User numbers have doubled in the last year, according to a new survey, as Japanese users finally warm to Facebook – and become addicted.

The NetRatings study from Nielsen Japan shows us that in May 2011, there were approximately 8 million Japanese Facebook users but at the end of May this year, that number had risen to 17 million -almost 30 percent of Internet users.

Mixi has long been thought of as Japan’s most popular social network – that site, where users are largely anonymous, a factor thought to have held back Facebook – has just over 20 million users. There are around 30 million Twitter users (or indeed, people who have signed up) in Japan – so these guys do have some way to go.

Facebook is catching up, though, and many predict a switch in power before the year is out. We are also watching LINE, the Japanese messaging app which is aiming to become a social network in its own right (it has 50 million users, worldwide), as companies strive to work out what works best for Japanese web users.

Zuckerberg with Yoshihiko Noda in March

All smiles: Zuckerberg with Yoshihiko Noda in March

The rise of Facebook in Japan has been attributed to many factors. The big screen story of founder, Mark Zuckerburg (who visited Japan in March), The Social Network, performed very well over here and the site saw a surge in users. Disaster, too, saw more people log on to Facebook as a means to communicate and fundraise after the earthquake and Tsunami last March. Internet services were often online even when phones were down in the immediate aftermath.

It’s not too late to get a plug in for our own Facebook page – and us foreigners in Japan see our connections flourish as we meet more people in Tokyo. Whether you use it to keep in touch with friends back ‘home’ or as a social calendar for your life in Tokyo, there is, it seems, no avoiding Facebook.