Archive for January, 2006


iTunes competition increase in Japan – au LISMO service

Posted by on Monday, 30 January, 2006

au Listen Mobile Service - LISMO
KDDI (au) just launched a product called “au LISTEN MOBILE SERVICE”, or “LISMO” for short. If you wonder why the symbol used in marketing of this service is a squirrel, note that when you pronounce LISMO in Japanese, it sounds like risu-mo, and risu means squirrel, and squirrels are cute (or are they?) so that will help marketing…

The LISMO service consists of a few different products: the main part is a new pc-software called “au Music Port” and a corresponding software in your phone called “au Music Player”. The pc-software lets you connect your pc to your cell phone (only the new W41xx models are supported as far as I know – and only they have the new software installed as well) via a USB cable and do lots of different things. For example, you can rip CDs and convert them to HE-AAC format and transfer them to your phone. Au phones use this format for playing music – it’s daily name is “Chaku Uta Full” and downloading of such music used to be the biggest music download service in Japan (until iTunes showed up). You can also administer and backup your Chaku-uta Full you may have bought/downloaded on your phone. Note that there is DRM in the Chaku-uta Full spec, and files which have a time- or play-limitation on them cannot be downloaded to your pc. Further, you cannot copy files which have been ripped in this software on another pc, which means that the files you rip yourself get tagged by some kind of personal ID tag.

The au Music Port software seems to be very much like Apple iTunes in that you basically administer your library of songs in your pc, and you choose which songs to synchronize with your phone. In case your phone is running out of memory, you can create dynamic playlists in much the same way as iTunes. Further, you can synchronize e-mails, calender, pictures, and so forth with the software too.

Another part of the LISMO service is the online part, which as of yet is not that developed. There is an online community called “Uta Tomo” which lets you exchange play lists with other people. Further, there seems to be a function which notifies you if you are in the vicinity of another person playing the same song on his/her phone. Another function is when listening to radio with your phone, you can search for the song currently playing on the station you’re listening to.

In April, the online part of au’s offering will expand through a service called “Duostore” which is a direct competitor of Apple ITMS. There are not much details available of this store yet, but I would gues that it will be incorporated into the Music Port software on the pc side, and fairly easily accessable from the portal menu on your cell phone. Personally, I see this as a big threat against iTunes, because so many people already use their cell phones as sort of MP3-players; and if a full-scope music store (with competitive pricing, now Au sells a limited number of Chaku Uta Full for 315 yen/song, where iTunes is half as cheap) reachable from PCs as well, there are 21 million 3G au users who will want to use this service! I still have not heard so much about the NTT Docomo/Napster deal, which will further increase competition on the Japanese market. If Docomo gets that service up and running quickly enough, there will be three strong players on the market, and where will that leave e.g. Vodafone?

(source: KeiTai Watch)


This just might be the best blonde joke ever

Posted by on Monday, 30 January, 2006

I usually don’t just repost fun stuff I found on the Internet on this blog, but this joke I found over at Herro Flom Japan might just be the best blonde joke ever! I’m sorry if you’ve already seen, because it’s been doing the e-mail rounds for a while now… But it’s worth it.


Tilt-shift photos seem to be the latest cool thing

Posted by on Sunday, 29 January, 2006

Roy Thomson Hall photographed by Bigdaddyhame

The latest “cool thing” on the Internet seems to be collections of Tilt-Shift photos – especially the trick used when taking photos from a very high point (tall building or helicopter) and focusing on a small area down on the ground, creating an illusion that makes the scenery in the picture look like a model city. It’s pretty cool stuff, and I think the latest Internet craze of this technique, which is not a new one, started with Andy Baio linking to this: The City as an Avatar of itself. Then a flood of information followed; there’s a Flickr group here.

And here is good resource for information and links to nice photos: (Set up by the guy who took the brilliant photo above.)

