Archive for the ‘Web’ Category



Nipponkan is a new site that describes itself as “A vitamin C blend of Japan related links found at, Digg and Flickr”. Recent postings at the site include:

Yongfook speaks fans were legion long before Yongfook himself moved his base of operations from its former home (in a top-secret location, but widely rumored to have been within a dormant volcano in Kyushu) to its present one (at a “web consultancy” front company in Setagaya-ku here in Tokyo).

Since that auspicious event (which occurred just last August, and which many here have come to refer to simply as “the Big Move”), we’ve seen a kind of Yongfook mania spread through Tokyo — Johnny-come-lately fans popping up all over the place, making all manner of dubious claims (“Me and Yongfook go waaay back — we used to hang out in my parents’ garage and smoke tons of weed and read porno mags and talk about how we was gonna be rock stars someday”, etc.) to try to show how hip they are to Yongfook.

A lot of fans would have had a hard time imagining how Yongfook could get any cooler. I will admit that I was one of them. But in true Yongfook fashion, he has found a way to take it to the next level. Over the holidays, while the rest of us were all out just getting sloppy drunk, Yongfook was apparently hard at work (though he also was apparently sloppy drunk the whole time). And you can now sample for yourself the fruits of his genius by visiting the newly redesigned


2channel, blogging, and “real news”


If you live outside of Japan and/or have never been here, I guess the chances are you’ve probably never heard of 2channel. (Or maybe you have. I don’t get away from Japan more than once or twice a year any more, so I can’t really claim to know.) Anyway, if you haven’t heard of it, do yourself a favor and head over to the Wikipedia site to read the 2channel article there. That article begins with the following:

2channel (2ちゃんねる, pronounced “ni-channeru”, 2ch for short) is the largest Internet forum in the world. With over 10 million visitors every day (as of 2001), it is gaining significant influence in Japanese society, approaching that of traditional mass media such as TV, radio and magazines.

As impressive as that may sound, I think it understates the influence that 2channel has had in Japan. Read a little further down in that article, and you will find this:

What is unique about this website is its scale and its management style. It has more than 600 active boards (Japanese ita) such as “Social News”, “Computers” and “Cooking”, making it the most comprehensive forum in Japan. Each board usually has thousands of specific threads, such as “Coming election in Tokyo: 4th vote”, “P4 vs. Athlon: overheating 51 times”, and “Best wheat for making Pizza: 3rd slice”.

And as far as the 2channel “management style”, well, there is none. At all. It is basically one big information free-for-all. And a completely anonymous one, at that. Because another feature that has set 2channel apart is that all posting there is done

Anyway, I am far from an expert on 2channel. But from what I know and have seen of it, I know that it is in part a resource where people go to ask questions and get some (hopefully) expert advice — even on the most obscure topics. People also rely on 2channel as a real-time source for breaking news and for discussion about breaking news.Yeah, some of it is just hearsay, but there are also firsthand reports, including reports from people who otherwise would not be sharing information unless they could do share it anonymously.

Now, as you would probably expect, users at 2channel can and do sometimes post bogus information. Sometimes they do it just for fun, sometimes for more sinister reasons. Given all that, the natural question to ask is: How do you know whom and what to trust there?


Tokyo city guide in Wiki form?

Stephen Booth over at Metroblogging Birmingham has posted an announcement about the return of Birmingham OpenGuide, a guide to Birmingham implemented as a Wiki so it can be updated by anyone.

We need an OpenGuide for Tokyo. Anybody want to volunteer to set it up and/or host it?

The Birmingham guide appears to have been built using a kit provided by a larger project, OpenGuides. There’s a related article at the O’Reilly site. Most of the existing OpenGuide sites seem to be for cities in the UK, but there are also ones for Vienna and for Boston and St. Paul in the US.

The OpenGuides site provides some details about software and setup for putting a OpenGuides city site together. It looks like a nice system. Anyway, it’d be great to have a user-editable city guide for Tokyo, regardless of what software it runs on. So if you have the chops and/or the bandwidth for hosting such as site, chime up here, and let’s see if we can manage to bring some people together to volunteer help in setting it up and getting it rolling.

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Mixi Xmas logoMixi is a popular social-networking site (like Orkut or Friendster except that is doesn’t suck) that’s based here in Japan, though anybody anywhere can join it. (I think there are actually a significant number of people living outside of Japan who are using it.)

I think you can only join it by invitation from somebody who already belongs. And the interface is all in Japanese, so if you can’t read Japanese, it would probably be a bit tough to navigate through. But if you do join it and spend some time wandering around there, it can give you some insight into popular culture here.


Christmas, Ghosts, and Loneliness in Tokyo

Ghost of Christmas Yet to ComeIt’s Christmas Day here, and finding myself alone with time to do
a little wandering, I drifted into a quiet place where I
remembered spending some moments before. And I thought how fitting it seems to find myself in this place, on Christmas Day, in Tokyo.

The place exists only immaterially, so you wouldn’t need to come
to Tokyo to see it, and won’t find it here even if you did come.
But because it is situated in the same virtual world where you’re
reading this page, you can — without leaving the corporeal place
where you are now — visit it yourself.

It’s located here:

Ghosts of Tokyo: A visual haiku (2003)

What you’ll find there is a series of 50 photos in “book” form —
“A photographic poem on the city and its ghosts”.

The creator of “Ghosts of Tokyo”, Olivier Thereaux, describes it this way:

This book started as a project to document the “other” face of
Tokyo, by walking around the Yamanote, the ultra-busy circular
train line often thought of as the heart (or more appropriately,
the crown) of the city, and taking pictures of the areas between
the stations, when the common images were too often close to the

Those photos capture well the mood of a few of the kinds of places
you might find if you stray off the trail a bit in Tokyo — some
lonely places where your thoughts may start to turn inward a

“Ghosts of Tokyo” is such an apt title for that book, and coming
across it again today made me think of another book about ghosts,
Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol”.


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