Saturday, May 08, 2004

The Japanese have a reputation for subtelty, politeness, and indirectness in speech. Online, however, it seems they behave quite differently:

In a society in which subtlety is prized above all, face-to-face confrontation is avoided, insults can be leveled with verbal nuances and hidden meanings are found everywhere, there is one place where the Japanese go to bare their souls and engage in verbal combat: Channel 2.

It is Japan's largest Internet bulletin board- the place where disgruntled employees leak information about their companies, journalists include tidbits they cannot get into the mainstream news media and the average salaryman attacks with ferocity and language unacceptable in daily life. It is also the place where gays come out in a society in which they mostly remain in the closet, where users freely broach taboo subjects

...Unlike the real Japanese world, where language is calibrated according to one's social position, the wording on Channel 2 is often stripped of social indicators or purposefully manipulated to confuse readers. Language is also raw. "Die!" is a favorite insult - and the comments are blunt, often cruel and hurled with studied cynicism.

But Channel 2 is also a window into Japan's ugly side. Many of the contents tend to be nationalistic and xenophobic, especially toward Koreans. When Sony and Samsung recently announced a joint project, users attacked Sony for cooperating with the South Korean company. "Die, Sony!" read several comments. "Die, Koreans!" Many wrote that they hated Koreans, using a derogatory term to describe them.

"They seem to dare to say things that they cannot utter in the real world..." said Kaoru Endo, a sociology professor at Gakushuin University, referring to users of the Web site. "They want to say antagonistic things against Koreans exactly because there is a prohibition against saying such things in Japanese society."


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