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Texas ISD School Guide
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Travel, Teach, Live in Japan

Manga On Your Mobile: Japan Leads The Way In Mobile Technology
By:Michael Hanna

The world is used to following in Japan's footsteps when it comes to trends in technology. In the video game industry in particular, Japanese audiences have been the globe's willing guinea pigs for the mass of technological innovations and experiments that have arisen in the last half a century. Take mobile phones for instance: even as we grow increasingly used to the ever diminishing size and weight of our trusty cells, the bizarre trends they perpetuate seem to always leave us speechless.

Current mobile phoning trends in Japan seem to prove this statement: as well as acting as cameras, walking web providers and mp3 players, Japan's consumers have shown that mobile phones can also acts as mediums of literature. If over-long text messages annoy you, for instance, you best steer clear of Yoshi, the Japanese author behind the bestselling novel, "Deep Love" which was first published in instalments on a website which offered content packaged for mobile phone usage. The phenomenal success of "Deep Love" (it sold millions when it was published in print, and then subsequently made into a film) is testament to the power of technology to deliver literature and art to a huge audience. Also available for download onto mobile technology is manga, the Japanese word for comics and printed cartoons. The downloading of popular manga, such as "Salaryman Kintaro" and "Hokuto no Ken", onto mobiles is largely responsible for the sudden explosion in the Japanese digital books market, and recently titles available exclusively for mobile handsets have been announced.

These developing trends seem to chart the global metamorphosis of mobile phones from business toy to fashion item, from essential tool to provider of arts and entertainment. In Japan, the number of mobile phone users exceeds a staggering 78 million people, proving the viability of the medium as an effective tool with which to spread news and fashion trends. One of the most recent Japanese crazes facilitated by cellular technology is mobile-enabled shopping. Particularly popular among young women, consumers are becoming more and more used to being able to buy anything at anytime, just with the click of a few buttons. Websites have been specifically created for this purpose, and recent months have seen a flood of existing clothing manufacturers rushing to create their own cellular shopping sites. A poll conducted in early 2006 confirmed that 20.8% of Japanese women had bought goods on their mobile phones, with these products covering a range of pastimes: from magazines and books, to CDs, DVDs and shoes.

As cell phone technology continues its skyward ascent, mobiles may come to resemble mini-computers more than pocket telephones. The rate at which this technology appears to be developing is astounding, as today's high-tech mobiles are fast becoming tomorrow's obsolete bricks. In present day Britain, there are around 50 million mobile phone users, compared with 25 million in 2000; this figure looks set to keep rising as mobile phone companies, such as Dial-a-Phone mobile phones continue to make phones and phone contracts increasingly affordable. And though Japan may seem miles away, its trends will soon catch up with us, which can surely be no bad thing: after all, anything's got to be better than happy slapping.

Michael Hanna

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