When Your Train Stops

Most rush hour train announcements , the real ones, are mundane. Occasionally they announce a short delay: somebody’s bag got stuck in a door or got sick and needed assistance. The worrisome ones are the emergency stops when somebody hits the platform panic button somewhere. Fortunately most of those clear in a reasonably short time. Then there is the dreaded “Jishin Jiko”, a jumper, a  guarantee your train is going nowhere. December and March are usually the worst times of the year for those cases because that’s when the Yakuza call in delinquent loans.

The acid test of a real Tokyo commuter is how fast you think on your feet the moment a Jishin Jiko announcement comes over the PA system. You know it’s serious when people around you pull out their smartphones and start searching for alternate routes or make phone calls. On the Yamanote line the train crew usually parks at the closest station so people can get off. If you are lucky enough to get a smart train conductor, they offer detailed alternate route information.

When I got stuck on the Yamanote line at Shibuya station once the conductor quickly instructed, “the Yamanote outside (clockwise) loop is running, if you need to get to Ebisu, Meguro or Gotanda stations take the Saikyo line on platform 4 to Ozaki station and double back on the outside loop.” It took a little extra time but I made it to Gotanda station and was on my way.

Another time I was not so lucky, the entire Yamanote line was stopped but the Saikyo line was still running so I took it to Ozaki station. From there I walked to the nearest Tokyu Ikegami line station and was on my way again. 20 minutes lost but no trouble getting to the office in time.

The scariest stoppage was March 11, 2011 when every train and subway in Tokyo stopped running during the massive earthquake. Early the next morning, a Saturday, every train was packed with very tired people who didn’t make a sound as they slowly made their way back home. In the silence you could feel the shock and sadness. In a crush of people on a train you could almost hear a pin drop.

Another January, another misleading iPhone supply cuts story from Nikkei

Apple Insider

Apple Insider’s Daniel Eran Dilger writes:

Every January, Japan’s Nikkei newspaper unloads a report suggesting that Apple is scrambling to slash production of its newest iPhone because of disappointing sales. Every year that report has been false, and every year the tech media falls for it.

Nikkei is notorious in the investing community, it’s about time they were called out on their iPhone reporting.

Another Nikkei iPhone related botch: independent (former Nikkei) reporter Tsutsumu Ishikawa broke the iPhone 7/Apple Pay Japan story in the JP press via Nikkei August 20, 2016. His story was later picked up in the English press by Bloomberg, without credit I might add.

What’s interesting is that Nikkei internal reporters then published their own story saying that Apple Pay Japan would not arrive until iPhone 8 due in ‘spring 2017’ which was blown out of the water at Apple’s iPhone 7 announcement. Of course that article no longer appears on any searchable Nikkei site but a post dated 9/7/2017 on LiveDoor News refers to it.

If you want to think the worst, you can see the Nikkei ‘fake news’ as pure market manipulation. More than one Nikkei reporter has been caught on insider trading so it’s not far-fetched.

But there is a much darker side. In December a former Nikkei newspaper delivery subcontractor ‘committed suicide’ in a men’s room at Nikkei Headquarters. The police reports said he doused himself with kerosene and set himself on fire.

This event by itself is odd and disturbing but there are several hush-hush low-level law suits going on between newspaper delivery subcontractors and large newspaper companies. The basic story on that is Nikkei and Asahi are accused of dumping newspapers on subcontractors to inflate delivery numbers (which are declining) to keep newspaper advertising rates from falling.

In that context the Nikkei building suicide sounds like something out of a Martin Scorsese directed Yakuza movie.

It’s probably not far-fetched either.

The #1 Japanese Transit App

fullsizeoutput_642bIt’s not Apple Maps, it’s not Google Maps or even Yahoo Japan Maps. The #1 Japanese Transit iPhone app is Yahoo Japan’s stand-alone Transit app and Yahoo Japan is going to town with a big fun marketing blitz featuring Doraemon.

After one year of using Apple Maps Japan Transit since the September 2016 debut, I don’t find it very useful. None of the map apps are very useful for public transit. The problem is they all treat public transit like car navigation: here is point a, here is point b, here is a map route. Transit route map overlays might look cool but are not helpful and waste space that could be used for real information. Both Apple Maps and Google Maps force you to dig for more information instead of just showing it.

Yahoo Japan Transit offers you lots of great information that you can either sort for fastest, cheapest, etc., or quickly search for different times (orange left or right). Yahoo Japan has also integrated those stupid two letter train line codes but thankfully only in the initial search result list.

Map apps basically assume I don’t know how to get to my destination. On the other hand stand-alone transit apps like Yahoo Japan Transit assume you that you know how to get to your destination and just want to find the best way of getting there. It simply offers the best transit options in a handy sortable list: transit time, price, number of transfers. You can save routes, put them in a calendar, set time alarms, GPS destination alarms and more.

And to top it off, if you really need to see how to get from the station to the destination, Yahoo Japan Transit offers you a quick pop up map which is all that you ever really need saving you a needless trip to the map app.

iPhone 8, Apple Pay, FeliCa and the Keynote (U)

The full set of major transit cards joining Apple Pay Suica at the iPhone 8 event

With iPhone 8 rumors peaking and the keynote date leaking soon set for September 12, it’s time to add my two cents. I predict Apple will announce FeliCa support for all iPhone 8 and Apple Watch 3 devices worldwide in the iPhone 8 keynote Apple Pay section with the other major transit cards joining Apple Pay. Phil Schiller will probably say something like this:

Last year we announced FeliCa and Apple Pay support for our customers in Japan and the response has been incredible. This year we’re happy to announce FeliCa support in every iPhone 8 worldwide and that Apple Pay in Japan is adding support for other major transportation cards like PASMO and ICOCA in addition to Suica. Now all our customers in Japan and visitors from around the world can use their iPhone 8 for riding public transit all across Japan.

The mention will be brief. There may not even be a slide, but a 15 second mention with a slide would pay huge marketing dividends in Japan and costs nothing.

The reasons for the prediction are simple.

The full set of Japanese transit cards joining Apple Pay Suica for iPhone 8 announcement would be a great marketing opportunity for Apple in Japan.

Update 9/12
Phil Schiller did not mention FeliCa in the keynote but global FeliCa made it into iPhone 8, iPhone X and Apple Watch Series 3.

Update 9/1
Added the September 12 iPhone 8 event date.

No AirPods For Old Men : the Ugly Truth of AirPods in Japan

Oyaji AirPods

I have really enjoyed my AirPods. Nothing beats the convenience of going wireless on a daily Tokyo train commute. No matter how careful you are, earphone wires inevitably catch on a handbag or backpack and your iPhone flies out the pocket onto the floor.

A while ago a very observant friend of mine told me about working out at a new gym, “There was this older guy wearing those new Apple earphone things, they look really convenient.” Then he said, “I don’t think young people listen to music like back in the iPod days, they’re too busy doing the social network thing. The only people buying AirPods are older guys.”

I didn’t pay much attention to his comment at the time. Then I noticed that all the AirPods I saw in the wild are on a gentleman over 50. Just like me. Six months after AirPods went on sale I have yet to see a single young person using them in Tokyo. Is this a Japan thing, a young person thing, or an old man thing?

Apple has always successfully marketed their products to young people. In Japan it looks like that message for AirPods, is falling on deaf ears.