February 18, 2018

Japanese Carriers Mobilize Donations to Disaster Victims

People are talking about the low level of international donations being sent to support victims of the Japan “311” quake. Whatever the reasons behind this, the past week has seen several simple solutions publicized to make it easier for people to send small donations via mobile to organizations involved in the Japan relief effort. However small the individual payment, mobile micro-donations are not trivial when made by a high volume of users, and have already added up to millions of dollars raised so far.

Here is a useful list of several simple mobile donation methods available to users in the Japan and the US:

Making Mobile Donations From Japan

Japan does not have premium SMS, but other donation-via-mobile options are available. Solutions vary according to your carrier, so here they are broken out that way. They range from micro-donations (donated through the purchase of mobile content) to larger donations made using credit card payments of up to $250 per donation.

I have listed Softbank first (even though it is the no. 2 carrier in Japan) because it offers the most extensive means to contribute via mobile, including smartphone apps (noteworthy since Apple in the US has disallowed in-app donations)

The applications below all appear to be Japanese-language only.

Softbank/Yahoo Keitai:

1. Purchase Mobile Content, Donate Proceeds to Charity:
Go to the Yahoo! Keitai portal home page > Information > Tohoku Pacific Earthquake Relief Fund> Choose digital content you would like to purchase (105 yen, 315 yen, and 525 yen) > Choose “Purchase”

Softbank's Disaster Relief Wallpaper Collection

2. SoftBank Charity Dial
Dial *5577, follow the audio guidance, select the number you would like to support, and listen to the audio message.

3. Simple Donation Smartphone Apps

iOS devices: Softbank Mobile has released a free application called Softbank Simple Donation that allows users to make contributions via iPhone, Ipod Touch and iPad. The app can be downloaded for free from the i-tunes store. The instructions seem to be in Japanese only, but you can follow the flow from the image below.

Android devices: you can donate money in the same way as iOS users with the Softbank Simple Donation Android app. It can be downloaded by scanning the barcode below with your Android phone. If you are reading this article with your phone, just click the barcode to capture the application.

Softbank Android Simple Donation App

Users can opt to receive push alerts when contributions are being gathered or to learn how much money has been collected.

Payment can be made via credit card or Softbank Money in denominations ranging from 100 to 5000 yen.

Softbank donations are being directed to the Japan Red Cross (which is more likely to direct your donation to the local Japan effort than is the International Red Cross).


NTT Docomo/imode

NTT Docomo users can make mobile donations in a number of ways, with proceeds being routed to relief efforts via contributions to Japan Platform.

1. Purchase Content, Donate Proceeds to Charity: buy original content and the total amount including consumption tax will be donated to relief efforts in the disaster area.

Docomo Disaster Donation Portal

2. Use Docomo’s Mobile Remittance Service: this allows users to make more sizable donations of 20,000 yen respectively  (currently about USD$246), and up to 10 donations of that size can be sent over the course of a month. This service does require preregistration.  The Japanese explanation is here, rough google translation is here.

3. Donate Converted Docomo Points: each time you pay your Docomo bill, you should be racking up Docomo Points at a rate of 1 point for every 100 yen paid to Big D.  Toward the relief effort,  Docomo will send Japan Platform 100 yen for every 100 points donated by customers from their royalty points accounts.

Users can access Docomo’s disaster relief portal pages by scanning the QR code below. If you are reading this on a Docomo device, click the barcode to link to the correct destination.

Scan or Click to Access the imode Disaster Relief Pages



1. Purchase Content, Donate Proceeds to Charity: buy original wallpapers or Flash-based screensavers and the total amount including consumption tax will be donated to the disaster area.

KDDI/au customers can follow the menu path below to access the disaster contribution page on the au mobile portal:

EZ Top Menu button or au One Top → Disaster Message Board (災害用伝言板) → Disaster Support Contribution Site (被災地支援義援金サイト)

This disaster contribution pages are scheduled to be live until April 11 (Mon) at 12:00pm.

