A brief look at free English-language online sources on Japanese politics

Happy New Year, everybody. 2006 was Mutant Frog Travelogue’s 2nd year of existence and a good one for a number of reasons: our readership has surged, we’ve been dubbed a top 10 Japan blog, and most importantly we have learned a lot in the process, both through researching for blog posts and through reader comments. Loyal readers: thanks for the support. Newcomers: Stick with us!

We don’t pretend to offer anything but whatever inspires us to click the Publish button, but we do hope you’re interested in what we have to say. Of course, you wouldn’t want to use this site as a main source for information, especially since there are much more comprehensive and professional sites out there.

For example, if you want information on Japanese politics in the English language, there is a wealth of sources to consult. For background, you can consult Wikipedia or the CIA World Fact Book to brush up on the basics or find papers by various experts in the field (the two best sources I am aware of: JPRI and Japan Focus), all free of charge.

On top of that, the Japanese government (such as METI’s think tank RIETI and MOF’s research institute, the websites of the various political parties, especially the LDP, as well as every ministry and agency’s English websites) and various think tanks (Keidanren, Daiwa, and other corporate-sponsored tanks are often quite interesting though they often focus more on the economy) provide much of their research and information in English free of charge.

To find out what’s happening now, there are several excellent English-language sources that are either straight, on-the-scene reporting or translations thereof: Japan Times, Asahi, and Yomiuri all offer different perspectives on daily events. Though you often won’t get the “story behind the story” you can nevertheless keep yourself informed of the details. And if you’re looking for a lighter side of the news, there’s even Mainichi’s WaiWai section that includes many translations of weekly magazine articles, rife with speculation and sensationalism.

And then there are various sites run by foreigners with a particular axe to grind or focused interest. The source most narrowly focusing on politics is the Japan Considered Podcast, run by a veteran Washington Japan policy hand Robert Angel. And there are plenty of others: the people at the new TransPacificRadio take a comprehensive look at the latest news, Debito has a blog chronicling developments surrounding Japan’s treatment of foreign residents, Marxy keeps an eye on pop culture and its gatekeepers, and (until last year at least) Japan Media Review took a look at Japan’s news media industry and let us know how awful the kisha club system is.

Even compared with 2 years ago, the amount of good information out there has become almost staggering. So with so many great resources out there, what can I, Adamu, offer? Biting analysis? Not so much. I try, but there’s a lot I need to learn about Japan, and I feel that I lack a certain perspective by not actually living in the country. In essence, I try to give you two things: (1) My observations as someone who follows the news in Japan with an almost religious devotion; and (2) Translations of interesting articles that would otherwise never find their way to an English-speaking audience. And if you think the increase in freely available Japan information in English was impressive, the surge in Japanese-language online content is even more staggering. It’s not as impressive as the revolution that’s occurred in the US: Japanese newspapers have not followed their American counterparts in posting their entire contents online, for starters. But that may only be a matter of time, and meanwhile there’s enough to keep me busy in my offtime at least.

12 thoughts on “A brief look at free English-language online sources on Japanese politics”

  1. Keep up the good work. There seem to loads of Japan-related blogs doing the rounds these days which is no bad thing. It’s useful to have some that try to read between the lines and Mutant Frog certainly does that. You’re right about the wealth of English information on the web. You can almost kid yourself that everything you need to know is now in English but, as you point out, there is so much more in Japanese and it is good that you bring that perspective to bear on matters.

  2. Mutantfrog may only be in the top ten, but it’s Number 1 Blog on my Japan blog list.

    Here’s to many more fruitful years – and lots of slow office hours!

  3. Oh pish. Many of those other blogs just seem to be clones of each other. Here’s where it’s at.

  4. This blog rulz.

    Outside of the blogs, I think that “Japan Focus” is pretty amazing (I’m not objective, I have an article up there). Really, does any other county have such an excellent free online academic resource devoted to it?

    BTW, most of the major Japanese newspapers DO offer a great deal of content (all articles post 1980, for example) online. You just have to access it through a separate gateway like “Nifty”. It is less expensive than the NYT service, actually. I wish that they would all start offering free searches (to promote their “brand”), however.

  5. Sure they’re “available” but there’s no way I’m paying for them without some possibility of getting reimbursed for my efforts.

  6. “there’s no way I’m paying for them without some possibility of getting reimbursed for my efforts.”
    Maybe I’ll do some work on “Gaijin Japan bloggers”,Adamu!

  7. Congrats on the top 10 slot. I’ve been meaning for years to get serious about my blog, making it Japan-focused and stuff, but I should probably put that effort into my company’s website first to get it on your list of helpful resources. 🙂

  8. Thought you might also like to check out this blog that has, from the look of it, only been around for a short time. oppositioninjapan.blogspot.com is an interesting look at Japanese politics from the perspective of a guy working for the DPJ…


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