Trolls or media watchdogs? Nope, neither

The spiralling of the Japan Times down the drain and into the gutter occupied by Japan Today and Rocket News continues apace, with this hack job from an author who seems to be channelling our favourite reporter.

Have the foreign media got it in for Japan? Do they unduly focus on, and sensationalize, Fukushima radiation leaks, alleged racial intolerance and the self-aggrandizing policy pronouncements of the reborn Liberal Democratic Party? Worse still, are non-Japanese journalists prejudicing perceptions of Japan in the wider world, further eroding the nation’s global significance?

In order, too open a question, most certainly, what’s "self-aggrandizing policy pronouncements"?, perhaps. Furthmore, it would be nice if the article actually answered these questions.

Though right-wing Japanese apologists

Apologism is not an exclusive trait of the right-wing, and indeed Level3, for example, used to get frequently booed for his right-wing libertarian stance here and elsewhere!

Banded behind a small but deafening band of bloggers, YouTubers and citizen journalists of sorts, this informal alliance generate legion online comments, blog posts and video channel chat-fests that systematically seek to discredit media they say are bent on fear-mongering about the country.

:facepalm: What utter, utter nonsense!

But the fact that this damning account of Japanese immigration procedure was covered in such an internationally significant publication

I need a :stiflelaugh: or :snort: emoticon here!

The publication claimed that it fact-checked Johnson’s story as much as possible

That’s stretching it a bit: they actually said "It must be considered as unverified, despite The Economist’s attempts to check relevant facts with the Japanese and Canadian governments".

VKay, a typically anonymous pro-Japan voice

VK, please! And how can you be "typically anonymous"?

The Canadian, who says he had never heard of these blogs before the Gaijin Gulag episode

Just like many of us hadn’t heard of the Canadian before his gulagging.

In ways, these foreign-born cyber-warriors parallel the infamous netouyo ("Internet right") — nationalistic Net trolls who hunt Japan’s critics online. When Miki Dezaki

Funnily enough, I supported him (although I cannot find the story again), and I find equating apologists with the netouyo bordering on defamation.

This band of non-native Japan apologists often stress that they are not mouthpieces of the Japanese right.


Nevertheless, some contend that pro-Japan blogs such as Japan Probe and Japologism, which Inoue posts on, push a highly circumscribed agenda.

Ahh, the good old "some"!


Yes, it’s an anonymous commenter. :facepalm:

@Kamo quoted another foreign blogger in Japan, Our Man in Abiko, real name Patrick Sherriff, who called Japan Probe "the self-appointed lapdog of the Japanese establishment."

Anyone familiar with Ourmani would recognise that as sarcasm, I would guess. Indeed, Ourmani admits to having written it a few sheets to the wind.

But reasonable "soft" apologists such as Hikosaemon

Aww, Hiko-chan is a cuddly-wuddly twoll!

‘BS’ is a term often employed in these pro-Japan forums as the truest marker of Japan-related media bias and negativity.

:roll:   :headdesk:

For the neo-apologists

Now we have "neo-apologists". :roll:

The view that the neo-apologists rely on anonymous "embittered trolls" to bully journalists online

Whose view? Whose quote?

YouTube shows and sundry blogs also expose netizens to the pro-Japan narrative via predominantly light-hearted entertainment. On YouTube channels such as 2.5 Oyajis, the expat presenters wear funny hats and discuss human interest curiosities in Japan.

Oh not, it’s cuddly-wuddly Hiko-chan again up to his old tricks as a gateway drug to neo-apologism!

Are foreign bureaus in Japan actually spooked, and has open debate been stifled? (A number of journalists approached for this article did not want to comment.)

I suspect they too noticed the all-too familiar tone of Japan’s greatest journalist and decided not to get involved. :roll:

UPDATE: Indeed, after I wrote the above sentence, but before publishing the story, I saw this Twitter thread. In it, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Hiroko Tabuchi says:

I can’t believe JT printed it. Standards?

