cell phone technology in Japan. Specifically it will discuss the moral and ethical issues brought about by Japanese cell phones. In Japan, cell phones are as ubiquitous as they are in the United States. However, the ethics and morals of cell phone usage in Japan are very different from usage in the United States, largely because of moral and ethical issues of how the Japanese view cell phones and their usage.
In Japan, everyone from schoolchildren to the elderly carry cell phones. A group of writers note, "The Japanese term for mobile phone, keitai (roughly translated as 'something you carry with you'), evokes not technical capability or freedom of movement but intimacy and portability, defining a personal accessory that allows constant social connection" (Ito, et al., 2005). This very definition shows that the Japanese view cell phones differently than many other parts of the world, and because of this, they have more moral and ethical issues surrounding cell phone usage. The popularity of cell phones in Japan began in the 1990s, when many executives and businessmen began to carry them as a requirement of their jobs. Their popularity increased, and they became extremely popular with Japanese youth. As their popularity increased, they spread across the culture, until today, it is estimated that almost 70% of the population carry a cell phone (Ito, et al., 2005). In the beginning, most of society criticized cell phone users and their manners, and public cell phone usage was frowned upon. Today, it has become more acceptable, but there are still moral and ethical issues that result in cell phone bans in some areas of Japanese society.
One of the moral and ethical issues in Japanese cell phone use is usage in public places. The Japanese believe telephone calls are private in nature, and they do not approve of cell phone use in public places. The three authors quote another Japanese public spokesman, who says, "Around the world, people are very tolerant. Only in Japan are people exceptionally strict in regulating use. If you imagine what it would be like if everyone in a packed train car in overpopulated Japan used their keitai, it is understandable that it would be considered poor manners. That is the reality in Japan'" (Ito, et al., 2005). Because of this, cell phones are banned on public transportation in Japan, something unthinkable in other parts of the world. As a result, emailing and text messaging is extremely popular in Japan, especially during public transit commute times.
In Japan, as in many other cultures, cell phones appeal to a youthful audience, and society frowns on their inability to think about others, and others feelings. Many writers discuss how critical society is of these young people who use their phones in public, which is one of the reasons public transit companies banned them in the first place. Because of this, an entire new culture has begun in Japan, called "thumb culture." Another writer notes, "Games, news and music can be as easily handled as e-mail. In Japan the term 'thumb culture' has become popular to explain the dexterity with which the young use their thumb, while holding the cell-phone in the palm of the hand, to access the Internet" (Betts, 2004, p. 51). Another aspect that is troubling to Japanese society is the way young people use the technology to build strong relationships with "strangers" or people they have never met. Author Betts continues, "Part of this thumb culture is the new category of meru tomo (friends only for e-mails), correspondents regularly contacted but never met" (Betts, 2004, p. 52). This is morally and ethically troubling to many older, traditional Japanese, who view relationships to be extremely personal and private, instead of openly public and casual. Another writer states, "Through controversial phone-dating websites or between text-message buddies, mobile media makes it possible for bonds to evolve between individuals who may never meet in real space, but who nonetheless share a vivid experience of disembodied closeness that follows them as they move through the world" (Jardin, 2005). This is one way that cell phone usage has permeated Japan and how cell phones are slowly changing the morals and ethics of the younger generation. Many people believe that young people are more self-centered and…