The Total Best Blog on Japan Ever: Us

Best of Japan On the Web 2009

Give a round of high-fivers and highly-esoteric “van Doesburg Points” to Team Néojaponisme for getting RMP (“real madd props” [sic]) from the list of lists. Listen to this, lesser peoples of the net:

Néojaponisme (www.neojaponisme.com)
Possibly the hippest cat on the block, this site is run by a group of cooler-than-thou arty types, mainly based in Tokyo. They certainly know their stuff, and hitting the site regularly enough leaves you with the satisfying feeling that you’re kinda hangin’ wid da in-crowd. Don’t get any big ideas, though. You’re still too dassai to approach them in reality.

If you approach us at parties, we will inform you that dasai has one “s” and then go back to being horribly nerdy misanthropes with persecution complexes. Alas, I speak for myself.

No, we kid, we kid. We always appreciate compliments and show our gratitude by being completely uncomfortable on how to react and descending into strange self-parody.

Also, a personal triumph: MEKAS. — Best Poser Site. I think he means “cultural elitist” for “poser” since the best “poser” site would be a site posing to be cultural elitist, right? My idea for Best Poser Site would be a collection of photos capturing all the guys in my high school who ran out to get chain-wallets and Dinosaur Jr. T-shirts in early 1994. A special page would be dedicated to Straight Edge tattoos for guys who stopped being straight edge after about three months.

W. David MARX
February 6, 2009

62 Responses

  1. Adamu Says:

    That award is probably the best argument in favor of snobbery and elitism I have seen in the longest time.

  2. W. David MARX Says:

    There should be a Best History/Society Poser Site for Mutantfrog.

  3. catoneinutica Says:

    “Possibly the hippest cat on the block…”

    But actually not. The hippest cat on the J-block is, and has been since the fin de siecle, the divine, sublime Schultz of the Tokyo Damage Report. Though he’s never mentioned having written a “senior thesis,” he has PhDs in all of the major disciplines of hipcatology.

    That said, Monsieur Marx has made quite a splash, and is a fine, perceptive writer. He and the guys over at MutantFrog are my personal faves – the Parnassus of the J-”blogging” scene, and all the better now that alin and the precioso Mo-musu (who’s nom de plume reflects his obvious adoration of those darling Morning Musume girls), seem to have fled the commenting scene.

    -catone
    -nothing personal, M-Bone!

  4. catoneinutica Says:

    addendum: my postscript above is a vestige of an earlier draft of my post in which I lamented the overabundance of M-Bone posts. But I reconsidered: after all, M-Bone at his most repetitive is infinitely preferable to the stream-of-unconscious musings of the eccentric “alin” thing.

  5. xee Says:

    I suspect MEKAS winning in the Poser’s Corner category means ‘this is the best site to read if you are a poser who wants to act like they’re all up on japanese fashion and high pop culture and stuff’? since he uses ‘poser’ in the singular.

  6. M-Bone Says:

    “M-Bone at his most repetitive is infinitely preferable to the stream-of-unconscious musings of the eccentric “alin” thing.”

    Since it is pretty difficult to respond to a criticism that didn’t actually get posted, I’ll just say thanks!

  7. M-Bone Says:

    BTW, as has no doubt been guessed, I obviously think that Neojaponisme and Mutantfrog are the best blogs.

  8. W. David MARX Says:

    Did something happen recently to Adamu and Roy lately? cause Mutantfrog is on fire! I am glad they are picking up the slack while Neojaponisme re-groups.

    (By the way, the Neojp editors are meeting in a few weeks to set out the 2009 plan. It’s been hard to get everyone together.)

  9. Matt TREYVAUD Says:

    Yes! I am the most educational! My important work on 60s superheroes manhandling wildlife has finally gotten the recognition it deserves.

  10. lauren Says:

    Whatever, if I ever approach y’all at a party I expect a high five.

