It’s no secret that Twitter is hugely popular in Japan – in fact, Twitter is Japan’s favorite social network.
This is despite the fact Japanese people aren’t especially eager to join social networks, even though they’re generally enthusiastic about other new technologies.
So why is Twitter such a hit?
Making Every Character Count
There are many theories about this, but as a Japanese Twitter user I would have to say that language is the most obvious reason. Reading Twitter in English is a very different experience from reading it in Japanese, because in Japanese, we can say much, much more in 140 characters.
Just for fun, here are a couple of long Japanese tweets, translated into English.
The first one is from user @cynanyc.
Here are the 139 characters in Japanese:
And my English translation:
(By labor taxi he means a special taxi to take women in labor to the hospital, so they don’t need to call an ambulance.)
The translation turns his tweet into a 354-character essay! Even with very careful editing, it would be difficult to turn this whole message into one small English tweet without losing some of the meaning.
Here’s another example. Remi Hirano (@Remi_Hirano) is like a casual version of Martha Stewart in Japan. Over 200,000 people follow her for recipes in 140 characters or less.
This sandwich recipe has 119 characters:
It would be something like this in English…
…which comes out to 284 characters, or more than double a regular English tweet. It’s no wonder people love Japanese Twitter when you can get such useful and delicious information out of it!
Of course, language is just the first thing that came to mind when I was thinking about why Japan loves Twitter so much, but it may not be the only reason.
More reasons to love Twitter in Japan
Since 2011, Twitter has also been an important communication tool during disasters. After the earthquake that year, the number of Japanese twitter users increased by 33%. Phones and most of the media were not functioning properly right after the earthquake, and many Japanese people found Twitter to be a faster way to keep up with the situation as it developed.
The account @earthquake_jp tweets the location/time/magnitude of earthquakes when they are observed. The account has over a million followers and is one of the 10 most popular twitter accounts in Japanese.
And of course, Twitter isn’t just for information, it’s also for fun! This new internet event started in 2011, and set a new record for number of tweets per second in 2013. The idea is to tweet a special magic word at the same time as it appears on TV during a classic Hayao Miyazaki film. Over 140,000 people posted simultaneously during the broadcast last August.
Twitter definitely seems to have some advantages in Japan, and has become pretty well established as the favorite Japanese social network. But since the internet changes minute by minute, and Japanese technology users tend to be early adopters, things can easily change in the future. In the meantime it’s definitely interesting to watch Japanese users exploit Twitter’s full potential.