Digital Happenings in Japan: Updates From Rakuten, GREE, and Dentsu

It’s been a busy first half of the year so far in Japan and certainly not short of any news and probably a fitting time to recount some of the bigger stories that have made the headlines across the digital landscape in Japan.

Rakuten integrates Pinterest on its Japanese marketplace and other properties: In early July, Rakuten, Japan’s largest e-commerce company with around 80 million user accounts, started integrating Pinterest across some of its biggest web properties. “Pin it” buttons are now visible across three of its biggest properties – Virtual Mall, Rakuten Travel, and Rakuten Recipe, allowing users to send images to their Pinterest pinboards with one click.

GREE continues to go global: In late June, GREE, the top social gaming site in Japan, which had started to aggressively enter new markets last year, released a global promotional site, called “Come Play GREE.” You can see the YouTube trailer here. The site is open to overseas users and allows you to download its apps, and to scroll through its game gallery.

Dentsu buys Aegis for US$5 billion: A fortnight ago Dentsu, Japan’s largest advertising and marketing services agency, announced to the world that it would buy U.K. media group Aegis allowing it to create a truly global footprint outside of its eroding home market, Japan. On surface, this appears to be a good deal for both parties, and this will help give a boost to Dentsu, which has been struggling to expand internationally.

The first radiation counter cellphone: In late May, Softbank announced that it would ship Pantone 5, the world’s first smartphone complete with a radiation measure feature. By simply pressing a button, you can measure current gamma rays and use it to plot patterns on a map.

Pioneer to release world’s first AR car navigation system: To be sold from this month, Pioneer goes to market with its Head-Up Display (HUD) car navigation system allowing digital navigation cues and stats to be broadcast on a transparent dashboard that covers on the inside of your front window. You can check out how it works on the Pioneer site.

Twitter CEO and LinkedIn founders visit Japan: Dick Costolo, the CEO of Twitter and Reid Hoffman, the founder of LinkedIn, both paid separate visits to Japan in May and June to help their Japan teams navigate the growing opportunity for their businesses. Japan is the third most active country for Twitter according to Semiocast, with 29.9 million accounts. And Facebook just tipped over 10 million users, according to Both executives view Japan as super high growth opportunities.

Smartphone users pass 25 percent: According to new research from D2C, a local mobile research company, the penetration of smartphones in Japan has now surpassed 25 percent. Japan, always an innovator when it comes to mobile, has been somewhat slow to fully adopt the smartphone. The feature phone, with a penetration of 75 percent is still the dominant device. However, this will soon decline as the benefits of the smartphone among Japanese become more visible.

A lot of the news this year revolves around acquisitions as competition across sectors continues to heat up. Also, high profile visits from the CEOs of Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook show an increasing interest in their growing business in Japan.

Home page photo from Shutterstock.

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