Mixi spokesman gives views on Facebook, Twitter & social media in Japan

TOKYO —

For years, Mixi was social media in Japan ... with its millions of loyal users, no other social media service came close to rivaling it. Sure, some Japanese people used other services and many Japanese don’t use any, but in general, one thing was certain – in lieu of “meishi” exchange, you could always say, “Are you on Mixi?” – and the conversation might very well ensue, “You are? I’ll send you MY-miku.”

Recently, social media have evolved in Japan. Social gaming networks aside such as Mobage and Gree, Facebook and Twitter have finally moved in. While critics have been quick to pan Facebook’s less than stellar success, many have dubbed Japan, which produces about 14% of all Tweets around the world as “Twitter-nation.” In the wake of the 3/11 triple disaster, the Prime Minister’s Office, Ground Self-Defense Forces, TEPCO and other organizations began opening accounts. Twitter has also joined forces with NTT DoCoMo, making its logo familiar throughout Japan.

In the wake of all this, one might wonder, “But what about Mixi? Is it headed for the big plunge?” Not according to Mixi spokesman Masashi Tokuda, who describes Mixi as something completely different than Facebook or Twitter. “Mixi is basically a ‘real identity’ social network (SNS) that is used by people who are friends in real life,” he explained. “Compared to other SNS, Mixi works on a smaller scale.”

Tokuda points out that the average number of contacts a Mixi user has is 45.6. According to Facebook, the average number of “friends” a person has is 130. Additionally, Tokuda explains that in Japan, Facebook is used mainly for business. 

And Twitter???

Tokuda explained, “Some people argue that Twitter is also a social network. However, we believe that Twitter is not a social network, but a tool for sending and collecting information. Thus, since these networks offer different services and people use them for different purposes, they do not have any influence on Mixi.”

Japanese Cell Phone Only Policy

I asked him about Mixi’s “Japanese Cell Phone only” policy which has irked many of Mixi’s foreign overseas users even dubbing it “Mixi’s anti-foreigner policy.” Tokuda explained that the policy was implemented in order to stop “sneaky businessmen” running dating sites from abusing Mixi. (In fact, Japanese police have been involved in a half-decade-long crackdown on dodgy mobile dating sites which often serve as hotbeds for criminal activities such as fraud, extortion as well as child prostitution.)

But Tokuda added, “Once we implement other measures to prevent people from misusing our site, we believe it will be once again possible to create a new account without a Japanese cell phone.”

But does this mean that Mixi plans to go global? No, its concept, after all, is about real connections with real people. Tokuda said that although Mixi carefully supports foreign SNS at the present time his company cannot see it being used to connect with large numbers of strangers living abroad.

One thing I wondered about whether there were cultural differences between Japanese and foreign social media. Tokuda compared Mixi’s features to Facebook’s saying it all comes down to privacy.

“This is perhaps due to the fact that everything a (Facebook) user puts up there is tied up in one place. On the other hand, Mixi offers more private and closed connections, letting the user choose the visibility of his posts and use the service on different levels,” but he added, “We do not think there is any difference between Japan and other countries in the general trend of SNS working to sustain communication between people.”

Related to this, in sustaining communication between people I wondered about the events of 3/11 – and ways in which Mixi can be used in disaster response (one of Twitter’s undoubted strong points.)

Tokuda explained one major advantage of Mixi: Since its “real identity SNS” used by people who are friends in real life, it can easily be used to check if your friends are OK during great earthquakes as well.

“When you do not have access to your cell phone or a landline after a great earthquake, you can use a service called ‘mixi voice’ (murmur) to post a short message about your current condition. In fact, the number of posts made using this service rose eight times in the first 15 hours after the March 11 earthquake, compared to 11 hours prior to it. Afterwards, the regular number of posts rose about twice compared to the previous normal. Similarly, starting the following day the number of post made using ‘mixi diaries’ rose as well, with the number of post made by people living in the area struck by the disaster rising by 44%.”

Tokuda also pointed out that as of March 31, people had given support by buying 1,770,000 items through the Mixi Collection (mixi Mobile Wallpaper Decoration) and Mixi Applications, which made the donation total reach 210,000,000 yen.

