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Inside the Japanese Blogosphere – The Anti-Korea Wave

Categories: Popular Post, First Post!, One month, Two Posts, Three months, Five Posts, Six months, Ten Posts, One year, Two years, Twenty-five Posts, Five years, China, Japan, North Korea, South Korea, Taiwan (ROC), Citizen Media

The ever-useful “Ninki Blog Ranking [1]” 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 [2], [3]blogs devoted to tracking the movements of celebrities [4], and blogs that discuss the best way to diet [5]. And, like any other online community, Japan has no shortage of blogs devoted to punditry [6], 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 [7], many bloggers are taking aim at Korea.

Choose (what you believe) Carefully! Information on Korea [8] 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 [9] (currently the 7th most popular Japanese-language blog), We Don't Need No Kan-ryuu [10] (ranked at number 11), and The Truth About Asia – what the mass media doesn't tell you about China and Korea [11] (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 [12], 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 [13], there are other hip, charismatic commentators like Yoshinori Kobayashi [14], author of the popular Sensou-ron [15] 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 [16]. So far, two school boards have adopted the controversial textbooks [17] this year, and one of the texts is published online in English [18], Korean [19] and Mandarin [18].

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.