In Japan, mobile phone communication is mostly based on emails. I guess it's cultural: email can indeed be seen as a less intrusive medium than the telephone, making it the ideal candidate in a country where manners are vital. As for me, I have adapted myself and become used to spending more time writing emails than actually talking on the phone.
But emails wouldn't be emails...without smileys. Available in all shapes and flavors all over the world, they are so used and overused here that they are directly handled by mobile phones. A single key press gives access to the huge catalog:
The above are the "official" smileys: they are handled and automatically converted on the fly between the three major mobile operators (DoCoMo, Softbank and au).
As you can see, they were designed to express all sorts of common, everyday situations, such as hold up a bank (), be abducted by aliens (), play basketball with a monkey () or, last but not least, tell your interlocutor you're in the toilets and doing fine: .
Nevertheless, as numerous as they are, it seems that some users were not satisfied and needed more...So what are your options when you need a non existing smiley?
First method: use a bit of imagination and remember that instead of smileys, you can use what are commonly called "words", to express yourself.
Second method, which has been spreading over the last couple months: use...dekome!
Dekome are small sized images that convey a simple and easy to understand meaning, and thereby designed as a substitute to regular smileys. To get the dekome you want, it's pretty easy: search and download them on a specialized website, have them sent by a friend...or ultimately, even draw them (they're just regular images after all).
Now, using dekome, there is no limit anymore to the expressiveness (or tackiness, depending on the point of view...) of your emails. There are two drawbacks however:
- since, as opposed to the smileys, they are actual images, they use more bandwidth. Not that it is a big deal, but mobile phone communication should stay fast, and you don't want to spend several seconds opening every single email.
- contrary to the smileys, several key presses are usually required to access the dekome list, making them a little cumbersome to use. So if you receive an email that contains something like ten dekome, it means that the sender spent a significant amount of time writing it. You can either thank her (it is rarely "him"...) for that, or curse her for...well, read the sample emails below and you'll understand.
As far as I'm concerned, I don't have anything against smileys and dekome...as long as they're used sparingly! That kind of "prose", for instance, is in the acceptable range (personally, I would have avoided the teddy bear but anyway...):
There is one surprising phenomenon however: a number of women, though perfectly adult and responsible, seem to temporarily regress to the mental age of 15 when writing emails, falling prey to some sort of dekome mania. Here is for instance a reply I got to a barbecue invitation:
The next one is an invitation to a restaurant:
After I replied:
Wow...that was intense!!!
By the way, the Japanese term for smiley is 絵文字 (emoji), which literally means "drawing-character".
In case you feel nostalgic about the good old text smileys like :-), :'-( or ]:->, then kaomoji (顔文字, literally "face-character") are for you. Here are a few examples:
- (⌒-⌒; )
Just like their western counterparts, there are endless combinations.
Category: Everyday life