The mobile phone first appeared in Japan in 1979 as a car phone. The devices were then built smaller and lighter until, in 1987, NTT began offering portable (cellular) phone service. Several companies entered the mobile phone market and, with the advent of PHS (Personal Handphone System) in 1995, calling charges began to decrease. As a result, the number of cellular and PHS subscribers rapidly expanded.
Today the cell phone is an essential item for Japanese high school students. They use it not only for voice exchanges but also to send and receive e-mail. Controversy raged at one point over high school students talking loudly on their cell phones even while riding trains and subways; as cell-phone e-mail service became widespread, such poor manners have become less of a problem. A survey by the Prime Minister's Office* found that almost 60 percent of all Japanese high school students own a cellular or PHS type mobile phone. About half of these use their phone at least four times a day. And around 40 percent of boys and 50 percent of girls send and receive e-mail on their cell phones more than 10 times per day.
Of high school students who own cell phones, 45.7% pay monthly telephone charges of between 4,000 and 6,000 yen. According to the survey, 33 % of high school students pay their own cell phone bills; 31 % have their bills paid by their parents; and 19 % share the cost with their parents.
See "Japanese Culture Now," TJF Newsletter, No. 21
*Youth Affairs Administration, Management and Coordination Agency, "Survey of Young People and Cell Phones," 2000.