Apple pre-order weekend for iPhone XS/XS Max and Apple Watch Series 4 is winding down. There was far less excitement this year in Japan than before. Ming-Chi Kuo is already trimming his iPhone XS exceptions. Reading Japanese reactions on Twitter it’s easy to see that many are waiting to see what Japanese market support Google announces at the Pixel 3 October 9 event. If Pixel 3 comes with Global FeliCa support like iPhone does, the Google Pay Japan flop withstanding, Japanese iPhone X users disgusted by the iPhone X NFC debacle will gladly take switch.
Apple Maps Transit in Japan has a great transit data supplier, the same one as Google, but I don’t use it much. It’s just not that handy at finding the fastest route or cheapest route or route with the fewest transfer points, it doesn’t let me sort results or search for different train times on fly. For a map app the geosynchronous functions of Apple Map Transit are curiously weak. Even after engaging a route Apple Maps Transit has trouble keeping track of where it is. Forget about geo anything if you are riding the subway, you’re in the dark the whole way.
Apple Maps Transit is a plodding one trick pony. That’s why everybody Japan uses dedicated transit apps like Yahoo Japan Transit or the venerable Eki-supato (cleverly combining station-eki + expert = eki-supato, get it?). Not only do these dedicated apps find great transit routes quickly they let you sort results quickly by fare, fast, number of transit points, etc., or just quickly move to earlier~later block of departure times.
After you engage a route you have all kinds of granular alerts for transit points and destination points, and great geosynchronous feedback. Eki-supato really knows their user base though, I mean a transit app really isn’t a Japanese transit app without “Drunk Mode” to make sure hard-working, hard-drinking salarymen don’t miss the last train home.
Today, I’m feeling pretty わくわく (wakuwaku: “excited”)! Are you うずうず (uzuzu: “itching to get started”)? Because today we’re learning onomatopoeia! You may think, why do I need to learn onomatopoeia? Maybe you’re thinking of American onomatopoeia, that seems to be only in comics (“bang” and “kaboom”) and children’s books (“woof woof” and “meow meow”). But Japanese onomatopoeic expressions are so common! You will be doing a serious disservice to your language skills if you don’t at least learn the basics. You’ll be hearing them every day! Plus, you can level up your Japanese conversation skills by expressing yourself with Japanese onomatopoeia. Japanese sound effects are used in everyday speech to not only describe sounds, but also feelings. Many people think Japanese is vague, and to an extent, it is — until you get into onomatopoeia. With thousands of onomatopoeia, Japanese feelings and true meaning are uniquely expressed through sound effects. Feeling いそいそ (isoiso: “enthusiastic”) now? Let’s get learning!
Indoor mapping isn’t necessarily the best solution. Detailed indoor maps easily overwhelm the user with too much detail. We don’t need more map vomit. The trick here is to come up with a simple intuitive UI that quickly shows stacked information then gets out of the way. Unfortunately nobody has come up with an elegant solution yet. It’s a good challenge for any digital map cartography team.
Japan is a country of stacked businesses. It’s common for 9 different businesses to occupy the same geographical footprint – two basements and seven floors. Then there are arcades, train stations, underground tunnels, and other spaces that don’t fit well in a standard 2D map.
If you live in Japan, surely you’ve seen it before. It’s a symbol that looks like the capital letter T but with an additional horizontal line above it: 〒. Known as the postal mark (yubin kigo), it’s a symbol that represents the Japanese postal system. Despite a decline in physical letters sent, the postal system is still very much a part of life in Japan as it also offers banking and other financial services (an odd notion in itself as most Americans would never consider banking with USPS) and the 〒 appears on post boxes, delivery trucks and branch offices.
the 〒 mark on a postal delivery truck
The story of how the 〒 came to be dates back to 1871 when the Japan Post began operating as an organization. From the onset, a logo didn’t exist and, instead, they were simply represented by the characters 郵便 (yubin, or post). But around 1877, a red circle with a bold line though it began being used. It was adopted as the official postal mark in 1884 by administrative order from the Grand Council of state.
the original postal mark (1877 – 1887)
In 1885, the now-defunct Ministry of Communications and Transportation (teishinshou 逓信省) is formed, and they take over all postal matters. It’s first minister was Enomoto Takeaki, a samurai and admiral who had fought against the new Meiji government, lost and imprisoned, but later pardoned.
