The ever-useful “Ninki Blog Ranking” lists the most-viewed Japanese blogs in a number of different categories. There are blogs for mothers who wish to help their children study more effectively, blogs devoted to tracking the movements of celebrities, and blogs that discuss the best way to diet. And, like any other online community, Japan has no shortage of blogs devoted to punditry, with most of the discussion focusing on the deteriorating relationship amongst Japan and its Asian neighbours, China and the two Koreas.
According to the blog rankings, Japanese bloggers are in no mood for reconciliation. And despite the popularity of all things Korean in Japan, the so-called Kan-ryuu, or Korean Wave, many bloggers are taking aim at Korea.
Choose (what you believe) Carefully! Information on Korea is the sixth most popular blog in Japan right now, according to Ninki Blog Ranking, and bills itself as an antidote for the Japanese “mass media's tendency to beautify Korea.”
Other popular political blogs include Japan's Outrageous Asian Neighbours (currently the 7th most popular Japanese-language blog), We Don't Need No Kan-ryuu (ranked at number 11), and The Truth About Asia – what the mass media doesn't tell you about China and Korea (occupying 12th place).
In general, Japanese bloggers are expressing frustration and irritation towards Korea and China in the wake of the anti-Japanese protests that occured in those countries this past spring, as well as in the face of tensions with Korea over the ownership of an island in the Japan Sea (or the East Sea, as called by Koreans) called Takeshima by Japan and Tokdo by Korea.
Japanese political bloggers are discussing one book in particular – Ken-Kan-Ryuu, which loosely translates as the Anti-Korean Wave. According to the publisher's blurb, the book (actually a manga comic book) documents the intellectual development of Nakame Okiayu, an “ordinary” high school student who finds history difficult, but has the “vague understanding that Japan has done bad things to Korea.” All this changes when Nakame becomes a university student and learns the “surprising truth about Korea and its history.”
After being “banned” for two years, the book was finally published on July 24, 2005. Sales are brisk, and Amazon Japan warns that, due to the book's popularity, delivery of Ken-Kan-Ryuu should take four to six weeks (Amazon Japan usually delivers in two or three days).
In the case of Ken-Kan-Ryuu, it is indeed possible to judge a book by it's cover. “This is an extremely dangerous book,” the book jacket warns. “Why did Korea invade Japan's territory, the Takeshima Islands?” screams another blurb. “There is no need to apologize to Korea or offer reparations,” shouts another.
Historical revisionism has gained popularity in Japan over the last decade. While many apologists for Japan's wartime past are simply obnoxious at worst, such as Tokyo governor Shintaro Ishihara, there are other hip, charismatic commentators like Yoshinori Kobayashi, author of the popular Sensou-ron series of manga books, who are adept at arguing that, thanks to the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan was a victim rather than a victimizer during the last war.
Other arguments percolating through the Japanese blogosphere state that Japan was pushed into the war by the Unites States, and that Japan was actually liberating Asia from European colonizers with the hopes of fostering autonomy and independence of all nations, economic progress, and the eradication of racial discrimination.
Much of the tension between Japan and its Asian neighbours has been due to revisionist history textbooks authored by the Japanese Society for Textbook Reform. So far, two school boards have adopted the controversial textbooks this year, and one of the texts is published online in English, Korean and Mandarin.
The offending textbooks, and the ongoing six-party talks on the fate of the Korean Peninsula, should create plenty of controversy for the rest of the summer, which in turn creates plenty of topics for Japanese pundits to blog about.
Monor point: the Sea of Japan is called the East Sea in Korea:
I lived in Japan for nine years and have heard all of these hackneyed excuses for Japan’s “victimization.” All of the ones referred to in the above post have been roundly discredited by sensible scholars both in Japan and abroad. Most Japanese I know old enough to remember the war will tell you there lives are better off BECAUSE they lost and they have repeatedly voted their national conscience.
Oh, another thing, Kobayashi’s career as a Manga author was going nowhere until he penned Sensou-ron. First law as a struggling artist in Japan: When you hit pay dirt, keep digging. The good life in Tokyo is expensive.
Thanks for the correction, JohnAnnArbor. As for Yoshinori Kobayashi, well, his books certainly provoke a lot of dinner table discussion between my wife, who’s Japanese, and me.
Pretty interesting post, and thanks for all the blog pointers. I agree that Japan’s whitewashing of history is wrong-headed, and the idea that Japan was liberating Asia from Western colonialism is right out of the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere propaganda.
However, I see far more criticism of Japan’s problems with history than I do with China’s problems with history, where China simply makes things up in their textbooks. Also, why is the rise of anti-Japanese sentiment in Korea and China not explored more? This rise, by the way, precedes the new revisionist textbooks, and I suspect is linked to anti-US sentiment in South Korea as well.
Japan accepted some of the ideals of Christianity in their contacts with the West, but were never given (or never accepted) the underlying reasons for them. So you have a veneer of freedom and equality, but what drives society is more of a current of group-think and a samurai, farmer, craftsmen, businessman caste thinking.
They were given the freedom, equality etc., but still to this day don’t understand “WHY” they have them, and if they are really necessary or not. So you have voices here and there calling for a return to the “good old days” of self-imposed isolation.
” Japan’s whitewashing of history ”
I’ve checked the controversial textbook which is used less that 0.6% of the middle schools in Japan.
I thought it was just ordinary textbook.
Why do you guys keep saying that the rarely used textbooks are whitewashing history?
In fact, Korean schools use only one kind of textbook and it is written by government with heavy nationalism.
You can obtain “NewHisoryTextbook:RevisedEdition”(Chapter 4 and 5) translated into English in the following address: