Of Train Man and Demon Wife: The Popularity of Blogging and Bulletin Boards in Japan

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A friend sent me a link to a Wall Street Journal (WSJ) article this morning, telling the tale of How Demon Wife Became a Media Star And Other Tales of the ‘Blook’ in Japan.

I thanked my friend in a reply and mentioned that I would like to link to the article, but the page is only available to the public for a short number of days. My friend replied with a link to a blog post that told the tale of Oni Yome–Demon Wife, and the suggestion that information wants to be free, and can get beyond the gated walls of the WSJ.

Blogging is big in Japan. More popular than in the United States, and the blog that tells the tale of the Demon Wife and the tortures she inflicts upon her husband has gotten over 3.2 million hits in the last 2 and 1/2 years. Books based upon blogs, or “Blooks” as they have become to be known, are also very popular, and television and the cinema haven’t ignored the lure of the blog.

The WSJ notes that “since January 2004, more than 300 books based on blogs, personal home pages, and bulletin boards have been published in Japan, about three times as many as in English.” An irony noted in the tale of the Demon Wife blog is that the blogger who writes about his relationship with his wife is closer to her now than before he started blogging about their relationship.

Perhaps the biggest hit in the Japanese media is the tale of Train Man, as he began to be known when he overcame his nerdy shyness to rescue a group of women from an older drunken man on a train, and his heroism led to a relationship with the woman sitting next to him. The event was real, and the protagonist of the tale wrote about the event on a Japanese bulletin board. After it happened, he wrote about it on the forum, and when one of the woman involved sent him a thank you gift, the other bulletin board members starting giving him advice regarding his dress, appearance, and dating.

The ‘Densha Otoko’ Translation Project includes translated versions of those posts. Here’s a snippet:

The women just sat there with their eyes on the floor, like they were thinking ‘it’s best not to get involved’.

But the old man started yelling about some ridiculous thing, like “Women should just shut up and let the men do their thing!” and he grabs the women’s faces in his hands and pinches their cheeks hard.

I figured it was only going to get worse, so I pulled together all my courage and yelled: “Hey, cut it out!” I’m sure my voice was shaking.

I’d never been in a fight or anything before. But it seemed like the man hadn’t heard me – he didn’t react.

“Hey, I’m talking to you! I said cut it tragakjfgs,gnmsfg!” I yelled once again, desperately. The women were like “No, it’s okay, it’s alright” to me when I started to get to my feet.

Finally, the man seemed to notice and turned towards me. “Lookin’ at me from the corner of yer eyes…” he spat, glaring at me.

The members of the group started calling him “train man” after that and giving him advice about hairstyles, and conversations, and dating. All single men, without girlfriends of their own. Without many ideas about hairstyles, and conversations, and dating.

The Wikipedia article on Densha Otoko tells us that the story became a novel, a manga comic book, a television series, and a featured movie (a box office hit, at that).

Much more interesting than the fiction of Lonelygirl15.

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