Skip to content
Subscriber Only

In Japan, Facebook Wins the Most Users

Post-tsunami Japan shares more online, making Facebook No. 1
In Japan, Facebook Wins the Most Users
Illustration by Pete Ryan

It’s the part of the job that stock analyst Hiroshi Naya dislikes the most: phoning investor relations managers on a Saturday or Sunday when he’s working on a report and facing a deadline. In Japan, placing a work call to someone’s cell phone on the weekend “feels like entering someone’s house with your shoes on,” says Naya, chief analyst at Ichiyoshi Research Institute in Tokyo. So last year, Naya started asking his questions via messages on Facebook. While a telephone call seems intrusive, he says, a Facebook message “feels more relaxed.”

Many Japanese have become fans of Mark Zuckerberg’s company in the past year. It’s taken a while: Even as Facebook took off in India, Indonesia, and other parts of Asia, it’s been a laggard in Japan since its local-language version debuted in 2008. The site faced cultural obstacles in a country where people historically haven’t been comfortable sharing personal information, or even their names, on the Internet. Homegrown rivals such as community website operator Mixi and online game portals such as DeNA allow—and sometimes even require—their users to adopt pseudonyms. “We have a very strict policy: Never use real names, never post phone numbers, and never post e-mail addresses,” says Tomoyuki Akiyama, spokesman for DeNA, which includes a popular social networking function that allows gamers to contact each other.