Analysis:

In my own experience as a 6-year Mixi user, I must say that I’ve experienced Tokuda’s key point about Mixi being about intimacy as true. When you use Mixi, you don’t feel pressured to be the user with the most number of friends. You don’t get the daily barrage of “friend invites” from total strangers. Spam is rare. Although some people try to use it for other purposes, most Japanese users I know do use it primarily to keep in touch with real world connections.

In conclusion, Japan is a country where people are known to build brick walls around their house and exist in personal circles that can often last a lifetime. In light of this, I have no doubt that while other social media models may continue to take hold in Japan, made for Japan Mixi, its 20+ million users and user communities definitely won’t be going anywhere any time soon. 

Author Infomation

Eddie Landsberg
Eddie Landsberg
Eddie Landsberg is a writer, musician and reviewer who's lived and taught in Japan for 17 years. He presents stories and interviews on a wide range of topics related to changing Japanese society. He's recorded three internationally distributed CDs as a Hammond organist. Among his hobbies shogi, dog training and collecting R&B.
Website: https://www.facebook.com/eddie.landsberg1
  • 5

    y3chome

    Where do they get this idea that FB is not for "real personailities"? I wish the best of luck to the mixi dude, but with such a poor understanding of their major competitor, I doubt they can do so well. "Real connections with people who they are friends with in real life"?> FB started as a network in Universities right? Where people knew eachother, and added eachother, and evolved from there. You sure they didnt mix up Facebook and Myspace?? My own experience of Mixi from yrs back; used to get huge numbers of invites from people i didnt know. Plus, people tend not to use their real names, or post real photos of themselves..... how is that a "real identity social network"? I got tired of endless pictures of hands and food on that site..... it is a very different animal to Facebook, i would say more like an semi-anonymous blog limited to Japan. Aplogies for poor structure... could have written it a bit better but its still early and i havent woken up yet.

  • 2

    TanakaTaro

    I agree with y3chome, this guy obviously hasn't been following his main competitor very closely. Facebook is supposed to be for keeping in touch with friends. When you get a friend request it tells you not to add the person if you don't know them in real life.

    This is perhaps due to the fact that everything a (Facebook) user puts up there is tied up in one place. On the other hand, Mixi offers more private and closed connections, letting the user choose the visibility of his posts and use the service on different levels

    Actually, Facebook allows that too.

  • 2

    gullevek

    I agree with the mixi guy. Most foreigners do not get mixi and do not use it, or see it more as a funny thing. But when I look around, those people who use FB have either lived outside japan for some time, have a lot of foreign friends, etc. But people who just communicate with other japanese people are not FB.

    I also agree that twitter is not a real SNS, it is a micro blogging thing, but not an SNS.

  • -4

    Kronos

    I like Mixi's privacy. I prefer Mixi over FB anytime.

  • 2

    papasmurfinjapan

    “Mixi is basically a ‘real identity’ social network (SNS) that is used by people who are friends in real life,”

    Ditto the other comments. What a crock. If mixi is for "real" friends, why does everyone use a handle name and avatars instead of photos of themselves? Mixi was a 出会い系 site for many, many people, until they got rid of the 足跡 feature and adult communities. Maybe now they are focusing on "real" friendships, but it certainly didn't start out that way.

    You don’t get the daily barrage of “friend invites” from total strangers. Spam is rare.

    Funny, I have never got either on facebook, but I get them all the time on Mixi.

  • 1

    y3chome

    Mixi and FB seem to be aimed at different markets. FB is Global, and is perfect for people with cross-border connections/family. Mixi is very local, and only in Japanese. However with the local market, I have noticed more and more local-type Japanese asking if I have FB, so perhaps Mixi will only capture the 30+ mkt of people with no desire for cross-border connections. Also needing a Japanese keitai to sign-up is a major barrier, esp to any Japanese who might want to be signing up from abroad or whatever. Mixi are seriously limiting themselves to a niche... they may do ok for a while, but it is a shrinking niche. The internet is about connectivity, not limiting it, I think mixi is going the opposite way. Totally agree with Papasmurf; I totally forgot about the deaikei part of it, been years since i logged in, but that was one of the main turn offs for me.

  • 1

    2020hindsights

    Facebook has often been annoying on privacy and by default it's turned off. They are slowly making it better; probably because of Google+. But I don't get a barrage of friend requests and I don't add non friends. But now in both FB and Google+ you can categorize friends, acquaintances, family etc. and limit what different groups see.

