One Twitter user asked me, “Is it true that coming from Japan to America feels like traveling 20 years back into the past?” This is a tricky question to answer. It’s true that, stepping off the plane at Narita Airport, the gleaming clean surfaces of the Shinkansen can make you feel you’ve time warped a decade into the future to a magical place where vending machines mix you a frothy cappuccino then bow to you in thanks. While Japan holds its own where technology is concerned, Japanese society is widely seen by Japanese people as being a decade or so “behind” the West. Whenever a new social trend appears in the U.S., for example the major bans of cigarettes in California in the late 1990s, I know Japan will follow the trend about ten years later, almost to the year. And even technology changes can take Japan by surprise. For years the country’s sleek cell phones were the envy of the world, yet while they were cool, you can do so much more with a modern iPhone or Android phone. Japanese cell phone companies were totally unprepared for American companies to come in and turn their industry upside down, and have been scrambling to recover their balance ever since.
Cell phone technology can change in a very short time.