WW-152 -- Essays on a Japanese Vade Mecum

J@pan Inc presents the Wireless Watch Newsletter:


Commentary on Japan's Wireless World

Wireless Watch Newsletter
Issue No. 152
Tokyo, Friday March 3, 2006

++ Viewpoint: Essays on a Japanese Vade Mecum

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++ Essays on a Japanese Vade Mecum

"Personal, Portable, Pedestrian: Mobile Phones in Japanese Life"
Edited by Mizuko Ito, Daisuke Okabe, and Misa Matsuda
368 pages, hard cover
The MIT Press, 2005 (US$ 39.95)

The Japanese mobile phone phenomenon has been the subject of
a raft of English-language articles and books. Like "Wireless Watch," most
are written by non-Japanese. The book "Personal, Portable, Pedestrian:
Mobile Phones in Japanese Life," edited by Mizuko Ito, Daisuke Okabe and
Misa Matsuda," is a welcome addition to the literature on Japanese keitai.

The word "keitai" roughly translates as "something you carry with you,"
according to the authors. So a keitai allows constant social connection.
Having experienced the keitai boom myself, I know mobile phones are
personal tools. That is why Japanese young people do not wear watches
any more; their keitai serve as clock and alarm, even when abroad without
phone coverage. The mobile phone gets very personal with a popular tool
for young women from 104.com, a mobile application provider. The tool
allows them to input their basal temperature into their phone and plot
their ovulation cycle. The application is linked to a "dating calendar" so
they can check when it is safe to have unsafe sex.

The book is not about keitai technology. It is a collection of 15 essays
that document the emergence, incorporation, and domestication of mobile
communications in a wide range of social practices and institutions.
Tomoyuki Okada, an assistant professor at Kansai University, recounts
the social, cultural, and historical context of keitai development. He
traces the way pagers were used in the early 1990s by Japanese youth as a
predecessor of text messaging.

In an essay titled "The Third Stage Paradigm: Territory Machines from
the Girl?s Pager Revolution to Mobile Aesthetics," Kenichi Fujimoto, of
Mukogawa Women?s University, describes well the integration of keitai
in everyday life and contrasts it with the more escapist character of the
Internet via the PC. Case studies of mobile phone manners and usage
by social groups, of multi-tasking housewives, of schoolchildren, and
of copier technicians flesh out the context of keitai use in Japan.

"Personal, Portable, Pedestrian" is peppered with keitai terms and other
Japanese expressions that will be unfamiliar to some readers. A glossary
of Japanese terms would be welcome in a second edition.

The book is a must read for anyone interested in understanding why
mobile phone usage is so pervasive and persistent in everyday life in

While reading the book, I thought back to the days before the mobile
phone -- the world has changed.

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Written by Arjen van Blokland; Edited by Burritt Sabin

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