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It’s official: Japan likes Facebook!

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Facebook (NASDAQ:FB) has officially surpassed 19 million monthly active users in Japan, putting it well ahead of domestic rival Mixi, which has been spinning its wheels in the past year or so at around 15 million. Serkan Toto points out today that this figure comes directly from Facebook Japan’s country growth manager Taro Kodama during Social Media Week here in Tokyo. I think this is interesting for a couple of reasons. Most importantly, of course, is that it shows that Facebook is growing well in Japan, a country where some thought early on that it would fail due Japan’s unique distaste for using real names on the internet. Facebook’s growth before the 2011 earthquake was indeed modest, although in the wake of that tragedy many people apparently realized the value of a social network that reflected real world connections, as growth would accelerate after that. This new data point also clarifies recent confusion that Facebook’s user numbers in Japan might be plummeting by the millions, as indicated by Social Bakers, which pulls data from Facebook’s own ad tool. The latter (and by extension the former) probably shouldn’t be trusted for anything more than a general guide [1]. Such headlines spring…

facebook-fan

Facebook (NASDAQ:FB) has officially surpassed 19 million monthly active users in Japan, putting it well ahead of domestic rival Mixi, which has been spinning its wheels in the past year or so at around 15 million. Serkan Toto points out today that this figure comes directly from Facebook Japan’s country growth manager Taro Kodama during Social Media Week here in Tokyo.

I think this is interesting for a couple of reasons. Most importantly, of course, is that it shows that Facebook is growing well in Japan, a country where some thought early on that it would fail due Japan’s unique distaste for using real names on the internet. Facebook’s growth before the 2011 earthquake was indeed modest, although in the wake of that tragedy many people apparently realized the value of a social network that reflected real world connections, as growth would accelerate after that.

This new data point also clarifies recent confusion that Facebook’s user numbers in Japan might be plummeting by the millions, as indicated by Social Bakers, which pulls data from Facebook’s own ad tool. The latter (and by extension the former) probably shouldn’t be trusted for anything more than a general guide [1]. Such headlines spring up for other countries occasionally too, and it’s best not to make too much commotion when such ‘user drops’ occur.

Photo: via Facebook Marketing Japan (blurred for ironic anonymity)


  1. As far as general guides go, I think it’s a pretty good one.  ↩

Microsoft rolls out huge teaser ads for Surface tablet in Tokyo

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Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) apparently has its sights set on Japan as the next market for its Surface tablet. And the software giant is apparently sparing no expense in its promotion, as teaser advertising has gone up in the prime areas in Tokyo, with a Surface ad at Shibuya’s Q-front (above) overlooking perhaps the most dense area on the planet in terms of foot traffic. Surface ads have also sprung up at Matsuya Ginza, a very famous department store, as well as near the iconic Tokyo Sky Tree. Impress PC Watch an assortment of photos if you’d like to check them out. This follows a report from Japan’s Nikkei (via CNet) that Microsoft’s tablet could arrive in Japan as early as next month. It’s expected that it will be the Surface RT edition, which has already made its way to markets in Europe, as well as selected APAC regions like Hong Kong, China, and Australia. Speaking to CNet, Microsoft didn’t add any significant details about the tablet’s availability in Japan. But given the emergence of these very prominent — and very big — teaser ads, you can expect we’ll see the Surface dropping in Japan very soon.

microsoft-surface-shibuya-q-front
At Shibuya’s Q-Front, Photo from pcwatch.impress.co.jp

Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) apparently has its sights set on Japan as the next market for its Surface tablet. And the software giant is apparently sparing no expense in its promotion, as teaser advertising has gone up in the prime areas in Tokyo, with a Surface ad at Shibuya’s Q-front (above) overlooking perhaps the most dense area on the planet in terms of foot traffic.

Surface ads have also sprung up at Matsuya Ginza, a very famous department store, as well as near the iconic Tokyo Sky Tree. Impress PC Watch an assortment of photos if you’d like to check them out.

This follows a report from Japan’s Nikkei (via CNet) that Microsoft’s tablet could arrive in Japan as early as next month. It’s expected that it will be the Surface RT edition, which has already made its way to markets in Europe, as well as selected APAC regions like Hong Kong, China, and Australia.

Speaking to CNet, Microsoft didn’t add any significant details about the tablet’s availability in Japan. But given the emergence of these very prominent — and very big — teaser ads, you can expect we’ll see the Surface dropping in Japan very soon.

