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WikiProject Japan: a wikiProject Report

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By Puddleglum2.0

For the WikiProject Report this month, we interviewed WikiProject Japan, a quality collaboration focused on improving, you guessed it, Japan related articles. This interview serves as the first in a series of country-related interviews. This series will appear every other month, and by the end of it, we will have seen how five different Projects edit and conduct their improvement to country-related articles. for this issue, we interviewed 4 users, Nihonjoe, WhisperToMe, Hoary, and Lullabying.


What motivated you to join the Project? Do you have any experience covering/learning about Japan and its history?

Nihonjoe: I founded it back in March 2006 because there wasn't a WikiProject covering Japan at the time. I thought it would be helpful to organize the efforts of maintaining Japan-related articles. I've lived in Japan and studied Japanese, so I have some experience with the topic (though I'm not an expert on anything, really). I enjoy learning more about a culture and history that is different from mine. It helps me better understand the world, and helps me learn to see things from differing perspectives.
WhisperToMe: I had an interest in Japanese anime and manga from when I was around 10 (when Pokemon aired on TV in Houston), and it led to an interest in Japanese culture in particular and East Asian cultures in general
Hoary: I really don't remember what motivated me. I live in Japan, so it might be expected that in some sense or other I'm learning about it all the time. (Such an expectation would be wildly optimistic.)
Lullabying: I don't think myself as an "official" member, per se, but I guess I am now! I noticed a lot of Japanese pop music articles were outdated and in major need of clean-up/synthesis, so I started helping out by translating news reports/research to help aid a better understanding of music releases and careers as a whole while trying to bring them to meet Wikipedia standards.

Do you participate in any task forces/subprojects under the main Project? If so, Does this affect how you help the main Project?

Nihonjoe: Yes. I've probably helped in all of them at one point or another. It doesn't really affect how I help with the main project. I mainly edit where my interest takes me.
WhisperToMe: I helped start a Tokyo task force back in the day, and from time to time I still contribute to Tokyo-related articles
Hoary: No.
Lullabying: I am active on the Anime and Manga WikiProject.

Does working on articles relating to a country differ from covering something like biology or military history? If so, how?

Nihonjoe: Probably, because a country-specific topic can cover all of those things. I've worked on articles related to military history and Japan, animals and plants of Japan, and many other topics. It lets me dip my toe into many different topics, and gain a broad appreciation of the overall topic of Japan. As far as the technical aspect goes, however, it's very similar to working on any other topic. You have to make sure you have enough reliable sources to show the notability of the topic, you have to learn how to properly structure an article so the information is presented logically and clearly, you have to make sure the information is presented in a neutral manner. All of the things that make solid articles are the same across the board, really.
WhisperToMe: Each country and culture has its own conventions and foibles, and therefore country-specific projects have to take into account specific history, conventions, and cultural practices. With biology and hard sciences the subjects are often similar or the same no matter what country is involved.
Hoary: Somebody writing about biology really ought to have made a systematic study of it, in class, with critical teachers. (Bluntly, I want the material I read about biology to come from people with higher degrees in biology. And not from degree mills either.) Ditto for a great number of other subjects. And very likely ditto for articles in particular areas related to Japan. This isn't true for relatively humdrum stuff about Japan: an article about a particular city, for example. So in this sense, it's easier. Unsurprisingly, the huge majority of material about Japan is in Japanese. My own ability in Japanese is alas fossilized at an intermediate level. More surprisingly, there's little from Japan that's freely available on the web: look up a given subject, and typically all one sees are entries in anonymous blogs, PR puffs, or the first paragraphs of news articles whose full visibility costs money. If one wants the kind of material that might appear in a newspaper, one has to go to a major library and look it up in the databases of Asahi, Yomiuri, Mainichi....
Lullabying: I would say that the main issues I encountered really narrowed down to difference in culture and trying to see if the information I would include could match the formats standardized by other WikiProjects. For example, a lot of music releases are double A-side singles, which aren't a thing anymore in most countries... and there's also the general assumption that Japanese TV broadcasts make a set number of episodes for a show and don't announce if a series has been cancelled after its ending. There's also the fact that most in-depth coverage of Japanese media is usually in print, which makes sources difficult to access.

On a whole, are there any large problems that this Project faces right now? If there are, do you think they are possible to address? If not, are there any problems you see arising in the future?

