Three years of Observing Japan

This week marks the third anniversary of the birth of this blog.

Needless to say, Observing Japan has grown in ways that I could hardly have foreseen three years ago when I returned to Japan to work for now-Lower House Member Asao Keiichiro — indeed, it has grown in ways that I could hardly have envisioned a year ago. After this past summer, I suppose that it’s probably safe to say that I’ve made the transition from blogger to pundit (for lack of a better term). It was a busy summer, as the list of media appearances in the sidebar indicates. In August the blog had a record number of visitors and page views, a record that was easily broken when the blog reached more than 27,000 visitors and more than 36,000 page views. During the same period the number of subscribers rose from the mid-700s to more than 1,200 today.

I still cannot quite believe all that’s happened to me since I began writing this blog. Perhaps I should not be so surprised, not in an age in which Nate Silver can use a blog as a platform to share his expertise and become a media superstar. (I’m comparing myself to Silver in a very broad sense: needless to say Time will never name me one of the world’s 100 most influential people.) We all have to get accustomed to a new process by which society identifies “experts” — in place of a prolonged process of accreditation, there is the constant churning of the Internet, which has no shortage of nonsense but also provides a means for consumers of information to find quality sources of analysis and then quickly share them with others.

I hope that I have been such a source for all of you reading this blog. I’d like to think that my analysis has improved over the past three years, in large part because of writing this blog, by which I have developed my own conceptual framework for thinking about Japanese politics, a framework that will undoubtedly continue to serve me well in the future. Thank you for bearing with me as I’ve taught myself about the subject. I should also thank my teachers, those from whom I have learned directly and indirectly – and my fellow bloggers, most notably Michael Cucek and Jun Okumura, who from very early on have been excellent partners in an ongoing discussion about Japanese politics. (Incidentally a recent post by Tyler Cowen captures the power of blogging as a learning tool precisely.)

As I move into the fourth year of blogging, there will likely be some changes around here. Inevitably I will be writing less here, in part because I have more opportunities to write elsewhere, in (large) part because I need to devote more time to being a doctoral student, and in part because after this extraordinary summer, I am experiencing a mild case of blogger burnout. While I don’t write nearly as much as he does (and have only been blogging for three years), the sentiments expressed by Andrew Sullivan in this post resonate with me. I was particularly pleased to return to MIT for the fall semester after my hectic summer precisely so I could start looking at the forest again.

In any case, thank you all again for reading, for commenting, for emailing, and for telling me when I’m completely off target.

(Also, some asked whether I could provide an English translation of the article I wrote in Asahi last month. While not a translation, I’ve posted the first draft of the article here.)

13 thoughts on “Three years of Observing Japan

  1. I'm a relatively new follower of this blog, but it's been a huge help in my understanding of Japanese politics. A lot of it is over my head, but that's due to the limitations of my knowledge about politics in general. Congrats on the anniversary! Hopefully you can keep this up, even if not as regularly.


  2. Anonymous

    I, too, have found your blog invaluable in learning about Japanese politics. Even if you may not be properly considered an \”expert\” on your subject, I have found your analysis both credible and deeply rewarding. Thank you for your diligent research on your subject and sharing your discoveries on the net for the benefit of layfolk, such as myself.Take care.


  3. Congrats! I wouldn't worry too much about blog burnout; there's just less interesting stuff to write about just after an election than just before. Good time for a break. And I wouldn't be too worried about posting volume either if I were you. A blog is a good outlet for testing ideas on people, and it's an invaluable distraction for when you want to avoid working on your thesis. You'll distract yourself one way or another anyhow; might as well be the blog. (In my case, my kitchen has never, ever been as clean as in my last year as a PhD student). Feel free to widen the scope of the blog a bit too; if you're burned out on the politics it might be fun to comment more on the larger societal issues facing Japan.


  4. Thanks Tobias for your blog and great, informative insights. You're perspectives have been one of the best about Japanese politics not just in the English blogosphere but the Japanese blogosphere (where there's not enough liberal voices). Congrats on the anniversary and hopefully you'll be posting the links to your writings at this blog as a portal.


  5. Anonymous

    Congrates on 4th year.I live in japan, but my Japanese is poor, so your blog helps to 'fill in the gaps'. Even if when i feel you're wide of the mark, as i see it. But you're an American, so view things differently from me (a Brit).Cant view your translation page….just blank with little red cross for each image!


  6. Want to echo the support of the other commenters. I've only been reading your blog for the past two months or so but have found it an invaluable source of information. Thanks for all your tireless efforts.


  7. Just as Katie Muffett, above, said, I'm quite a new follower of this blog as well, and I have to say it's helped me a great deal in having some insight into japanese politics. Yours is an informed and in my opinion brilliant analysis of this Goliath that combines japanese economics, politics and burocratic processes and how it all works together.As all of the above, congratulations! Keep up the good work!


  8. Hello Tobias!I'm Shade, and I'm graduate-student of International Relations in Brazil. I started reading your blog in the beginning of this year, but never commented. In reality, I started to read more now, because I've an essay about the elections so your analysis have come in a very good time! Thank you very much, by the way, ne!Congrats on the blog anniversary! And good luck on your doctoral studies, it requires a lot of researches… I sure cannot barely handle it! Hope you can still write time to time… Take care!Jya~


  9. I've been reading your blog for around two years and I'd like to thank you for always providing great insight and information concerning the Japanese political world. There are very few blogs about Japan I can actually appreciate and this is one of them. Keep up the good work but don't be afraid to take a break — I know your election coverage was a workout.


  10. Jonathan

    Tobias, congratulations on this anniversary. This blog has been such an education for me – you really did find a niche and fill it so well. I hope I have done my small bit to launch your pundit career by interviewing you for Australian radio.Thanks again.


  11. Adam K

    I'd also like to offer my deepest compliments and respect. Your blog never fails to deliver insightful and balanced perspectives on the Japanese political landscape. Come to think of it, I don't know of any printed publication that offers analyses so thoroughly grounded in Japanese-language sources. FEER et al. will never give you the necessary space, so I really hope that you will be able to find the time to keep this blog running.


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