Distraction Free Reading

What do Japanese Internet Trolls think of Trump?

Shinzo Abe and Donald Trump, walking together and speaking

© Creative Commons

It’s hard not to think about Trump in Japan without one eye cast warily on North Korea. After all, it was only about two months ago that North Korea sent a ballistic missile sailing over Japan’s northernmost island of Hokkaido, prompting fears that North Korea’s Kim Jong Un might target the U.S.’s nearby ally.

As wary as many Americans are of Trump’s using Twitter to relentlessly bait Kim Jong Un, the matter is perceived with greater reservation by many in Japan. Kim Jong Un’s volatility is by no means news in East Asia, and a common fear holds that the American folly of electing Trump could cost Japan more than it has the U.S.

In this brief sketch, I’m going to run through some of the common themes I’ve noticed among the often flippant, generally racist, and chronically explicit commentary found on notorious Japanese message board, 2chan (recently rebranded as 5chan)– historically a hangout for Japan’s netto ugoku (online political right-wing) and others who relish its anonymous commenting system and rapid pace.

It all comes back to Korea

On 5chan, Trump is (of course) a hot topic. And most mentions of news involving the U.S. president tend to eventually head in the direction of the connection between Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe, North Korea, and Trump:

“Sore wa nihonjin no kikiishiki o takamete uha no Abe no shiji-ritsu o ageru koto to, bōei-hin o uritsukeru koto da to omowareru ga, moshikashitara kakumisairu o Nihon ni uchikomasete…”

(Referring to the diplomatic situation between the three countries) “The whole thing is about garnering approval of Abe among the right wing by stirring up the crisis mindset of the Japanese people, to sell self-defense goods and maybe put a nuclear missile in Japan.”

That Prime Minister Abe’s current diplomatic policy might be designed to convert national fear into support for altering Japan’s constitution (to allow for an active military and possession of nuclear weapons) is a common suspicion. And, as in this case, when it comes to most things right-wing and extreme, Trump is perceived as Abe’s co-conspirator.

Does Trump Truly Protect Japan ? (Beikoku no Toranpu Daitōryō wa hontō ni Nihon o mamotte kureru no ka ne)

5chan posters are quick to point out that although Trump wields the power of the presidency, the competent people in his administration keep resigning one-by-one, and American citizens express ongoing dissatisfaction with his words:

“Beikoku no Toranpu Daitōryō wa hontō ni Nihon o mamotte kureru no ka ne?… Daitōryō ga ikura `kyōken’ hatsudō shite mo, sorera o jikkō suru hazu no yūnōna sutaffu ga tsugitsugi to yamete ikushi, jishin no hatsugen wa Amerika kokumin no hankan o kau bakari de kokunai no fuman wa osamaru kehaisaenai.”

So, if Trump can’t retain the loyalty of his own cabinet, how can he maintain positive diplomatic relationships? The volatility mentioned in ongoing 5ch comments about Trump’s tweeting and cabinet upheavals fuels concerns that he might “flip out” and press the “nuclear button” (buchigirete `kaku’ no botan o oshikanenai”) at some point, casting East Asia into chaos.

As one writer cautions:

“Kon’na hito ga Nihon o mamotte kureru to omou hō ga machigai de wa.”  (“It’s a mistake to think that kind of person will protect Japan.”)

So we need to defend ourselves… or?

In a sense proving the point made by one 5ch commenter above, a reoccurring theme on 5ch of late is that Japan needs to be able to defend itself in the absence of a trustworthy America. It needs to make the Self Defense forces into a real army that can support South Korea against the North Koreans:

“Nihon no jieitai o hayaku `guntai’ ni shite, Kankoku to issho ni misairu bōei shiro!” (Let’s quickly turn our self-defense forces into an army so we can work with South Korea to fight these missiles.)

Some commenters argue back that the U.S. will never let harm come to its ally, Japan. “The U.S. will fix it,” they argue. After all, “we’re their colony.” (Nihon ga Amerika no shokuminchi de ite kureru kagiri wa…)

This is consistent with a common gripe on 5chan about the presence of allegedly violent and predatory American soldiers on Japanese land (particularly Okinawa), the outrage of us having formulated their constitution, and the ongoing kowtowing of Japanese politicians to their American counterparts. Though the U.S. fought to dismantle Japan’s own emperor system, a major issue for the right-wing there, it has itself turned into a kanemochi no dokusai kuni, a “rich dictatorship”.

Besides, a sizeable group argues, the whole idea of countries defending one another is odd. We need to defend ourselves.

Buying Trump’s Support

Amidst graphic sexual comments about Ivanka Trump, who visited Japan this past week, (and snubbed South Korea, much to 5chan’s glee), conspiracies involving the way that Trump has taken ownership of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe recent commentary. Most of the rumors involving the U.S. president revolve around the way he encourages would-be allies to buy his loyalty by funneling money into his or Ivanka’s foundations. (Abe did announce today a 5.7-billion-yen contribution to Ivanka’s fund for women entrepreneurs, a story that despite dominating the Japanese press right now, has not yet made it to the U.S. media.)

A picture of Shinzo Abe and Donald Trump in golf attire. Trump is giving a thumbs up to the camera.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe gets a lot of flack for playing golf with Trump- in the U.S. and Japan. © Free Malayasia

Whether this gesture is or is not an attempt by Abe to secure Trump’s support in the case of a North Korea attack is of course, unspoken, but it’s certainly consistent with Abe’s general approach to managing Trump.

The Day America Went Stupid [2]

On a slow news day, that is one in which nobody is shot and there are no acts of terrorism in the U.S., 5chan amuses itself with comments about how stupid Trump is, and how offensive it is that Shinzo Abe seems to find so much time to golf with him. Because of course, during the American president’s upcoming visit to Japan, golf (and a steak, about which there is also much mirth) is on the agenda.

“Golf diplomacy,” (Gorufu gaikō) they call it. So does The Chicago Tribune, and nearly every other prominent American news source.

It’s all well and good until Trump meets the Emperor. While Trump mostly provides the Japanese right-wing of 5chan with an excuse to gawk at the U.S., and to make fun of “the day America went stupid”, letting him near the Emperor is just offensive, they say. Or the work of the Illuminati (Iruminati). It’s unclear.


[1]That’s another story, but involves legal issues and the ownership of the original 2chan. The layout of 5chan feels quite different from 2chan, actually.

[2] One 5chan poster’s term for the 2016 American election.

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