  11. Roy Berman Says:

    Thanks for all the praise guys! It’s almost as big a compliment as being left off of the Seek Japan list. Seriously though, how could they leave Tobias Harris, Jun Okumura or MTC’s blogs off their news list?

    As for being on fire, there’s something about being extremely busy with academic stuff that actually puts me in the mindset necessary to blog more on the side. When I go through long periods of vacation I often end up descending even deeper into idleness and just read comics or watch marathons of TV shows I never saw instead of using my copious amounts of free time productively.

  12. Aceface Says:

    Seriously though,how could they leave ANY blogs written in Japanese?
    Afterall most of the “”blog on Japan are written in that language….

  13. M-Bone Says:

    Ace, when you see “Best Picture”, it means best American picture (seriously, how flatout insulting is it that foreign films qualify for that category but have seldom been considered?). They mean English blogs but don’t feel a need to say. You just have to get used to this.

    Do you have a personal favorite blog in Japanese?

  14. Aceface Says:

    Or calling baseball games between MLB teams,”The World Series”.

    I know expats love to talk about Japanese doing blackface eventhough they have no traceable African origin,which is okay.
    But they also love dominating Japan narrative on blogsphere with zero local participants?

    However it does explain why “Japan” is listed among the “Stuff White People Like”along with organic food and yoga.

  15. Mulboyne Says:

    A pedant writes:

    What you say about the Oscar isn’t quite true. While there is a separate Foreign language film Oscar category, any film, not just English language films, can be nominated for Best Picture. “Il Postino” was on the list in 1995 as was “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” in 2000.

    But your general point is right. Japanzine is aimed at an English speaking audience so it makes sense that they would look at resources on the web about Japan in English.

  16. W. David MARX Says:

    I know expats love to talk about Japanese doing blackface eventhough they have no traceable African origin,which is okay.

    I think there is a serious conceptual gap here… I don’t like people making “slanty eyes” to represent Japanese people, and hey, I’m not even Japanese!

    But they also love dominating Japan narrative on blogsphere with zero local participants?

    I agree with this on principle, but are there that many good blogs in Japanese? Take the major ones: Ameblo is literally the world’s largest product placement scam masking as “new media.” Itai News is pretty interesting, and the main source for like 50% of English blogs. But it’s ugly as sin and kind of random. There are a few Japanese fashion blogs I read, which are interesting, opinionated, and often-updated, but just totally un-navigatable and poorly-designed.

    I wish there were WAY more good Japanese blogs. Ikeda Nobuo’s is a good model, but why do they all have to be run by old dudes? Where Japan’s Tobias Harris?

  17. M-Bone Says:

    “What you say about the Oscar isn’t quite true.”

    Please take another look, I mentioned that they CAN nominate other films, but usually don’t. So it becomes a defacto best American film = best film. For me, it is crazy how they nominate a foreign film every few years (usually very odd choices) – it gives the impression that there are no worthy ones in other years.

    “I agree with this on principle, but are there that many good blogs in Japanese?”

    While I second the big ups to Neojaponisme, you have to admit that things start to look pretty thin by the time you get to the end of that Japanzine list… and some of them like Anime News Network, just lift most of their content from Japanese blogs. In fact, everything on the Otaku part of the list pales compared to Japanese stuff – as it should.

  18. W. David MARX Says:

    Sure, I am not defending the Japanzine list as anyway canonical or the most interesting for a bilingual audience. But it’s time again for the $10,000 challenge: list some good Japanese blogs. This is not a rhetorical exercise! This is public service.

  19. Roy Berman Says:

    Japan’s biggest political blog would still be Kikko, no?

    There’s certainly plenty of cool niche blogs out there, like this one on history and postage stamps (http://yosukenaito.blog40.fc2.com/) or the “Kotoba” blog (http://blogs.dion.ne.jp/bunsuke/).
    My RSS reader is definitely short on Japanese political, current events, etc.

  20. W. David MARX Says:

    I gave up reading Kikko as “her” pieces are usually WAY too long and often massively misleading/wrong.

