So auntie, so tech

I don’t know how many of you have watched the 2007 TBS drama ‘Yamada Tarou Monogatari‘, but as a shufu (housewife) in Japan I can vouch that whatever advice given by Shibata Rie in that show regarding supermarkets is legit. She the real OG. Or maybe I should say the screenwriter’s the real OG?

Right. Hi. My name is Lydia, and I’m another Singaporean in Japan. 😀 (waves)

So. My local supermarket (Yaoko) launched an app this month. It’s great. I don’t have to carry the point card with me anymore—there’s a tab that displays a screen with the barcode—and I get push notifications telling me exactly which items are on discount on what day. I haven’t successfully gotten my barcode read so far because the scanner just refused to compute (I eventually pulled out my point card out of pity for the flustered cashier…), but I appreciate having the chirashi delivered right into my phone.

This is an actual screenshot of the chirashi from my app:


Chirashi ïŒˆăƒăƒ©ă‚·ïŒ‰: in this context, ‘leaflets (telling you about an event)’
Tabs, from left to right: otoku (deals), kaado (point card), okaimono memo (shopping list)

I actually planned to have nabe (hotpot) today but when I saw this chirashi in the morning and found that all the nabe ingredients were going on sale tomorrow I texted my husband and told him to wait a day for our nabe dinner.

I’m really impressed that a supermarket has launched an app, actually. I live in close proximity to five supermarkets (hail surburbia!) and Yaoko’s the only one that has an app. And it’s a really good app—it showcases recipes, feature-length articles (about the origins of certain seasonal dishes, for example), lets you bookmark the pages you wish to take note of. Seriously, do you understand the extent of the audience engagement that’s going on here?

I sound like I’m evangelising. Ha. Don’t worry, self-awareness is my strong suit. Gonna stop here.

Singlish moment: The app is just very customer-oriented lah. Plus I’m very auntie.

Anyway, all this tells me there’s a lot of money going into the development of this app, and honestly I’m just impressed that a SUPERMARKET is doing this. It’s not even a super famous supermarket chain, with most of its branches in Saitama and Chiba (none outside the Kanto region), but they’re really trying to make things easier for consumers. They’ve definitely won my loyalty.

Compared to the rest of the world, Japan’s smartphone penetration rate has advanced pretty slowly. In the early 2010s, when Singapore (I only have my own experience as a point-of-reference; feel free to share about your memories in the comments) was welcoming Blackberries and iPhones with open arms, Japan was only just starting its foray into the smartphone market.

As of March 2015, 48.5 per cent of the Japanese population are using smartphones. I think this is no mean feat—there was one year, 2013 I think, when the take up rate actually dropped because after their standard two-year phone contract ended, many people found the traditional candy bar/flip phone more useful for making calls (one-touch dialling instead of having to unlock your phone and navigating to the call menu), and either ditched their two-year-old smartphones for traditional phones or bought a ‘sub-phone’ that they used just for calling.

But now, things are different! :D:D:D:D:D Smartphones are so in vogue that even supermarkets have a really well-designed app! GJ Yaoko.

If you’ve read widely enough you’ve probably heard from blogs like these that ‘Japan is surprisingly not as advanced as it portrays itself to be’. I’m not saying that’s a false claim—the 500-odd words I’ve written above are testament to that, lol—but I’d also like to point out that advancement in Japanese technology is a separate entity from how the Japanese use technology.

To give a personal opinion, the Japanese are proud of their technical industries, but it doesn’t mean they are super knowledgeable about everything that has to do with technology, nor does it mean they are savvy across all platforms. I mean, there are teens who type with only their forefingers, yet some of them can edit videos really well with a smartphone app. It’s really quite interesting to observe.

…So yeah, this was me, Lydia, being very nerdy and domestic in the same post. It’s not always going to be like that, FYI, but I’m looking forward to sharing with you guys whatever I have to offer.

Have a wonderful day, wherever you are. Thanks for dropping by our corner of the internet.


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