring Yahoo to Google, that has more to do with historical preferences than the site design. After all, Bing has a clean and simple design, and is largely comparable to Google in terms of results, but Americans continue to use Google. Old habits die hard. The difference in Japan is that they are even more attached to doing things as they've always been done. It takes a dramatic event, like the Meiji Revolution, or losing in WW2, to engender rapid change in Japan.

> Some differences I like (e.g., not prematurely accepting cunty DRM-ridden systems that aren't really as good as the old systems they purport to replace).

I don't think it has anything to do with DRM. The Japanese are happy to deal with Apple's draconian App Store policies as they buy tons and tons of iPhones. What proof is there that it was DRM that stopped them from buying music on iTunes? The real reason is that the record industry in Japan refused to put their music online until recently.

> those markets take an Apple or Amazon to spearhead. Japan is not those American companies' first priority

Why not a Japanese company, like Sony? Sony had an E-reader in Japan a long time ago. But it could never move forward, because a few companies have a stranglehold on the publishing industry and aren't receptive to change.


w1ntermute, I have to disagree with you here. If we are going to generalize, the Japanese are most definitely clued-in to the Internet. They may not use Facebook as much, but they have one of the highest usages of Twitter in the world (a little old, but here: http://www.mediabistro.com/alltwitter/twitter-top-countries_... and here: http://venturebeat.com/2012/01/09/huge-in-japan-twitter/), and they use the Internet for a lot of things like making purchases, finding product/store/restaurant/etc. reviews, auctions, etc. And, despite the relatively lower numbers, tons of Japanese are on Facebook (although, this article describes how teenagers are more into Instagram and other photo-sharing services, moreso than FB, which makes sense consider Japan's history of photo sharing via feature-phones...but I digress: http://japan.cnet.com/news/commentary/35029092/). AND, let us not forget venerable old 2chan, the inspiration for 4chan(!). To say that they are ten years behind I think is pretty much not the case.

Which all just goes to say that it is even more of a shame that the government doesn't have a clue about this shit.

Now, if you are talking about building an environment to create new web businesses, or adopting new software development techniques, then maybe they are behind...but not ten years (and most everyone is behind the U.S. on this as far as I've seen).

-A guy who works at a Japanese internet company in Tokyo


Things are not nearly as rosy as you're painting them: http://www.theverge.com/2012/11/15/3628376/japan-digital-con...

All I can say is that my experience living in Tokyo has been completely different from what you suggest. Like the Neojaponisme article suggests, there is a general "fear and loathing" of the internet among the Japanese.


And yet they make shows like Eden of the East which contains a system with that namesake that's basically Facebook meets Metafilter meets Google


imo Japanese subculture citizens (especially those who really live and breathe it) are much farther away from the "mainstream" culture and society than their counterparts in the West.

It is more 'normal' to be 'not normal' over here.


And yet I have gigabit internet here.


I don't mean their internet infrastructure, I mean their actual utilization of the internet.


skimmed the linked article and was quite impressed with the thorough analysis. :)


Neojaponisme is a great site, it's too bad there hasn't been any new content since the new year started.




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