• button only@2x Facts you should know | Why all cellphones camera in Japan shipped with shutter sound?

I suppose you have a cellphone.

Now, take out your cellphone, try to take a Sha-mail. (写メ, photos taken by cellphones, “sha” comes from “Sha-shin”, means photo)

Ka-chik, Ka-chik…

You heard the shutter sound. But It’s so inconvenient when we want to take a photo in a class or some quiet places. Now, try to turn off the shutter sound.

WHAT?! We can’t turn off the shutter sound!!!

Yes, all cellphones in Japan must have the shutter sound and it can’t be disabled. Do you know why?

This phenomenon is actually highly related with the Privacy issue in Japan.

Why all cellphones camera in Japan shipped with shutter sound?

iPhone camera to iPad 300x200 Facts you should know | Why all cellphones camera in Japan shipped with shutter sound?

As you may know, the world’s first built-in-camera cellphone appeared in Japan in 1999. This was an innovative invention of Technology at that time. Within a few years, almost all cellphones in Japan came standard with a built-in camera.

However, the disturbing side effect of the proliferation of the built-in-camera cellphone raised a problem of voyeurism, which was a rapid rise social issue so-called up-skirt photography – snap pictures while aiming up a woman’s skirt.

As the popularity of sha-mail played an important part in the dissemination of cellphones at that time, phone carriers seemed to have been concerned about the negative image caused by illicit photos. As a result, all cellphones with built-in cameras shipped with a shutter sound that played when a photo was taken — and it could not be disabled. This was not something that was required by law, but it was taken up voluntarily by all Japanese cellphone vendors. These self-regulations have never been made publicly available, but NTT Docomo told The Japan Times that they implemented it to “prevent secret filming or other privacy issues.” – cited from Japan Times

Therefore, we can see that Japan society has a very strong sense of protecting privacy issues. It is interesting that all cellphone carriers and manufacturers have cooperated together to make the shutter sound standard. It is not required by the laws, it is all taken up voluntarily. We can see how important a privacy issue is in Japan society from this point.

And by making the shutter audible, no one can point the responsibility of the voyeurism to the manufacturers of cellphones. Isn’t it a win-win solution?

Even Apple also customized for Japan

Apple, as we know, is famous for creating a single model of its products to the global market. It is hard to have Apple customize a certain features for certain countries for it is against their policy.


That is, they did not add such standard Japanese features as 1-seg TV, an IC wallet or an earthquake alert (though alerts were later added). Even though those features might have helped gain more Japanese users, Apple chose the simplicity of global logistics.
- cited from Japan Times

However, 1 thing they did change for Japan – the unremovable shutter sound of the iPhone camera. I realized this when I went back to my country – Malaysia, where all my friends can disable their iPhone shutter sound, except mine.

Even so, there are still plenty of smartphone apps can help disable the shutter sound. This is worried by the Japan police that it may encourage voyeurism.


On a news program on NHK in January this year, Tokyo Metropolitan Police said that there were 615 arrests for camera voyeurism in 2012 — a 24 percent rise from 2011, and up 60 percent from 2007. Of those arrested 64 percent had used cellphone cameras. Most incidents occurred during train commutes.
- cited from Japan Times

Naruhodo! OIC!

Technology is always a double-edged sword. On one hand, it improves our life quality, on the other hand, it encourages violation of privacy issues.

However, the society should keep moving forward, which means the evolution of technology is unavoidable. Although the built-in-camera cellphones indeed did create some disturbing side effects as soon as its rise, the solutions and preventions were generated by the interest groups voluntarily, to protect the society from being destroyed by the technology.

Since we can’t stop the technology innovation, the real solution for the social problems should be education. The quality of human should be improved as well along with the technology. The real cause of the voyeurism is not the cellphones, but the human.

It is interesting to think about the coming new technology – Google Glass – which is said to be able to enable the wearers to video someone they are looking at without that person knowing. Do you think it will be another privacy argument in Japan along with the introduction of the google glass?

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Shen Lim avatar 1399100592 80x80 Facts you should know | Why all cellphones camera in Japan shipped with shutter sound?
A Malaysian, blogger, vlogger, a college student studying in Kyoto. When he is not studying for his school credits, he writes articles and makes entertaining videos about Japan. He believes 1 day his videos can bring Japan and Malaysia together. Read more ABOUT him.