This is a warning to online researchers. The website JapanFocus.org describes itself as a “peer-reviewed, open source journal” and regularly announces its articles to interested academics and mailing lists. However, it is not peer reviewed in the ordinary sense of fact checking, editing, and examination of credentials. In fact, it is peer reviewed in the same way the conspiracy website Journal of 9/11 Studies is peer reviewed: the editors only publish unedited, often untrue blog posts from their friends (“peers”), people they want to invite, and any Ph.D.s foolish enough to be taken in by their scam.
Nothing published on JapanFocus.org should be taken as factual until it is double-checked in a disinterested, unbiased source.
Here are some examples of utter crap being published on this site:
A conspiracy theorist named Makiko Segawa published an article claiming that “the Japanese government has moved to crack down on independent reportage and criticism of the government’s policies in the wake of the disaster by deciding what citizens may or may not talk about in public”. There was no evidence for this, only a link to a voluntary program to help stamp out scams and baseless rumors like reports that the skies would be filled with toxic rain. From this, Ms. Segawa comes up with the absurd, paranoiac translation “illegal information”, which through further hyperbole becomes “independent reportage”. Ms. Segawa has no credentials; JapanFocus describes her as “a staff writer at the Shingetsu News Agency”, without explaining that this is actually her personal blog. Because JapanFocus markets itself as a peer-reviewed journal, this article was uncritically posted to Slashdot, where readers mocked it.
One of the editors of JapanFocus.org, Mark Selden, published an article about the disputed Liancourt Rocks that concludes that they rightfully belong to South Korea, based not on his half-assed legal argument but rather on Selden’s personal emotions, which he identifies with “morality”. The article absurdly accuses Japan of ignoring legal issues about the rocks by talking about completely unrelated issues. The reality, that Japan has requested international arbitration on the dispute several times, but that this has been turned down by Korea every time over the widespread fear that they have no legal standing, is not discussed anywhere in the article. Just in case you were unable to perceive the author’s fact-free bias, he refers to the rocks as “Dokdo” throughout. This is in a journal that is supposedly about Japan.
Most of the other articles at JapanFocus.org are much more subtle, resembling academic papers, and only lacking their commitment to neutrality. They are meant to be the fodder for citations to “prove” that such and such a view is wrong, even though they achieve this “proof” only through manipulation. For example, a student named Mark Winchester is published in English only at JapanFocus.org. He writes a long article, the basic point of which is to insult a Japanese writer named Kobayashi Yoshinori who disagrees with him. He says that Kobayashi “appropriates” another writer, whom Winchester and Kobayashi see in different ways. Here we can understand why it is no surprise that Winchester was only able to publish this on JapanFocus.org rather than a real academic journal, because his argument is basically name calling and does not amount to anything convincing. I think it would be much more apt to say that Winchester, a foreign observer, is “appropriating” the name of a Japanese intellectual being described by another Japanese intellectual. What does that word even mean? Winchester also lambastes Kobayashi’s widely distributed, popular essays as a “mass-consumer, aesthetic form”, putting an image in my eye of a Catholic monk writing on vellum, describing the mass printing and reading of Bibles as gross populism. Clearly we should only respect the arguments of distinguished authors who are able to be published on JapanFocus.org.
The senior editor of JapanFocus.org, Gavan McCormack, is unhinged from reality. McCormack supports North Korea’s nuclear program and criticizes Japan for opposing it. That’s right: he criticizes Japan for not supporting the campaign of an insane cartoon archvillain who has kidnapped their citizens to acquire nuclear weapons. He denied the Cambodian genocide in the 1970s and wrote a book honoring another “journalist” who also did so.
JapanFocus.org’s advertising in academic publications makes it out to be a serious journal, but it is not, and it does not measure up to the standards of a print publication. It is, basically, a blog, and not even a trustworthy one. Take great caution when citing it yourself.