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Japan: View from Ecuador on WaiWai “Child Hunt”

The story of the end of “WaiWai” has exploded on the English and Japanese [ja] Internet in Japan over the past few weeks, with no lack of Internet users expressing both outrage and support. For those who have not followed this story, WaiWai was a regular column in Japan's fourth largest newspaper Mainichi, published for many years on the English version of their website. Written by chief editor Australian RyanRyann Connell, WaiWai featured some of the most scandalous articles from Japan's weekly tabloids, translated to English with added “embellishments”. The authenticity of claims in the articles, which over the years increasingly featured sexual themes, was dubious to say the least.


News broadcast about the WaiWai controversy

Up until recently, WaiWai was virtually unknown to Japanese audiences, few of whom read the content on the English-language Mainichi website. According to reports, this changed when blogger Mozu wrote a post [ja] translating and commenting on a post in English at Neojaponisme entitled: “How the World Learns About Japan“. This discussion was later picked up on 2channel (Japan's largest bulletin board) and then by the news site J-CAST [ja], and from there it became a major news story, sparking protests that eventually made to TV news. A whole site devoted to the topic [ja], as well as a wiki [ja] with additional resources such as a full timeline of events [ja], have also been created.

Mainichi quickly removed the articles in question from the web and issued an apology, also announcing a third-party investigation of the WaiWai column, but this has not satisfied many in Japan. The situation has become so extreme that advertisers have pulled their ads from the Mainichi site [ja], where now only self-promotional ads [ja] to Mainichi itself can be found.


One of many anti-WaiWai videos broadcast on YouTube

One of the most controversial articles in the former WaiWai column was entitled “Sex, rape & slaves inserted in sick holiday menu”, in which one passage reads:

In Ecuador, Japanese can, according to the men’s weekly, hunt for children in a different manner as they are armed with a rifle and permitted to track down a youth let loose in the jungle. About 10 Japanese have so far taken part in the tours, with only three getting a shot off at their target and no fatalities reported.

In all the uproar over WaiWai, one Japanese resident in Ecuador discovered this article and wrote a blog post at a blog entitled Nanmei (南瞑) that was heavily linked to and commented on, in which the blogger describes an email they wrote to Mainichi:

すでに、2ちゃんなどを見てる方はご承知でしょうが、毎日新聞のweb版コラムで、低俗極まりない虚偽情報を足掛け9年にも亘って英文で世界に発信していた、という事が報じられました。すでに毎日新聞社はこれについての謝罪文を掲載、関係者の処分を行ったと発表しています。しかし、忘れている事があります。すでに発信してしまった情報の処置です。すでにコラムは閉鎖、発信された情報のアーカイブも削除されていますが、世界を駆け巡る情報は、毎日新聞の手を離れ、世界の様々な処で、「毎日新聞発」という権威付けをされて、残存しています。

People who read 2ch and so on will already probably know about this, but it was reported that in a column at the webpage of Mainichi Daily News, incredibly vulgar false information was being transmitted in English to the entire world over a period stretching across 9 years. Mainichi Newspapers Co. Ltd. has already issued an apology about this, and announced that persons concerned [with the column] would be dealt with. However, there is something that [they are] forgetting. This is [the issue of] how to deal with information that has already been broadcast. The column has been terminated and archives of the articles have been deleted, but information still exists, circling the globe, out of the hands of Mainichi newspaper but credited with the authority of [having been] “issued by Mainichi Newspaper”.

ところで、その発信された虚偽情報の中に「エクアドルで日本人が子供をジャングルに放し、それを銃で狩る」というものがありました。これについて、ネット上に存在するキャッシュを添付、毎日新聞社宛、問い合わせのメールを致しました。毎日新聞の問い合わせフォームを使い、丁寧に確認をお願いした次第ですが、残念ながら三日という余裕を提示したにも関わらず、その三日を過ぎても返信を戴けませんでした。以下に、私が問い合わせをしたメールを全文公開致します。

Among this false information that was disseminated, there was [a report] claiming that: “In Ecuador, Japanese let loose children in the jungle and hunt them with rifles.” I sent an email inquiry addressed to Mainichi newspaper about this and attached a cached copy [of the article] that can still be found on the Internet. I used the Mainichi newspaper inquiry form and asked politely for confirmation, but unfortunately although I indicated [in the email] that I gave a period of 3 days [for them to answer], I had received no reply by the time the 3 days were up. Below is the text of the inquiry email that I sent.

