How a 50-Year Old Spaniard Gifted the Twitter Handle @japan to the Japanese Government

javier castano

Javier Castaño at the Café Central de Málaga in Spain where he works from 8AM

Javier Castaño has worked many jobs: civil engineer, architect, graphic designer. However, after Spain’s economic downturn he began polishing shoes, and does so to this day, at the Café Central de Málaga in Spain. Javier, lovingly known by the locals as a “quirky diabetic,” has always been tech-savvy.

In early 2007, when twitter was just under a year old, Javier joined the fledgling social network under the handle @xabel and was quick to develop the foresight as to what it could become. Seeing that strategically important geographic handles lay unclaimed and vulnerable, Javier tasked himself with grabbing what he could, protecting them, and safely delivering them to their rightful owners when the time came. These included @madrid, @malaga, @rome, @canada, @riodejaneiro, @NY and @japan.

Not only was Javier an early adopter but he was also a proponent of selflessness. Much like website domain names, an underground market, while officially prohibited, does exist for the buying and selling of valuable twitter handles. But Javier wasn’t motivated by financial gain. He merely believed that “people everywhere need to be represented by a suitable brand.” He does admit to receiving small gifts for his donations though. The mayor of Rome sent him a book while the Principality of Asturias sent him an assortment of handicrafts and food.

By 2014 Javier’s 7-year quest was coming to an end. He had successfully donated @Madrid, @Canada and @Rome. But @japan was proving to be problematic. A heavy bureaucracy and language barriers weren’t helping either. In 2012 Javiar managed to get in touch with Noriyuki Shikata, Director of Communications at the Japanese Embassy in the U.K. He was about to hand over the password when “there was a change of government in Japan and everything stopped.”

But Javier remained patient. “There were some attempts to pose as institutions in order to get an account, but I was pretty cautious,” he told the Washington Post. After all, the @NY account had been stolen from him a while back.

Finally, on March 10, 2015, the Japanese Government officially took over the @japan account and began tweeting. They plan to use it as a tool for English information on Japan. So what happens for Javier, now that his journey has ended? He’ll continue to shine shoes until he spots the next up and coming social network, at which time he’ll put down his brush and put on his cape.


  1. What a Dumb***. Could have made some money.

  2. What a great humanatarian. Saw the greater good rather than fixating on the money.

  3. There are two kind of people in this world on this comment section ^

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