2021 wasn’t the best of years, certainly not a good one for transit as ridership everywhere continues to be severely impacted by COVID. Yet travel in Japan felt normal, more or less the new normal of face masks in public places and hand gel dispensers at the door…but compared to 2020 even that felt more like a formality than life saving ritual. Even while the Japanese media was breathlessly quoting daily infection rates and carping about the lack of COVID ICU with the Japanese medical system supposedly on the verge of collapse, people went about their business. Travel to Niigata and Sado when infection rates were said to be ‘sky rocketing’ was easy, people there were out shopping or enjoying restaurants. Things were busy, which was good to see.
Blog-wise 2021 was tough. Tech news felt perfunctory with everybody running on to the next delicious rumor the moment new hardware shipped, all without much thought or analysis, like bratty kids in a candy store running around chasing shiny new things. Transit and payment news was off the rails, while Apple Pay was more in the news for European and Australian antitrust investigations than any new features. The Japanese news cycle that normally picks up steam in the fall failed to build after the Tokyo Olympic as if everybody had blown their wad. PayPay service announcements were more like marketing spin as they started charging merchant transaction fees for the first time.
Writing-wise I tried my best to be positive and productive in the face of adversity. For better or worse here are the some of my favorite 2021 posts, not necessarily popular. If there is one thing I have leaned over the years is that a five minute throw away post is often more popular than posts I spend a lot of time on. That’s the way it goes.
Thanks always for reading and best wishes for 2022!
Inside Hiragino: Hiragino Shock and the Apple Publishing Glyph Set is my favorite as I wanted to record some the important things Steve Jobs helped foster in the Japanese publishing market with OS X. Former Apple systems engineer Yasuo Kida kindly shared some important stories from the Apple development side.
The Apple Pay Japan 5 year mark: all of this or nothing, was another favorite and the most fun to write. Suica marked its 20th anniversary, Apple Pay Suica marked its 5th, both very important developments for Japanese transit and payments. It should have been a bigger celebration but like just like the Tokyo Olympics, it got lost in the COVID news era.
Secrets of iOS 15 Apple Wallet, now that Apple Pay payments and transit are well established the next Wallet frontiers are ID, keys and UWB. As these are more complex puzzles than NFC payments, progress will be gradual.
Payment and transit 2021 highlights
- January: Contactless payments come to Starbucks
- February: Apple Pay Clipper launch, Multiple Mobile FeliCa Secure Element domains in Google Pixel
- March: Suica 2 in 1 officially launches, Open Loop privacy is a concern too often ignored
- May: VISA JP finally joined Apple Pay
- June: Fitbit Sense joins the growing number of Suica capable wearable devices
- October: Apple Pay Waon and nanaco e-money card launch pretty much completes the Apple Pay Japan card lineup, EMV Express Transit is a security trade-off for the convenience of open loop transit, Google Pixel 6 is still not a global NFC device
The big news was Sha-Ken and Morisawa agreeing to co-develop the Sha-Ken type library for OpenType. One of the interesting things about Sha-Ken fonts is that they are known outside of Japan because they were extensively used in Japanese manga up until the early 2000’s. It will be interesting to see how designers and artists resurrect the Sha-Ken font legacy after they go on sale in 2024. In other news Apple is, once again, rebooting their typography and layout developer frameworks with TextKit2.