The Anti-Japanese Japanese Phones and the People’s Struggle with the Device

There’s this thing about Japanese phones whose sole existence seem to be a ploy against the core of Japanese people. Japanese phones are very Japanese in its technological advancement. Back when we were all on the 56k dial-up modem laughing at how a typical Japanese person barely has enough knowledge about desktop computers and the modem to save themselves, they were already surfing the Internet on their mobile phones. When we were still playing with the case colors of the relatively bulky Nokia 3210, they already had color screens and phones weighing under 80g. When we were still listening to the radio on our phones, they were already watching TV on theirs. Such is the very Japanese Japanese phone.

But over time, Japanese phones begin to be the basis on what I discovered to be quite “anti-Japanese.”

The Japanese are supposed to be very rule-abiding people. Like how the train says to refrain from talking on the phone, and the people do not talk on the phone on the train. Almost nobody’s phone ringer goes off on the train. If you do hear someone’s phone ringing, or someone talking on the phone on the train, there’s a good chance that person is non-Japanese. But interestingly, while the priority seat area has notices all over the place asking people to switch their phones off (in case it affects people with pacemakers), not only do people not turn their phones off, they’re all using it anyway. I’ve once witnessed a man screaming his head off at every single person who used their phones at the priority seat area. When they stop using their phones, the train arrives at the next stop and the next group of unsuspecting people board, use their phones, and the whole process repeats with every stop until the man alights.

The Japanese phone’s silent mode or what the Japanese people call “manner mode” is also not completely silent. Although it can be said to ring when necessary, such as when a major earthquake is detected (like how your TV will ring in a loud and scary tone in the event a major earthquake is about to strike). Even if your phone is on silent, it will sound so as to notify you to prepare for the danger. So what happens is, you’re on the train or at your office or anywhere, and suddenly everyone’s phone rings. It’s kinda interesting in some sense because how often do you have everyone’s phone going off at the same time? While at work today, however, the emergency siren on my phone rang and caught me by surprise. I work on the 30th floor and I’ve experienced an earthquake at that height before. It shook quite a lot even for relatively mild seismic activity, so I got a shock when my phone rang today. When I picked it up while bracing myself for an almost immediate tremor, I was relieved when the notice read something to the extent of “heavy rain resulting in possible landslide in Minato-ku” (because there’re two typhoons approaching).

It is also not unknown that the reason why over a decade ago, for phones in Singapore that were imported from Japan, even if you set them to silent mode, the camera will sound as you snap. For the younger generation who are not aware, that was Japan’s measure against perverts taking upskirt pictures. But that sound is also the cause of the “peaceful” train rides. I’ve once encountered a girl snapping pictures of her textbook pages on the train, and the camera sound went off again and again and again and again. For some reason, taking screenshot on an iPad also triggers the sound (though I’m not certain about the iPhone). Fortunately and unfortunately, with smartphones, there are several “silent camera” apps that allow people to snap pictures quietly—and secretly.

People frown upon others always staring at their phones. As soon as someone gets on the train, they whip out their phone and stare at it. TV programs warn not just against an addiction, but also the very age-old understanding of how myopia happens. When you fixate your eyes constantly at a close object, the muscles around your eyes tighten and are unable to relax to refocus on distant objects. But I wonder if phones and books do make such a huge difference. Whipping out your book on the train and reading it seems like the same thing. Your head is looking down, and you’re constantly focused on a close object. People are too hard on phones. If books can provide knowledge, an Internet enabled phone can provide way more.

On a separate note, I am appalled at most people’s phones though which are ridiculously bright. They’re so bright, you can use it as a torchlight in daylight.

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