In the email, the blogger explains their concerns about the WaiWai article:

ご理解願えるかと存じますが、私はエクアドルに在住する日本人でございます。仮にこれが本当に御社により配信されたものであるとしましたならば、場合によっては当地在住の全ての日本人及びその家族に「生命の危険」がございます。何卒、事情ご賢察の上、早急にご返答願えれば幸甚です。

I hope that I can ask for your understanding [regarding my position] as a Japanese person residing in Ecuador. Just suppose that [this story] was actually something that was issued by your company, then one can imagine cases where there would be a “threat to the lives” of all Japanese people residing here, as well as [a threat to the lives] of their families. I ask you please, understand the situation and reply as quickly as possible.

Later in the post, the blogger continues:

さて、エクアドルに在住する日本人であるところの私たちは、この毎日新聞社の発信した記事で将来の可能性も含めて、大変な一般生活上での危険を背負い込む事になりました。エクアドルの現状の治安状態を考慮すれば、相当に由々しき問題と言えます。この件は毎日新聞社が国内、国外に謝罪しただけでは済みません。エクアドルという国名を挙げ、そして、日本人と国籍を特定して、「子供を銃で撃っている」と書いたのです。これをエクアドル人が知ったなら、どういう反応をするでしょうか?その程度の想像力もこの新聞社の従業員には欠如しているのでしょうか?

With this article put out by Mainichi Newspaper and the possible [consequences it may have on] our future, we Japanese in Ecuador now have to bear the burden of a terrible danger in our everyday lives. Considering the present state of public order in Ecuador, it is fair to say that this is a grave problem. It is not enough in this case for Mainichi newspaper to simply issue apologies to domestic and foreign [audiences]. [In the article], the name of the country of Ecuador was given, and then, specifying the Japanese people and Japanese nationality, it was written that: “they hunt children with rifles”. If Ecuadorian people learn about this, how do you think they will react? Do employees of this newspaper company not even have the imaginative capacity necessary to see this?

このエクアドルには、少なからぬ日本人が住んで、それぞれに安寧な生活基盤を築き、平和に生活しています。毎日新聞社は、一体、どんな資格、権利をもって、私たちエクアドル在住の日本人の安全を毀損したのでしょうか?仮にこの記事の内容が事実だったとしても、それをもって、この国に在住する全ての日本人の安全を毀損して良いのでしょうか?ましてや、この記事に書かれた内容は、まったく信憑性のかけらすら無い、ゴシップとすら言えない「妄想」に近いものです。このようなもので、私たちエクアドル在住日本人が、その生命を危険に晒されなければならない正当な理由を、毎日新聞社は私たちに開示出来るのでしょうか?

There are more than a few Japanese people living in this country of Ecuador, each of them building foundations for a secure and peaceful life, living in peace. What in the world kind of qualification — and what right — does Mainichi Newspaper have in jeopardizing the security of us Japanese who reside in Ecuador? Even if we suppose that the contents of this article are true, does that make it okay to jeopardize the security of all Japanese who live in this country? All the more so since the subject matter in these articles, which contains not even a fragment of authenticity, is akin to a “delusion” and cannot even be called gossip. I wonder, is Mainichi Newspapers Co. Ltd. capable of providing a justifiable reason to us Japanese living in Ecuador for having had to put our lives in jeopardy with this kind of content?

