For about a year now I have been sumo wrestling with my Japanese iPhone, namely with its camera function. The problem is that I haven’t managed to mute the clicking (shutter) sound that the phone makes when I’m taking a photo.
I am sure most of you reading this in Europe or America have disabled the camera shutter sound on your phone, as a clicking phone camera is as annoying and embarrassing as trying to fart silently but not succeeding. The obvious problem is: I’m at a quiet Japanese temple and click click – I get some disapproving looks. I’m observing my son’s Aikido belt test: click click and the black belt sensei is on the verge of pulling some black belt moves on me for disrupting the test. I’m trying to take a photo of my daughter and son hugging each other asleep and click click…(sob ‘Mummy’ sob)…SHIT. You get the point, right? – Annoying and embarrassing.
Then, a couple of days ago, I learned that in Japan the manufacturer settings are such that you cannot turn the shutter sound off your mobile. On a positive note, I wasn’t just an idiot who could not find the correct sub-directory on their phone to switch the sound effect off. On a negative note, the clicking sound is here to stay.
I believe there are at least two reasons for the compulsory camera shutter sound in Japan:
(1) Many Japanese men display unacceptable camera behaviour, in that they feel it is not out of the order to stick their mobile phone under a woman’s skirt on a busy commuter train or when standing behind them on the escalator and take a photo.
Japanese men’s gross camera etiquette, reminded me of my husband telling me some years ago about a 50-something American guy sharing the same dorm as him in a Mexican hostel. The American guy had told my husband that he liked mixed dorms because they allowed him to take photos of sleeping girls in their underwear. So I suppose it is not just the Japanese men…
(2) Japanese people like their privacy, and they probably do not particularly like to have their photo taken without knowing about it. I mean, they are private to the point that book shops over here cover the books you purchase for free so that in a public place no one can see what you are reading (see photo below). Pretty much all books get covered – even books like Mary Poppins.
However, me being from Europe means that every time I see a covered book on the train, I am convinced that instead of Mary Poppins the person holding it is reading the Kama Sutra, 100 days of Sodom or at least Fifty Shades of Grey.
I have to confess – not to having read Kama Sutra or 100 days of Sodom – but to having taken photos of Japanese people without them knowing about it. I just find their Kimonos, their Cosplay outfits and their extremely high heels so fascinating.
In my defence, it is not just me who takes photos without asking for permission. You see, Japanese people find my children, especially my 4-year old daughter, as attractive as a fly finds a tub of treacle. And so, whenever we are out, random passers-by exclaim: Kawaii! (i.e. Cute!) and on a daily basis I see people taking photos of my daughter (without asking me whether that is ok). I suppose that makes us even.
Based on the above, perhaps there is something to be said about the Japanese mobile phones and the compulsory camera shutter sound. Perhaps the clicking sound should be a permanent feature of phones in every country. However, if you have a Japanese mobile phone and would rather have a silent camera function, you can get an app called Smallsound or Silentcamera which will silence your mobile phone camera function. But, please do so only if you are not a pervert harassing women (or men) on commuter trains, escalators or hostel dormitories.