Japan’s Digital Agility

Trends / Technology
Yuri Endo
Sep 1, 2020
As the world isolates at home in this time of the global pandemic, Japan is seeing some rapid changes in how we work, play, get together, and celebrate, as well. Technology has an increased presence in our daily life—for the better.

In Japan, probably for the first time in its history, strong advice from local government has forced the public to work from home and refrain from taking crowded trains. Beyond the acquired image of a technologically savvy Japanese society, the pandemic has also exposed the structural problems in key parts of the traditional Japanese bureaucracy which hamper the adjustments to working and learning from home.

At the beginning of the health crisis, the required use of “Hanko” (a seal which is used in lieu of signatures for paperwork and personal documents), and a cash‑based economy forced the Japanese workforce to continue taking public transport, creating a potential risk with such an easily transmissible disease as COVID‑19. The rigid academic standard also hindered the implementation of distance learning; as the rest of the world embraced online education, there was concern that Japanese students lacking a proper learning environment could be left behind. Although the move toward electronic signatures, contactless payment, and online learning is uneven and some challenges remain, we are finally seeing the pandemic as an opportunity to transition from an analog society to technological agility. Great visual representations of these changes are how fathers are becoming more involved in domestic life, mothers are working from home, and seniors are adjusting to technology.

At Getty Images, our newest and most significantly growing terms during these past months were, unsurprisingly: "covid19", social distancing, working from home, online learning, food delivery, and so on. This indicates that the new ways of approaching school, work, and life are bound to continue. The content that our customers downloaded shows their need for a new visual expression in tune with the current situation. It shows various people working in various locations in their own homes, as well as learning and adapting to a socially distant lifestyle through technology. As businesses are starting to reopen, we are currently seeing customer behavior gradually moving towards this new normal, how it is affecting our lives, and how we're getting into a new rhythm. We’re trending about +3000% up on virtual meetings and video conferencing, with many customers downloading such content worldwide. We're seeing a diversification of virtual events, from Zoom business meetings to online happy hours, video weddings, and more.
Japanese consumers embrace newer technologies, with 64% agreeing that virtual reality is opening doors to experiences we couldn’t have otherwise.
This summer, with the infection rate still evolving, many Japanese people are forced to take staycations or stay local, and the streets of Tokyo are filled with Uber Eats couriers. Japanese celebrities and influencers have started using their social platforms to urge people to refrain from going out in order to help curb the spread of the virus. People are now relying on virtual events and streaming to occupy their extended domestic life. Additionally, YouTubers and digital influencers have increasingly been taking over more traditional media formats such as variety shows and educational programs for school children.

At Getty Images, Japanese customers' increased searches for the following terms reflects this new reality and the impact of technology on our interior lives—from working and learning at home to new ways of entertaining ourselves: paperless, digital transformation, 5g, telemedicine, dating app, YouTuber, and eSports. These trending terms are an indication that our clients are now adjusting to a more connected society. To best represent these growing needs, we are encouraging our contributors to shoot more human‑centric visuals capturing the role of technology in day‑to‑day lives that have been in some way altered by the pandemic. Another great representation of the changing society is a focus on the gig economy, becoming a digital influencer, and shared moments around video games and streaming content.

Our recently launched Visual GPS research in Japan shows that Japanese consumers embrace newer technologies, with 64% agreeing that virtual reality is opening doors to experiences we couldn’t have otherwise. Japanese consumers are significantly less nervous about AI, with only 29% saying AI makes them very nervous, compared to 43% of global consumers. 56% of Japanese consumers are excited about how artificial intelligence could impact their lives in the future. Technology creates more diverse social and economic inclusion and help bridge the digital divide. Showing small businesses and local markets using technology, new ways of investing, and home healthcare are fitting representations of this trust.

While the global icons for technology are smart devices such as computers, digital tablets, smartphones, watches, and speakers, the key with all of these technology visuals is that they must capture the sense of togetherness, human connection, and adventure we can achieve through technology, rather than its functions.

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