Facebook visitors in Japan have more than doubled in the last year according to a Nielsen/Netratings study, which put Facebook ahead of a Japanese social network that allows users to hide behind pseudonyms.
Japanese Internet users have been slower than those in other countries to move to Facebook, in part because the culture is more adverse to revealing one's identity or sharing pictures online. On Mixi, long Japan's dominant social network, most users are anonymous or use nicknames, only revealing themselves to people they have met in person.
Facebook received 17.2 million unique visitors from among Japanese Internet users last month, according to a Nielsen/Netratings report released Tuesday, more than double the 8.2 million in May 2011. The number of unique visitors also jumped sharply from April, up 16 percent month on month.
Despite the sharp increase, Nielsen said that only about 29.1 percent of Japanese Internet users now visit Facebook, less than half of the 67.2 percent in the U.S. or the 39.3 percent in nearby South Korea.
After years of failing to gain traction in Japan, Facebook surged in popularity in the country in 2011. The site benefitted from the popularity of the "The Social Network," a movie about its early days, and an increase in people looking to connect online in the aftermath of the earthquake and tsunami that ravaged Japan's northeast coast.
While there is no question that Facebook is increasingly popular in the country, there is some to debate as to whether it has passed Mixi. Last year Nielsen changed the way it calculated page views, causing a sudden drop in the number of unique visitors it calculated for Mixi, and dropping the Japanese site below Facebook.
Mixi responded by noting that Nielsen tracks only PC users in Japan, where many people do the majority of their browsing on mobile phones. The site said about 85 percent of its users access through phones.
The less intrusive Twitter has also been very popular in Japan, setting records for tweets after sporting events and making Japanese one of the most-tweeted languages.