Mainichi shuts down WaiWai

This is pretty old news by now, but I just found out about it. I don’t spend much time surfing websites about Japan. When I still lived in the US, I hardly ever followed local news either. I’ve always been a Time/Newsweek/US News & World Report kinda guy.

For years and years, the English language website for Mainichi News had a section called WaiWai. It translated salacious and bizarre articles from the dregs of Japanese tabloids into English. As far as I know, the authors of WaiWai never made anything up–they left that to the authors of the original articles about such nonsense like a restaurant where you could have sex with a pig then have it cooked for you.

A Japanese person could read the original articles in their original context and considering the source and content easily see through the bullshit, similar to how an American could tell that an article from the National Inquirer or Weekly World News about scientists planning to blow up the moon is most likely not true. But foreigners have a propensity to believe absolutely anything they read about Japan, up to and including the thousands upon thousands of used panty vending machines on every street corner here that don’t f**king exist.

Apparently it was the “You screw it we cook it” restaurant story that caught the attention of Japanese bloggers and 2channers back in May. They got fired up about WaiWai sullying the reputation of their beloved country overseas, and from there the mass media caught wind and ran with it.

As reported in Japan Probe, the Mainichi acted all shocked and stunned, as if they had no idea WaiWai even existed, closed down the site, apologized in Japanese and English, and even went so far as to punish the employees responsible for the column. The chief editor, an Australian named Ryann Connell, has become the outraged public’s whipping boy and is currently suspended for three months from his job and sequestered in his home with police protection after receiving a number of death threats, as reported in the Australian media.

Here’s my take on the whole situation. WaiWai should have been shut down years ago. Republishing tabloid articles under the Mainichi name lent credibility to the articles that were most likely complete fabrications. I used to visit the site a few times a year simply because the articles were painful to read, which is kind of fun in an intellectually masochistic kind of way. They painted a picture of Japan very different from the Japan I know from living here. A news outlet like the Mainichi shouldn’t be in the business of publishing stories in a column where a small percentage of them are true and the rest are tabloid trash without any kind of disclaimer attached to the unsourced articles. In the end, the company got what it deserved–a whole lot of bad publicity and a mass exodus of their advertising sponsors.

Rich Pav

Richard has been living in Japan since 1990 with his wife and two teenage sons, Tony and Andy.

2 thoughts to “Mainichi shuts down WaiWai”

  1. Then again, Mainichi, Yomiuri, Asahi, and Japan’s most prestigious publishing houses publish the bulk of the trashy tabloid-esque shukanshi whence Wai-Wai’s articles were drawn. Japan’s publishing industry has never really drawn a line between highbrow/credible and lowbrow/nonsense, frequently publishing the good and the bad side by side.

    I was never a regular Wai-Wai reader and I agree that it made little sense for the Mainichi to mess with its reputation as the English version of the site targeted an audience that assumes a division between serious and tabloid, but I thought it was abundantly clear what sort of articles those were. Pictures of the magazine covers, almost always featuring scantily clad girls, were prominent, and wasn’t the catch phrase something like “Drawn from japan’s crazy weeklies”?

    What this story shows is the continued idiocy of 2-channel. After all, the articles were penned by Japanese writers and published by Japan’s publishing big boys. Who’s tarnishing Japan’s image?

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  2. I realize there are two sides to the argument, but I’ve always thought the reasons for closing down the column were stronger. You have to admit, people outside Japan have a lot of trouble separating fact from fiction about the country’s culture. WaiWai wasn’t helping with their appalling journalism, even if they were simply translating original articles. They put them on their site, so they’re responsible for the content.

    The ex-editor still publishes tabloid article translations in book form, or maybe he might go and do his own thing on a website he sets up, provided he can tolerate the death threats. That’s the one thing that bothers me. People who seriously lack a sense of humor.

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