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Inside the Japanese Blogosphere – The Anti-Korea Wave

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.

Manga: KenKanRyu

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.

106 comments

  • First of all, I’d like to thank everybody for their interest in my post, and, once again, thanks for any and all corrections.

    At that, I couldn’t really comment on Korean or Chinese histiography, or the middle-school textbooks used in those countries. Anyway, Japan has no control over the curriculum in Korea or China, and the textbooks really do indicate a fundamental shift in Japan’s national narrative since the Pacific War, and how the country perceives its place in a post 9/11 world.

    The textbook, which is available online in English, is really worth reading. For one thing, it argues that Japan’s peace constitution, written with American assistance after the second world war, is inferior to the original Meiji constitution, which was scrapped. There are also many arguments for Japan’s need to annex the Korean peninsula at the end of the 19th century, the need to colonize Manchuria, the need to invade China, and the need to go to war in Southeast Asia.

  • zzzed

    If all countries interfere history textbooks each other, America may gets most complaints.

  • Nevin Thompson: Thanks for your reply. I understand you didn’t write about Chinese and Korean historiography because they apparently aren’t your area, but my question was broader. Outside of Japan, it seems everyone is dogpiling on Japan over their historiography, but no one mentions far worse abuses in Chinese historiography, and no one even discusses Korean historiography.

    I also understand that Japan doesn’t have control over Korean or Chinese textbooks, but that doesn’t answer my question. Surely, if we are going to hold the Japanese to a high standard, we should hold the Chinese and Koreans to a similar standard, and should equally criticize any that fall short of it. Otherwise, it’s just Japan-bashing.

    I highly suspect that the current wave of criticism over Japan’s textbooks is politically motivated, and the one-sided criticism over historiography supports my suspicions, as do the government arranged, anti-Japan riots in China a few months ago. The Chinese and Koreans want something from Japan, and they are trying to shame the Japanese into giving it to them. This does not relieve Japan of its obligation to face its past and deal with it honestly, and I do think the textbook in discussion is a big step backwards, but I suggest we look beyond that and ask why the criticism is increasing NOW. I do not believe it is just concern for the truth or even for justice. It’s about politics, just as approval of the Japanese textbook by Monbukagakusho is political.

  • hide

    stupid people can’t explain anything but “revisionism text book”.
    they are very very old fashioned ultra left wing,or very ultra right wing for Korea&China.
    THAT’S ALL!

    And this super popular “manga-kenkanryu” is just one of the works what very popular books & magazine in recent days,among many Japanese people begins to know correct history which has been hidden by old fashioned left wing teachers in Japan.

    this manga is only just one of new waves that is able to be called as liberalism in true mieaning.

  • riyota kasamatsu

    The fine lines between bashing, revisionism, eurocentrism, sinocentrism, general patriotism, nationalism etc…

    The problem of most sides in these discussions is that they mostly take a somewhat patriotic and nationalistic position. Sugesting that Japan was a victim of the two and only atombombs ever used in war is for a large group of north americans or for that matter europeans crazy. Because in their narrowminded worldview the world is eaven more black and white than starwars. Vader is not only a victimizer hes also an victim. And the position that sees the atombombs as justifiable, only pours gasoline in the fire, and feeds an nationalistic postition from pissed of japanese. There is always more than one story, though they might be wrong a lot of people in Bushes USA believe that they are on a mission which is liberating parts of the world. Now is this propaganda or does the Bush administration really believe it? Yes some of it might be simplyfied, though in general terms I do believe that they believe in what they are saying. Is a similar position not possible for the Japanese part in the war? though I don’t think this needs to be said in words like thank our great ancestors for our present wealth. There was nothing great about the war, as there is nothing great about the war and Japanese participation on the side of USA.

  • […] Besides offering free portable DVD players to new bloggers (only until September 30, and some restrictions apply!), Ameba Blog holds a contest each month for the twenty most popular Japanese blogs, and prizes range from 5000 yen (about US$45.00), to 100,000 yen ($900.00). Blog popularity appears to be determined according to page hits. Japan’s Outrageous Asian Neighbours, previously highlighted on Global Voices Online, won 5000 yen at 12th place. Blogs about shopping and celebrities are among those that received 10,000 yen, while a blog devoted to flash games and other neat stuff was awarded 30,000 yen. […]

  • […] From Korea While not exactly part of the Anti-Korean Wave, the popular blog Now’s the time…to deflate Korea takes aim at “the tremendous amount of unbelievable things” one can encounter during everyday life in Korea. Intended for “those who like Korea, those who don’t like Korea…and those riding the Korean wave,” the blog describes the life of “Christopher,” who teaches Japanese in Seoul. […]

  • gromit

    I think it is not a main issue of “Ken-kan-ryu” that the controversial history game between Japan and Korea/China. Japanese MSM is very sensitive for Korean issue because there are big complaining parties of Korean (north and south) residents in Japan. So they only advertise Korea (that is “Kan-ryu”, Korea Wave), do not tell well about the bad side (increasing crimes, illegal immigrant, etc…. ). This book describes much about this issue. So, the correct translation of the title of this book is not “The Anti-Korean Wave”, but “The Anti- “Korean Wave” ” ;-)

  • Yobo

    Drop a hydrogen bomb, and let attack and sink a Japanese submarine, and, in which “Japan does not have” or Korea novel and the movie that it is it to a best seller an anti-Japan book that “a flower of げ to show bloomed”, Korea oneself who kidnaps the Crown Princess live in Tokyo Bay || even if do it if there is a few it, and is spoken ill by a Japanese although social, is malicious, and continue discharging the anti-Japan novel which is the stereotype that there is not that seem to be 救 that rose and this anti-Japan medium for accepting uncritically when contents of the criticism are objective according to the third person justly, is angry, and roll it up, and blood rises to a head, and is childish, and is emotional, and is emotional, and is unilateral, and the Koreans who criticize Japanese unpleasant Korea book although read it joyfully are funny with a Korean anti-Japan book feces race of the nationalist whom is world’s narrowest-minded, and blind, is fanatic who does not pass, it a ground and evidence Always dark at the foot of the lighthouse at all at all without criticizing it.

  • PK

    All of these seem to cause more troubles in this world. I am so tired..

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