This article is reproduced from the discontinued, but much loved Mainichi Waiwai column by Ryann Connell. Read more about this at the bottom of this article.
All sorts of mail is bulging out of the postbox, but the thick wads of legal letters stand out. A peep inside through the windows of the Tokyo apartment provides no hint that anybody has lived inside for a while.
It’s the home of Hiroyuki Nishimura, the 29-year-old webmaster of Ni-Chaneru (http://www.2ch.net), the huge bulletin board that is arguably the Japanese language Internet’s most popular – and most notorious – site.
Nishimura has been reported by Japan’s tabloid media as “missing” — with the strong implication that he’d run away from massive debts brought on by a huge number of lost lawsuits that he consistently refused to contest by showing up in court. But the women’s weekly says it has managed to track him down and find out about the rumors of his disappearance.
“I’m just hanging out like I always do,” Nishimura tells AERA with a blog posting that serves as answers to its e-mailed questions.
Nishimura defends his decision not to contest the myriad of lawsuits filed against Ni-Chaneru.
“I’ve been sued in the north as far as Hokkaido and the south as far as Okinawa. It’s simply not possible to attend every court case where I’ve been named as a defendant. I figure if I can defend myself in every case, it’s exactly the same as not turning up in my defense,” he tells the weekly indirectly.
Nishimura also strongly denies suggestions that he’s gone bankrupt, which many have speculated may be the main reason nobody seems able to find him now.
“I have no idea what you’re talking about,” he writes when questioned about his financial state.
AERA, however, begs to disagree. It says that Nishimura, as Ni-Chaneru’s administrator, was sued in May by a man claiming to have been defamed on the bulletin board by postings listing his name and accusing him of molestation and bankruptcy. The man was seeking to have Nishimura release details of those who had posted the messages on the site. Nishimura did not turn up in court for the case, nor did he accept the injunction ordering him to make the information available.
“I asked the court to impose a fine of 50,000 yen for every day he failed to comply and it did. He already owes more than 2 million yen,” the plaintiff tells AERA. “Because he hasn’t paid that, I applied to have him declared bankrupt.”
Unlike companies, which are regularly shut down by creditors, it’s rare for a creditor to bring about an individual’s bankruptcy. But Nishimura now faces the prospect of a receiver being appointed to look into his financial affairs and selling off whatever he has to repay what he owes, according to the weekly.
The plaintiff took the drastic step because Ni-Chaneru has consistently refused to pay up when courts have declared it a loser in court cases. It has already been ordered to fork out more than 20 million yen over lost lawsuits.
“If they put the Ni-Chaneru domain up for auction, it’d reap tens of millions of yen for sure,” the man tells AERA. “There’s bound to be a company out there that would buy it.”
It’s still unsure whether the court will order a receiver be appointed to oversee Nishimura’s finances. Surely, he wouldn’t be able to ignore the courts again if that happened? Others who’ve won court cases against him aren’t so sure.
“We tried everything from property seizures to forced execution of rulings, but we could get no more than 2 million yen,” says a spokesman from DHC, a cosmetic company awarded 7 million yen in a court battle with Nishimura. “We’d welcome the chance to get more if bankruptcy proceedings go ahead, but have our doubts about whether this will really happen.”
A lawyer involved in a number of Ni-Chaneru-related lawsuits says that the current attack on Nishimura is nothing new.
“People have suggested bankruptcy proceedings before,” the lawyer says. “The issue revolves around whether the court will recognize him as bankrupt with debts of only a few million yen. It might be different if everybody who’s won court cases against him joined forces and fought together.”
Even then it’s no certainty — Ni-Chaneru’s revenue is all controlled completely by a separate advertising company, making the bulletin board’s accounts something of a black hole.
“If the receiver can get their hands on that,” the plaintiff tells AERA, “everything will become totally clear.”
(The Mainichi Waiwai column ran online from April 19, 2001 – June 21, 2008. It was a much loved form of entertainment amongst foreigner in and outside of Japan. To any reader it was obviously not serious news, but it was a set of articles that portrayed quite well how the Japanese tabloids actually write about their own country. In 2008, a small number of Japanese people bought it to the attention of rival news groups that Mainichi was running an anti-Japan column on its website. With the bad publicity, Mainichi was forced to shut the page down, and take punitive measures against the journalists that were working on it, claiming that it was receiving opinions that were critical of the column, such as “its contents are too vulgar” and “the stories could cause Japanese people to be misunderstood abroad”. A perfect example of how Japanese consider what they write in their own script to be an acceptable secret code, that the rest of the world cant understand. When that same tabloid rubbish gets inconveniently translated to English to make light of some aspects of the Japanese people, it gets canned. Stippy.com finds this unacceptable, and will reproduce as much of the Waiwai content as possible in order to bring it once again to our computer screens for a good laugh. Of course we claim no credit for this content, and attribute it to it’s writers who were former Mainichi employees. Waiwai in its true and glorious form has been discontinued, but it’s legacy will live on at stippy.com for all to enjoy.)