WaiWai Correspondents' Club

The latest issue of Number 1 Shimbun, a Monthly journal issued by the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Japan, has an article entitled "Wai oh Why?". The editorial of the issue says,

No. 1’s primary focus should be on stories that directly concern and are of interest to journalists – we’re a press club, after all.

For example, in this month’s issue, we’re running a fascinating story by Gavin Blair about the Byzantine machinations surrounding the Mainichi Shimbun’s closure of the WaiWai Web site.
The article shows how much ill-informed foreign correspondents in Japan are. The article describes the fuss on the WaiWai column as follows.
By June, Mainichi had issued an apology, removed all the archived stories, asked search engines to do the same, and promised to punish those involved.

Still, the protesters were not satisfied, bombarding companies that advertised with the Mainichi with demands to withdraw their sponsorship and calling for further punishment of its editors and Connell.
I don't think this is a correct description on the fuss about the WaiWai column. The initial apology from Mainichi issued on June 25 did not mention that the WaiWai column contained wrong information, although it was what many Japanese demanded. The apology from Mainichi stated,
Some of the articles in the "WaiWai" column carried in the Mainichi Daily News, the English Web site of the Mainichi Newspapers Co., Ltd., were inappropriate and made many people uncomfortable. (...)
WaiWai was meant to introduce aspects of Japanese society and social behavior by quoting magazines and other print media published in Japan. In late May, we received criticism saying the content was vulgar. The Mainichi Daily News Editorial Department deemed that some of the articles had inappropriate content and deleted those articles.
What many Japanese demanded of Mainichi was to clarify to the foreign readers that the WaiWai column contained wrong information about Japan, as I wrote previously. However, Mainichi's initial apology only stated that the WaiWai column contained "inappropriate" articles. It did not explain how the articles were "inappropriate". In addition, the apology could be taken by foreign readers as a statement suggesting that the articles contained correct information on Japanese society and social behavior, since it stated: "WaiWai was meant to introduce aspects of Japanese society and social behavior by quoting magazines and other print media published in Japan". The apology as a whole suggested that the only reason that Mainichi deleted the articles was that they were "vulgar". This apology indicated that Mainichi did not understand what in the WaiWai column made many Japanese upset. In addition, although the Mainichi announced punitive measures for people who had been responsible for the publication of the WaiWai articles, the Digital Media Division President was promoted the head of the Mainichi Shimbun Corporation on June 25, despite the fact that he had been the most responsible person for the WaiWai issue. Thus, the fuss continued until Mainichi issued more comprehensive apology on July 20.

After delivering misinformation on the fuss, the article in the Number 1 Shimbun suddenly changes the topic to a minor group who made a demonstration in front of the Mainichi's headquarters.
The Zainichi Tokken o Yurusanai Shimin no Kai - Citizens' Group against Special Rights for Zainichi (Japan-born Koreans) – organized a demonstration in front of the Mainichi's headquarters on July 2 after WaiWai had been purged and punishments announced.
Several days before the demonstration, the Zainichi Tokken o Yurusanai Shimin no Kai (Zaitokukai) announced on various boards at 2-channel that they will demonstrate in front of the Mainichi's headquarters. However, majority of 2-channelers who had been criticizing Mainichi responded to the call by warning other readers that attending the demonstration by the Zaitokukai would be perceived by other people as if the anti-Mainichi movement was organized by the particular organization. Many 2-channelers advised other readers not to attend the demonstration. Thus the demonstration on July 2 was a very small one. The attempt to attribute the anti-WaiWai movement to that minor group is just a delusive attempt to create the "Byzantine machinations" from nothing.

The author of the article seems to be fond of the WaiWai column featuring a tale of fishermen. He wrote,
It would be a shame to say goodbye to WaiWai without recalling at least one of its infamous stories in a little more detail. One, which combined the elements of humor, debauchery and a total lack of credibility, was the tale of fishermen having their way with various creatures of the ocean. Originally told by comedian Taro Makeburu, a former fisherman, to a Jitsuwa Knuckles columnist, it contained some of the following pearls: (...)
A small tidbit. The comedian mentioned in this article was not Taro Makeburu (負古 太郎) but Furutaro Make (負 古太郎). Furutaro Make was a member of the comedian group, Takeshi Gundan, lead by Takeshi Kitano. His name is a parody of a Japanese actor Shintaro Katsu (勝 新太郎). The kanji for "winning (katsu, 勝)" and "new (shin, 新)" in the Shintaro Katsu's name is changed into kanji of opposite meanings, "losing (make, 負)" and "old (furu, 古)", respectively, in the Make Furutaro's name. Just by seeing his name in the beginning of that article, Japanese can know that a bunch of jokes will follow in the article, but the authors of the WaiWai column and the Foreign Correspondents' Club's article had neither knowledge on the Takeshi Gundan's comedian nor ablility to investigate that background.

This WaiWai article fortunately contained a joke about moray that even foregin people could doubt the credibility of the article. Apparently that is the reason the Foreign Correspondents' Club's article mentioned that particular WaiWai article. However, can readers with little knowledge on Japan and Japanese people judge that the story on the bestiality restaurant is a fiction when he/she read it? The Foreign Correspondents' Club's article that intentionally avoided to mention problematic articles looks to be a desperate attempt to cover up the harmful nature of the WaiWai column.

