Japan: PM resignation starts Internet buzz, but was it real?

With less than a year spent in office, Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda made a sudden announcement on live television last Monday night that he had decided to resign. A reshuffling of the PM's cabinet just one month earlier, it appears, did not have the desired effect on his approval rating, which has been low for quite a while. Citing persistent obstacles caused by lack of cooperation by the opposition Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ), Fukuda decided to resign to avoid creating a “political vacuum”. An election within the LDP to decide on his replacement is planned for September 22nd, and a general election may follow very soon thereafter.

Fukuda's resignation speech with added voice-overs, very popular on Nico Nico Douga (this is the YouTube version).

Blogger finalvent wrote about his first reactions to the resignation in a popular entry posted on September 2nd:


Prime Minister Fukuda resigned last night. I was surprised because I hadn't expected it at all, but listening to him speak in real time, Fukuda's words, in their own way, did somehow manage to convey to me what he was feeling. Even so, although I thought a lot about what he said, I just could not understand how he came to this last conclusion. If only he had just tried a bit harder, I think things would have been okay, no?


It's only one month since the cabinet was formed, so there's hardly been any time between then and his resignation. He seemed to still have had some drive when the cabinet was formed, so I guess that his determination to resign must have come from a change in his awareness of the circumstances over the past month. That change in awareness of the situation was I guess what he meant with the line (already the talk of the Internet), “I am able to see myself objectively. I am different from you.” In other words, he must have looked at things objectively, and in secret, without even his wife knowing about it, made the decision on his own to resign. I wonder if [former Prime Minister Yoshiro] Mori was involved — as he is every time.

If Fukuda's resignation on Monday came out of the blue to most observers, however, the buzz that followed on the Internet was perhaps even more of a surprise. The origin of the buzz was a response by Fukuda to a question by a reporter, transcribed to 2channel [ja] as follows:


There are many people in this country who feel that you act detached at press briefings.
The same is true now. How do you feel that this [attitude] influences the Japanese people as a whole?


Prime Minister Fukuda:
I hope everything goes smoothly, there's nothing more important than that.
However, what I saw before me was the possibility that things would not go so smoothly.
In this kind of situation, we cannot fall into the trap of unforseen circumstances.
You said I sounded detached,
but I am able to see myself objectively. I am different from you.

It was the directness of Fukuda's last sentence in particular that seems to have started a buzz on the Internet. Blogger MACK writes of this:


It was certainly a statement with a huge impact, and apparently many people even view it as a candidate for the buzzword grand prize.


People react to things in various different ways,
and of course, just being human, people occasionally show their emotions without meaning to,
but for the Prime Minister of Japan, this was a pretty ill-prepared statement.

ASCII art on \"anata to wa chigau n desu\" theme, 2channel guideline board
ASCII art on \"anata to wa chigau n desu\" theme, 2channel guideline board
ASCII art about Fukuda “I am different from you” (Anata to wa chigau n desu) statement. From 2channel's guideline board [ja].

Fukuda's comment spawned, among other things, many many comment threads [ja], ASCII art pictures of Fukuda at places like 2channel's guideline board, and even T-shirts based on the ASCII art produced by Club-T. One of the busier 2channel comment threads [ja] on the buzz started from an article on ITmedia [ja], posted just before 1pm on September 2nd, in which the expression “anata to wa chigau n desu” (あなたとは違うんです), meaning “I am different from you”, was described as a new fad.

ASCII art on \"anata to wa chigau n desu\" theme, 2channel guideline board
ASCII art about Fukuda “I am different from you” (Anata to wa chigau n desu) statement. From 2channel's guideline board [ja].

The comment thread contains many plays on the “anata to wa chigau n desu” meme, but also some sharp criticisms both of Fukuda and of the reporter who asked the question. One commenter writes of Fukuda:

140:08/09/02 15:15 ID:YfAFUiqQ0

“I am different from you. My father graduated with excellent grades from the law department of Tokyo University, took on a top position within the Ministry of Finance, become a member of the National Diet and then climbed to Prime Minister. Your lineage is not even comparable to mine. Hah.”

ASCII art on \"anata to wa chigau n desu\" theme, 2channel guideline board
From 2channel's guideline board [ja].

