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Japan: Views on the Sichuan Earthquake

Global Voices Olympics The earthquake in China's Sichuan province, besides taking its toll on tens of thousands of Chinese citizens, has also had reverberations far away in the Japanese blogosphere, where the topic ranked top among blogging keyword lists [ja] and sparked conversations in forums [ja] over the past few days.

Blogger Kobayashi Akihito at Shirokuma blog writes about the way that Twitter was used to broadcast early news about the earthquake, and how this indicates a change in the way journalism is now functioning:


Journalism up until now has been the transmission of information by only so-to-speak “chosen people”. Recently a form [of journalism] called citizen journalism has also made an appearance, but this is also limited to people who are able to become “citizen journalists”, and on top of this (while there is a difference between sites in the degree [to which this happens]) there is also inspection by an editorial department. In other words, one segment of people or of organizations chooses information, and based on a sense of trust in this selection process, the authenticity of information is guaranteed. (Although recently there are many people questioning this idea.)

一方 Twitter が構築したネットワークの中では、誰もが自由に情報発信することができます。その分ウソやウワサ話といったものも多く含まれることになりますが、別に従来のメディアのように情報の信憑性を保証しているわけではありませんから、受け手はそれを鵜呑みにせず「これは本当だろうか?」と吟味することになります。その情報を発信したのが、普段から信頼できる発言をしている人物か。一人だけでなく、他の人々も同じことを語っているか。同じ情報を受け取った他のユーザーは、どのような反応をしているか。そういった要素をベースに信憑性を判断し、場合によっては自らも「中国で地震があったらしいよ」と発言する――それがまた別のユーザーに伝わって、という流れになるわけですね。もちろんこれは理想像ですが、今回「Twitterで目にした情報はすべて正しいようだ」という発言が出ているのは、従来のジャーナリズムとは別の仕組みで、正しい情報が伝わる仕組みが現れつつあることを示しているように思います。

Within the network that Twitter has built up, on the other hand, anybody can freely transmit information. To this extent, there are also lies and rumors included [in this information], but there is no particular reason to think that [Twitter networks] guarantee the authenticity of information in the way that traditional media do. It is therefore a matter of the receiver of information not believing everything they see, scrutinizing [the information] and asking: “Is this really true?” Is the one who is transmitting the information a person who ordinarily makes trustworthy statements? Is it only one person, or are other people saying the same thing as well? And other people receiving the information, how are they responding to it? Drawing judgments about authenticity on the basis of these elements, a person may in some cases themselves also declare that: “there seems to have been an earthquake in China” — this message is then transmitted to other users, and this is how the flow works. This is of course an idealized image, but the statements that came out this time that “all the information seen on Twitter appears to be correct” would seem to indicate that a new mechanism for transmitting accurate information — different from the mechanism of traditional journalism — is in the process of emerging.

Japanese TV broadcast about the potential influence of the earthquake on the Beijing Olympics

Whereas Akihito focused on the medium, most bloggers in fact were writing about the actual earthquake itself. In a post entitled “Will the Olympics be alright?”, one blogger expresses sympathy for victims of the earthquake while also questioning the strategy of rush construction, which apparently compromised the structure of some buildings:


First I would like to express my feelings of sympathy to all the people of China, and of the world, who have suffered.
And the timing, what terrible timing for an earthquake to happen.
On top of the problems happening at the same time in Tibet, this major earthquake.
And what's more, apparently there were more than 10,000 deaths.
Apparently the damage was not only caused by the earthquake, but was also greatly influenced by the shoddy construction behind sudden economic growth.
In this situation, a layperson like myself has to ask, will the Olympics actually take place without any problems?
On the contrary, however, this could perhaps play a role in heightening feelings of patriotism.
I have no problem with the Olympics, but I hope that they deal as soon as possible with this problem of increased damage resulting from rush construction.

At Wakaba no Nikki, one blogger remarks on all the disasters hitting Asia recently, including the typhoon that took 30,000 lives in Myanmar:


The cyclone in Myanmar (I don't really want to use the title “Myanmar”, but…), the huge earthquake in Sichuan province, major catastrophes have recently been hitting Asia one after another. One day after the earthquake it was announced that there had been 12,000 deaths, but by now over 90,000 people have been buried alive. I keep wishing that many people are rescued as soon as possible, or even just one person. While it is only a small [contribution], I think I will also send a donation.

