Top 6 social networks in Japan

Feb 6, 2013 | Facebook marketing, Social media

Japan’s social media landscape is diverse and fragmented, with many big players battling for dominance (and working together). Facebook and Twitter are popular, but local players Mixi and Gree also have lasting appeal across Japan, while mobile and social gaming sites are also hugely popular. We look at the top 6 social networks in Japan.

Japan is a hugely mobile-centric population, meaning brands focus on engaging consumers through social media on their mobile.

It took a while for the Japanese to leave their favoured high quality TV phones and start a new relationship with smartphones. But thanks for the appearance of SIM unlocked smartphones, users have an opportunity to test drive devices and smartphones are now dominating the market.

Japan is one of the few countries that had managed to keep local social networks more popular than Facebook, but now this is changing. Unlike Linkedin who started their Japanese services in October last year, Facebook had their Japanese site ready since 2008.

Cross-platform collaboration is also taking off. Market leader Mixi tied with Twitter after the Great North East Japan Earthquake as both online spaces were subject to a massive amount of information exchange following 11 March 2011.

Mixi is based on a private network with online pseudonyms, whereas Facebook is a public network where users are registered with real names. Mixi is used by people who want to control their network depth, people who want to stay in their comfort zone. The CEO of Mixi looks at the potential collaboration with Facebook positively citing the differences between the two networks and how they will compliment each other.

The following list looks at the top 6 social networks in Japan:

Mixi (25million)


Mixi, which launched in February 2004, is the biggest social networking site in Japan. To join Mixi, one needs to be invited by an existing member. You also need to be 18 or over. Your Mixi URL contains a unique user number: since these began at 1 and increased sequentially, it’s easy to tell how recently a user joined. And because Mixi is invite-only, none of these URLs are indexed by Google. Mixi’s site design and navigation are extremely intuitive. Your homepage displays a selection of your friends, a list of their latest blog posts and photos and the latest news from your communities.

Facebook (16 million)


Facebook has shown strong growth in Japan, with active users increasing to 16.7 million, 300 percent up from last year. Facebook has made progress recently as a business network among Japanese — rather than LinkedIn, which is popular overseas. The formally paranoid, pseudonym-using Japanese are even using real names to drum up business on Facebook. And along the same lines, Facebook has seized a position as the social network of preference among job-hunting university graduates. In this employment ice age, desperate university students are sharing tips such as it is best to have a Facebook account, get many friends and followers, and display a positive profile online in case recruiters check them out.

Gree (29 million)

Gree has 190M user accounts globally, with overseas operations in nine countries. The social-network operator will offer user-support services in 14 languages starting next year.

In Japan, GREE says its users are 15.3 percent of that total, putting them in the ballpark of about 29 million. GREE was ranked as Japan’s fastest-growing tech company by Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Ltd. in 2009 and 2010. GREE, following its acquisition of OpenFeint in April 2011, is expanding globally and will soon offer a single, worldwide mobile social gaming platform. Combined, GREE reaches over 190 million players and offers over 7,500 game applications for smartphones.

Mobage 40 million


Mobage is social mobile gaming platform with highly engaged user networks of virtual, interest-based social graphs. It currently has three networks: Japan, China and West. The original Mobage Japan network has over 40 million users. The service is a platform for developers to deploy their games so that they can be discovered and shared by mobile game users.

Twitter (30 million)

Twitter’s new “Lifeline” feature was launched in September in Japan — the first region in the world to receive the service that suggests which official government Twitter accounts should be followed if disaster hits. Along with positioning itself as an essential service in times of trouble, Twitter has been localizing new features from its global version into Japanese, with no dramas.

LINE (36 million)


LINE is a cross-platform communication service and app, offered for free by Naver, from NHN Japan. The basic functionality allows users to send text messages and to make free calls with other users who have the app installed on their smartphones. The service launched on June 27, 2011, and its growth rate has been simply amazing, with 80 million users currently registered — 36.4 million of whom are in its homeland.
View the top social networks in China, Japan, Russia and India here.

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