Twitter users gather at Tokyo event for some old-fashioned face time

by Minoru Matsutani

Some 400 Twitter users in Japan gathered to meet Twitter CEO Evan Williams at the third annual Tweetup Japan 2010 event in Tokyo on Friday night.

The event was meant for Twitter users to mingle with each other and the staff of Digital Garage Inc., the Tokyo-based company operating Twitter in Japan, as well as with Williams, who flew in from his home base of San Francisco.

“When we started Twitter four years ago, we had no idea where it would go. But what we learned time and time again from listening to people all over the world is that Twitter is open exchange of information. We strongly believe open exchange of information makes the world a better place,” Williams said during the event at Yebisu Garden Place in Shibuya Ward.

In his speech, he pointed out that there were 3,283 tweets per second during the Japan-Denmark game in the World Cup soccer tournament, the highest rate ever achieved.

“That shows how engaged Japanese users are,” he said.

“Japan is the fastest-growing country in the world,” Williams said. When asked what he expects from Japan, he said, “It’s gonna be bigger and better.”

The number of people visiting twitter.com from Japan reached 6.25 million in June, up 11-fold from a year ago, Digital Garage said in a release, citing Video Research Interactive, an Internet researcher.

Digital Garage spokesman Hiroki Eda said his company owns shares in Twitter, though he declined to give an exact figure.

At the event, seven Twitter users, including mobile application developers and a regular office worker who tweets about his children, addressed the audience about their Twitter experiences.

Many use Twitter to deal with real-life issues. One speaker related how when her friend didn’t have enough for train fare, a tweet found a random donor at the station willing to part with the needed ¥20 in exchange for a photo.

One user, Reggae MC “Ryo the Skywalker,” who uses his stage name for his Twitter ID, has 240,000 followers — an astonishing figure for someone of his profession.

He was one of the first to use Twitter and is listed as a recommended user, so he has many foreign followers even though his tweets use only a sprinkling of English.

“When I tweeted something people think strange, I get comments like ‘You have so many followers, so you need to be responsible with your postings.’ What should I do? I never wanted that many followers,” he said.