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An economy run by schoolgirls

I’ve been reading this article all day (it’s long, and I’ve had other stuff to do):

ASIAN POP The Gadget Gap: Why does all the cool stuff come out in Asia first?

The article states that Japan’s tech culture is driven by teenagers, boys and girls alike, rather than by business, which is what drives America’s tech culture. Here’s an interesting snippet:

The cell-phone craze was born soon after the launch of NTT DoCoMo’s wildly successful i-Mode wireless Internet service in 1999 gave rise to a phenomenon known as “keitai [mobile-phone] culture,” fed by a generation of kids known as oyayubisoku, or “thumb tribes,” whose handset addiction has shaped public health (as more and more “thumb princes and princesses” succumb to repetitive stress injuries); sexual mores (as enterprising schoolgirls subscribe to cell-phone “dating services,” where they are introduced to lonely and generous older men); media consumption (as magazine vendors and bookstores find that browsers now snap high-quality cell-cam pictures of articles they want to read rather than purchasing their products); and impulse commerce (as Japanese cell phones increasingly become equipped with “e-money” devices that allow them to be used to purchase small items).

Unlike in the United States, where consumer electronics is an overwhelmingly male-driven industry, the critical vector in the propagation of keitai culture was its embrace by adolescent girls. That this demographic drives the market is no coincidence. Like many Japanese marketers, NTT DoCoMo had determined that i-Mode would live and die based on whether teen fashion queens adopted the handsets as the season’s must-own accessories. A year and a half of aggressive marketing later, with 30 million active users, DoCoMo became the world’s largest Internet access provider, surpassing longtime leader America On-Line. More than 10 million of these users are young women.

“A couple of months ago, Newsweek Japan did a special issue that listed the 100 most influential Japanese people in history,” says Douglas Krone with a chuckle. “Along with ancient emperors, best-selling authors, inventors and scientists, they listed ‘Japanese Schoolgirls,’ because they’ve been so influential, inside of Japan and out.”

This perception of technology-as-fashion means that the coolness factor drives most technology purchases in Japan…which explains why they get all the cool stuff first.

Good article.