And this:

@jtben @stevenshayman IMHO, your page gives such a bad name to @JapanTimes & tramples on hard work of paper’s other reporters & editors.

Furthermore, here is a reddit thread on it.

Oh, and I liked this comment:


It will be interesting when this hits 2ch…

Leave a comment ?


  1. Deafening silence on this topic from the hardened war-dog journo at the centre of this travesty of journalism.

    Salivating at a distance perhaps? However it is most unlike him to be quiet.

  2. Oh my, now the pitchforks are out for Hayao Miyazaki and his whitewashing of Japan’s militaristic past. Clearly Totoro pursues a fascist agenda, and did anyone else notice that the deceptively named Kaonashi actually had a white face?

  3. @iago:

    About to post the same thing. Miyazaki as an apologist for fascism. :facepalm: By a complete and utter coincidence, the netouyoku have had it in for him recently too.

  4. I’m looking forward to reports from Lone Ranger criticising Gore Verbinski for not mentioning smallpox blankets, and showing his White Supremacist colours by not casting a First National as Tonto. :headdesk:

    And to save you searching for such as story, click here for a free :facepalm: .

  5. @Ken Y-N:

    To be honest, I think native American complainants about the Lone Ranger have a good point. The film directly features a depiction of an archetypal native American and his relationship with a white master.

    If Miyazaki had a grinning, mindlessly loyal, but feckless and scheming Korean assistant to Horikoshi, who stank of kimchi but mucked in merrily in the aftermath of the 1923 earthquake without a reference to the attacks on ethnic minorities, then the nutters/trolls in that discussion on would have a point about racism and apologism. Only the film simply isn’t about that.

    In any case, it’s pretty clear that they either haven’t watched many or any Miyazaki films, or if they have, they’ve missed some pretty bloody obvious subtexts.

  6. @Not a hater:

    If he’s being silent, then it just means he either thinks it’s Mission Accomplished and is partying even above his regular level, or he’s working on a 50,000 word expose or vanity novel, or he’s rewriting his bio to make it clear he really is a target of a vast conspiracy somehow involving the NSA, which makes him awesome, using the completely objective and fair full-page JT article as his only valid citation, and his own JT rant about Snowden = NSA = havill et al. as if it were a valid citation.

    …and trying to figure out who took up his twitter account, much to Tabuchi’s amusement.

  7. Eido posted transcripts of his email conversations with Braun somewhere, but I’m not finding it. Does anyone have a link?

    Specifically, when did Braun first contact Eido?

  8. @sublight:

    Link to the first one here:

    Dates are April 25/26 this year.

    Have you spotted something?

  9. @VK: Ah, ok. The layout here means that issues usually start getting discussed in the article before the one that’s actually about the issue. Very confusing sometimes.

    I thought I’d noticed something from June, but Braun’s email was well before that. Never mind.

  10. iLikedolphins

    Would it be possible to infer that, on first meeting, Christopher Johnson can be persuasively charming?

    Because it’s a pretty tough sell isn’t it?

    ‘Some people were mean to me on the Internet, it’s an international scandal!’

    Isn’t ‘Apologist’ the most hysterical term ever? Japan as brutal oppressive dictatorship? That we defend for the privilege of drawing a salary for working at a ‘job’ at one of their ‘companies’, an opportunity awarded to only an elite few?

    I’ve never heard so many young white men reference the Second World War as I have in Asia. Something about the writhing froth of yellow humanity releases their inner High School history book, dooming them to live in a virtual past of fantastic horrors and unresolved anguish. It’s the yellow peril, you know. It’s always been the yellow peril.

  11. On the plus side, somebody’s web host seems to have taken rational matters into their own hands and deleted a whole bunch of his “evidentiary” stuff.