Gyao and Gree team up to invest in animation content development

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Gyao, a broadband video distribution company and a subsidiary of Yahoo Japan (TYO:4689), and Japanese social gaming giant Gree (TYO:3632) announced today the two companies have agreed to establish a fund to invest in animation content development. The fund will be worth 100 million yen (over $1 million dollars), and the two companies will split the ownership of the joint venture 50/50, and it will tentatively be called ‘Future Content Partners’. Content from the fund’s portfolio companies is expected to be distributed to Yahoo Japan’s premium service subscribers in formats for broadband video streaming, in social gaming, and more. Gyao, Gree, and Yahoo Japan have agreed to set up an information portal in the first half of this year, which focuses on introducing animated content such as games, video titles, and e-comic books. A recent survey says that the Japanese animation business is worth 219.7 billion yen (or approximately $2.3 billion), and revenues have been on the rise for the last three years. When we look at the retail business that springs from the animation industry, such as merchandising character toys, its volume exceeds more than a trillion ($10.6 billion). So it’s definitely a lucrative space. GREE (English / Japanese)

yahoo-gree

Gyao, a broadband video distribution company and a subsidiary of Yahoo Japan (TYO:4689), and Japanese social gaming giant Gree (TYO:3632) announced today the two companies have agreed to establish a fund to invest in animation content development. The fund will be worth 100 million yen (over $1 million dollars), and the two companies will split the ownership of the joint venture 50/50, and it will tentatively be called ‘Future Content Partners’.

Content from the fund’s portfolio companies is expected to be distributed to Yahoo Japan’s premium service subscribers in formats for broadband video streaming, in social gaming, and more. Gyao, Gree, and Yahoo Japan have agreed to set up an information portal in the first half of this year, which focuses on introducing animated content such as games, video titles, and e-comic books.

A recent survey says that the Japanese animation business is worth 219.7 billion yen (or approximately $2.3 billion), and revenues have been on the rise for the last three years. When we look at the retail business that springs from the animation industry, such as merchandising character toys, its volume exceeds more than a trillion ($10.6 billion). So it’s definitely a lucrative space.

GREE (English / Japanese)

Japan tech this week: Angry Birds are patient, fashion sites ambitious, Docomo slow but steady

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We’ve had another fun week here at SD, doing our best to bring you interesting tech stories going down in Japan. But in case you missed any of it, here’s a wrap up below. Readers on mobile might want to check them out over on Readlists or in ePub format. If you’d like to get this weekly summary plus other bonus content, we hope you’ll check out our shiny new newsletter here. Featured Why Angry Birds prefer not to be early birds in Japan Japan’s Designclue wants to build Asia’s largest logo crowdsourcing market Meet 4 of Japan’s hottest online fashion malls Trouble managing your Facebook page? Help is on the way this spring, from Japan Business GREE and Yahoo Japan set up joint venture for mobile social game development Google Street View broadens its horizons, crashes a party in Japan Despite slower speeds, NTT Docomo quick to surpass 10 million LTE subscribers Japan’s mobile wars intensify: Docomo moves up ultra-high speed data launch to 2015 Google Hangouts recruits Asian pop stars for new ‘A-Pop’ initiative, Design Japanese startups find creativity at Crowdworks Meet the Japanese company that’s making a sign language keyboard Fun Apps Tower defense game ‘Battle Cats’…

We’ve had another fun week here at SD, doing our best to bring you interesting tech stories going down in Japan. But in case you missed any of it, here’s a wrap up below. Readers on mobile might want to check them out over on Readlists or in ePub format.

If you’d like to get this weekly summary plus other bonus content, we hope you’ll check out our shiny new newsletter here.

Business

Design

Fun Apps

Standout Startups

Other notable stories

Japanese prime minister takes on jumping monkey role in new iPhone game

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Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe bounced back into the public eye this past December when he became the leader of Japan for the second time after a five-year absence. But I’m not sure if he could have ever foreseen becoming the star of his own iPhone game, but that’s exactly what has happened in a popular new title Jump! Mr. Abe from Riko Design. The game is an extremely simple one, where the user must bounce Mr. Abe on a trampoline as high as possible. He starts off with small jumps in front of the National Diet Building, but if you can time his jumps correctly he flies even higher, beyond Tokyo Tower, and past the newly erected Tokyo Sky Tree. Switch to 20-jump mode, and you can send Mr. Abe to even greater heights, past iconic landmarks like the Statue of Liberty, the Notre Dame Cathedral, and Barcelona’s Sagrada Familia (apparently the game developer isn’t a stickler for accurately representing the scale of the buildings!). What’s interesting about Jump! Mr Abe is that this very casual game appears to have been a simple reinvention of Riko Design’s other recent title Jumping Monkeys, which uses the exact same type of…

jump abe

Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe bounced back into the public eye this past December when he became the leader of Japan for the second time after a five-year absence. But I’m not sure if he could have ever foreseen becoming the star of his own iPhone game, but that’s exactly what has happened in a popular new title Jump! Mr. Abe from Riko Design.