As a minor note, the Foreign Correspondents' Club's article provided in the end a link to transcripts of WaiWai articles that is violating Japanese copyright laws; The Foreign Correspondents' Club, as an organization, seems to be trying to encourage and promote the violation of the laws. It's sad that this kind of people are working as foreign correspondents in this country.


Julián Ortega Martínez said...

Excellent post. Of course Connell et al. have the right to defend themselves, but Number 1's article looks kind of desperate. They look frustrated because they won't celebrate WaiWai's 20th anniversary. Anyway, the data on this right-wing anti-Korean group is, at least, useful, despite the misleading information provided by Blair.

Aki said...

Thank you for the comment, Julián. I think it is debatable whether Zaitokukai is a right-wing anti-Korean group. Although the head is definitely silly, it seems a fact that Korean permanent residents in Japan is granted privileges over other residents - Japanese and foreign residents from countries other than Korea. Claiming to abolish unequal privilege for Korean nationals living in Japan is not necessarily righty nor anti-Korean.

That head must have explained the purpose of their organization, but perhaps the reporter did not have an intention of interviewing him seriously from the beginning and the head was silly enough to give him silly comments that could be chosen to use for the article.

Aki said...

I stand corrected. Reading recent activity of Zaitokukai described on their website, I have realized that it's rather correct to call them a right-wing anti-Korean group. I thought that the group is rather politically neutral since its vice chairman was a Korean-Japanese. But according to their website, he withdrew the group last year. It seems those who advised on 2-channel not to attend the demonstration were aware of the color of Zaitokukai.

After Mainichi issued initial problematic apology on June 25, threds regarding Mainichi on one bulletin board in 2-channel gathered 230,000 comments in just four days. Since 2-channel has more than 100 bulletin boards, there were far more number of comments regarding Mainichi on the whole site of 2-channel. In such a situation, it was immpossible for any group to control the people who were complaining against Mainichi.

NinNinVT said...

What did Mainichi Daily do, as a business, that warrants protest? Why does MND need to apologize? First of all, the people that are protesting are not MND's customers or audience. They have not read the MND English website before their friends told them to, in order to protest Wai Wai. If they were regular readers of the paper, they would have been outraged from the start. Being non-customers to MND, what right do they have to protest what is on the pages? What clout do they wield over MND? None. That is why they have to threaten the people that have chosen to pay MND for the use of the site, which in my opinion is bullying. The protesters never were and never will become readers of MND English, so it is really none of their business. This is nothing more than viral protesting and an asian cultural phenomenon of me-tooism. This was again shown in Korea, with the anti-American beef protests, all triggered by a pro-North Korean communist newspaper that lied about facts and encouraged protests. Idiots went to the streets to protest the dangerous beef that the government is trying to kill them with, without checking the facts first. In Wai Wai's case, idiot protesters are claiming that idiot English readers can't tell a tabloid when they see one, so those idiots will tell other idiots false or bad things about Japanese culture, making the idiot protesters look bad.

The translations of the articles may have been poor, but it still achieves the purpose that the author set out to do in the first place: entertain. If its not for you, then don't read it. If you feel that such smut shouldn't be allowed to be published, then go shut down the tabloids in Japanese first. The fact that the tabloids in Japan sells, and the magazines have been around for so long, indicate that there is a reader base in Japan for such material. The translations may be poor or outright wrong, but the topics themselves are interesting enough to attract a Japanese reader base. Are the protesters saying that such publications are for Japanese eyes only? Non-Japanese readers shouldn't be allowed the benefit of reading about the trash, and should instead read about how great Japan is?

Then there is the argument that MND is a serious newspaper and that its seriousness gives the Wai Wai column credibility. If you check your public library in Japan, you will notice that there are fiction books in the same building as non-fiction books. The library is a place of learning, research, and the spread of culture. If you have a problem with a newspaper including works of fiction in the same area (off to the side and with disclaimers) as non-fiction news articles, then you should also protest for the closure of public libraries. Newspapers hold no obligation to print what non-readers want them to print, and are entitled to print whatever they choose. That is the basic tenent of free speech. If you disagree, then I protest to you, Dear Aki, and all other protesters via blog or 2-channel, to shut down your blog and message boards, because your printed views on your pages disrespect and misrepresent my people (Westerners) by making it falsely known that we are idiots that can't read. If you do not take down your pages, I might protest and threaten your board moderators to cancel your accounts and I will contact your boss or school and force them to fire you or throw you out of school. Also, while I'm at it, I am a religious zealot, and if you don't take down all words that contridicts my religion, I will have to kill you in the name of holy war, because forced censorship via brutality is the only way to protect my religion's image from the world.

Do you see how stupid the protestors sound now? Enjoy your mass hysteria, and if this one dies down, I'm sure there will be new things to go hysterical about together. Lets throw rocks at different people together sometime, ciao.

Aki said...

Thank you for the comment. I understand how much you liked WaiWai. However, you should know that the closure of WaiWai was MDN's decision. What many Japanese demanded to MDN was to clarify to the readers that the column contained fictional stories. I guess that the major reason MDN suddenly closed WaiWai was that they noticed that many of the WaiWai articles had been violating copyright laws.