The vast majority of comments and trackbacks to the blog post are supportive of Nanmei. Blogger r_o_k, for example, expresses this view:

英語ブログをつけたことのある人なら誰でもその影響範囲にびびった経験があると思う。もっとも最盛期は2、3年前くらいかな。今はコミュニティサービスが停滞期に入りブログも日本語が世界一になっているから、私の放置英語ブログもアクセスが激減しているけど、ニュースポータルやミニブログは未ださかんなようだ。つまり、こういう報道起因の英文ネタ情報は、細かく無数にコピペされ、もとが消えても痕跡が残り、時間をこえて残り話題にされつづけるのが今。

I think that anybody who has had an English-language blog will have had the experience of being freaked out by their range of influence. The real golden age was I guess two or three years ago. Right now community services have entered a period of stagnation, and Japanese blogs have become the most [numerous] in the world, so the number of hits to my neglected English-language blog has dropped sharply, but news portals and mini-blogs are still very popular. In other words, the English-language information originating in news reports is copy-pasted countless times, and even if the original is deleted, traces are left behind, so that even as time goes by, the content remains and continues to be talked about.

One comment at Nanmei however questioned the seriousness of the concerns:

少し気にしすぎなんじゃないの?
元の記事が配信されたのが2003年、それから5年、何も問題なく生活できてるんでしょ?
エクアドルで。
だったら、今後、あなたの言う「毎日新聞社の記事によって生命を失う危険に直面しています。」ような状態にはならないと思うよ。
あなたのことではないですが、2ちゃんねらーのなかにはどうも低レベルなマスコミ叩きをしたいだけの連中が多いようですね。
彼らの行動は、理解に苦しみます。

Don't you think you're worrying about this a bit too much?
The original article was published in 2003, and 5 years later [you're] living your life without any problems, right?
In Ecuador.
So if that's the case, then I don't think that the situation you describe, of “confronting a threat to your life as a result of the article in Mainichi newspaper”, will ever come to be in the future.
You are not one of them I know, but among 2channel users there are a lot of guys who only want to hurl childish abuse at the mass media.
I have a hard time understanding the actions of these guys.

In a follow-up post, Nanmei responds specifically to this comment, explaining the situation in Ecuador:

このような国で、国名を特定し、国籍を明示して、「狩りとして子供を銃で撃つ」という行為している、という記事を、その真偽に関わらず、「新聞」と言う権威付けが行われた状態で一般に発信した場合、どうなると思いますか?おそらく、大半の人は、自分の経験に照らして、そんな事がこの国で行われているはずが無い、とすぐに気付くでしょう。しかし、ごく一部かも知れませんが、この記事を鵜呑みに信じてしまう人たちがいます。
この、ごく少数かも知れない人たちでも、銃器は所持できます。もちろん実弾が入った状態で。

Regardless of the authenticity [of the claim], what do you think happens when an article referring to the act of “shooting children with rifles as a form of hunting”, specifying a country by name and explicitly stating the nationality [in question], is distributed to a general [audience] under the authority of a “newspaper”. The majority of people probably immediately recognize, in light of their own personal experiences, that there is no way that this kind of thing actually happens in this country. However, there is also one small portion of people who will swallow this story hook, line and sinker.
Even though there are very few of these people, it is possible for them to possess firearms. With live bullets in them, of course.

多分、それが強盗だったなら、助かるかも知れません。強盗の目的はカネです。カネさえ盗れば、それで満足して撃たないかも知れません。でもそれが、意図して「日本人を撃つ」ためだったらどうでしょう。必ず撃たれます。この記事の問題は、「意図して日本人を撃つ」動機を与える事にあるのです。そして、その日本人とは、この記事に書かれた「ツアーで子供を撃った」日本人ではありませんし、記事を書いた豪州人でもなく、毎日新聞の記者でもありません。

Perhaps if this was for a robbery, then it might be okay. The purpose of a robbery is money. [A robber] is satisfied once the money is stolen, and may not shoot [their victim]. But suppose that the intention was to “shoot a Japanese person”? Then they would certainly be shot. The problem with this article is that it presents a motive to “intentionally shoot a Japanese person”. This Japanese person [who gets shot], however, is not the Japanese person in the article who “shot children in a tour”, nor is it the Australian guy who wrote the article, nor is it a reporter at Mainichi Newspaper.

