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Japan: Number 1 Language of Bloggers Worldwide

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It will likely come as quite a surprise to the English-speaking world that the number one language of bloggers worldwide, in terms of number of posts, is not the “language of international communication”, as English is typically regarded. Nor, before the Chinese chime in, is it the language of the most populous state on the globe. According to the 2006 fourth quarter results of the State of the Live Web report issued quarterly by Technorati, a blog search engine which at last count tracks over 70 million weblogs, in terms of blog posts by language, English and Chinese in fact rank second and third, at 36% and 8%, respectively.

Edging out English for first place this quarter was Japanese, with over one-third of all blog posts — 37% — written in this language. This is not, in fact, the first time that Japanese has been rated as the number one blogging language by Technorati; back in November 2005, in an earlier State of the Live Web report, Japanese was also took top place with 31%, although the total was much more evenly split with English and Chinese at that time.

Judging by the reaction of bloggers themselves, it would seem that the Japanese are as surprised as anyone else at the results of the report.

At What a wonderful world, Japanese blogger sgt_fire_fox writes:

3位に中国語が入っていたのはちょっと驚きです。とは言っても、世界最大の人口を持つ国家の主要言語ですから3位に滑り込んできたのは当然の事かもしれません。逆に日本でのみ使われる言語である日本語が1位になった事が奇跡と言えるのでしょうか。

I was a bit surprised when I read that Chinese came in third place. That said, it is the main language of the world's most populous country, so it's natural that it would slip in at third place. On the other hand, the fact that Japanese, a language used exclusively in Japan, came in first place — you could call that a miracle.

The same blogger gave some concrete reasons for why Japanese people blog in such great numbers:

日本語がブログ投稿数で1位というのには、どのような要因があるのでしょうか?

考えられる要因としては

・ブログサービスを提供している企業の多種多様化

・携帯電話からの更新が多いため(携帯電話の普及率は71.8%)

・ブログの一般化(2005年から2007年でブログ利用者は2倍以上に増加)

こんなところでしょうか。まだまだ他にあるような気もしますが…。

What kind of causes are there for Japanese coming in first place in terms of number of blog entries?

Here are a few conceivable causes:

  • There are a wide variety of companies offering blog services
  • Many people update their blogs via mobile phone (71.8% of all people have mobile phones)
  • The increasingly widespread use of blogs (the number of people using blogs doubled between 2005 and 2007)

These kinds of things. I have a feeling there are many others as well, but…

Blogger Yumeututu points to the influence of Japanese celebrities such as Manabe Kaori and to the variety of ways in which blogs are used in Japan:

英語圏の絶対人口数より日本語圏の方が少ないのは周知の通りですが、その日本語がブログ投稿数で世界一位というのは驚きです。確かに初代ブログ女王と呼ばれた眞鍋かをりさんが芸能界で一躍有名になって以来、各著名人はほとんど公式サイトやブログを持つことが一般的になった気がします。また、各プロバイダも無料でブログスペースを提供してくれるし、最近では携帯からでもお手軽に投稿が可能になったからでしょうか。それにしても使い方は様々でビジネスとしている人、コミュニケーションの手段としている人、備忘録にしている人といろいろですね。何はともあれ、無料で動画がアップロードと閲覧できる「YouTube」というサイトも日本人利用者が多いのが事実ですし、技術の輸入と利用が器用だなと感じました。

While it is well-known that the actual number of people in the Japanese-speaking group is much smaller than the actual number in the English-speaking group, I was surprised to find out that Japanese was ranked first in terms of number of blog submissions. Certainly since the time that Manabe Kaori, who has been called the first Blog Queen, sprang to fame in the world of entertainment, I have the feeling that it has become the norm for nearly every public figure to have an official website or blog. Perhaps it is also because every Internet service provider now offers free blog spaces, and recently it has also become possible to easily post blog entries by mobile phone. Even so, there are a variety of people using blogs and they are using them for a variety of different purposes: some people for business, some people as a means of communication, and some people as a notepad. At any rate, it is a fact that in Japan there are many people who use YouTube, a site which allows you to freely upload and view videos, and I think Japanese are good at importing and making good use of technology.

Many Japanese bloggers also connect the recent rise in popularity of blogs in Japan to the country's historical roots as a “writing society”. Commenting in response to a blog entry on the Technorati report, blogger Ichiro explains:

日本は文の国ですからねー。大昔から日記書いたり随筆書いたり唄を詠んだり。あまり自己プレゼンをしない代わりに、文章を介すくらいの距離感のコミュニケーションがちょうどいいのかもですね。

戦時中も兵士が日記書いてたり。

そもそもブログやる前は日記サイトやテキストサイトが大流行で、「『だから』ブログは流行らない」って言われてたし。その意味ではブログによって何かが変わったわけではないのかも。

It's because Japan is the country of writing. Since ancient times, Japanese have been writing diaries, writing essays, and writing poems. Rather than presenting themselves, people prefer to communicate at a distance by using text.

During wartime, soldiers also kept diaries.

Originally, before the time of blogs, diary websites and text sites were very popular, so people say: “maybe that's why blogs have caught on”. In this sense, maybe blogs have not really changed anything.

