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Japan: Alpha Blogger Awards 2007

A-List blogs in the active blogging culture of the United States are those that draw the most hits, that hold the most influence, that are the most widely-read and the most popular. But what about Japan? Are there many influential bloggers here too? When organizers of the yearly Alpha Bloggers Awards asked this question a few years ago, they had no answer, so they created a project to find one.

The Alpha Bloggers Awards website explains:

日本にはすでに1000万人以上のブログが開設されており、世界全体のブログの中でも日本語で解説されているブログは、複数の国で利用されている英語とトップを争うほどの数があると言われています。 

There are already more than one million blogs that have been established in Japan, and even among all blogs of the whole world, the number of blogs that offer commentary in Japanese goes as far as to compete for top place with English, which is a language used among many different countries.

ただ、そんな大量のブログの中から自分に役立つブログを見つけ出すのは、実は至難の業です。
そんな中、アルファブロガーに選ばれた方々のブログは、複数の人に推薦された評価の高いブログと言えると思います。
皆さんの日々の生活に良い影響を与えてくれたり、ビジネスや日々の情報収集に役立つブログもきっと見つかるはずです。

However, trying to discover blogs that are useful to you among such a huge number of blogs is a Herculean task.
In this kind of situation, bloggers selected as Alpha Bloggers may be said to be those of a high evaluation, that have been recommended by many people.
Bloggers that have a positive influence on everybody's daily life, that are useful in business or in collecting daily information, can surely be found.

初めてブログを始める人、また面白いブログを探しているけれど、どこで探せば良いのか分からない人、そんな方々に参考になるブログを、このアルファブロガー・アワードを通じてたくさん見つけていきたいと考えています。 

People who start blogs for the first time, or people who are searching for interesting blogs but don't know where good blogs may be found, through the Alpha Blogger Awards we hope to find many blogs that will be of help to these kinds of people.

Alpha Bloggers 2007: Surprise at all the unknown Japanese Blogs
Slides from Alpha Bloggers 2007: “They're all blogs I don't know!”

Three years after its establishment in 2004, however, and organizers of the Alpha Blogger Awards have changed their approach. In contrast to previous years, which featured exclusively well-known names in the Japanese blogosphere such as Joi Ito, the group of nominees in the 2007 awards were largely unknown even to the presenters themselves. A report about the event on the Alpha Bloggers website explains:

思ってたより、ずっとずっと、ブログの世界は広かったんだ。
そんな印象のアワードでした。

The world of blogs was much much more vast than I had thought.
That was the impression I had of the awards.

今回ノミネート選定にあたったブロガーの方々は、職業などのバックグラウンドもさまざまです。それぞれの専門領域から、「これは!」というものが集められました。

The bloggers selected this time for nomination had a variety of different work backgrounds. From each of these different domains of specialization, all these “This is it!” [blogs] were brought together.

したがってノミネートブログは、法律や教育、医療、遠隔地での自然保護など、その道のオーソリティーが集まり、結果もまたそうした多様な顔ぶれを反映したものとなりました。

The nominated blogs come were brought together from authorities in many fields — law, education, medicine, nature conservation in remote areas — and the result reflected the diversity of this lineup.

これまで3回行ううちに、似た顔ぶれしかピックアップされなくなったことから、終了が検討されていたアルファブロガー・アワード。

Over the course of the past three times that we have done [these awards], [blogs in] the lineup that was selected became very similar, so we had considered terminating the Alpha Blogger Awards.

しかし、運営主体が替わり、ノミネート方法を変えたところ、徳力さんも清田さんも、初めて見る、しかも実はカリスマ的な人気を誇るブログがわんさかと出てきて、「こんなにあるのか!」と驚いたそうです。

However, when the head management changed, and the method for nominating blogs also changed, Tokuriki-san and Kiyota-san were apparently surprised to find that there were all these blogs they had never seen before, and on top of this that these blogs enjoyed such charismatic popularity, exclaiming: “There are so many of them!”

Alpha Bloggers 2007: New Japanese Blogosphere
Slides from Alpha Bloggers 2007: Crossing into a Broader Blogosphere

Alpha Bloggers 2007: Discovery of New Blogs
Slides from Alpha Bloggers 2007: “Together we were able to discover many great blogs from different genres”

While at the Alpha Bloggers Awards we had the chance to meet up with one of the winners, blogger Hadama Masami (葉玉匡美) who blogs at Kaishahou de Asobo (会社法であそぼ):

How did you start blogging in the first place?

I was working at the Legal Affairs Bureau of the Ministry of Justice, and was in charge of drafting the new companies law. After the law was implemented, I got questions from people, like “how does the law work?” or “I don't know what has really been changed?” As I was answering these questions on the phone, I noticed that many people had similar questions, so I thought that if I answered them in a blog then it would reduce the number of questions. In a blog there is a comment section, so if they have any questions, they can just post them there. People tried to call the Legal Affairs Bureau, but there were a lot of people calling, so the line was always busy. So I thought, wouldn't it be good if I could do this in a blog. It was just an impulsive idea.

But in the end, the number of questions didn't decrease.

The opposite, it increased. Not only that, but well, because there are various procedures for corporate law, there is a lot to do at a Japanese the Legal Affairs Bureau. Companies came to the legal affairs bureau to ask questions, but when [the bureau] didn't know the answer, or they were told that it could not be done, then as a kind of consolation they would turn to my blog, and if I said I could do it, then with that blog post, they would storm in [to the bureau]. We also got phone calls from regional legal affairs bureaus around the country saying: “It seems taht Hadama-san says such-and-such on his blog. Is it true?.”

Blogger Hadama Masami at the Alpha Blogger Awards 2007
Blogger Hadama Masami (right) at the Alpha Blogger Awards 2007

What is the access count of your site?

Depending on the time it can change quite a lot, but around 7000. When it's a lot it's around 9000.

At what kind of times does it increase?

In Japan general meetings of stockholders are usually held in June. Many companies start preparing for the general meeting of stockholders in around March. So in the period between March and April, when preparations are going on for the general meeting, the access count increases. Also, when there is corporate law-related news, for example when there are things like the Bull-Dog Sauce incident, people come wondering: “What does Hadama has to say?”

At roughly what pace do you update your blog?

I used to update about every day, but I'm busy. Now it's about once in a week. Because of that there are a lot of questions that build up. 10 questions or 15 questions. When I had just started the site, people didn't know much about the law, so they asked only easy questions, but recently lawyers and professionals are writing so it's become really hard. I answer their questions for free, and then they go and make money [with the answers]. Not very fair….

Have you thought of charging?

No, haven't considered that. If I charge, then there is a responsibility. Since I don't take any money, I don't have to take responsibility. Well, but I also have pride, so I don't say things that are really careless.

You use your real name, does your work say anything to you about it?

No. I've been using my real name since back when I was originally at the Justice Ministry, and when I quit it was already known that I was doing this blog. People at the legal department of listed companies in Japan all read it. I can't stop, see. And the law firm I work for now, they figure it's good publicity, and so they tolerates it.

[Prepared by Chris Salzberg and Hanako Tokita.]

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