The game is an extremely simple one, where the user must bounce Mr. Abe on a trampoline as high as possible. He starts off with small jumps in front of the National Diet Building, but if you can time his jumps correctly he flies even higher, beyond Tokyo Tower, and past the newly erected Tokyo Sky Tree.

Switch to 20-jump mode, and you can send Mr. Abe to even greater heights, past iconic landmarks like the Statue of Liberty, the Notre Dame Cathedral, and Barcelona’s Sagrada Familia (apparently the game developer isn’t a stickler for accurately representing the scale of the buildings!).

What’s interesting about Jump! Mr Abe is that this very casual game appears to have been a simple reinvention of Riko Design’s other recent title Jumping Monkeys, which uses the exact same type of game play. I’m not sure if the developer is making any sort of hidden political commentary here by putting Mr. Abe into a role it previously reserved for monkeys — but it’s a fun casual title that many kids might like nonetheless, I think.

Currently the game is the 9th ranked free title on the Japanese app store, and but ranks first in the family category and fifth in gaming. Check it out over on the app store.

Singapore’s Intraix partners with Smart Integration on smarter home energy management in Japan

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Singapore-based startup Intraix has just announced a partnership with a Japanese company, Smart Integration, in the hopes of distributing its smart home energy management system to residential homes in Tokyo, Nara, and Okinawa by June of this year. Intraix’s system lets users monitor their energy consumption in a fun and easy way, keeping tabs on their usage via an iOS app or on the web. Through this partnership they aspire to install the system in 5,000 to 8,000 residential homes in its first year, and 14,000 in the following year. The solution includes energy budgeting and consumption prediction features, collecting data via an installed power meter which then sends information to the company’s proprietary data analysis engine, which it has dubbed its “Green Voices algorithm.” Intraix co-founder Darrell Zhang tells me that he has “much faith and confidence in the ability [of Smart Integration] to push the system to the market” in Japan. The Tokyo-based company, headed by CEO and founder Kazumasa Nomura, has established access to important sales channels and smart home system integrators. In fact, the company has already made partnerships with eight local agent companies in Japan to resell and integrate Intraix’s solution. There are already some…

intraix-logo

Singapore-based startup Intraix has just announced a partnership with a Japanese company, Smart Integration, in the hopes of distributing its smart home energy management system to residential homes in Tokyo, Nara, and Okinawa by June of this year. Intraix’s system lets users monitor their energy consumption in a fun and easy way, keeping tabs on their usage via an iOS app or on the web.

Through this partnership they aspire to install the system in 5,000 to 8,000 residential homes in its first year, and 14,000 in the following year. The solution includes energy budgeting and consumption prediction features, collecting data via an installed power meter which then sends information to the company’s proprietary data analysis engine, which it has dubbed its “Green Voices algorithm.”

Intraix co-founder Darrell Zhang tells me that he has “much faith and confidence in the ability [of Smart Integration] to push the system to the market” in Japan. The Tokyo-based company, headed by CEO and founder Kazumasa Nomura, has established access to important sales channels and smart home system integrators. In fact, the company has already made partnerships with eight local agent companies in Japan to resell and integrate Intraix’s solution.

There are already some smart energy competitors in Japan, but Darrell explains that Intraix’s system is different in that it includes a fun social element where its users can accumulate ‘Green Credits’ that can be used for rewards and rebates. There will also be weekly energy challenges as well. He believes that no competing home energy management system has such a rewards system.

Intraix provides smart energy monitor for larger buildings and data centers in Singapore, Malaysia, and Indonesia. Any of our readers who attended the Myojo Waraku event in Fukuoka last year will recognize Intraix as one of the 10 startups who pitched.

You can learn more about Intraix’s residential smart home energy management solution in its promo video below.