  21. M-Bone Says:

    Didn`t say that there are lots of good ones so I`ll leave this up to Aceface – I`m quite curious myself.

    There aren`t very many blogs that I read in Japanese – just some anime and manga stuff.

    If you count Neojaponisme as a web magazine and things like Huffington as an online newspaper, I only read a handful of other blogs in English as well.

    Of course, the irony is that if you were Japanese, you probably would have scaled down your online work and published a half dozen shinsho by now. Lots of late 20s early 30s culture critics have broken out that way – Azuma Hiroki makes the most money. The hole in American publishing for young authors on pop topics is deep. `Wrong About Japan` was the new `Speed Tribes`. What`s better, being able to access Neojaponisme online or buy Azuma in TsutayaÉ

  22. W. David MARX Says:

    Of course, the irony is that if you were Japanese, you probably would have scaled down your online work and published a half dozen shinsho by now.

    Working on it. I decided not to just recycle old material into a book but try to sell a big researched tome. This process takes a long time.

    `Wrong About Japan` was the new `Speed Tribes`.

    I don’t want to name names, but I fear that the current leading books about the Japanese pop cultural moment are written by older people who do not have much direct knowledge of what they are talking about. But “he who has access to the gatekeepers…”

  23. M-Bone Says:

    I`m going through a book process as well so I feel your pain. Of course, mine is a turgid academic book.

    “he who has access to the gatekeepers…”

    Yeah, its funny but in this case (culture critique for Japan, US, movies, for younger authors) the Japanese gatekeepers seem a lot more lax. In some ways it is the tightly locked gate stateside that brings about quality blogging.

  24. W. David MARX Says:

    MEKAS. is relatively new and all content is now open.

  25. Mulboyne Says:

    Sorry, M-Bone, in my zeal to be a pedant, I didn’t pay attention to what you had actually written. I also understand now why you speak of it being a “Best American Picture” award.

    What is frustrating about some Japanese bloggers is that they can be fascinating on certain subjects for a few months then seem to get bored and give up. I can’t say I’ve found many political bloggers but there have been some interesting one’s on art, history, music, architecture, sport etc.

  26. M-Bone Says:

    “Sorry, M-Bone”

    No problem. This year, we’re staring at the prospect of Slumdog becoming the most acclaimed foreign film of all time.

    re your other point – I often read a Japanese blog post that I get from a Google search and get blown away, only to realise that the blog has not been updated since 2004.

  27. nate Says:

    any right-wing activist worth his salt has a blog these days.
    worth reading? not so much. but they are political, and blogs. and by Japanese people.

  28. M-Bone Says:

    Nate speaks the truth. But it is comforting that those guys are pushed into blogging often because they don’t have opportunities to spew their filth elsewhere.

  29. Roy Berman Says:

    True enough. By “political” I meant more analytical than strictly partisan. There are loads of minor right wing blogs and left wing blogs, but hardly any that anybody actually reads, and even less that provide solid non-partisan information.

  30. Aceface Says:

    “I think there is a serious conceptual gap here… I don’t like people making “slanty eyes” to represent Japanese people, and hey, I’m not even Japanese!”

    Well,let us orientals to decide whether it’s offensive or not before you draw your gun next time.

    “Good Japan Blog”

    OK,I admit.I should have asked questions with my own answer written down.I read Japanese blogs.But it’s not exactly “On Japan”.

    (For M-Bone)
    I do read these blogs in Japanese,however..

    モンローグ
    http://monzo77.spaces.live.com/
    is a blog by Meiji-Gakuin Univ associate professor Kadoma Takashi mostly on East Asian culture and personal diary.

    梶ピエールの備忘録
    http://d.hatena.ne.jp/kaikaji/
    is a blog by China economic expert in Kobe Gakuin Univ.Prof.Kajitani Kai.

    Mozuの囀
    http://rockhand.cocolog-nifty.com/
    is a blog on French journalism and world affairs.
    He is also a commenter frequenly showed up here.