  12. @Not a hater:

    He seems to be keeping busy

  13. @Sixth Sense: I’m no expert, but he seems to be a pretty good photographer…

  14. Yes, his photos are quite good.

  15. Oh, CJ’s posts are still up, as it were.

    Interestingly, he’s still making changes to his gulag story. Crucially, he never *specifically* answers the question of what his visa status was when he left Japan for Korea, and what visa he was trying to enter the country under.

    At one point he says he was denied entry because he could not provide ‘proof of funds’ to live in Japan. That seems odd: Firstly, you wouldn’t be asked to provide proof of funds if you had a) a valid visa and a re-entry permit or b) a passport with a note indicating you had already applied for a new visa. In fact, the whole thing is weird, because if he had either of those two things, he’d have a multiple re-entry permit…but he notes no such thing.

    It also seems odd that he’d be unable to provide ‘proof of funds’ when he said he had ‘property, bank deposits, stock holdings’ in Japan. Property? On a ‘freelance journalist’ visa? Banks normally only lend to foreigners with a permanent resident visa. And of course this all is even before we get to the odd point that in his blow-by-blow account of the conversation with Immigration when he’s asked how much money he has etc, at no point, apparently, did CJ say, ‘hey, I have a valid visa! I applied and everything!’. It’s odd, because at one point in his story, CJ said, and I quote, “Though I had work visas dating back to 1989, and papers saying the government had acknowledged the receipt of my application to renew my work visa, I was detained at Narita airport and expelled”.

    Seems like a rather important detail to forget to bring up.

    I’ve pointed out previously about how he made claims about getting a new passport etc, since his old one was ‘about to expire’ in the spring of 2011. And based on his posts & tweets, it’s pretty clear he tried to enter Japan with the ‘new’ passport – the one without any reentry stamps etc. Note that every trace of the ‘new passport’ and ‘old, about to expire passport’ has been removed. Odd, that. (Don’t worry, CJ – Google caches still remain!)

    He says “I have reason to suspect that powerful persons, unhappy with my critical coverage, complained about me to the Immigration Bureau.”

    :lol: :lol: :lol:

    Yes, these powerful persons were so powerful they….waited for CJ to leave the country so they could stop him from getting back in. OK….

    “I was granted a new work visa, my fifth for Japan, thanks to support or pressure from powerful groups in Tokyo, Washington, Ottawa and Paris”. Yes, these are such ‘powerful’ groups that he doesn’t dare thank them by name. You know who you are!

  16. Wow. Japan provides CJ with a pretty sweet lifestyle, I wish I was was so lucky. Another white educated male with really has nothing complain about – well, other than the key money ‘custom’ or should I say scam. Anywho nice pics, looked like a good time.

    Having a irie summer, wish you were here.

  17. It’s easy to see CJ as a competent photographer who longed to ugrade himself to ‘war correspondent’ and journalist. It’s his fantasy and I’m ok with that. What doesn’t make sense are his conspiracy-tinged meltdowns and bizarre online feuds that have overstepped the line into full blown harassment, legal blowback, and social pariah status.

    Poor CJ reached for the stars and never came back to earth. Was it mental illness or a runaway ego? We’ll never know as those that have actually met or worked with the guy seem reluctant to speak on record. CJ is an enigma wrapped in a riddle in a brown paper bag. He is a shitstain on the collar of life and a typhoon in a sake cup but he’s taken this running gag out of obscurity and into global circulation. He’s made us all famous and we owe him a deep debt of gratitude. Bullying Debito for shits and giggles has turned Mr Ken into a household name and media boogeyman, raised Mr Googles to the status of gaijin spokesman for a generation, wresting said title from Debito himself, and fulfilling his greatest desire, sired deep within his heart most likely from his ‘teacher as clown’ ALT days in a broken down suburb of rural Osaka.

    CJ has done all of this, even turned some beige-tinged university professor into a kind of online academic Darth Vader without so much as a word of thanks. Who even remembers Michael Q Todd?