Google Street View broadens its horizons, crashes a party in Japan

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大きな地図で見る Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) today has announced that it has expanded its Street View coverage in Japan to a number of new areas, including Kochi and Tokushima prefectures [1]. What’s especially cool about this latest addition to Street View is that in Tokushima city, Google cooperated with a local tourist organization so that it could shoot the Awa dance festival, an annual event where musicians and dancers parade through the streets wearing traditional costumes. As you can see in Google’s video below, the company rolled its famous Street View trike through the procession, capturing the spectacle all the way. As fun as the video is, take a moment to explore the Street View map as well, if you want to feel like you’re in the middle of the action. On a more serious note, Google’s Street View has served an important archival purpose in Japan in the past as well, capturing the state of the areas affected by the tragic 2011 earthquake and tsunami. Overall, it’s good to see the company getting involved in all these ways to share and preserve the country’s culture and history. The full list can be found in Google’s blog post here (Japanese).  ↩


大きな地図で見る

Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) today has announced that it has expanded its Street View coverage in Japan to a number of new areas, including Kochi and Tokushima prefectures [1].

What’s especially cool about this latest addition to Street View is that in Tokushima city, Google cooperated with a local tourist organization so that it could shoot the Awa dance festival, an annual event where musicians and dancers parade through the streets wearing traditional costumes.

As you can see in Google’s video below, the company rolled its famous Street View trike through the procession, capturing the spectacle all the way. As fun as the video is, take a moment to explore the Street View map as well, if you want to feel like you’re in the middle of the action.

On a more serious note, Google’s Street View has served an important archival purpose in Japan in the past as well, capturing the state of the areas affected by the tragic 2011 earthquake and tsunami. Overall, it’s good to see the company getting involved in all these ways to share and preserve the country’s culture and history.


  1. The full list can be found in Google’s blog post here (Japanese).  ↩

Japan’s mobile wars intensify: Docomo moves up ultra-high speed data launch to 2015

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We noted yesterday that even though NTT Docomo (TSE:9437) had reached 10 million LTE subscribers, it still lags behind its competitors in speed. And today – as if on cue – the telco has reportedly moved up the scheduled launch of its ultra high-speed mobile data service to 2015, according to the Asahi Shimbun. This new service will adhere to the LTE Advanced standard, and it was expected to launch in 2016. But with intensifying competition against the other major Japanese telecoms, KDDI and Softbank Mobile, it appears as though the Docomo has decided to kick it up a notch. The new mobile data standard will enable a maximum speed of 1Gbps, which is five times faster than the current LTE service in Japan. That will allow subscribers to make the most of their smartphone subscription, able to consume a variety of rich media content on mobile, such as BeeTV [1] , d-Market Video Store (inaccessible outside Japan), Hulu, and interpretation services. In a recent report by UK consultation company Open Signal, Japan was (disgracefully) ranked the worst in the mobile data speeds out of the nine countries in the study. BeeTV is an IP-based TV service for Docomo’s subcscribers, in partnership with music…

docomo_lte-advanced

We noted yesterday that even though NTT Docomo (TSE:9437) had reached 10 million LTE subscribers, it still lags behind its competitors in speed. And today – as if on cue – the telco has reportedly moved up the scheduled launch of its ultra high-speed mobile data service to 2015, according to the Asahi Shimbun.

This new service will adhere to the LTE Advanced standard, and it was expected to launch in 2016. But with intensifying competition against the other major Japanese telecoms, KDDI and Softbank Mobile, it appears as though the Docomo has decided to kick it up a notch.

The new mobile data standard will enable a maximum speed of 1Gbps, which is five times faster than the current LTE service in Japan. That will allow subscribers to make the most of their smartphone subscription, able to consume a variety of rich media content on mobile, such as BeeTV [1] , d-Market Video Store (inaccessible outside Japan), Hulu, and interpretation services.

In a recent report by UK consultation company Open Signal, Japan was (disgracefully) ranked the worst in the mobile data speeds out of the nine countries in the study.

Source: Open Signal, Inc.  http://opensignal.com/reports/state-of-lte/
Source: Open Signal


  1. BeeTV is an IP-based TV service for Docomo’s subcscribers, in partnership with music company Avex, actor/entertainer agency HoriPro, and Fuji Television.  ↩