    FB is multilingual, but Mixi is only in Japanese and probably why a lot of foreigners don't use it.

  • 3

    tkoind2

    I am sorry but Mixi's Japanese cell phone policy is clearly an effort at exclusivity. There are a lot of people out there who have strong ties to Japan. I have many friends who have visited Japan many times, keep close ties with people here and yet cannot join Mixi.

    Not to mention the legions of people wishing to make ties to Japan for their impending work or time spent here.

    I have all but abandoned Mixi over the last year along with almost all my Japanese friends. We have all moved to Facebook where we can more easily share information and keep in touch. We had all been using Mixi heavily to network inside Japan for our arts and music events. Something that was very useful for a few years. But in recent time Facebook's functionality and the increasing presence of most of our Japanese friends there, have rendered Mixi redundant.

    I don't use Twitter, Myspace or any gaming sites. Nor do many of the people I know in Japan. But nearly everyone I know has moved on to Facebook and rarely post anything on Mixi any more.

    Perhaps Mixi had better start considering how it will survive as the wave of migrations of Japanese to the global sites is very likely to increase.

  • 1

    Kronos

    Re: Privacy

    I think the fact that you can use aliases in Mixi goes a long way. I still have my real life friends on my friend's list, but I do not want to publish my every detail on the internet for the world to see.

  • 0

    TanakaTaro

    But nearly everyone I know has moved on to Facebook and rarely post anything on Mixi any more.

    Same here. About three years ago, when people met me for the first time they would occasionally ask me if I used Mixi. Now they just whip out their iPhones and add me on Facebook right away.

    The annoying thing for me about mixi is that if you want to register for the developer api, you need to go through the whole phone registration AGAIN. With Facebook and Twitter you can just grab the code and widgets without registering at all.

  • 0

    NetNinja

    Screw Mixi. Let em go down. Mixi is an invite only social network. Major corporations here are hard at work to make sure that Japan's society is funneled exactly where they want them to go.

    The pretense that most websites in Japan use when you are redirected is that they are doing you a favor.

    Mixi was made by Japanese, for Japanese, no foreigners allowed. They never made any attempt to make it international with multiple languages. There's no English option. What does that tell you? Can't speak or read Japanese, there's ntohing for you here.

    Facebook....completely different story. International all the way. I love it that my Japanese friends can access it in their own language and still interact as they wish with their friends in any language they choose.

    It's okay MIXI, I like you just the way are. Stay that way till you disappear like MySpace. The world is too small now for social networks like Mixi with virtual racial borders and limitations in place.

    I love that line: "Real connections with real people" and most importantly nobody that doesn't speak or read Japanese. Only the most vain Japanese would think I wanted sour grapes.

    So here's what us I say: Facebook is for all types of connections with all types of people in the REAL WORLD. You can join it or go back to your clam-shell keitai. We're rocking Smartphones and this time...MIXI......you're not invited.

  • 2

    cactusJack

    Mixi is really a like private club where only Japanese people are desired to enter, which in turn makes the demographics for the advertisers much easier and able to be more focused.

  • 0

    Foxie

    Mixi, Facebook, Twitter, I don't trust any.

    One hidden feature, discovered by Nik Cubrilovic, an Australian entrepreneur and writer, that few people are aware of is the fact that Facebook now monitors your online activity, even when you are not logged in to the service.

    With each new change Facebook makes, users' privacy becomes a little less ... nonexistent, if you will. The most recent "News Feed" modifications, for example, display everything you say and do on the site to all of your "friends," and even to the public. And now, even after logging out of Facebook, permanent "cookies" track all your movements on websites that contain Facebook buttons or widgets.

  • 0

    zichi

    There are plugin available for most browsers which stops FaceBook from tracking you online. I've installed them.

  • 2

    Mirai Hayashi

    “Mixi is basically a ‘real identity’ social network (SNS) that is used by people who are friends in real life,”

    Except that most of my Mixi friends are just online friends and my FB friends are my real friends and relatives. I think he just made a very generalized blanket statement which is not necessarily true. People use SNS (including Mixi) for different purposes. I know people who use Mixi just to advertise products, or play games, or join and participate in online communities and Off-kais to meet new people on and offline.

