How the World Learns About Japan

Step 1: A writer at Jitsuwa Knuckles satires the ennui-driven sexual indulgence of the Japanese wealthy class by writing up an imaginary story about a special restaurant deep within the bowels of Roppongi where patrons have sex with animals before eating them. (You know a magazine is always telling you the truth when they put the word “true story” [実話] into the title.)

Step 2: Ryann Connell at Mainichi Daily News selects this sensational story out of dozens and translates it into English sprinkled with Irish-colloquialisms. Connell takes a neutral stance towards its trustworthiness, not questioning why the article never gives any names nor corroborating evidence for this fantastical restaurant’s existence.

Step 3: Lots of guys with computers and keyboards offer links to the Mainichi article, adding commentary that questions the sanity of the Japanese people.

Step 4: The chatter around Connell’s WaiWai piece leads to an entry on BuzzFeed entitled “Bestiality Restaurants,” as if there were more than one and it was a new trend in Japan.

Step 5: Perhaps there will be debunking in the near future, but we can sleep safe in the comfort that Japan is the craziest country in the entire world, where rich people pay top yen to eat and ravish the same animal.

UPDATE:

Step 6: Meta-explosion as this article makes it onto BuzzFeed.

W. David MARX
September 20, 2007

W. David Marx (Marxy) — Tokyo-based writer and musician — is the founder and chief editor of Néojaponisme.

30 Responses

  1. saru Says:

    “safe in the comfort that Japan is the craziest country”
    I believe the preferred terminology is “wacky.” You know, as in “wacky Japanese game show.”

  2. W. David MARX Says:

    I am not sure bestial sexogastronomy is merely “wacky.” There seems to be something “crazy” about it. Unless, of course, it’s satire about capitalism.

  3. M-Bone Says:

    That post has one of the best interest to word count rations that I have come across…. You managed to criticize mangled images of Japan and make no less than three bestiality jokes.

  4. Calligraphy Kid Says:

    The online empire that Japan-hating Japan residents have forged for themselves will crumble like sand if MDN’s WaiWai ever ceases to be. Where would lowbrow geeks find their sources then? The WaiWai archives?

  5. W. David MARX Says:

    I have three bestiality jokes or three references?

  6. Aceface Says:

    Mainichi Daily News?The one that came up with”Almost Everybody in the fishing business in Japan had sex with manta at some point”,that Mainichi Daily News?
    That was also a transcript from Jitsuwa Knuckles.I bet my 500 yen for their supervisor can’t read a word of English.

  7. claytonian Says:

    Step 6: Knuckle-heads repeatedly re-digg and redit the story for the next month, followed by a revival next June, shortly after the poodle-sheep story has made it’s rounds again.

  8. M-Bone Says:

    “I have three bestiality jokes or three references?”

    I think that bestiality is pretty funny so I’m taking them as jokes….

  9. 魁心 Says:

    あんな下らない話を信じる人がいるなんて…信じられん!

  10. W. David MARX Says:

    Yeah. Thanks, internet.

  11. 7374e9 Says:

    Thanks Marxy, this is a gem of analytical sociology.

    Ryann Connell aside (what were his purposes?? he’s certainly no simpleton to spin a manga story like that), I am astounded by the “guys with computers and keyboards”. They unwittingly perpetuate and demonstrate again the seemingly eternal chauvinistic notion of Japanese (all Asians for that matter?) as alien species. General MacArthur and the likes including Commodore Perry come to mind who regarded Japanese as “childlike” people in need of enlightenment. They were countless others.

    Is this the indestructible european/more recently american cultural arrogance? Did the Japanese self-perception of being a unique race/culture finally penetrated the caucasian psyche and backfired in the form of these myths?

  12. Matt Says:

    Connell’s a co-author of Kodansha’s Tabloid Tokyo series, which are books compiled from articles that appear in WaiWai. They describe the content up front as being “without a doubt off the wall and barely credible,” and the purpose as being to “show the funny and imaginative side of magazine journalism.”

    I never really got a sense of “caucasian power” from WaiWai but rather “letting foreigners enjoy the same nutty tabloid journalism Japanese people do.” Legions of bloggers hungry for the next wacky tidbit to introduce to their readers have their own purposes for these sorts of things, though…

  13. Aceface Says:

    Sept.18,2007,Mainichi Daily News.
    Reliability and openness key features of new Mainichi site:

    MDN Chief Editor Ryann Connell spoke at the news conference.
    “Mainichi Daily News has an 85-year history of publication, the past six years of which have been exclusively online. MDN will continue trying to present to the world news about Japan that is more accurate, reliable and faster than any other source,” Connell said.

    Wonder what’s left of Mainichi when these guys get packed up and ready for the one way trip to Bangkok….

  14. W. David MARX Says:

    I never really got a sense of “caucasian power” from WaiWai but rather “letting foreigners enjoy the same nutty tabloid journalism Japanese people do.”

    There is a fundamental problem that Japan’s investigative journalism is tucked into tabloids also featuring fake stories. Jitsuwa Knuckles is a bit more beyond the pale than Shukan Post or something, but they are all equal in the eyes of WaiWai.

    I think more information is always better, but the “neutrality” of WaiWai’s coverage is going to lead to these kinds of problems – where people without Japan experience take all to have the same credibility. So when Cyzo has an article about how the “Don” of the entertainment world’s name was in those yakuza police files leaked on Winny, that’s basically the same as a guy ordering venison and making a pun about “my deer love.”

    Wonder what’s left of Mainichi when these guys get packed up and ready for the one way trip to Bangkok…

    That is seriously biting.