Blogger Helio Tatibana also comments on the history of writing in Japan, and on Japan's relation to the “West”.

日本人は、飛び抜けてブログ好きなのですね。シャイで、はっきり物を云うことが苦手な日本人は、書くことによって自己表現をしようとしているのでしょうか。これから類推できることは、ブロガーの数に至っては、世界の国の中で、日本が断然トップを走っていることです。

ブログという仕組みを作り上げたのはアメリカですが、利用者は日本人が最も多いのですから、なにやら、欧米を真似て、取り付かれたように熱中した一時期のボーリング、ゴルフ、スキーなどに似ています。

Japanese people are extraordinarily fond of blogs. Since they are shy and not very good at saying things directly, they seem to use writing as a means of self-expression. I am predicting that, in terms of the number of bloggers, Japan will race ahead of the rest of the world.America was the country that invented the blog, but Japanese people are the most numerous bloggers, so I guess it's like bowling, golf and ski, numerous times in the past — Japanese imitate Westerners and go crazy over these kinds of things.

Not all Japanese bloggers were entirely convinced of the result. One blogger noted that many Japanese blogs are in fact dead and not being updated regularly:

このほったらかしで更新されなくなったデッドブログを「石ころ」と呼ぶそうですが、検索する方からするとこの石ころが邪魔です。

クリックしてページを見ると何年も更新されていないブログ。

経験ある方も多いでしょう。

Technoratiの調査では、日本語で書かれたブログが全ブログの37%を占め、英語ブログを追い抜いたそうで世界一。

その分、日本語ブログの石ころも毎日たくさん生産!?されているようです。

邪魔だと思いながらも自分のブログもまったく更新していない人も多いはず。

話題になると飛びつきスグに忘れる日本人気質!?からすると石ころはドンドン増えそう・・・。

Those dead blogs that are not updated and neglected are called “pebbles” (ishikoro). Many of these dead blogs get picked up by search engines and it's annoying.

You click on links and you find blogs that have not been updated in years.

I am sure a lot of people have experienced this.

According to the research by Technorati, 37% of all blogs are written in Japanese, outdoing English blogs to become number one.

Seems like Japanese “pebble” blogs are being produced by just that much.

There must be a lot of people who are annoyed by them but they themselves don't update their own blogs.

Judging from the tendency of the Japanese who quickly flock to new things and get bored soon, I have a feeling there are going to be more of these dead blogs…

Another Japanese blogger was also somewhat skeptical about the result:

3 位が中国語らしいですね。というかつい最近まで英語がブログの首位を占めていたわけですか。英語を使う国はアメリカ、イギリス、オーストラリアにカナダなどなど、かなりありますね。それらを抑えて 1 位になったということは、相当な数のブログが日本語で書かれているということですよね。単一国家が複数の大国に、ブログの発表数で勝っているわけですよ。まー、多分それくらいしか勝てるところってないんだと思いますけどね。近年のブログブームとか見ていると、そんな感じです。次は、ブログの内容で外国と勝負する番ですね。

Apparently Chinese came in third place. Up until recently English occupied first place in blogs. Countries in which English is used are America, England, Australia, Canada, etc., there are many of them. And yet, taking the lead over these languages, the language that came in first was Japanese, which means that a substantial number of blogs are written in Japanese. A single country, in terms of number of blog entries, beat out many large countries. Well, I think maybe that's the only area in which we are able to win. This is the feeling that I have when I look at recent boom in the number of blogs. Next round, Japan should compete with foreign countries over the content of blogs.
  • http://www.RConversation.com Rebecca MacKinnon

    Thanks Chris it’s great to have you bringing us the Japanese blogosphere!

  • Carmelo Lisciotto

    This is interesting data. I would never have guessed it.
    Carmelo Lisciotto

  • Andrew

    Turns out learning japanese is worth the time!

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  • http://taqumidesign.jp taqumi

    Interesting to see the reactions of English blogosphere as well as the Japanese one…

    Few other reasons that I’d personally like to add:

    One is the literacy rate in Japan which is virtually 100% making writing to express/note whatever their thoughts easy for anyone.

    Another aspect is the internet infrastructure in Japan including both broadband and mobile phones. Cheapest broadband in the world, and heavy mobile phone usage for browsing the internet give you a very good environment for easily start and update blogs.

    Though, as many Japanese bloggers reckon, the quality of the Japanese blogosphere is nowhere as near as some form of journalism.
    Most of them are just personal diaries. In fact, the word “burogu” (blog) is usually referred to as an online diary in Japan. (possibly another reason why so many Japanese write them even without much contents inside.)

    So I would be very careful to perceive this result as an indication that thoughtful, insightful communication is happening more in Japanese blogosphere than in English one.

  • http://www.preetamrai.com/weblog Preetam Rai

    Here in South East Asia also we are seeing decent numbers of expatriate Japanese bloggers writing interesting content. I will try to highlight some of them soon.

    Taqumi, I think more serious Japanese conversation goes on to the message board rather than blogs. I get this feeling that Japanese people like to keep their blogs casual but don’t mind discussing serious stuff on boards like ni-channel etc.

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