The blogger then comments on a strange phenomenon observed before the earthquake hit:


Incidentally, I read the news about “a strange phenomenon that occurred just before the big earthquake, in which several thousand toads in the city of Mianzhu in the same province started moving all at once”. It is said in Japan that catfish act very violently, and in a book about earthquakes that I once read, it was noted that an earthquake occurred after a snake was confirmed to be slithering on the top of snow. I guess there was some kind of change underground that roused the snake out of hibernation. I have had experiences myself in which I was woken up in the middle of the night by the loud barking of neighborhood dogs, and then an earthquake hit right afterwards. This kind of abnormal behavior in animals is apparently referred to under the title of “macro-anomaly”, and it is thought that such animals are perceiving electromagnetic or chemical changes.

Blogger Tatsuro Satoh at the Voice from Kobe draws a comparison with the Great Hanshin-Awaji earthquake:


On television, they were broadcasting the confusion in the airport resulting from the earthquake, and from the TV footage one could sense the “extremely powerful vibrations”.
The context is totally different, but for a moment I thought of the great Hanshin-Awaji earthquake.
The photograph in the article shows people who passed the night on the street, fearing aftershocks. I remembered that I myself was also in a kind of daze at the time of the Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake, like the people in the picture.

While bloggers were mostly sympathetic with the victims of the earthquake, online bulletin boards and forums expressed a different perspective. An anonymous poster in the 6th comment on a thread at 2channel about the earthquake writes:

6 : 名無しさん@八周年:2008/05/14(水) 14:51:39 ID:4t7Tb1Oe0


A country full of politicians who sell out, without any political parties to support, that's Japan.
Even if you pay 500 million yen, it just flows to the Chinese communist party.
Even now most Chinese don't know that the ODA [Official Development Assistance] which provided financing is also support from Japan.
Why? Because the Chinese government will absolutely not inform people about this fact.
Through an education of brainwashing, Chinese come to get the idea that Japan financing China is something obvious.
And now, just like in the past, there is absolutely no sense of gratitude for this.

Another poster, shortly thereafter in comment number 39 on the same thread, describes how they came to 2channel expecting to find sympathy for the victims of the disaster, only to be met with hostility:

39 :名無しさん@八周年:2008/05/14(水) 14:57:27 ID:I7toTpGP0



Thinking that there would be many people similarly troubled about this, I took a peek at the Internet bulletin board 2channel.
But what I saw there were thoughtless posts by Free Tibet supporters (young people who call themselves the net right-wing)
targeting Chinese victims of the disaster, so abusive that I could hardly believe my eyes…


  • Japan was spoken highly this time for the help. And genuine gratitude could be seen on even, for example,
    May humanitarianism help break the boundaries!

  • Japan is spoken highly this time for its help. Even in Tianya genuine gratitude could be heard. May humanitarianism break the boundaries!~

  • Novan

    please spread the word

  • Sonagi

    “Another poster, shortly thereafter in comment number 39 on the same thread, describes how they came to 2channel expecting to find sympathy for the victims of the disaster, only to be met with hostility”

    The poster is obviously not a regular reader of 2ch comment threads, which is probably a good thing.

  • Victor Eremita

    Free Tibet is not right wing…not even close.
    besides, earth quake was located on Sichuan, which has been considered as Tibetan area.

    Free Tibet supporters mostly are upset about earthquake, and very worried about Tibetan victims.

  • Joe

    Victor Eremita
    Don’t worry, Chinese did not assign a tag saying”tibetan” on tibetan people. And the 10,000 troops won’t ask rather you are tibetan or not.

    To the author.
    I do feel really sad too, both the victims and the poor constructions. Schools collapsed into PIECES. THat is just speechless.

  • Please don’t exaggerate on this tragic and sad topic. it didn’t turned into “pieces” . if that’s what happened, then the survival rate will be zero.

  • chan

    We can learn from the Japanese on their emergency preparedness and mental preparedness for earthquake disaster is Good.

  • Yves

    We really should thank Japanese this time.
    They gave us lots of help and show their humanitarian spirit to the whole world
    I think we Chinese and Japanses should be ally and make a stronger new asia in the new century

  • Knights

    If Japan is willing to show their regret for what they have done in prior war times, and it looks like they are trying to make up for it, we ought to give them a chance.

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