Sayonara, pagers, and enjoy your well-earned rest.

It was just a little over a week ago that the iPhone 11 went on sale in Japan, prompting people such as SoraNews24’s own Mr. Sato to line up on the street to be among the first in Japan to get their hands on the cutting-edge smartphones. But that’s not the only telecommunications development in the country, as September 30 marks the official end of pager service in Japan.

The fact that pagers still exist in Japan might be surprising, considering that the country is technologically advanced enough to have fried chicken-cooking robots and bars run by virtual anime characters. But a swath of Japanese society has always operated under the principle that if it’s not broken, there’s no need to fix it, and so roughly 1,500 pagers have continued to be registered with provider Tokyo Telemessage, even though the company stopped accepting new customer applications in 2013.

Many of the continuing customers are medical facilities, which have continued to use pagers because of the rock-solid reliability of their signals, which use a different bandwidth than those for mobile phones, especially inside buildings in underground areas, such as subway networks. The last remaining personal pager user in Japan is thought to be Narita City resident Take Fujikura, who’s held on to his pager for the sake of his 80-year-old mother, who lives nearby but by herself, since it’s her preferred way to keep in touch with him.

On Sunday, one day before Tokyo Telemessage’s pager service was set to end, the Tokyo Funeral Association set up a tent near Akihabara Station, Japan’s technology mecca, to hold a memorial service for the country’s pagers, which peaked in popularity during the mid ‘90s, with over 10 million registered users in 1996.

During the two-and-a-half-hour event, some 300 people stopped by to offer white flowers and bow their heads in front of a photo representation of a pager displaying the message “1141064,” Japanese pager code for “Ai shiteiru,” or, “We love you.”

▼ Video of the ceremony, posted by the Sato Sosai funeral services company

▼ This being Akihabara, of course maids were part of the proceedings.

In addition, Tokyo Telemessage, which will now be focusing on wireless emergency response and disaster relief communications, released the following statement through its company website:

“We wish to express our deep gratitude to everyone for using our company’s pagers for such a long time. 20 years have passed since the end of pager manufacturing. To those of you who have continued using our service, we would also like to thank you for taking such good care of your pagers. In the early Heisei era [which began in 1989], pagers changed the world, but now the number of people using them has fallen to under 1,500.

Though it is with deep regret, on this occasion of 20 years passing since the end of pager sales we have decided to bring our pager service, which has continued for customers in Tokyo, Saitama, Kanagawa, and Chiba Prefectures, to a close on September 30.”

So if you happen to know one of the few people in Japan who’s still hanging on to a pager, you’ve got just a couple hours to send them one last message. Meanwhile, the title of Japan’s most stubborn telecommunications users now passes to those people who’re sticking with their garakei/flip phones, who still have a few years before major carriers start dropping their service.

Sources: Tokyo Telemessage, Asashi Shimbun Digital via Livedoor News via Jin, Livedoor News/Nikkan Spa via Jin
Featured image: YouTube/葬儀葬式ch有限会社佐藤葬祭
Top image: Tokyo Telemessage
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