Power and Responsibility and Cultural Respect

It took me a while to fully appreciate the issue that Twitter user Yoshimasa Niwa was describing. At first glance I and many others assumed that setting Japanese over English would solve his app library sorting issue.

Then I realized that wasn’t his point at all. The software app in the screenshot is the Yahoo Japan ‘Norikae Annai’ transit app, one of the most popular free stand alone transit apps in Japan. I use it all the time. It’s a Japanese app with a Japanese name but the basic iOS English sorting algorithm ignores this and assumes all Chinese characters used everywhere must follow modern mainland China’s Simplified Chinese rules for reading and sorting.

This is ridiculous as assuming that all Roman based character sets everywhere must follow modern Italian reading and sorting rules. I always find that westerners assume the Kanji culture flow was always one way from China which it is not, with different and unique readings, usages, and Japanese Kanji like shitsuke 躾 traveling the other way over the centuries. The same is true for other cultures that adapted the Chinese writing system for their languages.

It amounts to cultural destruction by neglect and ignorance by large western based technology companies who think things are ‘good enough’. Or are just bugs to fix in a later software update that usually never appears. Modern computer software has pretty much destroyed traditional kanji culture publishing this way, with many countries abandoning mainstream traditional vertical text layout for western style layout because ‘it’s easier’, i.e. western tech companies couldn’t be bothered getting Asian language typography right. All these years later web browsers still can’t do vertical text worth a damn.

A veteran Japanese font engineer whose entire career was devoted to preserving high end Japanese typography in the digital age recently told me, “I don’t think anybody cares anymore.” In the end it all too often comes down to this: I don’t care cultural death by I don’t care companies who have the money and power to care.

That’s bitter irony in our age that purports to champion cultural diversity.

Yumi Matsutoya Arrives on Apple Music

Talk about finally. Yumi Matsutoya, one of the biggest Japanese artists and J-Pop stars of the last 50 years, and one of the longest holdouts, landed with her complete catalog on Apple Music Japan this Friday. Her profile is listed on the Apple Music US site (Yumi Matsutouya). The catalog isn’t up yet but looks like it should be coming soon.

Japanese metadata tags are the usual Apple mess: the artist name in English instead of Japanese on iTunes downloads but proper Japanese on Apple Music downloads. The once proud iTunes Music Store is such a vestigial appendage to Apple Music, Apple clearly wants to kill it off.

Nevertheless this is great news for longtime fans. I know exactly what’s going to be playing the rest of the day.

Apple Maps Japan Update June 2018 (U)

Apple Maps Japan Data Collection
Apple’s Japanese page is poorly localized for Japan: an English title is better than nothing but should be in Japanese (fixed now).

It is nice to know that the Apple Maps team is getting serious about mapping Japanese data themselves. Most of the problems with Apple Maps Japan to date have been caused by 3rd rate 3rd party data suppliers so Apple collecting their own map data is a start towards a better map product for Japanese customers.

There are some notably omissions in the data collection startup list: only 20 of the 23 Tokyo wards are covered. Suginami-ku, Setagaya-ku and Nerima-ku are huge missing pieces along with the rest of the populous west Tokyo Chou line area (Mitaka, Tachikawa, etc.). Suginami-ku is one of the most important Tokyo districts, perhaps the most: whatever political party wins an election in Suginami wins Japan.

There are other big Apple Maps services that are missing in Japan: Indoor Maps were promised back at WWDC17 but have yet to appear, Traffic, Lane Guidance and Speed Limits are AWOL. Most of these services have been offered in Yahoo Japan Maps and Google Maps in Japan for years.

Even without their own data, Apple Maps Japan has made, (very) slow progress fixing some major data errors and holes. The Great Shibu Hot Spring Data Cutoff for example is finally fixed. This is how it looked 2 years ago:

This is how it looks today:

The Great Shibu Hot Spring Data Cutoff Fixed
Missing Ken-O Highway

The missing 2015 extensions to the Ken-O Expressway pointed out by blogger Train in 2017 looked like this:

Today it looks like this:

The Missing Ken-O Highway Fixed

I have not checked all of my Apple Maps Japan error inventory but I think progress is being made. Now if Apple would only dump the horrible Justin O’Beirne era cartography design that dates back to 2012 and create something new, I might even get excited again.

UPDATE
2018 didn’t bring many data improvements to Apple Maps Japan but 2019 is shaping up to be a big year for data collection.

NFC Times Misses Apple Pay in Japan Story

NFC TIMES Headline

Dan Balaban’s NFC TIMES EMV contactless promotion vehicle isn’t the most FeliCa friendly of industry publications. I cannot read his latest piece: Launch of Apple Pay in Japan Boosts User Numbers for Mobile Suica, but Most Transactions Still Use Cards because of his paywall, but I don’t have to; the title says it all.

Balaban is simply dialing in JR East data points presented at the Transport Payments Asia Pacific conference in Hanoi. Those market numbers have been around for a while, but they don’t tell much. There are much more interesting market trend numbers out there.

Since Balaban doesn’t bother with Japanese translation or the Japanese market much his subscribers will have to settle for warmed over presentation slide blah instead of real market information and analysis.

Sloppy Photo Captions

The Philippine government vaguely removed the comfort women statue in Manila that was vaguely erected in a public space by a Chinese linked group with vague permits.

The news ran on the Sankei Shimbun site with a mis-matched photo of Abba (reunion related probably) and captionsince fixed) that was priceless: comfort women statue in Manila removed,

Abba comfort women statue removed in Manila