    But I agree with others here in that Mixi profiles are much anonymous than FB and Twitter, and almost impossible to find past friends or family unless you know a lot about them.

    I asked him about Mixi’s “Japanese Cell Phone only” policy which has irked many of Mixi’s foreign overseas users even dubbing it “Mixi’s anti-foreigner policy.” Tokuda explained that the policy was implemented in order to stop “sneaky businessmen” running dating sites from abusing Mixi.

    Except that that these "sneaky businessmen" have a much easier time in joining Mixi because THEY CAN EASILY GET ACCESS TO CELL PHONES. This is an anti-foreigner policy. I see no other purpose in requiring a Japanese cell phone number other than to limit or eliminate the presence of foreigners who live abroad or do not have cell phones.

  • 1

    tkoind2

    Bottom line, it is all nonsense about Mixi protecting this or that. It is exclusive and they should just be honest about it.

    Facebook IS about real people. My family members, real world friends, work friends, music and creative contacts are all there. They write in English, Japanese, Farsi, Tagalog, Dari or whatever other language they prefer. They hail from every corner of the world. And they network and help each other out.

    During the quake we leveraged FB to follow the fate of friends who where near the Tsunami zone. We shared information and kept our families calm with daily updates. We leveraged it to raise over $10,000 in one weekend for donations to the north from people in 40+ countries. Then we used it to promote our other charity projects and continue to leverage it for sharing information.

    It helps us book music and dance events in Japan in Tokyo, Osaka etc... and to bring people from abroad to join us.

    So bottom line. FB is a mega networking, real world connecting, hard hitting tool in the right hands. My Mixi, by contrast, is a waste of key strokes most of the time unless I am trying to catch up with the one or two last contacts who only use Mixi. The writing is on the wall for that company. Sooner or later, young people in Japan will not bother with it any more. If they want to stay in business, they had best start looking for some outside clients.

    As for adds, you can drive directed adds by where the person is accessing from. Lots of sites do this. Not rocket science and not an excuse to remain xenophobic Mixi.

  • 1

    y3chome

    Mirai- I dont think the cell-phone policy is specifically supposed to be anti-foreigner, I think it is more to ensure that people are merely limited to one profile each, and that anyone breaching rules can be barred more easily. That said, getting a phone in Japan if you really have bad intentions is not THAT difficult..... so its a bit of a pathetic attempt.

    As for people who complain about facebook privacy this n that ; simply dont upload details that you don't want anyone to know; its the internet ffs.

  • 0

    2020hindsights

    As for people who complain about facebook privacy this n that ; simply dont upload details that you don't want anyone to know; its the internet ffs.

    Ah yes, but anybody can tag you in a photo and it's difficult to untag.

  • 0

    y3chome

    Ah yes, but anybody can tag you in a photo and it's difficult to untag. ??? U click on photo, then click on "Untag"...... And again if you dont want people to be able to see photos of you so easily, change your settings so you have to approve everything. Similarly anyone can just stick a photo of you on the internet with your name on it. Granted this may not have as a specific audience as your FB but still.

  • 1

    emcakira

    Actually, I have to agree with the Mixi spokesman. The fact that you can use alias' makes it a real person connection tool. We must meet in real life for you to add me, and know who you're adding.

    I have Mixi, FB, and G-Plus, and with FB and G-Plus, anyone and they're mom can send a friend request. If you don't want to add them, then they get their feelings hurt and try to start crap with you. With Mixi, if you use an alias, people don't know it's you unless you tell them, and once you do, they know where to look to follow your news.

    It also seems like Mixi has much better privacy settings than FB (something that has been bothering me a lot lately).

    While I don't use Mixi much, it does have many strengths over FB, and I doubt that the Japanese will migrate to FB in hordes anytime soon.

  • 0

    Mirai Hayashi

    Actually, I have to agree with the Mixi spokesman. The fact that you can use alias' makes it a real person connection tool. We must meet in real life for you to add me, and know who you're adding.

    Sorry but this makes no sense! Most of the add requests I get are from people whom I never met, and only know me from the communities I've joined or from a search of something that I wrote in my profile. I have no clue who they are, what they look like, unless they publish it in their profiles which in most cases is never with Mixi. And how many times have you told your invitees that you'll meet them so they'll ad you to their profile or vise versa??