Another criticizes Fukuda for setting a bad example by quitting:

537:08/09/02 17:28 ID:FdghlCY50

If people in top positions in Japan do this kind of thing,
then I guess it's absolutely no problem if young people
quit their company jobs as well, right?


I'm going to quit my job.
After all it's okay for the prime minister to quit his job,
so it's okay for me too, right?

ASCII art on \"anata to wa chigau n desu\" theme, 2channel guideline board
From 2channel's guideline board [ja].

Many others, however, came to Fukuda's defense, ripping into the reporter who asked the question:

681:08/09/02 19:39 ID:o820rkckO

Seems like this reporter has no skill.
The job of the reporter is not to accuse the Prime Minister, it is to extract answers about the truth of his resignation.
This idiot is just full of himself. He can't see himself objectively.
Fukuda spotted this in an instant.

ASCII art on \"anata to wa chigau n desu\" theme, 2channel guideline board
From 2channel's guideline board [ja].

Reading the early message threads on 2channel, what stood out the most, however, were the number of comments questioning whether the expression “anata to wa chigau n desu” had even become popular yet, with accusations that ITmedia was actually fabricating an Internet fad.

A small sample among many more (from the above thread on the ITmedia article [ja]):

48:08/09/02 15:03 ID:t5aHGWvh0
はぁ? どこのイントラネットで流行ってんの?www


What? What's the intranet where it's so popular?

Seriously, lately it's all this kind of thing.

49:08/09/02 15:04 ID:dDXATNbF0

Another boom of fabrications?

This comment quotes from the original ITmedia article [ja], which claims that more than 30 threads had appeared about the expression “anata to wa chigau n desu” by 11am on Sept. 1st [note: incidentally, this is pretty strange given that Fukuda's statement was only actually made on the evening of the 1st]:

74:08/09/02 15:07 ID:YbBWAm2z0


> By 11am on September 1st, more than 30 threads had been posted.

Idiot. These threads were just created by one person going around from board to board posting threads like crazy.
You really don't get it at all. If you include the number of continuous threads from news flashes, then you get 30 in an instant.
Just 30 threads, one person alone can make that many.

80:08/09/02 15:08 ID:gJQ9EYao0

Just being rammed through all at once is not the same as being popular.

ASCII art on \"anata to wa chigau n desu\" theme, 2channel guideline board
From 2channel's guideline board [ja].

Many comments refer to the practice of “asahiru” [アサヒる], Internet slang based on the name Japanese newspaper Asahi meaning to fabricate a story. One commenter writes:

95:08/09/02 15:10 ID:L45tLOb80

Huh? Doesn't seem like it's so popular.
Another case of “asahiru”?

Another comment makes reference to the Japanese business news site J-CAST:

128:08/09/02 15:14 ID:9O/Otuxi0

It's not even been 24 hours yet.
Stop the J-CAST fabrications.

And some more comments, just to give an indication:

142:08/09/02 15:15 ID:CHJrZp92O

It's not even 18 hours since the press conference
and now calling it a fad, idiot.

163:08/09/02 15:17 ID:HDir+5Xn0

What, it's popular?

166:08/09/02 15:17 ID:wKvskGRJO

Not even one day has passed and it's popular,
is there really nothing else to talk about?

186:08/09/02 15:20 ID:yt2xp0Tu0

Where is it so popular?

ASCII art on \"anata to wa chigau n desu\" theme, 2channel guideline board
From 2channel's guideline board [ja].

One comment went more into depth, accusing the writer of the article of mass media arrogance:

244:08/09/02 15:28 ID:xen8q1e+0


Thinking that “this is a fad!”, and something actually being a fad, these are basically different issues.
If what you're saying is based on intuition, then say something like “this seems like it's becoming a fad”.

You can see the arrogance in this article, [this attitude of]: “If I (the mass media) think it's popular, then I can make it popular.”

And another comment:

519:08/09/02 17:21 ID:HWqlIYwC0

Wait a second, I've been on 2channel threads all day today and I haven't seen anything about this except on threads about Fukuda.
Don't fabricate stories.

Yahoo rating for the phrase “anata to wa chigau n desu” between August and September 2nd, shown in ITmedia article [ja] (top), and up to September 8th (below). Rating jumps from 30 to nearly 150 after the article was published.

So the question is: was this a real fad? Was it “fabricated”?

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