Steve McClure looks for laughs in cyberspace Japan

You laugh so hard you crack the walls.

– “Greasy Heart,” Jefferson Airplane

YOU MIGHT THINK THERE’D BE LOTS of humorous or satirical blogs about Japan. Certainly there’s ample material for an online Swift or Wilde.

But you’d be wrong. While there’s no shortage of English language blogs dispensing words of wisdom about Japanese politics, economics and society, there aren’t many Japan related blogs that score high on the laughometer (at least intentionally).

One of the few is the Our Man in Abiko blog. Ourmani Nabiko (geddit??) says he began writing the blog “as an attempt to be the Matt Drudge or Guido Fawkes of Japan.” That didn’t pan out, because of what he describes as his lack of knowledge of Japan or interest in “the daily ups and downs of breaking news.”

Our Man then tried his hand at satirizing Japanese media and politics in the Private Eye (jugular) vein. But he says that was like picking low hanging fruit “unpopular, slightly sour fruit at that.”

That didn’t stop him from applying his satirical scalpel to a recently published taidan style interview between Education Minister Hakubun Shimomura and real estate entrepreneur Toshio Motoya, who disseminates his rightist political views through his Apple Town website. Our Man eviscerates the pair’s revanchist ravings by slipping surreal riffs of his own into the text of the taidan. Sample: “You’ve been hanging out in think tanks too long. You should get out more, you know, read a book or watch a movie.”

Sometimes this works, sometimes it’s just gratuitous: with rotten fruit hanging this low, doing a reductio ad absurdum can be overkill.

Some of you may fondly recall the Charisma Man comic strip that used to be published in The Alien (which later changed its name to Japanzine) easily the best English language magazine ever to come out of Nagoya. The strip, which brilliantly mocked the whole teaching English in Japan shtick, seems to be on permanent sabbatical. But past episodes chronicling the adventures of the Canadian burger flipper who becomes a babe magnet in Japan are available online.

And although its print edition is now in the same existential category as the Kano sisters’ virginity, Japanzine is still going strong in cyberia. Here one can read the “Here’s Kazuhide” mock Q&A forum featuring (presumably fictitious) salaryman Kazuhide Otani. It’s funny if you like sophomoric, racist humor. Occasionally inspired, nonetheless.

The unfortunately named Fuckedgaijin isn’t a humor/satire blog per se. It’s more of a forum for non Japanese to vent their frustrations about living in “this blessed land” (to use Shisaku blogger Michael Cucek’s term for Japan) as well as passing on random observations about things Japanese. But there’s an ironic, verging on humorous, tone to much of the discussions like one about the brouhaha concerning Young Magazine’s publication of a photo of AKB48 member Tomomi Kasai. It shows her topless and being fondled from behind by a young Caucasian boy.

Sometimes the funniest or just plain weird stuff about Japan is found in the straightest of news stories. Here’s a gem from a story by Hiroko Tabuchi, published in the Jan. 7 edition of The New York Times about the Fukushima radiation cleanup:

Japanese officials said adapting overseas technologies presented a particular challenge. “Even if a method works overseas, the soil in Japan is different, for example, ” said Hidehiko Nishiyama, deputy director at the environment ministry, who is in charge of the Fukushima cleanup. “And if we have foreigners roaming around Fukushima, they might scare the old grandmas and granddads there.

It’s nice to see the government supporting satire and parody by employing comedians like Mr. Nishiyama. Who needs gaijin court jesters with homegrown talent like this?

Steve McClure has lived in Tokyo since 1985. Formerly Billboard magazine’s Asia Bureau Chief, he now publishes the online music-industry newsletter