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Trolls or media watchdogs?: Japan’s foreign-born defenders

July 16, 2013

By Stuart Braun

ILLUSTRATION BY TIM O'BREE

ILLUSTRATION BY TIM O’BREE

Have the foreign media got it in for Japan? Do they unduly focus on, and sensationalize, Fukushima radiation leaks, alleged racial intolerance and the self-aggrandizing policy pronouncements of the reborn Liberal Democratic Party? Worse still, are non-Japanese journalists prejudicing perceptions of Japan in the wider world, further eroding the nation’s global significance?

Though right-wing Japanese apologists have long identified, in the words of Michael Cucek, research associate with the MIT Center for International Studies, “the existence of an international cabal of anti-Japanese media types,” some ardent foreign-born Japan residents are also defending their adopted home from “Japan-hating” media.

Since the tragedy of March 2011, when the controversy over the Japanese government’s response to the Fukushima nuclear crisis gave journalists grist to ramp up their alleged anti-Japanese prejudice, the pro-Japaners have employed an effective counter-attack strategy: Banded behind a small but deafening band of bloggers, YouTubers and citizen journalists of sorts, this informal alliance generate legion online comments, blog posts and video channel chat-fests that systematically seek to discredit media they say are bent on fear-mongering about the country. In this highly polarized and fractious world, you are either with Japan or against it.

The subheading on the blog Japologism.com neatly sums up the aims of these foreign-born neo-apologists: “Unapologetic apologism — Some of us quite like living here, you know!” Established by Scotsman Ken Yasumoto-Nicolson, Japologism is a direct successor of the defunct Tepido.org, a single-issue forum for rebutting the alleged Japan-hating bias of academic, blogger and Japan Times columnist Debito Arudou.

Post-3/11, the cause celebre for these Japan defenders has been an article titled “Gaijin Gulag,” excerpts of which were published on The Economist magazine’s website in January 2012, detailing the case of Christopher Johnson, a Japan-based Canadian journalist who says he was unfairly held in detention in the bowels of Narita airport before being deported from Japan.

The relative merits of the case are complex, and beyond the purview of this article. But the fact that this damning account of Japanese immigration procedure was covered in such an internationally significant publication seems to have fired up the pro-Japan lobby to respond on an unprecedented scale. Over 700 comments, most strongly attacking aspects of Johnson’s story, were posted in the days before The Economist called time on the forum, while Johnson was endlessly taken to task on numerous blogs and YouTube channels. Read the rest of the column in the Japanese Times.

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From → Commentary

One Comment
  1. Johnny C permalink

    This elicited a big response from readers on the Japan Times website. I’d be interested in reading John Kirch’s take on this piece.

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