Japan: The Case of an Exposed Online Pseudonym

The sudden shutdown of the blog, Diary of an ex-NEET who works overseas, has spurred discussion in Japan about anonymous activity on the Internet. (NEET refers to a person not in education, employment, or training.)

Under the pseudonym “Overseas NEET”, the blogger regularly criticized Japanese working ethics and the common notion that one must prioritize work over any other aspect of life. He did not have any stable jobs in Japan because he hated the working environment. After venturing abroad, he found a job at a foreign-affiliated company and was happy with his new work style.

Commuting to work, Japan. Photo by Flickr user Miguel Michán (CC BY-NC 2.0).

Commuting to work, Japan. Photo by Flickr user Miguel Michán (CC BY-NC 2.0).

His blog, which has the subtitle “Work is shit”, attracted many people who felt a sense of discomfort with the widely-accepted Japanese attitude toward work. It equally attracted a lot of negative comments.

On August 7, 2011, people started getting the following message:


Notice: My blog has caused an event which made me feel physical danger, so I have decided to close it. I apologize to those who have looked forward to updates. I have erased all of the content.


On hearing the news, @twt_user quotes a line in the blog [jp]:


@twt_user: Overseas NEET changed the way I view work. I'm sorry to hear about the shutdown. I'll always remember this line: “If you work like your life depends on it, you'll really die. Don't do it.”

For @menchikatsu2010, this blog has prompted him to quit his job [jp]:


@menchikatsu2010: I read this blog every day in the office and then quit my job. It completely changed my point of view, and there are so many people that I wish would read this blog. The nail that sticks out gets hammered down… is that what this is?

@terrakei: 海外ニートさんのブログ閉鎖か。海外(就職)系ブロガーは、たいていの場合、日本の労働・社会制度批判を多分に含むので、ヘイトを稼ぎやすいんだろうなあ。

@terrakei: The blog of Overseas NEET has been shut down. Bloggers who write about working overseas often criticize the Japanese working style and social system. They tend to attract a lot of hatred.

Since the main purpose of the blog was to change the mindset of Japanese people, the relationship of the shutdown incident and the closed-off nature of Japan is an inescapable subject. @nasu_tea [jp] is daunted by how hard it is to ward off oppression:


His blog was shut down, and his Twitter account has been deleted, too. I don’t know the details, but I guess it means even if you escaped to a foreign country, you cannot escape from the grips of the “curse of Japan-ness” unless you cut off all contact. What a depressing thought.
Shinkansen Salaryman. Photo by Flickr user JanneM (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0).

Shinkansen Salaryman. Photo by Flickr user JanneM (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0).

On anonymity

Readers were surprised by the shutdown, which had no advance notice, and started to wonder about the cause:


@mae_htmsr: His last message says, “I closed the blog because I sensed physical danger.” I wonder if the cult-like believers of “workism” tried to hurt him. I remember the case of HAL, who blogged as a fresh graduate working in Slovakia, once tweeted “A hater contacted the embassy to investigate my personal information.”

@d_sapi is wary [jp] of a Japanese person's ability to keep anonymous abroad:


@d_sapi: Those who blog about working overseas shouldn’t specify the country. Suppose that 10 thousand Japanese people live in that foreign country. At that point, the number of candidates shrink from a 100 million, which is the population of Japan, to 10,000. Out of that 10,000, 100 probably have a job. Since many work for big, international companies, it's easy to identify which company that is. Add a gender and job position, and a name will pop up. Please be careful.

@d_sapi: 前に、どっかのスレである海外滞在者の「今日は気温xx度だ」みたいな呟きから、「欧州の天気予報で特定できる。パリじゃない?」みたいな流れになっているのを見たときは戦慄したね。遊びのつもりかもしれないけど、悪質すぎるよ。

@d_sapi: A shudder ran through me when I read this conversation: a resident of a foreign country tweeted “It is ** degrees today”, and people started guessing his whereabouts, saying “I can identify it from the weather fore cast for Europe. It's Paris, isn’t it?” Perhaps they were just playing but what a malicious act!


Some people thought the author should have continued blogging if he wanted to prove his opinion was worth hearing. @shi3z_bot questions his value as a freethinker:

@shi3z_bot: おれはどっちかっていうと海外就職とかいいながら日本でまじめに働いている人たちをバカにするような記事ばかり書いている人だから、てっきり調べればすぐ本名も所属もわかるような人だと思ってたよ。身元がバレたらブログ消すって、本人は海外就職していながら別に思想的な自由を獲得したわけでもなかったんだね

@shi3z_bot: He's just someone who promoted working overseas while repeatedly writing articles that made fun of diligent workers in Japan. I would guess that it would have been easy to specify his real name and company. The shutdown signifies that him being abroad didn't mean that he acquired freedom of thought.

@TakahashiMasaki raises eyebrows [jp] at his cowardliness:

このまとめでつぶやきが記録されてる奴もそうだが,ふだんから「社畜はだめだ」「日本人はだめだ」とかでかい主語で他者を傷つけてたやつがちょっと個人情報かなんかがばれた程度ですぐ削除かよ(なんて軟弱なんだ http://togetter.com/li/171658

This is someone who has been stamping over people’ feelings with phrases like, “Down on company slaves” and “Down on Japanese”. And he closed his blog because a bit of personal information was leaked? How spineless!

@Ni_nja gives a different point of view:


I think Overseas NEET would have continued blogging if he were single. But he has a wife now – he blogged about his international marriage sometimes, remember? If his words incurred the wrath of another, and there is the possibility of his loved one getting hurt, of course he would run away. You can’t fight with someone you can't see.


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