Social Phenomena ~ Keitai-denwa (by Kay Lee)
Wireless technologies are becoming more and more complex and important worldwide. We have all heard of major wireless advancements occurring in Asia, specifically in Japan, where technology has evolved to make the cell phone, or keitai, the ultimate all-in-one device. Japanese cell phones have the usual perks: take pictures and movies, and play TV and music clips. But the Japanese have taken things a bit further, attempting to replace anything and everything that someone might keep in their wallet with one cellular device. NTT Docomo in Japan allows customers to use their cell phones in place of credit cards and airplane tickets. People with a keitai can even read their favorite comics on their cell phones, or check up on lonely pets staying in “pet hotels”.
TOKYO - For the average Japanese teenager, a cell phone is a must-have item, used for email, taking photos and keeping track of dates, in addition to the simple phone call.

But a quick stroll around the hip Shibuya district of Tokyo shows that cell phones in Japan have also become an important identity statement, with accessories like straps, antenna rings, photo stickers and fake gems reflecting the owner's personality.

That has made fashion accessories for mobile phones a big business in Japan, where even adults dangle at least a strap from their phones.

Seeing a widow of opportunity, designer houses such as Hermes International, Gucci and Louis Vuitton have added mobile phone straps to their collections with prices as high as $300. A Chanel strap costs about $250, according to one online shopping site.

"Unlike many other gadgets and the personal computer, the 'keitai' (mobile phone) is much more closely tied to a particular individual," said Mizuko Ito, a cultural anthropologist studying mobile phone use at Japan's Keio University.

"The keitai is not a group address like the home or office phone," Ito says, adding this was just one more way in which young Japanese can establish a personal identity within a well-defined group.
It's difficult to pinpoint the exact size of the market for mobile phone accessories, but, Japan's largest online mobile phone accessory store, estimates the novelty accessory market alone is worth about 6 billion yen ($57.34 million) including phone straps that companies have made for marketing purposes.

Phone makers are also catching on to the personalization trend, and are trying to move it beyond simple accessories to the phone itself.

More than five years ago, Finland's Nokia, the world's largest mobile phone maker, introduced user-changeable faceplates.

But Japanese mobile phone maker Panasonic Mobile Communications has taken that a step further in Japan, creating flat screw-on faceplates that can easily be duplicated by tracing a template and punching in four holes to hold it down.

Panasonic Mobile initially set the price of a faceplate at a modest 800 yen ($7.65), but scarce or premium versions designed by the company or others can go for more than $100 on the Internet. Since many of the phones are made by third party manufacturers, Panasonic said it was impossible to calculate the sales generated.

Dominant operator NTT DoCoMo, however, is believed to have sold about 2 million of Panasonic's phones. Assuming consumers bought an average of two official faceplates; sales would come to at least 3.2 billion yen.
Takagi says other parts of the phone can also be personalized, including the area around the screen, keypad color and even the phone's backside.

"The potential for customizing the mobile phone itself is endless.”

By Justin Dart **Taken from
Hikikomori (ひきこもり or 引き篭り lit. "pulling away, being confined," i.e., "acute social withdrawal") is a Japanese term to refer to the phenomenon of reclusive adolescents and young adults who have chosen to withdraw from social life, often seeking extreme degrees of isolation and confinement due to various personal and social factors in their lives. The term "hikikomori" refers to both the sociological phenomenon in general as well as to individuals belonging to this societal group.
According to estimates by psychologist Tamaki Saito, who first coined the phrase, there may be one million hikikomori in Japan, twenty percent of all male adolescents in Japan, or one percent of the total Japanese population. Surveys done by the Japanese Ministry of Health as well as research done by health care experts suggest a more conservative estimate of 50,000 hikikomori in Japan today. As reclusive youth by their very nature are difficult to poll, the true number of hikikomori most likely falls somewhere between the two extremes.
Though acute social withdrawal in Japan appears to affect both genders equally, due to differing societal expectations for maturing boys and girls, the most widely reported cases of hikikomori are from Japanese families with male children who seek outside intervention when their son, usually the eldest, refuses to leave the family home.

While total social withdrawal seems to be mainly a Japanese phenomenon, there are reports of similar phenomena developing in South Korea, Taiwan and Hong Kong.[citation needed

Still, with the appearance of NEET in the United Kingdom and Twixters in the United States in recent years, there are indications that hikikomori may be part of a larger global phenomena in affluent and highly developed Post-Industrial countries, although specific causes may differ from the Japanese phenomenon.

*Part of the reason that hikikomori gained worldwide attention was the fact that the media attributed a number of high profile crimes to hikikomori. In 2000, a 17 year old labeled as a hikikomori by the press hijacked a bus and killed one passenger. In fact, it was discovered later that the hijacker was originally a hikikomori but his parents didn’t know how to deal with him, so they admitted him to a mental hospital for two months of observation. Allegedly, the boy felt betrayed by his parents as a result of his hospital admission, and some argue that the violence during the bus hijacking was directed at his mother by proxy. In the coming days, the media reported other extremely violent cases as perpetrated by hikikomori, such as one man who kidnapped nine year old Sano Fusako and held her captive for nine years and two months, or Tsutomu Miyazaki, who in 1989 killed four young girls. As a result of the media spotlight, a great social stigma of hikikomori being violent and mentally ill came to be attached to the condition that exists to this day.

