Google Street View is not popular in Japan

by on August 8, 2008 at 1:01 pm in Television | Permalink

According to the morals of urban area residents in Japan, the assumption that “it is scenery [viewable] from public roads and therefore it must be public” is in fact incorrect. Quite the contrary, [these morals state that] “people walking along public roads must avert their glance from the living spaces right before their eyes."

…With this culture [of privacy], if you were to walk along a residential street in an urban area of Tokyo, every 10 meters surveying all 360 degrees of your surroundings, there’s no question that you would be reported to the police within 30 minutes. Even just filming the scenery from the street with camera in hand, there’s no question that if you tried to shoot the area not covered by Street View, you would be asked, after initial questioning, to come to either the Ikegami Police Station or the Den-en-Chofu Police Station.

Here is the full story, interesting throughout.  Keep also in mind that Japanese urban residents are more likely to urinate in public or use a love hotel than are, I think, most Americans. 

I thank Riemannzeta for the pointer.

1 ForestGirl August 8, 2008 at 2:20 pm

But aren’t love hotels a response to the same desire for privacy? In a country of very crowded housing and paper thin walls, love hotels are a way to get away.

2 Mr. Econotarian August 8, 2008 at 2:43 pm

If anyone has visited Japan, you know just how incredibly difficult it is to navigate because of:

1) the general lack of names for streets
2) a hierarchical system of sub-addresses (city, ward/Ku, subarea/Cho, further subarea #/Chome, block #)
3) combined with a “first built, first number” building number system within blocks.

Here is an example in “1-22-14 Jinan, Shibuya-Ku, Tokyo” 1 is the Chome, 22 is the building number, Jinan is the Cho and Shibuya the Ku.

While there last year, I found Google maps to be pretty useless (using English input anyway). I found a specific Japanese site that did a reasonable job of online mapping.

I would think that Google Street Views would be of incredible help in Japan, especially in cities since businesses tend to have good signage, because otherwise you might walk right by them if you are looking for them due to the lack of monotonic street addresses.

3 Creepy Bug August 8, 2008 at 4:36 pm

Shame on Google. Anyone with half a brain could have told you that “Street View” would have been socially unacceptable in Japan. Haven’t these people ever spent time in Japan?

I have spent time in Japan, and I certainly couldn’t have told you that “Street View” would be unacceptable. People reading this should take a lot of this “outrage” with a grain of salt… Japanese as a whole aren’t anywhere near as privacy crazy as this story or people’s posts are making it out to be. I have walked down residential streets taking pictures, in full view of the residents, and had nothing even remotely resembling a look of disapproval let alone someone calling the police. The reaction was no different than what you would expect in Europe or North America. My biggest problem was old ladies inviting me to take pictures of their flowers.

The article states the “Japanese newspapers have been ignoring the issue of Google Street View and privacy”. Maybe they are ignoring the issue, because it isn’t an issue except with a tiny vocal minority. Most people don’t care.

It is an intrusion of privacy that really should not be accepted in the states either.

Perhaps we should require all people to wear blindfolds in public. I may inadvertently describe my walk through your neighborhood in a blog post or something, and violate your privacy. At least we need to ban cameras in public spaces! The first amendment and freedom of expression is a small sacrifice if it gives hysterical paranoids one less thing out of millions to be hysterical about. The police should tazer any scumbag with a camera!

Not being sarcastic though, I have found that most of the outrage over Google Street View is from people who don’t understand that the images are not real-time.

4 mike kenny August 8, 2008 at 5:45 pm

i know it’s a crude stereotype, but aren’t japanese tourists known, perhaps unfairly, for taking photos of everything in existence? i don’t mean to say all do this, but assuming there is some truth to the stereotype, i suppose you could say ‘when in rome’, or ‘tourists are escaping their everyday lives, and some of that is dropping standard behaviors when away from home.’ japanese tourists taking photos of everything might be a bit like american tourists getting wildly drunk in public and engaging in PDA, when they wouldn’t at home. but this makes me wonder, are the japanese tourists snapping photos more likely to be strongly voyeuristic than an american tourist?

5 Steve August 8, 2008 at 11:40 pm

Add me to the list of people who have been to Japan, camera in tow, and not experienced anything but friendliness from the Japanese people. I didn’t sense any of this street privacy stuff.

6 Erik August 9, 2008 at 2:50 pm

Just to counter the above opinion, I cannot see street view being useful to stalkers or thieves. What would stop them from simply GOING to the location in the first place, to case it? Street view provides a pretty crappy view of buildings.

7 Shane August 10, 2008 at 1:20 pm

From my experience, no one in Japan will really blink an eye at a foreigner going around taking lots of photos. It’s called tourism, a concept the Japaense are hardly unfamiliar with.

However, a few compromising Japanese Google Street View pics have popped up on the Internet, including a couple entering a love hotel, and I’m sure _those_ people aren’t thrilled with it.

8 Will August 11, 2008 at 3:01 am

So when does “Markets in Everything – Japanese Street View Porn” come out?

Are we talking about the same Japanese people who take naked baths together and have a really uncofortable sense of what’s appropriate conversation while nude?

I can’t be alone on this.

9 Yasu August 19, 2008 at 11:02 am

As a Tokyo resident, I’d just like to mention one thing to all those who’ve visited Japan and got no troubles in taking pictures.

Locals might have been friendly, cause they thought u guys are “strangers”. They just don’t care about privacy, as long as they know that ur pictures are unlikely to be printed or published in Japan. Distributed in Britain, US or somewhere else, that’s fine. Their figures would be one of the annonymous “Japanese”.

But they are really afraid of exposing their living spaces to other Japanese.
Since urban residential areas are so crowded, it is really easy to assume the security of a certain house. Bad guys can tell, what kind of people are living in an apartment, just by looking at the laundry stuffs being dried at the balcony. A young female living alone? Far enough from the police stations? Find several narrow alleyways to lose the tail? Yeah, Google map has all these, it’s so easy!

10 Ken October 1, 2008 at 12:03 am

The personal information privacy laws that were passed here a few years back are taken very seriously with respect to collecting and protecting information from consumers, students, etc.

Have you ever actually read the law? It’s not nearly as strict as what exists in other places.

11 tom May 15, 2009 at 1:58 am

it is an interesting thing

12 anna May 15, 2009 at 1:59 am

If u love somebody, send him work for Google, if u hate somebody, send him work for Google.

Comments on this entry are closed.

Previous post:

Next post: