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"Waiwai - an insight into subculture or just for fun?"

June 18, 2008
J@pan Inc Blog
Anna Kitanaka

A bit about Wai Wai

The notorious WaiWai section of the Mainichi online English version is often the center of a debate on its legitimacy. Some voice that it enables non-Japanese speakers to understand the subculture of Japan, finding stories that they would be unable to get otherwise. Others say that the WaiWai is nothing more than tabloid tidbits, with no form of legitimacy and not worth reading, other than just for amusement.

According to A Feed is Born, a blog about “rss, webfeeds and information overload,” until last year, the MDN site displayed a disclaimer statement to legally distance itself from WaiWai:

“WaiWai stories are transcriptions of articles that originally appeared in Japanese language publications. The Mainichi Daily News cannot be held responsible for the contents of the original articles, nor does it guarantee their accuracy. Views expressed in the WaiWai column are not necessarily those held by the Mainichi Daily News or the Mainichi Newspapers Co. WaiWai © Mainichi Newspapers Co. 1989-2007.”

This would make sense if the WaiWai articles really weren’t the views held by the Mainichi group. However, 9 out of 10 of the articles featured today were all taken from Mainichi affiliated newspapers and magazines, containing nice little plugs such as “With a circulation of over 1 million, Sports Nippon is the largest of Japan’s sports newspapers, national dailies with heavy doses of sports, entertainment and news stories often shunned by the mainstream broadsheets” and “Sunday Mainichi, a respectable current affairs weekly magazine published by the Mainichi Newspapers.”

With this in mind, no wonder that the above disclaimer has been removed in place of the less legally-minded statement:

“The infamous “WaiWai” column continues exposing secrets revealed by wild weekly magazines, and feature stories about traditional aspects of Japan serve as a tasteful offset.”

A tasteful offset? If we knew what the “tasteful” articles are, we might better understand their defense. But finding these is like finding a needle in a haystack, and even if you do, can you really trust a newspaper that prides itself on sensationalist, half-fabricated stories? As Japan Probe says about a bar article in the WaiWai, “It is pretty interesting, but it makes me wonder if it is truth, or a story planted by a happening bar to attract costumers.”

But to be really honest, I think none of us can deny that secretly, we enjoy reading it.