Galápagos Syndrome

big in japan


Galápagos syndrome‘ (‘Garapagosu-ka’) is a term of Japanese origin, which refers to an isolated development branch of a globally available product. The term is a reference to similar phenomena Charles Darwin encountered in the Galápagos Islands, with its isolated flora and fauna, which were key observations in the development of Evolutionary Theory. The term was originally coined to refer to Japanese 3G mobile phones, which had developed a large number of specialized features and dominated Japan, but were unsuccessful abroad. The term arose as part of the dialog about Japan’s position as an island nation, and related anxiety about being isolated from the world at large. A derived term is ‘gara-kei’ (‘Galápagos cellphone’), used to refer to Japanese feature phones, which remain popular despite the emergence of smartphones.

The term has since been used for similar phenomena in other markets, such as the outdated usage of magnetic stripe for credit cards in the US, as everywhere else has moved onto using EMV smart cards. ‘It has been claimed that the indigenous American automotive industry has suffered from the Galapagos Syndrome – its products have evolved separately from the rest of the world.’ ‘The Galapagosization of Japan continues. A shocking two-thirds of the country’s white-collar workers said they didn’t want to work abroad…ever.’


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