    Whereas with Facebook, I know whether or not I've met the person before...how? because you use your real names. 99% of my FB friends are people I've met before whereas only 20% of my My Miku's are people in the communities I've joined and have never met them in real like.

    Mixi really needs to revamp their system if they expect to retain the market on Japanese SNS users. SNS to most of the people who use them is about keeping in touch with people they know, not sharing common interests with strangers.

  • 0

    HumanTarget

    Emcakira,

    They already are going to Facebook in hordes. I read just yesterday that 12% of all SNS activity in Japan takes place on Facebook now, and since Japanese are one of the most prolific Twitter audiences, that actually leaves a fairly small cut of the pie for Mixi.

    I think the only advantage Mixi actually has over Facebook anymore (now that they've cracked down on most of their other distinguishing features) is that it's easy to join an interest group without giving away your real identity. I, for one, am hesitant, for example to join political groups on Facebook because I don't want future or current employers, who may disagree with my views, to see that.

    Although, Facebook does allow you to separate who sees what parts of your profile now (thanks to Google+), so it's more a question of ease of use rather than privacy being exclusive Mixi territory now.

  • -1

    cracaphat

    Mixi is so dated.Primarily for the unadventurous and timid.

  • 2

    y3chome

    Its social networking for people who dont want to socially network :)

  • 0

    randomenigma

    The cell phone thing wouldn't bug me so much, but when I tried to sign up on an iPhone which had a Japanese SIM in it, I was told to "use a phone" - evidently it only lets you sign up if you're on one of those awful flip phones the Japanese love so much.

  • 0

    Kabukilover

    I asked him about Mixi’s “Japanese Cell Phone only” policy which has irked many of Mixi’s foreign overseas users even dubbing it “Mixi’s anti-foreigner policy.” Tokuda explained that the policy was implemented in order to stop “sneaky businessmen” running dating sites from abusing Mixi.

    Say what? In Japan the the "sneaky businessmen" are Japanese. I get spam on my Japanese cell phone from these scumbags every day.

    I never heard of Mixi until I read this article. I'll probably never hear of it again. Seems a perfect social network for recluses and such.

  • 0

    change

    I have both accounts. 6 years ago and I don't remember if there was a cell phone requirement. Someone invited me. They both serve different purposes and they should stay the way they are. On FB, even though you don't accept someone's request, they can still see your wall. That turns me off.

  • 0

    2020hindsights

    And again if you dont want people to be able to see photos of you so easily, change your settings so you have to approve everything.

    Ah, true. This is another example of FB being slow to improve privacy. This feature is very recent.

    On FB, even though you don't accept someone's request, they can still see your wall. That turns me off.

    Actually you can restrict this as well.

  • 0

    NetNinja

    Funny they call it MIXI. 97% of the people are only Japanese They aren't doing any REAL mixing.
    MIXI user: Hey here's my token gaikokujin. Wow, whoopty do. You're so International.

Login to leave a comment

OR
  • African Speaking Sales manager

    African Speaking Sales manager
    JPC TRADE CO.,LTD. (株式会社JPC)、Tokyo
    Salary: ¥200,000 ~ ¥450,000 / Month Negotiable Basic Salary + Incentives
  • Recruitment / HR Generalist

    Recruitment / HR Generalist
    Temple University, Japan Campus - テンプル大学ジャパンキャンパス、Tokyo
    Salary: Commensurate with experience plus transportation from/to TUJ
  • Program Assistant

    Program Assistant
    Temple University, Japan Campus - テンプル大学ジャパンキャンパス、Tokyo
    Salary: Commensurate with experience plus transportation from/to TUJ
  • Portuguese Speaking Sales Manager

    Portuguese Speaking Sales Manager
    Autocom Japan (オートコムジャパン株式会社)、Kanagawa
    Salary: ¥270,000 ~ ¥800,000 / Month Commission Based
  • Interim Administrative Systems Support Lead

    Interim Administrative Systems Support Lead
    Temple University, Japan Campus - テンプル大学ジャパンキャンパス、Tokyo
    Salary: Commensurate with experience plus transportation from/to TUJ

More in Opinions

View all

View all