Japan: A short documentary on Japanese Social Media

On the occasion of Medifes, an event where some of the Japanese social media representatives gather every year, Global Voices interviewed some of the participants with the aim of giving an overview of the local scene through the eyes and voices of those who try to make a difference in the media landscape of Japan.

Social Media in Japan – Part One

Social Media in Japan – Part Two

Here is the complete transcript:

Part one

As one of the most “virtually” connected people in the world, over 70% of Japanese are estimated to regularly use the internet, and access it especially on their mobile phones.
Most of them utilize the web for their shopping or rely on it to read their daily dose of news, but this does not necessarily mean any use of the internet for involvement in human rights or climate change causes, or political issues as in the so called citizen media. We asked Hajime SHIRAISHI, the director of OurPlanet-Tv, an independent Television company , what are the characteristics of the Japanese social media.

Almost 100% of video cameras are made by Japanese companies
Canon, Sony, Panasonic… they're all Japanese manufacturers
and most TV stations around the world use Japanese equipment.
Plus, the Internet in Japan is both widespread and inexpensive
However, that doesn't necessarily mean that citizens make their voices heard…
Of course, legally speaking, the level of freedom of speech is very high
but we can`t say that any wide range of individuals within society are trying to express their voice
The Japanese people are extremely passive
Average time spent watching TV is the highest in the world
We spend 4 hours a day watching TV
And the older you are, the longer you watch
Maybe 7-8 hours a day, which means 1/3 of the day!
I think it's normal for us to be passive with mass media
No matter how advanced the tools are
and no matter how developed the environment is
it seems difficult for that to connect to social movement or
to solve local issues using these tools.

Obviously, this is different in countries with less developed tools and stronger restrictions
Perhaps, the more restricted people are, the more they'll object!

It's not entirely a bad thing, but for Japan
maybe the environment is too good…
Although there are many, many people who are suffering
or have objections towards society, it doesn't really rise to the surface
I would say that's a characteristic of Japan

SNS like MIXI, GREE or the popular bulletin board 2CHANNEL rapidly spread among the younger generations but membership is still low compared to other countries.
Blogging in Japan on the other hand is very common to the extent that the blogs in Japanese exceed in number those in English, as tells us the author of an article on the social media in Japan Tadahisa HAMADA [director of Jcafe].

Japanese people really blog a lot and use the Internet for communication.
and Japan has the highest broadband penetration rate in the world.
In that sense, Japan is at an advantage as to how we use the Internet, the new media.
It's a promising situation.
I hope that we can leverage this environment and tie it into new activities.

Part Two

The most followed blogs are those of celebrities, or of people such as essayists, commentators or professors who already have, per se, their audience and acclaimed popular or intellectual authority. While generally, blogs here are often seen as mere diaries where to jot down daily life events, some have become another way to share thoughts or hobbies similar to commonly shared diaries.
Global Voices Japan interviewed some students on this issue..

Global Voices Japan: What kind of blogs do you usually read?
Student 1: Mostly blogs by celebrities
GVJ: How often?
S1: When I remember to.
GVJ: Do you write your own blog?
S1: Sometime I write my diary on Mixi

Student 2: I also read blogs by celebrities.
GVJ: Do you have your own blog or write on Mixi?
S2: I usually ready my friends’ diaries on Mixi and I write mine as well

Student 3: Usually, I read blogs by university professors

Despite being a minority, however, activists and bloggers with a mission for reporting on issues usually not covered or forgotten by major media do exist. One of these is Minori OKUDA whose most popular post was on the almost forgotten Minamata disease issue.

I write for magazines,
mostly for the so-called “alternative media” or independent magazines.
Also, apart from work, I post my thoughts on my blog everyday.
Why did I start blogging?
A writing job has space limitations for output
because a magazine only has so many pages and there's an editor to oversee it all.
There would be stories I wanted to tell but couldn't write
or I would hear of an amazing episode that wasn't right for that particular article.
All kinds of material that didn't have the opportunity to be read, right in front of me.
I thought it was a real shame just to have it in my head.
I wanted to share this material with everyone so I started blogging.
So it all started as an outlet for my reporting
but now, I blog whenever I see ideas or people that might change society,

It was particularly prominent when I topped the ranking for for environment blogs
At that time, I was focusing on the Special Measures Law for Minamata Disease
The law is supposed to be for the patient’s relief but in reality it’s not like that at all
I was extremely angry at the situation and I wrote about that
These entries received the most feedback -
e-mails, higher rankings, and lots of trackbacks and links.

Blogging doesn't make money, right?
You want to write, and that's it!
The satisfaction that I get out of writing
and to accomplish the objective of telling the story…
these are my motivations for writing each day.
If people are passionate about this, I think they'll blog.
There are lots of stories that don't make it into articles
and many movies and books that I want to introduce.
Independent movies don't really make it into movie reviews in magazines, do they?
So when I encounter these things,
I can't stop myself from blogging because I am passionate about sharing the story.

Like Okuda san, people with the same passion for blogging and citizen media every year gather at Medifes. Kenichi SHIMOMURA, one of the organizers, tells what it is about.

Every year, citizen media groups from all over Japan get together.
If you have the program, you can see this long list of citizen media groups in Japan
There are so many!
And these are only the ones that we are in contact with.
There are so many more out there.
So we get all get together to share our plans and problems
and see each other face to face.
Medifes is a place to exchange information.

Because so few people used their real names in the Internet
they became easy targets for criticism.
But if many people start using their real names and faces…
Voices that are speaking out get abused – but this is really ridiculous, right?
It's saying that we should be a society where people should just shut up.
I think this will change a lot as the “target” disperses.
So, I think anonymity is a transient phenomenon.
It's still uncommon to speak out on the web.
Even in Japan, perhaps in the future, we'll look back and say “Remember in the early days?”

A special thanks to our valuable proofreader and collaborator Bob.


  • Preetam Rai

    Thanks for putting this together. Out here we are very curious about the online scene in Japan.

  • Anngell

    Japanese are very conservative people and they just don’t make bad comment, because respect is a must. They defend each other and help each other, that is the reason for their success in business because they protect their own. Japanese do not make decisions alone, it is a social decision and can even sacrifice for the sake of their country. Blogging against the government is not good – it will reflect on their own culture. I have high respect for the Japanese – they have maintained their culture, arts, environment, language, and they are hard-working.

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