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Blogger of the week: Hanako Tokita

In this week's installment of the Blogger of the Week series we are traveling to Japan thanks to Hanako Tokita, who is the editor of the Global Voices Lingua site in Japanese and also a GV author for Japan, where she's from. During the Global Voices Citizen Media Summit in Budapest last June, we had the chance to talk to her extensively about the Japanese blogosphere, her involvement with Global Voices and misperceptions about Japanese culture abroad, among other things. We also discovered her passion for gardening, and were able to taste some Japanese delicacies and home-made drinks that she brought, although that's a whole different story…

-When did you start writing for Global Voices?

I joined GV in April 2007, after meeting Boris Anthony [the original designer of the GV website] in Tokyo who told me that the site needed authors to cover the Japanese blogosphere and so I started writing about it. A couple of months later, I decided to start translating Global Voices content in Japanese as well, and now we are a team of 4-regular translators that make the Japanese Lingua site possible.

The last year and a half at Global Voices has been totally crazy. Things just happened. I arrived at the Summit in Budapest not knowing what to expect and all of a sudden I found myself in the middle of all these crazy people. It was probably the strangest experience I've ever had, in a very positive way. For example, I had never met anybody from Macedonia, or from Kazakhstan, or from many other places. I have lots of things to digest.

-What has been your most memorable blogging experience with GV?

A year ago I wrote a post about the Tokyo pride parade and a few of the bloggers that I quoted discovered each other's blogs thanks to the post. Also, a Chinese gay person left a comment in one of the blogs I quoted saying how great it was that there was a pride parade in Tokyo because in China that wouldn't be possible, and I thought it was really nice that these two people from different countries connected thanks to the post on Global Voices. Later on, I also got an email from one of the blogs I quoted saying that he was going to publish a book titled “Coming out letters”, a compilation of letters exchanged between LGTB students and their teachers and parents, and I wrote about it on Global Voices.

-How would you describe the Japanese blogosphere?

It's divided into very small independent blogospheres, for example the LGTB community which is very strong and even organizes meetings and off-line events. Or the tech community, the political community, etc. But the thing is that these blogospheres are not connected. The Japanese blogosphere is very big, probably the largest in the world, but at the end of the day is just a collection of smaller blogospheres.

There was an article in the Washington Post a few months ago titled Humble giants on the web,which was saying that although the Japanese blogosphere is the largest in the world according to Technorati, blogs are basically personal diaries -the ones that talk about what the authors ate, who they went out with, etc. But that's not really true because if you speak Japanese and search blogs on any topic you'll find a really active blogosphere. There's a sterotype about Japanese people being apolitical, not caring about anything, but that's not true in the blogosphere. I think that Japanese people are not good at expressing themselves verbally, but they are good writers. We have a culture of diary writing, and that creates a really good combination with blogging.

-What about your blog, what is it about?

I have one in English and one in Japanese, both called Mamachari, but I haven't written much lately. I still haven't figured out what to write about, but one of the things that interests me is biking. I always bike everywhere, I live in Tokyo and I don't have a driver's license -I could take the bus to go places, but I prefer biking. Another activity I like is gardening, or actually playing with dirt and plants as I don't have a garden. I call it niwa hacking (niwa means garden in Japanese). I grew up in the countryside surrounded by fileds, but now I live in Tokyo, where the space is limited. So out of frustration I take any little patch of soil that I can find and I plant something in it. [She even invented a watering device for her plants when she's travelling!]

I also like taking pictures of cats in the street, although I'm allergic to them, and of three-way junctions :)

-What do you do in the off-Global Voices life?

I'm a professional translator, I'm translating all day long.

-What is your wish for the future of the Global Voices site in Japanese and for the coverage of Japan by Global Voices?

I lived in Canada for 5 years and I became really frustrated with the way media portrayed Japan. The only stories they publish on Japan involve some weird or kinky stuff, or topics such as manga or tech gadgets. But Japan is not only about highly political issues or unusual sexual interests. 125 million people live in this country, and they each have their life to live, so there's a lot more to Japan. So I would like to contribute to telling the world that there are a lot of different stories about Japan.

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