    “Where Japan’s Tobias Harris?”

    My wife had warned me multiple times not to read “Observing Japan”since it raise my blood pressure..so I can’t speak of what he is writing these days.
    But all I can say is the tone and narrative of the blog is distinctively American or some one who has no trouble identifying American policy circle.Can’t be written by Japanese.

  31. W. David MARX Says:

    Well,let us orientals to decide whether it’s offensive or not before you draw your gun next time.

    Huh? Draw your gun? Who drew guns? And AGAIN, you have to understand that people who are not the target of discrimination can be against that discrimination. Whether you agree or not, you need to understand that this position exists.

    Otherwise, thanks for the links.

  32. Aceface Says:

    But I don’t think that is “discrimination”.It will be “discrimination”once you have some member of the society with that specific phisical category speak out right here in Japan.
    But until then,it is just a silly performance.Nothning more,Nothing less.

  33. Aceface Says:

    And I do have a pair of slant eyes as you already know.
    Not sure how that get the nerves of Asian Americans.But here in Japan,people accept that as a fact in life.

  34. Roy Berman Says:

    “Can’t be written by Japanese.”
    Well sure, but then where’s the Japanese language blogs observing the American scene? I’ll admit I haven’t looked, because I don’t usually bother reading Japanese coverage of anything besides E Asia because it’s so much faster to read in English, but it would still be nice to see.

    Mozu does France…

  35. Roy Berman Says:

    Of course, Mozu is also anonymous. I know we’ve discussed this many times before, but it still surprises me how few people in Japan build reputations using blogs that they parlay into other media, particularly since Japanese celebrities tend to be SO multimedia. I’m aware there are exceptions- that freeter guy who got a book deal and made some TV appearances, but it seems to still be pretty rare. Even people who could have done it easily, such as the keitai novel authors, don’t take full advantage of the opportunity and remain anonymous.

  36. W. David MARX Says:

    I wrote about the anonymous contradiction here:
    http://clast.diamondagency.jp/en/?p=129

    Mozu rejected my analysis.

    the keitai novel authors

    The Keitai Novel authors are kind of in a bind, because for most of them, they claim for the stories to be “true.”

    So that means:

    1) If the story is true and they reveal their identities, they put a lot of burden on their families etc. since what happens in the story is never so “nice.”

    2) If the story is false and they reveal their identities, they can be called liars and frauds.

    It’s not an easy choice. And since everyone lets you be anonymous, why not?

    Some bloggers would benefit from capitalizing on their blog fame, but I do understand why they want to keep anonymous. Fashion bloggers, for example, may not really be that fashionable, and people would surely badger them on that.

  37. M-Bone Says:

    “Well sure, but then where’s the Japanese language blogs observing the American scene?”

    Once again, not all media environments are created equal. One of the reasons why there is a market for what Tobias does is the almost uniformly terrible commentary of other daily / weekly Japanese politics sources. Japanese have lots of places to turn for solid America info in easily available traditional media – in direct contrast with the dearth of Japan material in English, there is an almost a vomit inducing flood of the stuff.

    “using blogs that they parlay into other media”

    A few young academics in the US have already gotten burned doing this. You make one mistake in a very public forum and people dismiss everything that you’ve done… and don’t hire you. Will not be an issue for something diverse and often funny like Mutantfrog – but Observing Japan? I’m not sure if it will work for him or against him.

  38. W. David MARX Says:

    I think the more important phenomenon with T. Harris is not even if he is right or is well-read or whatever, but that HE TRIES to do what he does — under his real name, no less.

  39. M-Bone Says:

    “but that HE TRIES to do what he does — under his real name, no less.”

    He’s certainly got balls and it has worked for him this far.

  40. Aceface Says:

    “but that HE TRIES to do what he does — under his real name, no less.”

    Ouch.
    You got me there.I’m going to bury this rather long post on him then.