Nihonjoe: I agree with WhisperToMe: the jawiki doesn't have as many good sources, so it makes it more difficult for us if we're trying to port information over from there. As most of the people on jawiki are living in Japan, they have much easier access to sources there than we do. There have been many articles on notable topics deleted here simply because we didn't have access to the sources in Japan. The deletion process here is extremely biased against non-English sources and topics. If it hasn't been discussed in an English-language source, there are a fair number of editors who have to be reminded that sources are not required to be in English, and that it is much more difficult to get sources from a country where there has been less effort at getting older sources online (or even more recent ones...some newspapers in Japan remove online articles after only a short period).
WhisperToMe: I haven't been involved in Japan-area articles as much now as I have been in the past. One issue is that JAwiki does not have as much referencing for articles and therefore if Japan-subject articles on ENwiki are put on AFD, it becomes harder to find supporting sources to keep the article. I think the JAwiki community should be asked to consider increasing general article sourcing. Getting familiarity with CiNii (Japanese research database) and having friends in Japan get scans of freely available materials in Japanese libraries (I took a trip to Tokyo in October of last year partly to get access to a document at a Tokyo library) really helps!
Lullabying: My experience with editing is mostly about Japanese music and film, so I'll talk about this part only. I don't think there's enough people agreeing how to synthesize the articles (i.e. member birthdates and official colors) -- because the majority of Japanese music is available in Japan services only, the articles are mostly only maintained by hardcore fans. I also think it's very difficult to get feedback because some music groups are niche and information outside of Japanese is often unavailable. I often find myself going to WikiProject Korea (because some groups cross over to that country) for advice because they are more active. I think it might be helpful if we had a list of reliable online sources even, because it would be resourceful as a starting point to weed out any websites with a dubious reputation (since some articles are listing gossip websites as a source

What are some of the Project's main goals? Do you think they will be met in the near future? If so, how? If not, why not?

Nihonjoe: The main goals have always been to:
  • Increase coverage of Japan-related topics on the enwiki
  • Create a body of articles that accurately depicts the history and culture of Japan and the Japanese people
  • Bring as many articles to Good or Featured status as possible. As of 15 April 2024, there are 91,407 articles within the scope of WikiProject Japan, of which 180 are featured. This makes up 1.34% of the articles on Wikipedia and 1.67% of featured articles and lists. Including non-article pages, such as talk pages, redirects, categories, etcetera, there are 233,432 pages in the project.
WhisperToMe: I'm not and haven't been the main spiritus movens of the project, but I would assume that a big goal would be to increase knowledge about Japan in the English-speaking world and to make available information previously only known in Japanese.
Lullabying: The general goal of this WikiProject is to improve understanding of Japanese culture and to provide more information. I'm fairly certain that they will be met in the near future, especially as more Japanese sources are moving to web and making it easier to archive. Also, Japanese media is slowly but surely getting more accessible as they're now making the move to marketing themselves globally.

How can a newer user looking to help with the Project do so? What advice would you give to such editors?

Nihonjoe: Definitely learn how to properly source an article using verifiable and reliable sources. Once you know how to do that, we have a big list of items needing attention. Some are easy to do, and others will take a bit of work to fix. Any progress, however, is progress, so contributing in any positive manner is appreciated.
WhisperToMe: After becoming familiar with sourcing requirements, he/she can use Wikipedia:RX to get access to journal articles or book chapters that can be used to build content often seen in academic circles. Also I would suggest that if he/she has ample time and money as well as a keen interest, learning Japanese in order to access Japanese sources would be awesome!
Lullabying: Use archiving tools to archive your sources, especially since Japanese news outlets tend to not keep them online for very long!

Do you have any last words you would like to share with our readers?

Nihonjoe: Japan has been a passion of mine for decades now. I enjoy learning about its culture, people, history, language, and so on. I hope the work I do will be helpful to those just starting on a journey to learn more about Japan. I also hope people will join the project and help improve and expand the articles we have here on Wikipedia.
WhisperToMe: I'm very happy to support East Asian and Southeast Asian Wikipedia communities. In the Hong Kong area I've been looking for a core of Japanese expats who could serve as a bridge between the Japanese and Hong Kong communities, and I encourage more expats to get involved with Wikipedia in general.
Lullabying: I'm glad to have helped in making information about Japanese music, media, and pop culture more accessible to you! I hope it has sparked your interest in some way and inspired you to share your support!

Do you want to see a particular WikiProject interviewed? Any questions you want answered? I want your suggestions! Please feel more than welcome to post advice on the talk page!

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