Hiroyuki Nishimura, bad boy of the Japanese Internet

Lisa Katayama wrote a feature about Hiroyuki Nishimura, the charismatic anti-establishment leader of the Japanese web for in the June issue of Wired.
Nicodou has brought the 2channel style of community to Web video. The site lets users plaster their comments directly on top of any uploaded video. Posts are sometimes so numerous that they obscure the clips. "Even when the videos are boring, the viewers are getting together and entertaining each other," Nishimura says.

"Hiroyuki's figuring it out as he goes along, not really giving a shit, but he hit the nail on the head," says Joi Ito, a Tokyo-based venture capitalist and CEO of Creative Commons. "Japan is an unhappy culture. The people are lonely and depressed, and the Internet is a release valve."

To the online communities at 2channel and Nicodou, Nishimura is a folk hero and role model. (In Japan he's referred to solely by his first name, a privilege afforded only to top-tier pop stars and TV heartthrobs.) And in a nation that actually has a word for "death from overwork," Nishimura takes pains to point out that he hasn't had to exert himself much to achieve success and fame. He's just a slacker who showed a nation how to goof off. In his 2007 book Why 2channel Will Never Fail, he wrote: "If running the site required me to get up at 9 am every morning, wear a suit, and not have time to play videogames, I'd probably quit."



  1. “Japan is an unhappy culture. The people are lonely and depressed”

    This is not necessarily idiosyncratic to Japanese culture, it’s more a statement about the human condition in first-world nations.

  2. @#1:

    …Yeeeeahhhh… Sorta. But I have to say, my friends back home in the US are generally a lot happier than my friends here in Japan.

    The Japanese lifestyle really isolates people. My friends at home get together for BBQs, go on little trips together, do some of the minor holidays together, get to know each others’ kids and kind of build an extended family of friends. Religious people oftentimes have this via their places of worship. It’s a kind of small-village community that I think people need to feel comfortable, as social primates.

    It really seems in Japan that you have a network like this only during your school days. I really think this is why so much of TV, etc, takes place in high schools. For many, it was the last time they really felt alive. I think the company has traditionally filled this void in modern Japanese culture, but I was watching a documentary show (Gaia no Yoake, probably my favorite show on Japanese TV) recently about the decline in this. Companies used to have company picnics and family days, etc. But now it’s just work.

    Part of this, I think, is the stupid amount of time people spend commuting. A 2hr commute is nothing. There are a few people who work at my university who actually have to take a bullet train every morning to come to work. It’s preposterous, but the blame lies solely on the people doing it, IMO. I’ve had this conversation many times. “It would cost too much to live closer.” Yeah, it would cost more, but you’d actually have a life. You could spend that time with friends or family or whatever. But instead you spend that time crammed on a crowded, sweaty, stinking train with strangers who hate you. That’s your call, I guess, but don’t complain when you feel “lonely and depressed.”

    So to sum up, I really do think Japan is particularly unhappy, even in comparison to other first-world countries.

  3. #2 You have a point, however suicides are HIGHLY under-reported in western societies… while this is an expression of cultural differences, it does not change the fact that the real suicide rates are par.

    Sorry to go OT from the beginning, um… if it wasn’t for 2chan there would be no 4chan and if it wasn’t for 4chan there would be no lolcats.

    Back to thread-jacking, we have the concept of ‘square pegs’. All societies by their very nature attempt to suppress and repel anything that questions their collective sense of harmony.

  4. Scottfree:

    I’d never heard of TrainMan either, and just read the whole thing in one sitting.. god damn!

    Really sucks you in huh?

  5. Look, I like Haruhi as much as the next geek, but if I see one more person dancing to Hare Hare Yukai alone in their poorly-lit room, I’ll cry.

  6. “The people of japan are lonely and depressed” I think i should move down there, i’d be in good company!

  7. >Nicodou has brought the 2channel style of community to Web video.

    And now I’m picturing Youtube overrun by the worst parts of 4chan.

    It isn’t pretty.

  8. Scott, thanks for that. I got sucked into the train man story too. And now i’m going to spoil it for you all. Can you find one plot element introduced that was irrelevant to the overall arc of the story? The publishers of the book claim to have contacted the real train man, but i’m not so sure.

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