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Confessions of Former Japanese ‘Netto-Uyoku’ Internet Racists

1280px-Zaitokukai_rally_at_Shinjuku_on_24_January_2010

Japanese rightists march in Tokyo. Image source: Wikipedia.

Discrimination against other nationalities and cultures has often been at the root of conflicts and hatred around the world.

That said, do we really know how racism starts and how we can stop it from spreading? The following courageous confessions of former supporters of racist discourse in Japan may give us some insight into the questions. 

Twitter user @New-OC-MAN confesses that it was her loneliness and longing for some sort of comfort from her isolation that eventually led her to embrace racist views against China and South Korea as part of Japan's online netto-uyoku (ネット右翼) movement — Internet commenters who support and promote far-right and racist views.

When I watch TV at home, I get the impression that these days the type of programs where foreigners shower their admiration on Japan have become increasingly popular. I personally think this is scary because when I was hikikomori [acute withdrawal from social life], I got myself into reading a lot of those websites that collected open-handed admiration from foreigners towards Japan, and this led me very close to becoming a netto-uyoku [an Internet commenter who supports and promotes far-right and racist views]…

When I was hikikomori and suffering from depression about ten years ago, I was reading only those websites that collected foreigners’ admiration towards Japan and I felt like I was comforted by them.  At that time, I thought of myself as a total dropout from society in every aspect. The only thing that remained was that I was “Japanese”. 

So, when I saw people expressing their love for Japan I felt like they loved me as well…

…As I continued my habit of visiting those websites, their links and references often brought me to other websites where I found a lot of racist comments directed at China and Korea. By then I had become an avid believer of “Japan is great!” so I was easily convinced that all those negative comments towards the two countries were true.

Fortunately, @New-OC-MAN was eventually able to realize by herself that these comments were not true. 

What made me start doubting these comments was how awful they were towards women. I am ashamed to say that I had no problems with their discriminatory comments as far as they were thrown at foreigners or foreign countries, but when they turned to women, when I myself am a woman, I finally came to realize the absurdity and ugliness of their arguments…

According to Tsukushi Kawai writing on his blog, apart from being an escape from his loneliness, it was the pleasure of sharing the information that others did not have that made him get involved with the discriminatory discourse.

さみしかったわけだ。暇だったのもある。だからネットに熱中した。当時はやり始めていたまとめサイト。あれを読むとね、学校やテレビでは「得られない情報」に触れることができたんだと当時は思った。そしてそういう情報を見知らぬ「誰か」だったとしても、共有できるのはうれしかったな。しかも天下国家を論じる話ばかりだ。自分が偉くなった気がしたね。
[中略]
あの当時の自分は、韓国の人を馬鹿にした、あるいはもっと酷い言葉でののしられた文章を見てもなんとも思わなかった。単に罵られている側の人を知らなかったからかもしれんが…自分と違う世界に住む人が何を言われようが、正直どうでもよかったんだと思う。

I was lonely and had nothing to do at that time. So I spent a lot of time on the Internet. This was just as “matome” meme aggregator websites were just becoming popular in Japan. After reading websites that focused on discrimination, I felt great because I thought I had gained knowledge that they did not teach in school nor you could not get by watching TV.

I was also very happy because I was sharing the knowledge with “someone” even though I had not met them in person. The topics we were discussing were often about how to set the world right.
So, I felt I was someone important…

When I saw those comments making fun of the Koreans or even worse, they did not bother me at all. Perhaps it was partly because I didn't know anything about Korea and the Koreans…

In any case, they were living in a different world from mine and frankly speaking it didn't matter to me at all.

Tsukushi says meeting with different people and knowing the existence of genuine and sincere people through reading books eventually helped him overcome his racist views. 

俺がネトウヨを辞めた理由は、3つある。
一つは、一応大学に入れてもらって…今度こそ友達を作ろうとして、いろいろと自分なりに努力したから。
[中略]
見知らぬ人と情報を共有してさみしさを紛らわせる必要もなかった。
二つ目は、たくさん本を読んだからネトウヨ的な考え方がばかばかしく思えるようになったこと。 ネトウヨ時代に見聞きした、愛国サイト、いかがわしい書き込み、そして「保守本」(日本は素晴らしいからこの国を愛そうみたいな)とは違う種類の本を読んだ。自分が特に熱中したのは、昭和維新の生き残りの人の本とプロレタリア文学の人の本だ。詳しくは触れないけど…あの人たちの本には「なぜ自分がこの国を愛そうとおもったのか」とか「なぜ自分が貧しい人々を救いたいのか」が明確に書かれた。昭和維新の生き残りの方でいうならば、軍人として戦場で戦った経験、貧しい部下の新兵の家庭の事情を知ったこと…とかかな。プロレタリア文学ならば、自分が労働者として実際に働いた経験、そこで見聞きした経験なんかが克明に描いてあった。そういう経験を踏んだうえで、今の世の中は間違っている、だから正さなきゃならないんだ…とちゃんと書いてあった。

There were three reasons why I quit being netto-uyoku.

First of all was that I entered a university and this time I made a real effort to make friends there…then I felt no need to console my loneliness by sharing views on the Internet with someone I did not know.

The second reason was books. After reading so many books, I started to see the netto-uyoku views as absurd. I read books from different genres than the usual one that fomented patriotism through simple or absurd arguments that I had been so used to when I was netto-uyo.

Among the books that I read a lot were the ones written by the survivors of Showa Ishin and those from the proletarian literature. I would not go into detail, but I found in them a clear manifestation of why they loved this nation or why they wanted to help the poor.

For example, those from the survivors of the Showa Ishin described their experience on the battlefields as soldiers as well as the extreme poverty that the families of the new soldiers under their command were forced to suffer.

From proletariat literature, I learned in detail about the working conditions those authors themselves were under and what they saw and heard there. Based on their own experience they put forward a clear and legitimate argument that the world they were living was not right and it needed to be made right.

Tsukushi reports he eventually experienced a sort of catharsis: 

[中略]
そしてもう一つ…。それは俺が障害者施設にかかわり始めたこと。
[中略]
見た目は、涎を垂らしているような人でも、何度も話すうちにこの人にも趣味があるんだなーとか、家族がいるんだよなーとか…そういうことを思うようになった。結局ね、見た目は違っても、あるいはできることが違っても、人間ってのはどこかしら似たようなものなのだと…なんとなくだけど気づけた。

And the last one was that I got involved in a day care center for the disabled…

There I discovered, for instance, after talking with someone drooling constantly several times that he had in fact hobbies or had beloved family. Finally, I realized that under our different appearances and abilities or disabilities, we are all similar in nature.

  • What a fascinating story, thank you so much for writing it (and to the translator!)

    It’s really valuable to learn how good people understand their own poor behavior after the fact. It can help us see the patterns in ourselves (I kniw I recognize myself more than I’d like in these testimonials) as well as help us empathize with the people/trolls who are still acting badly.

    The takeaway that we need to avoid isolation and work harder to understand others is priceless. So many of our problems stem from the kind of loneliness these people went through.

  • Pingback: Confessions of Former Japanese ‘Netto-Uyoku’ Internet Racists | Freedom, Justice, Equality News()

  • jack

    The term racism is mis-used, a word loaded with Western thought patterns. Much of Asia doesnt have the same concept “racism” as the West, particularly in homogenous Japan, its much more about nationalism, therefore tribalism. Tribalist is the proper word. Racism is a scaling up of tribalism, to one of 3 races – Mongoloid, Negroid, or Caucasoid. Let our terminology be clear, racism isnt the issue.

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