    CJ. Nauseatingly refreshing. Like shiso plum soda.

  18. @iLd
    Good point about the history thing, something I notice too. Yet another symptom of the gaijin neurosis, transforming these guys into peanut gallery historians. And I bet thirty years from now they (or their successors) will still be pontificating about events 100 years back. Heaven help anyone within earshot!

  19. @Scott Urista:

    I surprised how many rubes think that “losing” :cool: one’s passport is a way to hide your record of being a visa runner.

    While this keeps other countries from knowing your entrances and exits, Japan (and most other advanced countries) do keep digital logs of the people that go in (and in Japan and other countries) out of their own country.

    And Japan corresponds these logs to fingerprints, to keep people from pulling the “change my name” or “use another passport from another nationality/country” trick.

    Also, re-issued passports are marked as replacements, and they’re marked as to how many times they’ve been re-issued. Having a passport reissued too many times (ex. more than one time in a ten year period) is guaranteed to get the attention of immigration — as it flags you as being a potential suspect for the type of person that sells their passport on the black market overseas.

    Additionally, travelling on a “fresh” (no stamps) passport when you’re obviously not a first time traveler is another way to get immigration (in any country)’s attention, as it gives them reason to believe your passport got lost/stolen/destroyed/eaten by the dog in order to “clean” it of its incriminating history.

  20. @havill:

    I should add that while losing one’s passport won’t fool immigration, it does allow one to save face in that it gives your “immigration is a bunch of nazis and I did nothing wrong” story a tad more plausibility in that your friends won’t be able to tell you’re full of it from looking at your passport.

  21. @iLikedolphins:

    Michael “Qi” Todd is still around and making “internet blog/SNS” news… just not in the Japan realm.

    He’s got a “fan club” (meaning groups created by people who feel they’ve been defrauded by him) on both Facebook and Google+ complaining about being scammed by his SEO book deals and seminars.

  22. @Scott Urista:

    >At one point he says he was denied entry because he could not provide ‘proof of funds’ to live in Japan. That seems odd: Firstly, you wouldn’t be asked to provide proof of funds if you had a) a valid visa and a re-entry permit

    Even for re-entrants, the disembarkation card asks how much money you have on you. I often experiment to see how many zeroes I can get away with… :grin:

  23. @Sixth Sense:

    That’s not the same thing though, is it? I’ve out down 10,000 yen as a truthful answer more than once without a problem. I always though the cash question was a hangover from the days of strong currency controls.

  24. @VK:

    No it’s not. Reasonable inquiry (my case) is not the same as
    “Unreasonable interrogation” (his case); – probably the same question though… :headdesk:

    It might be currency controls, it might be to prevent people turning up without a bean in their pocket expecting a free pass in.

    If the latter, I detect a rather bad smell, similar to the one that has been wafting around Australia recently…
    (and around bulls’ arses since the dawn of time…)

  25. I’m not going to do a full article on this, but remember Garin Dart? He seems to have done a lot of good work volunteering in Tohoku, but now he seems to have done a runner (or, to be charitable, left to protect his family) with 6 million yen of the company’s cash.

    If you can’t view the Facebook thread, here’s The Times on it.

  26. @Ken Y-N:

    The Facebook page reads like he did a lot of good, and that this disappearance is unlikely to be a straightforward gaijin-doing-a-runner. The sad thing is how people fall into thinking that it might be. Everybody knows someone who’s done a bunk.

  27. Mark in Yayoi

    @VK and Sixth Sense – I think they only started asking re-entrants how much cash they had on them a few years ago. I remember being mildly annoyed with the question and usually just put a big slash through that part along with my scrawled signature, and no one has ever batted an eye.

  28. The cash question is relatively recent – I don’t think there used to be any questions on the reverse side of the disembarkation card. I seem to remember it was linked to tougher money laundering legislation.

    If you have more than Y1,000,000 in cash and equivalents, then you are supposed to declare it at customs.

