QR Code-based payment methods in Japan

Contactless payments, be they IC chip or barcode-based are perhaps becoming more popular due to COVID-19 making physical cash a potential transmission vector, so this survey from MMD Labo into smartphone QR Code-based payments may reveal some trends in Japan.

I mostly use smartphone-based public transport IC chip-based payments, JR East’s (the major train operator in the Tokyo area) SUICA. Once in a blue moon I use QR Code-based methods, the mobile phone operator Docomo’s dBarai system, and I once got 500 yen free credit from FamiPay.


Computer screen most popular QR Code source

Does your mobile phone have a QR Code reader function? graph of japanese statisticsIt’s been a while since I’ve posted the results of a survey on QR Codes (these two-dimensional bar code things) but this one from Marsh Inc and reported on by japan.internet.com is worth the wait.


Between the 20th and 24th of January 2010 300 members of the Marsh monitor group completed a private internet-based questionnaire. The sample was exactly 50:50 male and female, 2.7% in their teens, 17.3% in their twenties, 20.0% in their thirties, 20.0% in their forties, 20.0% in their fifties, and 20.0% aged sixty or older.

A number of PC internet-targetted services – Yahoo! Maps springs to mind, and I think I’ve seen them for hotel bookings – display a QR Code that contains a URL that summarises the data on display in a mobile-friendly format. They also offer an option to email the URL to a mobile, but perhaps people worry about submitting their mobile email address and ending up being a spam target.

My two “Other” places for reading a QR Code was from a friend’s corporate PC inventory tag and from my health insurance card, just to see what information was encoded in both places.

QR code-reading phones held by almost four in five Japanese

Does your mobile phone have a QR Code reading function? graph of japanese statisticsIt’s been a couple of years since the last time I had a look at a survey on QR Codes, so it was nice to see this one from Marsh Inc and reported on by japan.internet.com.


Between the 18th and 21st of June 2009 300 members of the Marsh monitor group completed a private internet-based questionnaire. The sample was exactly 50:50 male and female, 0.3% were in their teens, 19.7% in their twenties, 20.0% in their thirties, 20.0% in their forties, 20.0% in their fifties, and 20.0% aged sixty or older.

I most often read QR Codes from advertising leaflets, usually encoding an email address that allows me to sign up to a mailing list to get a discount coupon for a restaurant I’m visiting. A few months ago I used one to enter a competition, and won 2,500 yen’s worth of food vouchers.

Just last month I wanted to read the QR Codes of friends from Nokia’s laptop computers – they were some sort of inventory tag, but they didn’t want to let me just in case it contained confidential information, but I did think sticking a 10 centimetre square tag on a computer case was hardly the way to handle such information! They checked with their Nokia app, and it was just a boring vCard-type tag.

Infrared top means for exchanging email addresses

Do you have a QR code printed on your business card? graph of japanese statisticsIn the west, I hear that Bluetooth-based telephone number and email address exchange is the standard way. However, this recent survey conducted by goo Research and reported on by japan.internet.com into mobile phone address books showed very different habits in Japan.


Between the 30th of July and the 3rd of August 2008 1,001 members of the goo Research monitor panel completed a private internet-based questionnaire. 53.0% of the sample were male, 11.3% in their teens, 23.5% in their twenties, 21.4% in their thirties, 16.2% in their forties, and 27.7% aged fifty or older.

The main reason for Bluetooth not being used is that it is far from standard on mobile phones. I’ve looked before at Bluetooth in Japan, but why it has never taken off is a mystery to me, although the fact that infrared was already established as a standard on Japanese phones might have something to do with it.

I rarely exchange telephone numbers with people, but when I have it is always one person calls the other that we do, mainly as people can’t remember where to find the infrared menu options! For Q1, my mobile phone number is 090-xxxx-8128, but I haven’t a clue what the four digits in the middle are.

Accessing URLs in advertisements from mobile phones

Do you find desired information through mobile search? graph of japanese statisticsAnyone who has been in Japan (or has been reading this blog) for any length of time will be aware of how often QR Codes, these square 2D bar codes, appear in magazine advertisements and promotional flyers. However, one aspect that I haven’t seen investigated up until now has been what other methods do people use to access these URLs. To rectify this, I present a translation of a report from japan.internet.com on a survey conducted by Cross Marketing Inc into mobile search.


Over the 19th and 20th of December 2007 300 mobile phone users from the Cross Marketing monitor group completed a private online questionnaire. Exactly 50% of the sample was male, and exactly 20% were in their teens, 20% in their twenties, 20% in their thirties, 20% in their forties, and 20% in their fifties.

Note that in Q1 the number sending an empty email seems perhaps rather high. There could be two explanations for this; first, in-train advertisements do not, on the whole, feature QR codes, perhaps for reason of it being embarrassing to take a photo with the accompanying sound; second, sometimes QR codes encode an email address rather than a URL, so in these cases some of the respondents described the final action.

QR Code usage in Japan

Do you know about colour QR codes? graph of japanese statisticsA constantly popular destination for Google searches is a survey from two years ago on QR Codes, the rather popular 2D square barcodes that appear all over the place and have been supported by almost every camera-equipped mobile phone for the last few years. To find out how usage patterns are today, let’s look at a recent survey from MyVoice into mobile phone QR Codes.


Over the first five days of October 2007 17.091 members of the MyVoice internet community completed a private internet-based questionnaire. 54% of the sample was female, 2% in their teens, 16% in their twenties, 40% in their thirties, 27% in their forties, and 15% in their fifties.

The results here might be worth cross-referencing against last month’s survey, also from MyVoice, on mobile phone cameras.

Most of the QR codes I scan are from print advertisements, usually in the magazine that comes along with our mobile phone bill every month, and are shortcuts to web pages offering free downloads of various stuff. I do find them very convenient, but I’ve never seem a colour QR code bar in one article I read about them. Whether or not my phone can decode them, I do not know, although I suspect the answer is no.

QR codes extremely popular

According to this survey published by infoPlant, QR codes are very well-known and widely used. One word of caution, however, is that this survey, carried out at the end of August, had the respondents self-selected from a link in the DoCoMo iMode menu system. 7,660 people completed the survey, 5,023 Read more…