  41. Roy Berman Says:

    “Japanese have lots of places to turn for solid America info in easily available traditional media – in direct contrast with the dearth of Japan material in English, there is an almost a vomit inducing flood of the stuff.”
    Very true. Although I’m still kind of surprised you don’t see things like media watch blogs, to correct the vast amounts of misinformation and outright lies that appear in magazines or TV here.

    “Will not be an issue for something diverse and often funny like Mutantfrog – but Observing Japan?”
    Aside from the fact that I actually did first start the first version years back purely as a personal travelogue for friends and family back home, I have made a point of not trying to explicitly bind the site into a particular topic. I think not claiming to be an authoritative blog on a particular topic helps.

    Of course, tossing in some personal hobby stuff to a blog that generally has a serious focus isn’t uncommon either. Look at something like Andrew Sullivan.

  42. M-Bone Says:

    “media watch blogs, to correct the vast amounts of misinformation and outright lies that appear in magazines or TV here.”

    Different environment – that’s what 2ch is for. Does it have to be a blog? As long as it is online in another form, I’m not so concerned.

    They have actually been quite proactive in striking out at the media. Aside from the BS detection, a few years back they found out that a bunch of geinojin were going to pick up garbage on a beach on a wideshow and made sure that it was spotless before they got there.

    “I think not claiming to be an authoritative blog on a particular topic helps.”

    That’s why you are safe. In any case, I think that the diversity of the topics on MF is its biggest strength.

  43. Aceface Says:

    OK it’s not a blog,But how about NBR discussion forum,M-Bone?
    I’m actually surprised so many of them willing to put those commentary with their real names attached…

  44. M-Bone Says:

    Yeah, some of those guys HATE each other. I think that one of the big differences is that most of that crew have been around academia for ages. They have their cliques and their enemies and don’t much care any more. I see posts from younger people from time to time but… they usually don’t get into the arguments. In fact, it seems to me that they actively avoid saying anything controversial.

  45. Mulboyne Says:

    I’ve bored people before with the observation that Harris seems to be doing what John Neuffer used to do so I wonder whether the web presence really makes much of a difference.

    Investment banks and hedge funds have employed people to make political forecasts, for better for worse, for years so you have to be careful in assuming that the only thinking is going on in public. I have spent a lot of my professional life dismissing arguments which others have been paid good money to come up with and which never see the light of day.

    Of course, there are others out there who rejoice in telling people that I’m full of sh*t too so there’s a broad market of opinions out there which you won’t see in the newspapers.

  46. M-Bone Says:

    In a way, I think that much depends on what Tobias wants to do. If he wants to go into journalism or public service, the blog should help him. If he wants to go into academia, it could burn him or work for him depending on who ends up holding the CV.

  47. Aceface Says:

    In my line of work,blogging works negatively.
    I’m not supposed to write anything with my boss reads it beforehand.

    I had this occasion of going to Manila few years ago to join the Japan-ASEAN related symposium and I was supposed to be one of the panelist to join the discussion among the young journalists and academics.
    But my superior at the time halted only 24 hours before my departure,saying if I don’t have any draft for the discussions,he can’t allow me to go.In that kind of environment,blogging under real name is next to impossible.

    Another thing.Many of my colleagues think bloggers are not exactly a journalist for they are heavily opinionated and lacking their own research abilities.Ofcourse,there’s prejudice from old guards of Japanese media working here…..

  48. Adamu Says:

    The US media elite have the exact same bias – David Gregory (now host of Meet the Press) has been especially disdainful of “the bloggers” and even looks down on Jon Stewart.

    But Ace, once an intrepid journalists makes it through the ranks he can usually become a veteran pundit and do the speaking circuit/write books, no?

  49. M-Bone Says:

    On the academic side of thing, I see a whole generation of under 40s who like blogs and have a great deal of respect for non-commercial bloggers. They aren’t the ones doing the hiring though.

  50. W. David MARX Says:

    2Ch as “media watch blog” is a sad state of affairs.