Google Hangouts recruits Asian pop stars for new ‘A-Pop’ initiative

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Google’s worldwide strategy to make Google+ a competitive social platform is increasingly making use of celebrities in its marketing efforts. All members of the famous pop idol group AKB48 are on Google+, and the annual election to battle for the center position on stage was streamed live via Google Hangouts. And now Google has just announced its latest celebrity-related project, ‘A-Pop Star Week,’ targeting the Asian market. The project, set to kick off on March 8, assembles a range of pop singers from China, Japan, and Korea on Google Hangouts. Celebrities includes J-Pop diva Kyary Pamyu Pamyu (pictured above), Korean star 2PM, and Chinese singer LeeHom Wang. Each celebrity has made an announcement about the coming event on YouTube, asking fans to submit questions for them to answer during the hangout. On the YouTube Asian Pop Channel, you can find the schedule for these hangouts as well as twenty music videos and newly released singles by the artists. Each musician will then hand-pick five lucky fans to participate in the hangout. Kyary Pamyy Pamyu is one of the best known of these performers, famous for her unique digital performances [1]. Recently on her twentieth birthday, she performed at Sojoji temple…

J-pop star Kyary Pamyu Pamyu
J-pop star Kyary Pamyu Pamyu

Google’s worldwide strategy to make Google+ a competitive social platform is increasingly making use of celebrities in its marketing efforts. All members of the famous pop idol group AKB48 are on Google+, and the annual election to battle for the center position on stage was streamed live via Google Hangouts. And now Google has just announced its latest celebrity-related project, ‘A-Pop Star Week,’ targeting the Asian market.

The project, set to kick off on March 8, assembles a range of pop singers from China, Japan, and Korea on Google Hangouts. Celebrities includes J-Pop diva Kyary Pamyu Pamyu (pictured above), Korean star 2PM, and Chinese singer LeeHom Wang. Each celebrity has made an announcement about the coming event on YouTube, asking fans to submit questions for them to answer during the hangout.

On the YouTube Asian Pop Channel, you can find the schedule for these hangouts as well as twenty music videos and newly released singles by the artists. Each musician will then hand-pick five lucky fans to participate in the hangout.

Kyary Pamyy Pamyu is one of the best known of these performers, famous for her unique digital performances [1]. Recently on her twentieth birthday, she performed at Sojoji temple in Shiba Park in front of the brightly lit Tokyo Tower. The spectacle was organized by mobile phone carrier au KDDI (TYO:9433) which turned the local area into a digital interactive theme park. 1,500 participants were able to manipulate taxis, water fountains, and street lights by using their smartphone as a remote control.

Google+ had 25 million users in Japan as of July 2011. The company’s celebrity-recruitment efforts first started in 2012, so the effect of such projects on growing its user base has yet to be fully realized. Stay tuned!


  1. Her name is nearly impossible to pronounce, even for Japanese people. So don’t feel bad if you stumble!  ↩

Tower defense game ‘Battle Cats’ now rules the Japanese app store

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Battle Cats, the crazy mobile tower defense game from Japanese developer Ponos, has gradually worked its way up to become the top free iOS app in Japan, after its initial release back in November. The title recently upgraded to version 1.2, adding some special sales in-game which have likely helped its recent popularity. (Update: It looks like the game has been knocked to number two by ‘Like Me,’ a new portrait doodle app.) I’ve been a huge fan of this game from the outset, especially its very unusual sense of humor [1]. The variety of strangely named cats and enemies are so much fun, and if you haven’t played it yet I encourage you to check it out. Battle Cats launched on the Android platform at the end of 2012, and isn’t doing too bad on there either. Currently it’s the top ranked casual game on Google Play, and is ranked 13th overall. The game recently surpassed the 2 million downloads milestone, and now that its getting a little exposure in the number one iOS spot, I imagine that 3 million is only a couple of weeks away given its recent momentum. For a closer look at Battle Cats, check…

battle-cats

Battle Cats, the crazy mobile tower defense game from Japanese developer Ponos, has gradually worked its way up to become the top free iOS app in Japan, after its initial release back in November. The title recently upgraded to version 1.2, adding some special sales in-game which have likely helped its recent popularity. (Update: It looks like the game has been knocked to number two by ‘Like Me,’ a new portrait doodle app.)

I’ve been a huge fan of this game from the outset, especially its very unusual sense of humor [1]. The variety of strangely named cats and enemies are so much fun, and if you haven’t played it yet I encourage you to check it out.

Battle Cats launched on the Android platform at the end of 2012, and isn’t doing too bad on there either. Currently it’s the top ranked casual game on Google Play, and is ranked 13th overall.

The game recently surpassed the 2 million downloads milestone, and now that its getting a little exposure in the number one iOS spot, I imagine that 3 million is only a couple of weeks away given its recent momentum.

For a closer look at Battle Cats, check out our recent video demo below:


  1. I should note that I’m still stuff on chapter 3, round 48. If anyone else is in a similar situation, feel free to share your codes here in the comments (Mine is yg2t0).  ↩