Check out this list of the five advanced technologies available only in Japan: True mobile digital TV (all the regular terrestrial channels at no cost), connected cars (with a navigation system connected to a cell phone), primary wave earthquake warning systems, and home-help robots. And my personal favorite is Osaifu keitai–mobile wallets. They put my so-called “smartphone” to shame[From Reason Magazine – Hit & Run > Japanese Mobile Phones Smarter Than Average American]
Mobile payments in Japan are continuing to develop. From the first DoCoMo experiments with EDY, there are now multiple competing systems and the interconnection between banks and operators, cards and phones, is evolving at a pace. For example, last year Seven Bank ATMs began to support Seven-Eleven Japan’s “nanaco” E-Money and the bank is also considering allowing users of other e-money services to make deposits and check their balances at its ATMs in the future. At present, users of “nanaco” services, available in either smart cards or mobile phones, can make deposits at checkout counters of Seven-Eleven Japan’s convenience stores
In another cross-sector co-operation, MasterCard in Japan is parterning with operator Softbank, financial services firm Orient Corporation, smart card vendor Gemalto, handset maker Samsung and Hitachi to launch an NFC platform. MasterCard PayPass “cards” will be embedded in Softbank handsets to give international interoperability.
So, on the one hand it is reasonable to observe that the Japanese market is special and the position of DoCoMo is unique and that Japanese cultural attitudes toward money and cash are different and so on. All of this is true. But on the other hand, the big picture is that Japan is becoming a very competitive market and that there is an undoubted link between competition and innovation. If you build it, they will text…
These opinions are my own (I think) and presented solely in my capacity as an interested member of the general public [posted with ecto]