SGRA Kawaraban (Essay) in English

Miyuki Ota “Telephone Booth”

I am in difficulties. I would like to mutter to myself “Nippon! Will this do ?” This is a story of public telephones. The decrease in the number of public telephones due to the spread of cellular phones is remarkable. The number of public phones in 2002 was 584,162 and it decreased to 195,514 in 2013. (“White Paper on Telecommunications” by the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications)  I can easily imagine that if the number of public telephones decreases, the number of telephone booths will also decrease. This may be unavoidable. But I am a person who do not like to see the number of telephone booths reduced. I would rather like to see the number of telephone booths increase.  The reason is not only for emergency purposes or for the aged but for modern reasons.


Using the telephone is obviously increasing despite the spread of “LINE”(free short-message service). Due to this change, I think we are becoming insensitive to noise. On the street or in the buildings, we are always getting or making phone calls.  While travelling in trains, we often see a notice saying , “Please refrain from making phone calls in the train”, but are we prepared with an alternative place, such as on the noisy station platforms?, on the center, or even the edge of the street? All are not suitable due to the noise in these areas. It is also dangerous to engage in cellphone converstations while one is walking along quiet town, or even on residential streets, as voices can be easily heard by everybody in such quiet surroundings. When we talk over the telephone, our voice becomes louder compared with that in face-to-face conversation. I often hear noisy phone conversations by pedestrians who are passing by my house.


Then, how about in the buildings? Voices or sounds in the lobby of buildings resound well. We are often asked “May I have your full name?” by someone whether in a beauty salon or department store. I do not like to make a reservation of place or thing, ask setting aside items or claim saying my cellular phone number in such public places. I do not like to cause trouble to people around me. But, it will be more dangerous in deserted parts in the buildings. A guard may appear in the harsh times. How shall I enter the place against “No Entry” ?  Hidden value of telephone booths may appear in such situation.


In the telephone booths, noise may be reduced to a certain level and we can see outside through the transparent glass wall of the booth. Using cellular phones does not arouse any suspicion. I sometime use a telephone booth to talk on the cellular phone instead of  using public phones. In such a case it may be funny if people look at me from outside the booth and they actually laughed at me.  So, what?  I use a phone in a place for a phone.  I am not doing anything wrong. People who laugh at me are insensitive to the manner of verbal conversation. How pitiable they are!


Telephone booths were often seen in old movies or in lobbies of high-class hotels. I like to increase the use of telephone booths.  Revival of telephone booth would lead not only to improvement of manners but more importantly to show respect for fellow human beings.



(Atsumi International Foundation, Finished Institute of Policy and Cultural Studies, Graduated School of Chuo University)



Translated by Kazuo Kawamura

English checked by Mac Maquito


SGRA Kawaraban 468 in Japanese (original)