140 Character Haiku: Global or Local?

by Translation Guy on June 28, 2010

Twitter has taken off in Japan. Since the mobile app debuted last October, usage has exploded, and now 1 out of 7 Japanese are tweeting, compared to 1 out of 10 Americans.

Twitter seems to be perfectly suited to Japan’s “keitai” culture, where best-selling novels are composed on tiny cell phone keyboards and read the same way.

While the 140 character limit fences off textually-challenged blowhards like me in English, it is a vast literary prairie for Japanese syllablists banging out great thoughts in Kanji.

Motohiko Tokuriki, CEO of Agile Media Network (~200,000 followers), is quoted in an AP story, “Twitter a hit in Japan.” “It’s telling that Twitter was translated as ‘mumbling’ in Japanese,” he says. Japanese “love the idea of talking to themselves.”

Rocky Eda, a corporate communication guy at Digital Garage, which supports Twitter’s Japan operations, says, “In finding fulfillment in expressing what’s on your mind for the moment, Twitter is like haiku. It is so Japanese.”

Great quotes! Personally, I love this PR language, as canned as Japanese sushi. I’ve always had a soft spot for flack-speak. Kagayama’s story is so full of it. Here’s more…

“So far, people are flocking to Twitter in positive ways, reaching out in direct, public and interactive communication, debunking the stereotype of Japanese as shy and insular, says Noriyuki Ikeda, chief executive of Tribal Media House, which consults on social media marketing.

“Twitter is turning out to be like a cocktail party…. ‘Japanese see how fun it is to network and casually connect with other people.'”

Another brick in the wall of the global social networking phenomenon. But this Japanese haiku party cocktail is the exception for American social media in Japan. For example, while 62% of Americans are busily LOL-ing to forgotten HS pals on Facebook, only 3% of Japanese use the Japanese version. LinkedIn? Fagedaboudit.

And as wacky and unique as Japanese culture is, it shares those same distinctive traits with all the other wacky and unique cultures surfing cyberspace. (Yes, this means you.) Social media is a global phenomenon for sure, but it’s siloed by culture and language, and may actually be re-divvying up the small world after all.

In the June 14 issue of Advertising Age, Simon Dumenco, trend analyst for the same ad rag, asked, “Does real-time social media make us less globally inclined?” Simon says yes. “I’ve been realizing lately that one of the things that social web also does is reinforce local navel-gazing, mainly because the social web is increasingly so ‘real-time’ focused-and time zones are, obviously, the enemy of real-time…. How utterly human: As a species, we get it together to build a mind-bogglingly complex network that weaves together millions of computers into a massive, throbbing bleeping blooping global nervous system, and what do we use it for? To tell our nearby friends that we have arrived at O’Neill’s pub, one block away.”

Wait. Is that the O’Neill’s on my block? OK. Gotta go.  I’ll return to this subject in future posts, after a pint or two (of white wine…it’s an East Side thing).


  1. wow Japanies are faster, love their way of growing around twitter 😀

  2. well twitter is the application that changed our Lives, specially the Americans

  3. I agree

  4. In todays age, most of the business is through electronic accessories, that’s why every one is moving towards it, thanks for writing such a good article.

  5. hm, well twitter & facebook gave us lots of facilites, but in few cases like Robbry was done bcoz of the facebook, the problem with these is the privacy.

  6. this translation guy has a good twitter followers, I have checked him out here is his last tweet “Improve Translation Quality and Organize QA Work with Multilizers Automated Translations Consistency Checks http://tinyurl.com/27k8z7m” , hes doing well

  7. yeah you are right its just for business dealings

  8. Kevin Weight says:

    yup he got the quality work to done

  9. Now I am gonna have my own twiter as well

  10. wow only 3% , why is that ?

    • Ken says:

      Very interesting question, Earnest. The failure of Facebook in Japan is cultural. But Facebook needs the Japanesese market to reach their billion-user global goal. The success of Facebook in Japan will require a Transformer-like transformation, to work for Japanese, beyond even Farmwell in audacious conception.

  11. need more to know about that, I will be waiting for your next post thx 4 sharing

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