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July 19, 20
A modern language
  by Manya Cramer


Whether you’re on social media or sending a text message, you encounter emoji regularly. You may find these little colorful symbols unavoidable as they’ve become a language of their own. While most people’s enthusiasm for emoji increased in the smartphone era, Japan has been crazy for emoji since 1999. Designer Shigetaka Kurita invented emoji for a Japanese phone company 20 years ago as a way to make it easier to express ideas in a short message. The word emoji can be translated as “picture character” from Japanese. After the release of Kurita’s emoji, rival phone companies in Japan began creating their own emoji. Many emoji on our digital devices today are imported from Kurita’s original set of emoji. Several of these emoji, like sushi and hot spring icons, are a nod to Japan.

  Japan’s love for emoji continued well into the 2000s before the rest of the world discovered them. Apple Inc. officially introduced an emoji function in their software in 2011. Soon, other phone companies from around the world made it easier for their customers to use emoji. Today, emoji use is a standard feature in digital communication.


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