But just 3 years after the first mark was made official, a new symbol was announced. On February 8, 1887, it was announced that T would be the new logo. Then, days later on February 14th a new announcement was made that 〒 was the official symbol. Several days after that an explanation was given, citing that T was published by mistake and it should have been 〒.
It’s unclear what led to this series of mishaps but to summarize the various theories, the original T was likely taken from the first letter of the ministry’s name: Teishinshou. However, this was problematic for several reasons. It was too simple and, more importantly, the letter T was already a universally accepted postal code for insufficient postage. So the T needed to be changed. One theory that explains how T became 〒 is that the logo for shipping company NYK (Nippon Yusen Kaisha), founded in 1885, was 2 bold red lines. According to researchers of this Japanese trivia show, the symbol was interpreted as a pun: ni-hon means 2 lines, but can also mean Nihon, as in the country (NYK claims that the lines represent ambitions to traverse the planet, rather than a pun). And so the concept was co-opted by the ministry to create 〒, which stuck and has now been used for over 130 years.
I will approach the new Shogun only with hope. I hope we will get a damn fine adventure yarn, preferably one featuring daring men and beautiful ladies, but also strong women and handsome gents. Television is a visual medium, after all. And if we don’t like what we see, we can still turn it off.
Earlier in August, John Landgraf, CEO of American television network FX, felt the need to let the world know that the upcoming new TV adaptation of James Clavell’s 1975 novel Shogun will not “fetishize” Japanese culture. He also pointed out that among all available gazes the male and Western varieties will be kept to a minimum.
Mr. Landgraf’s anticipatory defense against crimes not yet committed was not entirely unmotivated. Journalists had already been musing and inquiring about how offensive exactly FX was planning to make the new Shogun, so they could plan their level of outrage well in advance (the project has yet to move past the casting stage).
We Westerners worry too much about this in many quarters and too little in others. How about creators worry about telling a compelling story with well developed characters acting upon believable motives we discover organically.
It’s a “fish out of water” story of hundreds of years ago. Embrace it. Don’t run from it.
Almost a year later than first expected, Apple finally added indoor maps for Japan. Narita Airport and Chubu Airport are the kickoff points for what is hopefully going to be a continuous rollout. Major airports like Haneda and stations such as Tokyo and Shinjuku are still MIA and the iOS Feature Availability list has not been updated yet.
One of the problems that Apple Maps faces in Japan is that multiple agencies hold different indoor map data sources. Coordinating a complete robust data set takes time.
My beta experience with iOS 12 has been a very positive one and I look forward to the official release. Wallet Notifications have been improved with some nice little touches. Wallet Notification labels are clearer, handy if you use multiple Suica cards, and Apple Pay Suica transit notifications now include the station map area. Suica purchase notifications would be a lot more useful if they included the store name, but that’s a current Mobile Suica system limitation, not an Apple Pay one.
Ever since American late night talk show host Conan O’Brien announced he would be coming to Japan to visit Conan Town, we’ve been counting down the days to his arrival, eager to see what type of shenanigans he would get up to during his stay.
As it turns out, we didn’t have to wait long as Conan wasted no time in heading out to meet the locals on his first day in Japan, and his first port of call was Tokyo’s fashionable Harajuku district, where he made friends with the locals and filmed this short clip for his 28.5 million followers on Twitter.
Not long after posting this message to his fans, and to his friends in Tottori Prefecture’s Conan Town, who are bracing themselves for the approaching typhoon, the talk show host suddenly appeared in a more colorful outfit.
Aaron Bleyaert, known for playing video games on TV with Conan during the show’s “Clueless Gamer” segment, also films Facebook Live videos when Conan travels abroad. On Monday, he filmed a new video showing Conan and his team navigating Harajuku’s notoriously crowded Takeshita Street.
As well as rubbing shoulders with Japanese locals, Conan bumped into some fans from around the world during his stroll through the district.
After stopping to take photos with fans, Conan then met up with some of Harajuku’s most colorful fashionistas, who took him to the Kawaii Monster Cafe nearby.
▼ Pictured below, from left to right: Miochin, Conan, Sebastian Masuda, and Kanata.
While Conan was keen to immerse himself in Harajuku’s kawaii culture, this is just the start of many adventures for him and his team, who are due to visit the mayor of Hokue to collect their $3 trillion later this week. Let’s just hope the approaching typhoon doesn’t get in their way.