Last Sunday we (my wife and I) bought our oldest daughter a 携帯電話 (cellular phone).
Of course, all three of my daughters really want a 携帯電話 (cellular phone)…but we decided not to get them one until they start 高等学校 (high school).
In Japan, most kids who are in public 小学校 (Elementary School) or 中学校 (Junior High School) can walk to school…but once they start 高等学校 (High School) they usually have to take the train to school.
My youngest two daughters are in 中学校 (Junior High School) and they walk to school. But beginning in early April, my oldest will start 高等学校 (High School) and she’ll ride the train with her friends to school every day.
So, my wife and I decided to get her a 携帯電話 (cellular phone).
Most important to us, her phone has email and GPS tracking (in an emergency, we can track her location on our 携帯電話 (cellular phones))…but her phone has every function available on Japanese 携帯電話 (cellular phones)—email, internet, 「おさいふケータイ」 (cell-phone wallet), GPS, TV, radio, MP3 player, etc, etc.!
Her phone is much better than my wife or my 携帯電話 (cellular phones).
Of course, her sisters are jealous! But, next year my second daughter will begin high school and I’ll have to buy her one…and then the youngest daughter when she starts high school too!
Speaking of 携帯電話 (cellular phones), I recently learned that a cell-phone called “Blackberry” is popular in America.
Do you use this phone? Do you like it?
It looks like this:
I’ve never used a “Blackberry” so I can only speculate…but it looks much less convenient, handy, and cool than the average 携帯電話 (cellular phone) in Japan.
First of all, it looks like a pocket calculator.
And it has a really wide keyboard with one key for each of the 26 letters of the English alphabet…like a computer keyboard. (The letters are arranged in the typewriter “QWERTY” order, too.).
It looks like you’d need both hands to type an email. Is that right?
Seems slow and inconvenient.
The numbers on it are also on ten keys on the left side (presumably they’re the keys you’d use to dial a phone number).
A Japanese 携帯電話 (cellular phone), on the other hand, simply has the ten number digits keys (1-9 and 0) which double as both the English alphabet keys (in alphabetical order) with each key used for three to four letters.
The “1″ key is usually symbols such as “@, ., -, _, etc”, the “2″ key is used for the letters “A-C” (both upper and lowercase), “3″ is used for “D-F”, etc.
That’s in “English” mode.
In “Japanese” mode, the same number keys are used for the Japanese “alphabet“.
“1″ is 「あいうえお」 in ひらがな (hiragana), and the corresponding 「アイウエオ」 in カタカナ (katakana),
“2″ is used for 「さしすせそ」 (and, of course, 「サシスセソ」)), and so on for the keys 3-9 and 0.
Of course, to get 漢字 (kanji characters), you’d simply type out the phonetic spelling in ひらがな and the possible 漢字 (kanji characters) choices appear.
That may not make sense to you if you don’t know about the Japanese writing system…but, believe me, it’s quite easy.
Better than the Blackberry, Japanese 携帯電話 (cellular phones) are slim. So, everyone in Japan types out cell-phone emails using one hand…actually just the thumb on one hand is used to type the whole mail!
Another thing about Japanese 携帯電話 (cellular phones) that make typing emails easy is the “predict” function.
Once you type the first ひらがな character in a common word or phrase (and also in a word or phrase that you have typed out before), the phone will offer you that word or phrase again and you can easily insert it into your email.
For example, I often email my wife while I’m on the train heading home after work and ask her 「今日の夕食は？」 (which means: “What’s for dinner today?”).
If I typed that out in English, it’s twenty-four characters. In Japanese, it’s only eleven…but with my 携帯電話 (cellular phone)’s “predict” function, I only need to type one character (「き」) and the phrase 「今日の夕食は？」 appears.
Which reminds me of another subject…
In America (and maybe other countries too), businesses will often advertise their telephone number not with the numerical digits…but using the corresponding letters that are on the keys of a telephone.
To make their phone number easier to remember.
So, for example, a car dealer in America might have a phone number like 555-2277 but would write their phone number as 555-CARS.
In Japan, cell-phones have the English alphabet on the keys (as I just mentioned above)…but most home phones don’t.
So Japanese companies don’t use English letters to make their phone numbers easy to remember…but they use alternative pronunciations of the numbers to make clever expressions.
For example, I saw an ad for a pawn shop the other day. Their phone number is 78-2840.
In Japanese, that would normally be pronounced “nana-hachi-ni-hachi-yon-zero“…but the pawn shop had ふりがな over the numbers that showed the reading as 「しちやにはしれい」 (shichi-ya-ni-ha-shi-rei) which is an alternative reading of those numbers—but it also means 「質屋に走れい」 (“Run to the pawn shop”).
Many companies in Japan write the phone numbers with clever play-on-words like that.