    At the time it was introduced, some companies advised staff to always write “about” or “approximately” before the sum.

    This wasn’t to encourage sailing close to the wind. The thinking was, should you have a run-in at customs, you didn’t want to give an officious stickler any additional pretext for fault by being a few pennies out either side.

    I’ve never heard of anyone being pulled up on that count, though.

    It’s not impossible the question is related to having sufficient funds, but it would be strange to have introduced it for that purpose at a time when travellers were increasingly relying on debit and credit cards.

  29. Mark in Yayoi

    I have one of these forms in front of me right now, as (what luck) I’m leaving Japan on a trip to the USA for about two weeks.

    It asks (1) if you’ve been found guilty of a criminal case in any country, (2) if you’re carrying any of various dangerous or controlled items (the Japanese includes 銃砲 ‘guns’ but the English doesn’t), and (3) how much cash (only 現金 ‘cash’, not equivalents) you’re carrying. If it asked ‘are you carrying more than ¥1,000,000 in cash?’ it wouldn’t seem so unnecessarily prying.

    Justin, that still leaves the question of why it’s on a re-entry card (handled by immigration) and not the customs card (which became mandatory at around the same time this question came in; maybe a few years before). On a customs form, it would be an entirely expected question.

  30. @Mark in Yayoi:

    A section about cash and equivalents does appear on the customs declaration card. However, so does a section on prohibited items, which you note also appears on the card you submit at immigration.

    They are two separate government departments. Immigration is part of the Ministry of Justice, while Customs is the responsibility of the Ministry of Finance.

    As an aside, the quarantine stations are run by the Health Ministry while animal quarantine comes under the purview of the Agriculture Ministry.

  31. @Justin Thyme:

    Good comments.

    In almost all developed countries, there are two “money” questions that get asked, either verbally or on paper, during CIQ (Customs Immigration and Quarantine):

    1) If you have more than $10K (usually converted and rounded to a nice number in the local currency) or the equivalent in domestic or foreign cash or cash equivalent instruments, you have to declare it. Having more than $10K in cash-y on you isn’t illegal, but if you don’t declare it, you risk having it seized, frozen, confiscated, with possibly some sort of penalty depending on the severity. This is a policy / question that both foreigners and Japanese must answer and comply with.

    2) The second question is how much money you have available to you. Some countries put it on the embarkation cards. Others on the customs cards. Some always ask you the question regardless of your Status of Residence. I remember seeing the money question on the cards, but I can’t remember if they were on the visitor/short-visit or the re-entry or both. (I don’t fill out any of those cards anymore: Japanese nationals don’t get asked this question) I do remember it saying in small print that Special Permanent Residents also were exempt from having to answer the “How much money do you have?” question.

    I’m a big fan of the Australia/Canadian/New Zealand/U.K. shows “Border Security/Patrol/etc” (or variations of that title: they’re shows about customs busting people at airports and at border crossings).

    I’ve noticed that for those countries immigration checks, they always always ask the “how much money do you have?” question when a person has arrived on a short-stay/holiday/tourist visa and they have reason to believe they’re actually in the country to do or search for work.

    Coming to a foreign country without an obvious way to support yourself (as you’ll obviously have to work, or worse; do something illegal, to live) is a yellow flag to immigration.

  32. @VK:

    Did you notice how the UK Daily Mail actually lifted quotes from the comments of that Facebook post and printed them without permission?

    Seems “journalists” more and more often use blog and SNS comments as sources of “news”.

  33. iLikedolphins

    just like you Adrian Havill. just like you.

    I think we are all journalists now. The bar has been lowered so low.

  34. @havill: The Daily Fail is well-known for its looseness with ethics when it comes to sourcing stuff off the internet.

    Gakuranman was another victim of their behaviour.

  35. Fukushima and Garin Dart | Japologism - Unapologetic apologism - pingback on January 15, 2014 at 10:40 pm

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