Denwa-wo Kakeru (Making a phone call)

th (4)

 (Retro Telephone)

 After the WWII, telephones were introduced to Japan. At first, the one in the picture above was used by the very limited number of wealthy families. It was not until mid to late 1970’s that average Japanese people have started to “buy” a line with the telephone (machine) for themselves.


 (Typical *”Kurodenwa” or “Black Telephone”) 

[*Licensed under CC 表示 2.5 via ウィキメディア・コモンズ –]

 I said, “Buy a line.” Yes, once you bought a line with telephone machine, you acquire an asset! In those days, the Japanese paid about 70,000 yen (about US$600 in 70’s – worth $3,737.06 today) to the phone company to get the license/title of the line with a particular phone number. Since this sophisticated machine is an asset, you could take it to the pawn shop to get cash. So, an affordable way to get your own phone was to go to a pawn shop in your neighborhood and buy one from there.

 Once an exciting machine was installed, you can make a phone call – of course. However, there were and still are some big differences between Japan and US in billing systems. As mentioned above, the initial investment is the one. And, unlike US land lines, every time you place a call, you are to be charged for that. In those days, one local call cost 10 yen. Long distance cost a lot more, so few people actually enjoyed long distance calls in those days.

 So, when emergency, you have to go to a stranger’s house and ask them to let you use the phone, or you use a phone at your friend’s house, you are supposed to leave 10 yen next to the phone as courtesy. The longer you talk, the more it costs – That’s why your phone call was always supervised by your parents. When your grandparents lived with you, your old grandpa used to start clearing his throat to let you know you should hang up as soon as possible!?

 Anyway, as you may have already known it, you start to say, “Moshi, moshi?” when the other party pick up the phone. “Moshi” originally meant “Excuse me (to interrupt you, but …)” because the other party stopped doing whatever he was doing and picked up the phone. This concept is quite different from that of Americans, who start to say, “Hello?” on the phone. Interesting, isn’t it?

 There used to be a lot of public phones in Japan, whose color was totally red! That’s why they were called “Aka Denwa (Red Telephones vs. Black Telephones).” Later on they turned into Green so caller could place the call with a prepaid phone card. Both of them are becoming obsolete due to the intense popularity of cell phones. This social trend occurred all over the world, I guess.

th (8) (Aka Denwa/Red Phone for the Public)


(Transition Version between Red Phones and Green Phones)


(This latest style is even to become obsolete…)



(Aye, yah, yah …)