2003年にこの記事が掲載されて以来、幸いな事に明らかにこの記事が動機となって殺された日本人はこの国では知られていません。それは幸運な事に、この記事をスペイン語に翻訳したものが無かったというのも理由でしょう。私が検索した限りでは、簡単に検索にかかるサイトでこの記事をスペイン語で書いたものはありませんでした。しかし、それは僥倖です。いつまでも僥倖に頼る訳には行きません。明日、この記事のスペイン語訳が新聞やwebサイトに現れたらどうなるのでしょうか?そして英語だからと安心するわけにも行かないのです。この国ではまともな学校へ通える子供達は6歳から英語を習うのですから。

It is fortunate that, in the time since 2003 when this article appeared, there have been no known cases in this country of murders of Japanese people motivated by this article. This is a very fortunate thing, and part of the reason it would seem is that there is no Spanish translation of the article. As far as I can tell from my own investigation, there are no Spanish versions of this article among sites that can easily be found through a web search. However, that is sheer luck. You can't rely on sheer luck forever. Suppose that a Spanish translation of this article appeared tomorrow on a newspaper or website, then what would happen? And don't think that things are okay just because the article is in English. Because children in this country who attend decent schools learn English starting from age 6.

Members of the GV team have searched for Spanish-language and Ecuador-based blogs mentioning the WaiWai controversy, but nothing seems to be out there. If any readers know of such conversations, please let us know.

24 comments

  • ty

    What a disgrace for the Japanese!

  • jason black

    The Japanese are so funny when the shoe is on the other foot! Various right wing politicians and the media in Japan are always making outrageous claims about gaijin living in Japan.

  • 南瞑 Nanmei

    Thank you very much.
    It is an author of an introductory blog.
    I wish to express my gratitude for the thing to understand our
    situation accurately.

    It is believed that the thing that my blog is quoted accurately like this has a good influence on our safety.

  • Iggy

    As an Australian who occasionally stumbled across WaiWai entries before moving to Japan two years ago, I’d hesitate to say Ryann Connell’s column ever endangered Japanese living overseas, but I’d argue it was at least recklessly indifferent to their wellbeing and reputation.

    I no longer have the energy to refute predictably ignorant comments about how “simply weird” the Japanese are — usually made by my own educated and otherwise enlightened Australian friends. Some of that ignorance stems from centuries of racism, but some can be attributed to the essentialist portraits of Japanese schoolgirls/housewives/salarymen/etc trundled out on a depressingly regular basis by Connell (and Western reporters under pressure from their news desks).

    The sneering, racist tone that ran through most of WaiWai’s tabloid tropes and coloured its sociopathic/psychopathic Japanese characters was, I think, emblematic of a greater, but equally distasteful attitude towards Japan in the West.

    It’s not enough to say 1) the articles were merely translations of Japanese originals and that 2) they were just a bit of fun.

    Neither of those claims stacks up.

    And yes, it’s true that racism is entrenched in Japan too — just like any country. But that’s not the point here.

  • jason black

    I disagree with you Iggy.
    It is exactly the point that racism is entrenched in Japan that is demonstrated by anti-WaiWai hysteria.

  • tomoko

    Those non-Japanese people who claims us “hysteric” seems not to have sound imagination. How do you react if this incident happens to your community or yourself?

  • jason black

    These ‘non-Japanese’ people? How racist are you Tomoko? I am not Japanese, but I am STILL a human being. I never used the word ‘hysteric’, so please dont put words in my mouth.
    Japanese media and politicians make ludicrous claims about gaijin all the time, and gaijin just have to put up with it. Can you use a knife and fork?

  • tomoko

    Hey, Jason san, please be nice to someone you actually don’t know even if it’s on line. My previous post does not expect to be tagged as racist…. moreover, I am only asking everyone to imagine if that incident happen to you. Please do so if you believe yourself as one of those human beings.

  • jason black

    Why do you call me ‘san’. You can speak english so use the prefix of ‘Mr.’ if you wish to infer respect. You know full well that use of san is a backhanded way of patronizing me.

  • toshi

    jason
    I’m not going to say to you shut up, but before opening your mouth, why don’t you ask ur mom to buy some toothpaste??? Your mouth stinks.

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