Social Phenomena- Loose Socks (By Christina Lundberg)

Loose socks (ルーズソックス, r?zu sokkusu) are a type of sock that is popular among young Japanese girls, mainly junior high or high schoolers. It first appeared in 1993, becoming the rage among high schoolers. The socks are white and are very long; in some cases up to 3 meters in length. They resemble leg warmers, and are worn below the knee, and are usually wrinkled down to the shin. These socks are usually held up with an adhesive called “sock glue” or “sock touch”. Many girls wear this with their school uniforms, or with skirts if outside of school.. However, several schools have banned the girls to wear loose socks at school, and due to this, many girls will often change their socks to wear them outside of campus. Many girls believed that loose socks were stylish because it helped to make their legs appear longer. By 1996, more than 36 different types of loose socks were being sold in stores all over Japan. The unusual fact of loose socks is that it it was not marketed by the fashion professionals, but the teens themselves. Due to the success of loose socks, fashion professionals have realized the marketing potential of the teens.

Loose socks came into fashion in Japan during the mid 1990’s, but since the 2000’s it has become less popular. However, while this had been a fad among high school and junior high schoolers, today, elementary schoolers are seen wearing loose socks as well. It is believed that this fad could possibly be spread around the world.


渋谷と若者(By Emily Nicolas)

Japan is experiencing the first generation gap in its recorded history.  They even have a special name for those under the age of about thirty: shinjinrui (the new race).  This "new race" represents more than just wild clothing and colorful hair. They are disobeying at school, violating age-old rules of public behavior, and rejecting the ideal of a lifelong job working six days a week for the company.  Many are dropping out of school and taking part time jobs in exchange for time and freedom.  What really sets this generation apart is their refusal to follow the paths of their parents or accept their society's vision of a happy future.  In certain places, like Shibuya, you encounter public expressions of a generation trying to find its voice and identity.
Shibuya is a convergence of people and activities. Below ground several train lines come together delivering untold numbers of passengers to the heart of Tokyo. When they emerge at Hachiko Crossing, they encounter a vast intersection where thousands pour across the street at each turn of the light. They are businessmen, students, internationals, shoppers, and gawkers of all ages and types. Above the crowd, dominating the sides of buildings, the faces of celebrities and "pop idols" appear on giant video screens in music videos and commercials.  Hundreds and thousands of young people on the streets below are trying to emulate their latest haircuts and clothing.
On an individual level, Shibuya is full of people wanting to connect with others. There is a statue of a dog (Hachiko) at the station entrance that is a favorite meeting point for friends. Hachiko is constantly surrounded by tens or hundreds of people waiting, talking, smoking and clutching cell phones.
Also in Shibuya can be found Shibuya 109, a collection of shops catering to fashion tastes and trends for youth, as well as other chain stores and restaurants, including companies originating outside of Japan.
Shibuya is well known for the girls who show up there in the latest Shibuya style (there is even a magazine devoted to them). Two years ago, Shibuya was owned by ganguro (dark) girls. They were either excessively suntanned or they lathered themselves at night with fake tanning lotion.  On top of that, they wore pale lipstick and eye shadow and stood atop 12 inch platform boots.  Other fashion trends that have supposedly started in Shibuya include “loose socks” and miniskirt school uniforms.
Despite the rebellious and revolutionary overtones, Shibuya seems mostly like a huge marketing machine, and Japanese young people are perhaps the ultimate consumers (with time, their parent's money, and a sense that individuality and freedom are commodities (perhaps imported from the USA).  In a land of shrines, Shibuya is a shopping shrine. The "idols" are on the video screens. Music is lifted up. Offerings are taken. They even have temple prostitutes.
Finally, this has been called a "fatherless generation."  Japanese company men have long been expected to work six days a week.  Many children rarely see their fathers.
Children growing up without fathers struggle with issues of identity, destiny and dignity. It's not that mothers can't help in these areas, but the role of the father is important. When there is a lack of character in these areas, youth turn to rebellion (for identity), sexual adventures (for love), cliques and cults (for power and belonging), and fantasy (for a better reality).

Portions taken from “Shibuya, Youth, and the New Japan”
2003 Andy Gray


甘え Amae (by Amy Marutani)


Amae (甘え) is a Japanese word used to describe behavior of a person attempting to induce an authority figure, such as a parent, spouse, teacher or boss, to take care of him. Usually it would describe a child pleading towards its mother, but the term has a broader concept that is shown throughout the present Japanese culture. The person who is carrying out amae may beg or plead, or alternatively act selfishly while secure in the knowledge that the caregiver will forgive and indulge. And such behavior is seen not just in children but also adults as well, and has become very common recently. Such “amae” ties with terms like freeters, neet, hikikomori, and twixters.

There could be no exact translation of the word "甘え" into English due to the meaning, concept, and how it is embedded deeply in the present Japanese culture.. Probably the most famous work on the concept of amae is 土井健朗Takeo Doi's 「甘えの構造」"The Anatomy of Dependence" which attempts to explain the great importance of this concept to the Japanese. According to Dr. Doi, Japanese is the only language in the world that has a word for amae. If a culture finds a particular concept so important that they create a word to express that thing, especially where there is a notable lack of a similar word in other languages, then it seems likely to me that culture places great emphasis on that concept. Nevertheless, it does not mean that people from said other cultures cannot understand or have never experienced the idea. ”The Anatomy of Dependence” describes at length Doi's concept of amae, which he describes as a uniquely Japanese need to be in good favor with and be able to depend on the people around oneself.
Doi explains that amae is the noun form of amaeru, an intransitive verb which he defines as "to depend and presume upon another's benevolence". It indicates "helplessness and the desire to be loved". Amaeru can also be defined as "to wish to be loved" and "dependency needs". Various bilingual dictionaries define amae as "to lean on a person's good will", "to act lovingly towards (as a much fondled child towards its parents)", "to take advantage of", "to behave like a spoilt child", "to trespass on", "to behave in a caressing manner towards a man", 'to speak in a coquettish tone', "to encroach on (one's kindness, good nature, etc.)", and so on. 'Amae' is, in essence, a request for indulgence of one's perceived needs.