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:


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”.


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:


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:


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?


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:


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:


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:


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.


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.


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.


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