On this morning's newscast, NHK, Japan's only public television station, looked at the rising popularity of blogs.
Indeed, there is no shortage of Japanese blogs on politics and current events. A quick Google search for "blog Iraq" in Japanese (ブログ イラク) yielded about 326,000 hits, including the following:
Reishiva Iraq Reports
International Cooperation NGO Information Blog
Tea Not War
It's perhaps not surprising that they generally oppose the U.S. occupation -- and Japan's role in it -- given the nation's post-WWII embrace of pacifism.
Moreover, Japanese bloggers are translating some English-language blogs, like Baghdad Burning, from Iraq, and Raed in the Middle, from Iran, into Japanese versions, which you can see here and here.
Other Japanese blogs are not dedicated to Iraq, but include the occasional related post, like this one criticizing the Japanese government's harsh response to the freed Japanese hostages, or this one about Shosei Koda, another Japanese hostage who wasn't so lucky.
While I personally disagree with some of these bloggers, I recognize that they have legitimate views, and they should be acknowledged.
Nevertheless, the NHK piece lacked any discussion of blogs as a medium for political awareness and debate, or as a mainstream media watchdog -- probably the most high-profile roles of blogs in the U.S. Instead, it showed how blogs can be used for reading celebrity gossip, keeping personal diaries, following community events, or getting updates after an earthquake hits.
I'm not sure whether this omission reflects the stereotypical Japanese distaste for open conflict, overall cluelessness on the part of NHK, a desire to keep Japanese popular anti-war sentiment under wraps, or a sinister plot to cultivate apathy among the citizenry. Whatever the reason, it's a glaring omission.
Ironically, Japanese bloggers themselves fully understand the importance of what they are doing with respect to the existing media hierarchy. As "finalvent" at Far East Blog writes, in a post about media coverage of the U.N.'s oil-for-food scandal:
大手紙がこれからどう出てくるのか、それと、共同がどう外信を捌いているのかが気になるところだ。 っていうか、こんなの、英米圏のネットを覗けば筒抜けに見えることなので、ブログが興隆してくると、こうした日本での外信の流れに別の流れがでてくるのではないだろうか。Loosely translated:
I’m concerned about how our big newspapers will handle news from outside Japan from here on out, but the English-language Internet lets us see right through to the source. The rise of blogs could lead to a whole new flow of outside information coming into Japan.Well, NHK sure isn't.
Rather than get caught up in the debate about whether bloggers are journalists, or rely on primary sources, we should acknowledge that blogs are raising the standard for international news, and, I think, the quality of the Japanese public’s evaluation of foreign affairs.