The latest I found is a Japanese page featuring photos from Tokyo using this technique, there are some very nice pictures here at the “Bitter Girls” Blog. (via


Booby-prize and Booby-maker in Japanese tournaments

Posted by on Friday, 27 January, 2006

After competing in the annual SCCJ (Swedish Chamber of Commerce in Japan) bowling competition yesterday, the organizers gave a so-called “Booby Prize” to the team which finished last. This sparked a discussion among us, because some people claimed that the Booby Prize should be given to the person/team second from last and not last.

I did some research and found that the Booby Prize in the Western world indeed is a prize given to the player/team who finished last in a competition whereas in Japan, the Booby Prize is given to the one who finished second from last and the last place will receive a more dubious honor called Booby Maker (i.e. the one who, by finishing last, made the one before him/her win the Booby Prize). The reasoning for this is that anyone can finish last – it requires no effort at all, and whereas the Booby Prize is usually just a joke prize in the Western world, here in Japan it is usually a very nice prize – sometimes it is only surpassed by the 1st prize in value! Thus, to make it hard to receive the Booby Prize, the definition changed to be the one who finished second from last.

Hope that cleared things up for anyone! (I know it did for me!)


Frustrations in Japan Part 2 – Public Transportation

Posted by on Thursday, 26 January, 2006

Overcrowded train in Tokyo

Part two in my series about how to prepare (and in some cases, avoid) frustrating things in Japan is about public transportation – mainly trains and subways.

First things first: trains & subways (hereafter referred to simply as ‘trains’) in Japan are crowded, I mean really really crowded. This has to do with the fact that most people commute to work/school by train, and not by car. 2.5 million passengers travel on the JR lines in the Tokyo area every day! Add the private railways and subway lines too, and you get a sense of how much people are travelling around everyday!

So, rush hour here in Tokyo for instance (approximately 8 AM – 9 AM) is sort of “survival of the fittest”! Cars are filled over specified capacity, often to 150-220% during morning rush hour, depending on which line you take. Here is an illustraion of what the train congestion levels look like in practice. (The comments below the illustrations are in Japanese, but check out Mari’s translation.) I found some good information about which lines are the most/least crowded in the Tokyo Metropolitan area so I want to present those statistics to you. I put them at the bottom of this post as a sort of Appendix. (If you entered through the main page, you have to click “Read the rest of this entry” further down.)

This is how your train ride should be!

OK, so if you look at the statistics you can see which lines to avoid like the plague in the mornings. Unfortunately, the chances that you actually live along one of those train lines is pretty high – hence the high congestion rate! Here are then some small tips on how to make your train travelling a little bit more enjoyable:

* Avoid rush hour altogether! If you have the luxury of controlling exactly when to travel, you’d better try to go either before 8 AM, or close to, or after 9 AM – because the trains are much emptier then.

* Seek out alternate routes! Investigate the areas around your house and your place of work; are there alternate routes to take which will not slow you down too much? Sometimes it’s worth taking somewhat of a detour to work, if it takes you through less crowded train lines etc, and you only lose around 5 minutes travel time.

* Get on at the first station of the train line. Yes, this is a no-brainer but it can be hard to do anything about it, unless you want to move! If you get on at the first stop, you of course have high chances of getting a seat, which will definately make your travel experience more relaxed. If you live one stop from the final station, if you have time to spare, consider taking the train in the opposite direction back to the end station, and then remain onboard when it returns in the other direction.

* Know your destination and other popular destinations. You can time your travel better if you know exactly when the stations along your way peaks in passengers – then you can adjust your departure according to that. Further, knowing where the exits are from the platform at your destination (and crowded stations along the way) is good because if you can stay away from the train cars which stops closest to the stairs, chances are that the train car will be less crowded. Most people like to get on the cars that are closest to the stairs so they quickly can get out.

* If a train is delayed in rush hour, skip it! Chances are very high that the next train is NOT delayed and will arrive as quickly as one minute later (at least JR lines). Again, most people will try to get on the first train that arrives, so the delayed train will be loaded but the train coming after will be less crowded.

* Rush hour in the evenings is not as bad, because there is no fixed time where most people leave work. However, one time to avoid is around 8 o’clock on Friday evenings. It seems this is a very popular time to go home, so try to plan around it.

Read the rest of this entry »