How do Japanese folks keep in touch? (A look at Line)

Twitter, Instagram, Vine… you’re likely familiar with or at least have heard of one of these apps before. Whether people use them religiously on their smartphones or attempt to learn how to use them on their computers, they’re a big part of many people’s lives now.

In Japan, Line is what makes the world go ’round.

Ever used Skype? Line, similarly, is an app that lets you call phone to phone (or computer to computer) for free. It is also used as a messenger, but the benefit to using Line is all of the stickers you can use. No longer are you limited by whatever emoticons you can come up with; type in “creepy” to get the face of a clown! Type in “sleep” to get multiple images of cartoonish characters drooling all over pillows!

In addition, it has a wall feature much like Facebook where you can post pictures and update your status. However, should you choose to use this feature, you will find not only other people but companies use Line to advertise themselves. If you poke around further, you’ll find options to download Line-related games you can play with friends, and Line Music, and so many other things.

Why is it so popular in Japan? Well, the stickers are one thing. Another is its easy accessibility. You’re meant to use it on a portable gadget, sure, but in a pinch you can log into your computer or elsewhere to access your account for limited amounts of time. Keep in mind that in Japan, texting is done differently here, and Line is as close to the American version of texting as you can get. What I personally like is the search feature- you can search for keywords that’ll help remind you of conversations long past. This is helpful, for example, if a friend has a birthday soon but you can’t recall exactly when.

Are there any drawbacks? Well, like other apps you will get friended by ‘bots, but they are reasonably easy to spot. The main thing is that when you change gadgets, your previous conversations don’t transfer to the new phone or tablet. You lose all of that data. I know some students who keep their old iPhones around essentially as iPod Touches in order to keep those old conversations available should they need them.

What’s another drawback? It’s not a very common app in America, at least not yet. Most people I know of who use it have lived in Japan or knows someone who lives here currently.

Still, if you’re coming to Japan soon and are intending to get a smartphone (or a pocket wi-fi so you can use internet on your portable gadget) Line is a good way to get and stay connected with any friends you’ll make here!

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