One evening, 51-year-old salaryman Hisashi Ito (a pseudonym) and his wife were relaxing in front of their livingroom TV, watching the sports news. Suddenly his wife spat out the word “zainichi” in a voice tinged with contempt.
“Zainichi,” literally “in Japan,” means ethnic Koreans who live in Japan. Many were born in Japan, but maintain their North or South Korean citizenship, holding the status of special permanent residents.
“I was thinking, ‘What the hell…,’” Ito tells Shukan Gendai (March 8). “I could tell she didn’t say it in jest, and from the sheer unpleasant tone of her voice I didn’t know how to respond, so I just remained silent.”
Up to that point, Ito and his wife had never once broached the topic of Japan’s Korean minority. Considering it coming out as they sat quietly in their living room, he felt her words were “overly harsh.”
Mrs Ito had quit her part-time job six months earlier, and except for shopping, seldom leaves their house. That gave her more time to spend online, and as often as not, upon his return from work, Ito would walk in to find his missus tapping away at the keyboard.
“Might she not be falling under the influence of the so-called ‘netto-uyo’ (rightwing activists on the web), that have become a social problem recently?” Ito wondered. “I figured when I’m not home, she might be logging on. But on the other hand, I’m hesitant to caution her about it.”
“The activities of these ‘netto-uyo’ can’t be called patriotic,” says Kunio Suzuki, chief adviser to the Issuikai, a right wing group. “It’s xenophobia.” Suzuki also had this to say about growing numbers of females flocking to “netto-uyo” causes.
“Up to now, housewives never became involved in right-wing causes. But recently men have asked me, ‘My wife (or girlfriend) has become a ‘netto-uyo.’ What should I do?’ They spend their days typing in anti-Chinese or anti-Korean posts on websites and go so far as to tell our kids, ‘Don’t buy Korean products’ or ‘Don’t listen to K-POP.’ It’s got me concerned.”
Over five years ago, Kanagawa resident Norio Takahashi (also a pseudonym), age 53 and his wife, 54, became addicted to the Internet. For some time now, he’s felt his wife was talking strangely.
“About two years ago, my wife began complaining regularly about the plethora of Korean dramas on NHK (which she incorrectly described as a government-run broadcaster—it’s a public corporation). Then last year, things escalated, and while watching news broadcasts of anti-Japanese demonstrations in South Korea, she blurted out ‘Koreans are nuts!’ or ‘Isn’t the Asahi Shimbun fabricating the stories about the comfort women or Nanjing massacre?’ or ‘People who drive Hyundai cars in Japan can’t possibly be Japanese.’”
It gradually dawned on him that his wife was picking up weird new political views from the “netto-uyo” sites.
The people who flock to these sites have been stereotyped as being socially withdrawn, low-income “otaku” (geeks) who spend all their time at home in front of their computers, but this image seems to have changed.
“That’s the way it was maybe 10 years ago, when they posted mostly on 2-channel boards,” says a journalist who covers information technology. “But now most of the commenters on Yahoo News are people around age 40, 30 to 40% of who are probably female.”
Licca Kayama, a clinical psychiatrist often quoted in the media who adopted the nom de plume of Japan’s Barbie doll, tells Shukan Gendai, “The housewives I’ve encountered who have been drawn to the ‘netto-uyo’ are serious types and hard workers. But they have the sentiment that ‘I do my best but am unappreciated.’ They feel their lives are boring. From thinking ‘There’s something wrong with society,’ this leads them to ‘The media’s not reporting the truth,’ and while these matters have no direct bearing on their lives, they become agitated.”
When Dr Kayama asked one women who took part in rightwing activities, “What would you do if Japan brought back military conscription?” she was startled to hear the reply, “I would gladly offer both my son and my husband. There’s nothing greater than total devotion to one’s country.”
Well gentlemen, if you’re on the ball, Shukan Gendai advises its male readers, you better start paying a little closer attention to what your wives are saying.