Japan has always had this international reputation for being a country that epitomizes pushing the envelope on the latest culture and technology, yet simultaneously maintains a firm grip on their traditions and national identity.

This has lately been demonstrated by a Japanese woman who worked as a banker and later moved on to technology, even going so far as to program and publish her very own Apple iPhone app. And did I mention that she’s a cool old lady of 81 years? Imagine a grandma making her own computer program; it’s like a variation of a situation like making sushi out of Kit-Kat bars.

An app game for her age group

Masako Wakamiya is a self-described “tech evangelist” who has wholeheartedly adopted the many advances of the world. How else to explain her programming and design skills to create her own app game that’s now available on Japan’s Apple Store? This project came about from Wakamiya’s frustration at how many of the apps and games available online were much too extreme for people of her age group who would’ve been interested in playing computer games otherwise.

After an earlier petition for freelance programmers to create an elderly-friendly iPhone game app didn’t bear fruit Wakamiya, who first learned how to operate computers at age 60, decided to undertake the challenge herself.

The result of her efforts was “Hinadan”, a more sedately paced game app for iPhones based on the traditional Japanese festival of Hinamatsuri (Girl’s Day), which appropriately happens early March at the same time Wakamiya’s app became available. Hinamatsuri involves decorating and meticulously displaying straw dolls representing the Japanese Emperor, his Empress, and the rest of the Imperial Court along with necessary palace props.

Players of Hinadan would kit the dolls with the proper dress and instruments then drag and drop them on their proper seating on the eponymous “hinadan” platform. As one can tell from the mechanics, this is an Apple app that doesn’t wear out the hands, perfect for older (Japanese) gamers.

Old people can be app programmers too

Masako Wakamiya took about six months to develop and polish out her “Hinadan” app before it went on the Apple Store.

But she’s proud of her accomplishment and tells anyone who asks, "You don't have to be a professional. If you have creativity, if you have a playful mind, you can create teaching materials."

Now if only there can be an English version of her “Hinadan” app. It ought to be an interesting curiosity in Western app stores, for a break from utilitarian iPhone apps like call-blockers or the like.