2008-07-23

How beastiality restaurant was made real in the WaiWai column

The Website of Mainichi Daily News (MDN) has the results of the investigation of problems of the WaiWai column. The most criticized about the Mainichi's WaiWai column was that it contained wrong information about Japan as stated by one of the members of third party organization.

The WaiWai column lent credibility to articles that Japanese readers would ordinarily take with a grain of salt. Foreign readers cannot tell whether or not the Japanese magazines that originally published the articles are reputable and can be taken at face value. There was a danger, therefore, that the column could invite great misunderstanding. It is frightening to think that the responsibility for such a column was left completely in the hands of an individual staff writer. A company that gives precedence to the number of web hits over consideration of what information should be conveyed cannot be properly called a newspaper.

Claims have been made that the column shed light on certain aspects of Japanese society. This claim is unsupportable, for rather than shedding light, it provided something close to misinformation.
The results of the investigation did not include any detailed description of the examination of individual articles probably because quoting the articles should results in violation of copyright laws; The articles had already violated the laws by translating articles without permission of copyright holders. This was vaguely stated in the Mainichi's investigation document; "Issues relating to the translation and summarization of copyrighted material are being discussed with the publishers of the source magazines."

Some Japanese bloggers and 2-channelers are trying to collect source magazines that were used for WaiWai articles, in order to examine how original articles were changed and modified when they were translated for the WaiWai column. Recent finding of the source magazine for the WaiWai article titled "The Cook, the Beast, the Vice and its Lover" revealed how that WaiWai article was made.

The WaiWai article start with the following summary describing about beastiality restaurant.
A disgusting and twisted restaurant in the Tokyo entertainment district of Roppongi is enticing warped rich folk with the opportunity to figuratively have their cake and eat it, too — with animals, according to Jitsuwa Knuckles (9/25).
(You can read the transcript of full article at the following URL.
http://logipundit.wordpress.com/2007/09/27/beastiality-restaurant-opens-in-tokyo/)
When Japanese see the name of the source magazine, they can automatically notice that the story is fictional as I wrote before, but foreign readers may take the story at face value. However, it was not the only problem of the WaiWai article.

Finding of the source magazine revealed that the original article was written as one of the articles featuring urban legends; The articles had a header stating that the contents were urban legends.

The header says "エロバカ都市伝説: 各地に広まった身近な都市伝説を徹底収集" which means "Vulgar and foolish urban legends: thorough collection of familiar urban legends dispersed in various places". The author of the WaiWai article omitted this information when he wrote the article. Considering the nature of the source magazine, I don't think the contents of the articles were actual urban legends but think they were creation by the writer. Anyway, the writer of the original article was at least responsible enough to suggest that its content was not factual, stating that it was an urban legend. However, the author of the WaiWai article shamelessly omitted the header so that readers can take the story at face value.

Also, in the original article the person who invited a commenter to the restaurant was a congressman, but in the WaiWai article that person was changed to a lawyer. Why did the author of the WaiWai article make this change? Did he have ill-feeling toward lawyers? No one but the author knows.

4 comments:

madtokyo said...

WaiWai was crap. The articles were crap, the writing, with its constant alliteration and tongue-in-cheek punnery, was crap, and the translations were, apparently, crap.

Do I agree with its cancellation? No.

WaiWai had been running for a long time, and it had a lot of readers. Judging from the No. 1 Shimbun article, it started out as a good idea, taking funky, off-the-wall articles and putting up translated versions of them. The slide toward the truly sleazy was a gradual one, and one that the Mainichi allowed to happen by not having a proper QC system in place. The fact that the bestiality restaurant article was allowed to run at all is stunningly incompetent.

As much as I disliked WaiWai, I'm sick of hearing its cancellation defended by comments like it "lent credibility to articles that Japanese readers would ordinarily take with a grain of salt." If you read in a column called "WaiWai" that more and more Japanese moms go down on their sons and you believe it, it's not because you're a foreigner lacking the proper socio-cultural background to be able to take it "with a grain of salt," it's because you're a goddamn idiot. I don't need to know about 負 古太郎 (who has a Wikipedia entry; so much for the WaiWai column and Foreign Correspondents' Clubbers not having having the "ablility to investigate that background") to know that a story about screwing fish is not on the level. I need a functioning brain, and a lot of us foreigners (gasp!) have one.

WaiWai should have been suspended, the debauchery factor scaled way down, a proper QC system installed, and brought back with a disclaimer about what exactly these articles are and where they came from (which should have been up in the first place).

Finally, as exaggerated as the WaiWai articles were, the fact remains that the original source material was taken from Japanese publications; the notion that WaiWai had to be cancelled because it "sent the wrong message about Japan" is just going to piss people off (as in, "What, you can read about it Japanese but I can't read about it in English?!"). Heck, it pissed me off, and I didn't even like WaiWai.

ちょっぴり攻撃的なコメントを投稿してしまって、すみませんでした。どうやら「日本じゃないと、日本の○○は理解出来ない」という考えを、外国人としてちょっと受け入れられがたいですが・・・。

madtokyo said...

Whoops. は, not を. Should've proofread. But you know what I mean.

Aki said...

Thank you for the comment. If WaiWai had had a proper disclaimer and a proper QC system, there would have been little problem and Japanese people would not have complained about the column so much. It should also be noted that, before Japanese people started to complain about WaiWai, foreign people who have enough knowledge on this country had been seeing some of the WaiWai articles as problematic, as I mentioned in a previous entry.

http://aki-akiaki.blogspot.com/2008/07/mainichi-vs.html

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