  15. cee Says:

    I wonder if there’s such a big difference between this story and, say, the urban myth about the lady who put her cat in the microwave, which in the UK at least is always told as an American woman who afterwards sued, because those Americans just love the litigation, don’t they. I suppose the attributed characteristics of the Japanese are ‘wacky, extreme’ (how on earth do we reconcile this with ‘conformist’?) and ‘into weird sexual stuff’, so the stories people repeat are a bit more offensive?

  16. W. David MARX Says:

    I wonder if there’s such a big difference between this story and, say, the urban myth about the lady who put her cat in the microwave

    The difference is the media legitimization of the urban myth. The story came from a printed magazine, then semi-legitimized by the Mainichi Daily News translation, and then spread to a wider audience through a blog aggregator. Where is Snopes.co.jp when we need them???

  17. Matt Says:

    people without Japan experience take all to have the same credibility.

    But really, is that Mainichi’s fault? WaiWai seems to be pretty clearly segregated to its own Kabukicho-esque corner of the Mainichi site. Do you feel that they shouldn’t run this stuff? That they should slap a warning label on it? What?

  18. Durf Says:

    I’d say Mr. Connell does his job very well. What sort of hit numbers do you think Mainichi gets for its site?

  19. W. David MARX Says:

    Do you feel that they shouldn’t run this stuff? That they should slap a warning label on it? What?

    This is a tough question, but I think it’s pretty cheap for a news site to say, with only a vague disclaimer, hey, we just translate this! Who knows if it’s true or not… Next time are they going to transcribe some fantastical Naruto plot line as fact and say, “According to Shonen Jump…”

    I’d say Mr. Connell does his job very well.

    He is definitely not a “hack” (a favorite word of his), but is the goal just brewing sensationalism, or perhaps, reporting from Japan?

  20. Mulboyne Says:

    I’ve met Ryann a few times and he is a very engaging bloke. His translations are often the wittiest among the articles picked up from the weeklies. He also spoke at the FCCJ a couple of months ago and gave an interesting summary of the style and market position of the various magazines.

    One thing WaiWai does is bring in traffic and keep the Mainichi English website in business which is a genuine concern when you have had to give up your print edition.

    I’ve always seen WaiWai and the like as purely entertainment. ZAKZAK will often have stories from the U.S. which have popped up in magazines like the National Enquirer for the same purpose – they don’t generally segregate them, though, so the room for confusion is greater.

    Anyone who would like to bring wacky foreign sex stories to a Japanese audience might like to know that soft porn site Uratan is currently looking for a foreigner who can do just that.

  21. W. David MARX Says:

    I think people tend to underestimate how legitimate the National Enquirer stories are. They can’t get away with just inventing fiction like Knuckles.

  22. Aceface Says:

    Just reminded that this happens to be my second rant comment that I’ve posted in the last 24 hours regarding Ryann Connell related articles.

    I really do not mind what he does as his own expertise(and I know all this stuff is originally written by Japanese writer at Jitsuwa Knuckles),but consideiring Mainichi is the third largest national daily and seen as the quite respected one(They do conduct investigative journalism on daily basis)
    filling the web page full of zoophilia only to have some trackbacks is sorta blasphmey to their own established journalistic reputation.

  23. fantim Says:

    I think part of the reason the article was taken and people ran with it is because of the craziness, and high sexual activity that Japan does have. Like the scat houses, and similar things.
    Also didn’t the author of the article state that the club was highly secretive, and invitation only?
    Anyways people believe whatever they read anyways. If it’s online it must be true.

  24. Mainichi ends WaiWai column | Japan Probe Says:

    [...] For years, Mainichi’s English language website has been translating bizarre stories from Japan’s least credible tabloid magazines and publishing them as news articles in a special column called WaiWai. The wacky stories of perversion and vice undoubtedly attracted a lot of traffic to Mainichi’s website, exposing the stories to readers who were unaware the articles were based on unreliable tabloids. Predictably, this caused stupid and false information about Japan to spread around the world. [...]

  25. f Says:

    It’s gone now for good….

  26. Lad Says:

    Well ya know ol’ Ryan was off ‘is nutta’ when he wrote that 50% of J-birds shag on the first date, cuz me own survey shows that it’s closer to 100%!

  27. Sakurai Says:

    In Japan, this issue’s now fuled by the Japanese upload site, 2ch, or other news site. There are some women’s comments like….

    In Canada, a guy asked me to hang around, but I rejected. Then the guy shouted “Hey, all the Japanese girl is bitch, isn’t it?”

    I have many friends who loves to travel abroad. And I heard this kind of stories so many times before this waiwai thing broke out, which means that some people consider these “100% falses” as “50% jokes”.

    The source of this waiwai are Japanese tabloid, like “Jitsuwa Nuckles” or “Shukan Post”. Please know that these magazines are so fake. And people enjoy this kind of story as fake.

  28. Tabloid Tokyo Storm Warning — Adrian Monck Says:

    [...] post on NeoJaponisme – How The World Learns About Japan – tells it rather better: Step 1: A writer at Jitsuwa Knuckles [a Japanese supermarket [...]

  29. Noticias GL » La cultura de la anécdota y la realidad distorsionada de Japón Says:

    [...] foros y blogs de todo el mundo. El blog neojaponisme, uno de los màs críticos con WaiWai, explicaba el año pasado de forma clara, como funciona el mecanismo de difusión de estas noticias. Estos artículos hizo que [...]

  30. amida Says:

    The internet echo chamber lives on:
    http://www.cracked.com/blog/2008/09/11/9-restaurants-designed-to-ruin-your-appetite/