  51. M-Bone Says:

    If you look past the Asahi hate, I see people get on there and hate on the latest Nanjing denial book too. 2ch is mostly about hatin’, and they do it very well.

    Is there a top notch media watch blog in English? I’ve always been underwhelmed.

  52. Roy Berman Says:

    Well, there’s factcheck.org mediamatters.org and I’d even say snopes.com. And a very large portion of the content on blogs like Glenn Greenwald’s are devoted to debunking conventional wisdom.

    “David Gregory (now host of Meet the Press) has been especially disdainful of “the bloggers” and even looks down on Jon Stewart.”
    It’s probably because he’s even worse at his job than Tim Russert was.

  53. Adamu Says:

    If you’re willing to concentrate solely on US politics, Glenn Greenwald and digby’s blog do the best at dissecting the “village” mentality of the Washington elite, how presidential campaigns are run, etc. etc.

  54. Aceface Says:

    This is very premature hypothesis.
    But many bloggers are more of a copy writer/editor type than a writer/reporter type to my eyes.Ofcourse I’m overgeneralizing diverse blogs here,but in professional journalism,these two parties belong two different planet that do not interact and in Japan,the latter has more power than the former and it’s usually the latter becomes the veteran pundit who does the writing/lecturing.
    And with understandable reasons,they don’t want waste their ammos in blog format……

  55. W. David MARX Says:

    If you are an “established” writer who needs to live on his writing, then blogging can be bad for your business. Blogs can, however, help create you a loyal and informed fanbase.

    If you are young and unestablished, blogs can help you establish a career, if and only if, you live in a society where outside entry into “the system” is possible. I don’t think bloggers would have an easy time becoming pro writers in Japan. And the way the institution works, you can’t try to “brand” yourself as an individual while working for major publications. This is actually where most good American blogs come from: not amateurs, but staff writers “showing off.”

  56. mozu Says:

    I wrote about the anonymous contradiction here:
    http://clast.diamondagency.jp/en/?p=129
    Mozu rejected my analysis.

    I didn’t basically disagree with your analysis and I sometimes share your frustration because I am more or less influenced by “western” political notions. What I wanted to say is that “the Japanese” are not always apolitical and apathical if you imagined a notion of the politics which is a bit different from classical “western” one, although I can’t say what it is like. Anyway, I don’t think the anonymity means the powerless. This is not 2-chan thing.

    And I apologize to you. You are not marukusu-san but maakusu-san in katakana.

  57. Aceface Says:

    Oh,No.It is easy to be a writer in Japan.A lot more so than in the states.It’s just people don’t take “detour”.

  58. Roy Berman Says:

    So are you telling me I should shut down my blog and start writing books for the Japanese audience?

  59. Aceface Says:

    Actually,that’s not a bad idea.You and Marxy should do that.

  60. Connor Says:

    When you’re doing the TV promo tour for the book, here’s some things to keep in mind:

    1) A lot of the best opportunities to “hook” the viewer occur while the food is still in the dish. You want to offer a commentary at this point, but don’t go too generic or too specific. Sure, it looks great, and you’re looking forward to eating it, but don’t just stop there; also, don’t demonstrate too much knowledge of the specificities of the meal, because if the audience isn’t similarly equipped then you’ll lose viewer identification and the Vicarious Eating Factor.
    2) Make sure to really give the cameraman some time to get a close-up on your mouth before you take the bite; trust him to leave enough room in the shot for the picture-in-picture of the hosts reacting to your eating. He’s a professional. On the other hand, it’s considered sporting to pull your face to the right a bit once you hit around Chew 10– nobody likes an attention hog.
    3) You don’t have to pretend to like Kimchi. It’s vile, is why.

  61. Roy Berman Says:

    Connor, are you insane? Kimchi is one of the world’s great tastes. I’m not sure I can trust any of your advice now.

  62. Connor Says:

    You never should have trusted me in the first place, Roy.