The socIal networking LINE application is often sponsored by Japanese department stores, shops and brands, and most have their own characters that have been turned into LINE emoticons. The use of emoticons to decorate your messages to friends is by no means a new concept, so LINE emoticons have managed to turn a line of text into a witty byline with an artistic twist, and this has fast gained popularity in the messaging world.
Now the best of the best emoticons are often used to the max, so new LINE emoticons are pumped out on a regular basis and are categorized by emotion, situation, the brand or by price. Unashamedly, my first stop is the FREE sticker section to see what new image catches my eye. I prefer to choose something that hasn’t been sent to me before to keep things interesting, but in times of urgency I often go with some old faithful favourites. Sure, you have to deal with messages and marketing blurbs from the sponsoring company if you choose some of the free animations on LINE, but the cute factor of their characters often tip the scale in their favour.
If you or someone you know is visiting Japan, it is a quick way to get into the swing of local life by downloading the LINE smartphone app. LINE is a quick and easy way to stay in touch during Japanese travel while learning some new catch phrases to use as well. A wifi connection (available around the country free for 14 day stays) and an existing smartphone is all that is needed to swing it like a local in Japan. Some of the Japanese attached to the emoticons might be harder to understand than others but most come accompanied with a self-explanatory emoticon and if the confusion prevails, could make the start of a great bar-story in Japan. The greatest friendships can be built when asking for advice on trips to a foreign country. There are some hilarious Japanese-specific emoticons and the images often depict very familiar situations or lifestyles in Japan, like declining a night out to an izakaya with your boss, like the pro-salaryman that you are.
Sitting in the top 10 of the LINE animated sticker ranking are familiar names to many: the chilled out bear Rilakkuma, Doraemon, and the lazy egg Gudetama. A less familiar face to people abroad may be Etsuko Ichihara, a Japanese actress who has appeared in over 100 films since 1957. I took a moment to familiarize myself with her voice through her animated LINE sound collection. A recent discovery of mine is the Japanese housewife, shufu, LINE collection which although housewife I am not, has some great catch phrases that I can use at the click of a button to fellow mums in my sons’ nursery school here in Japan.
LINE stickers are also available from Taiken Japan! Check out the unique and zany characters here.