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6 English-Language Blogs to Help You Better Understand Japan

Photo by Flickr user Taro Yamamoto. CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Photo by Flickr user Taro Yamamoto. CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Compared to a decade ago, before Facebook, Twitter and other social media took over, there aren't as many Japan blogs are there used to be.

A few gems still remain. If you're interested in developing a more in-depth understanding of Japan, these blogs, many written by expert expats, are a great place to start.

SNA – Shingestu News Agency

More than a blog, Shingetsu is an independent news agency that has frequent updates and analysis about current events in Japan. Headed by journalist Michael Penn, a frequent contributor to Al-Jazeera, the SNA Twitter feed is a good way to stay on top of breaking news in Japan.

Shisaku

If you want to truly get a good understanding of Japanese politics, Shisaku is a good place to start.

Written by scholar and commentator Michael Cucek, a resident of the Tokyo Metropolitan District since 1994, the Shisaku blog tries to identify the personalities and factions that power Japanese politics, and often provides an informed, sardonic take on current events. 

A great place to start is this blog post describing the absurdities behind Japan's pro-whaling stance.

Tokyo Reporter

Taking up where the late, great (and now-banned) Tokyo Confidential left off, Tokyo Reporter provides a regular round-up of the sleazy, sensational stories of Japan's tawdry weekly tabloids.

Filled with a lot of sex, and a little bit of violence, this sometimes-NSFW blog also has interesting stories otherwise missed by foreign media reporting on Japan, such as the man inside the Godzilla costume.

Japan Subculture Research

Run by Jake Adelstein, an investigative reporter who covered the Tokyo crime beat for Japanese-language dailies, Japan Subculture Research is where you want to go to get the latest gossip and insider notes on the mafia, vice, corrupt politics and the “dark side of the Rising Sun.”

Adelstein's book Tokyo Vice is well worth-reading, with rumors it will soon be made into a motion picture.

Tofugu

A rising star in Japan's English-language blogosphere, Tofugu features beautiful design and compelling commentary about Japanese pop culture.

One of the more interesting Tofugu stories recently is a follow-up interview with YouTube and social media sensation Medama-sensei.

Now studying in a Zen monastery, Medama-sensei sparked equal parts praise and condemnation for his YouTube expose of discrimination during his sojourn as a high school English teacher in Okinawa. 

世論: What Japan Thinks

In the world of Japan blogs, this influential site has been around for a long time. What Japan Thinks investigates and translates how Japanese people respond to opinion polls and surveys. If you like data, this blog is for you.

Have an addition to this list? Let us know in the comments!

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  • Habib AlBadawi

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  • Cinnamon

    I noticed that the blogs on this list are written or curated by non-Japanese. These blogs are very accessible and perhaps more interesting to the Western perspective, but do you have any recommendations for Japanese voices in English? What are your thoughts on Nippon.com (which is the only one I’ve been able to find)?

    • Nevin Thompson

      Hi there, thanks for reading! Nippon.com is great – the translation team is led by Peter Durfee, a sharp and very amusing fellow. I’m not sure if I would call nippon.com a blog exactly – it’s more like AJW and, to a certain extent, the JT (although higher quality than JT), translating Japanese writers into English.

      Quite honestly, I like exploring topics with http://matome.naver.jp/, and don’t follow one blog or another too much.

  • Cindy

    I would love to visit Japan one day follow my travel blog facebook.com/TravelTillDawn

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