Skip navigation
Hardcover | $42.95 Short | £29.95 | ISBN: 9780262090391 | 368 pp. | 7 x 9 in | 55 illus.| July 2005
Paperback | $22.95 Trade | £15.95 | ISBN: 9780262590259 | 368 pp. | 7 x 9 in | 55 illus.| September 2006

Essential Info

Personal, Portable, Pedestrian

Mobile Phones in Japanese Life


The Japanese term for mobile phone, keitai (roughly translated as "something you carry with you"), evokes not technical capability or freedom of movement but intimacy and portability, defining a personal accessory that allows constant social connection. Japan's enthusiastic engagement with mobile technology has become—along with anime, manga, and sushi—part of its trendsetting popular culture. Personal, Portable, Pedestrian, the first book-length English-language treatment of mobile communication use in Japan, covers the transformation of keitai from business tool to personal device for communication and play.

The essays in this groundbreaking collection document the emergence, incorporation, and domestication of mobile communications in a wide range of social practices and institutions. The book first considers the social, cultural, and historical context of keitai development, including its beginnings in youth pager use in the early 1990s. It then discusses the virtually seamless integration of keitai use into everyday life, contrasting it to the more escapist character of Internet use on the PC. Other essays suggest that the use of mobile communication reinforces ties between close friends and family, producing "tele-cocooning" by tight-knit social groups. The book also discusses mobile phone manners and examines keitai use by copier technicians, multitasking housewives, and school children. Personal, Portable, Pedestrian describes a mobile universe in which networked relations are a pervasive and persistent fixture of everyday life.

About the Editors

Mizuko Ito is a cultural anthropologist who studies new media use, particularly among young people, in Japan and the United States, and a Professor in Residence at the University of California Humanities Research Institute.

Misa Matsuda is Assistant Professor of Sociology at Chuo University, Tokyo.

Daisuke Okabe is Lecturer at the Graduate School of Media and Governance, Keio University, Shonan Fujisawa Campus, Japan.


"While Personal, Portable, Pedestrian is packed with an abundance of rich, empirically dense vignettes, what makes the book a refreshing read is the unremarkable, familiar tone with which it frames keitai culture in Japan." , Xeni Jardin, Wired News


"Start with this book if you want to understand the broadest social and technological impacts of the mobile phone. Although focused on the keitai in Japanese society, the authors provide a conceptual toolkit for examining the effects of emerging communication practices across the boundaries of nationality and discipline. This is not just about a technology or the way it is used in one country. It's about understanding one of the most important ways that twenty-first century lives will differ from those of the twentieth century."
Howard Rheingold, author of The Virtual Community and Smart Mobs: The Next Social Revolution

"This is an important book. Through a range of well designed and intelligently contextualized case studies, it both locates and dislocates common assumptions about the singularities of technology and of culture in determining how the keitai is finding its place in Japanese society. Reaching beyond Japan and beyond the mobile phone, the book provides a theoretically rich and empirically sophisticated template for all future work that seeks to understand the nature of sociotechnical change in personal communications."
Roger Silverstone, Professor of Media and Communications, London School of Economics and Political Science

"Lead users play a key role in determining the fate of both technological and industrial development in the digital era. The only way we can fully understand the astonishing development of keitai services is through a multi-perspective analysis of Japan's youth, the cutting-edge lead users of mobile technology. This book is critical to thinking about technological advancement in the twenty-first century."
Ichiya Nakamura, Executive Director, Stanford Japan Center