Information about groups receiving the contribution is also posted at the site.

Making Mobile Donations From the US

The following organizations are accepting donations directly through SMS. All short codes will authorize a $10 charge on the wireless bill after confirmation. Details of how this works are explained at the mGive site.

* ADRA Relief: text SUPPORT to 85944
* Convoy of Hope: text TSUNAMI or SUNAMI to 50555
* GlobalGiving: text JAPAN to 50555
* International Medical Corps: text MED to 80888
* Mercy Corps: text MERCY to 25383
* Salvation Army: text JAPAN to 80888
* Save the Children Federation, Inc.: text JAPAN or TSUNAMI to 20222
* World Relief Corp. of National Association of Evangelicals: text WAVE to 50555
* World Vision, Inc.: text 4JAPAN or 4TSUNAMI to 20222
* American Red Cross Relief: text REDCROSS to 90999 [**Read caution below]

CAUTION: **Listed last for the following reasons: the International Red Cross states that donations are for “those affected by the earthquake in Japan and tsunami throughout the Pacific and that the money will be directed to other disaster relief efforts if donations exceed expenses, which reportedly happens frequently with large donation targets like the IRC.

Verizon Wireless, AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile as well as several smaller operators have waived SMS fees when donating via text messages. AT&T and Verizon are also waiving all long-distance charges for calls, SMS and MMS messages to Japan through the end of the month in the case of AT&T and through April 10 for Verizon.

Why Japan’s Exploding Smartphone Sales Will Drive NFC

Not long ago, Japan scoffed at the Western market fixation with the iPhone and smartphones in general. After all, for years Japanese feature phones have been able to do everything a smart phone could: take hi-res photos, play music, stream video, mail and surf the net, and they could even be used to buy tickets and food at convenience stores.

But since last year, the smartphone boom has been sweeping Japan at a furious pace and the widespread implications for the industry are only beginning to be understood. Last month, NTT DOCOMO’s CEO Yamada Ryuji held a press conference about how the smartphone is starting to change the landscape for Japan’s biggest operator. Just like the old days of i-mode, female customers are playing a big part, making up 35-40% of new smartphone customers, with users over 50 accounting for 15%, and high school students looking to drive a major spike in demand this spring.

Japan is already swimming in a tide of new devices, with DoCoMo alone set to release between 40-50 new models in the winter/spring season, mixing both traditional “feature phones” with smart phones. The transition is causing a major rethink of DOCOMO’s current main Prime, Style, Smart and Pro lines of feature phones, especially since Yamada expects nearly 50% of phone sales in 2011 to be smartphone devices.

This is bound to have a big impact on Docomo’s mobile wallet strategy and its approach to NFC in Japan. DOCOMO is not just the biggest Japanese operator, it is also a first-mover in Japanese mobile wallet phones, which feature FeliCa contactless chips that let customers use phones to charge up their phones and make purchases.
DOCOMO currently has over 40 million customers with FeliCa “mobile wallet” phones, and 50 million compatible reader-writers in the market. If half of the new phones are NFC-enabled smartphones, Docomo is going to make sure in the future that the new phones and reader infrastructure can support all standards, including Type A, Type B, and a SIM-embedded NFC solution.

DOCOMO gets real, joins KT to Launch Cross-border NFC Services

Now that it is clear the planet is NOT going to adopt Japanese FeliCa technology for near field communication, Japan’s biggest mobile player has announced plans to integrate payment services along foreign-developed NFC standards. The announcement comes from NTT DoCoMo regarding is agreement with KT Corp, the leading South Korean telecom, operator to develop cross-border services for mobile payments, mass-transit ticketing, promotional coupons, etc., which they will launch in their respective markets of Japan and South Korea from around the end of 2012. The two companies say they are developing NFC common specifications that will be incorporated in devices, networks and billing platforms for seamlessly connected mobile NFC services for customers traveling between South Korea and Japan. Ah, if only the world had gone the Japanese way, we would all be shopping with our phones by now…

Check out the release here.