Biography of Hiroyuki Nishimura: The Father of 2channel
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How one man spit in the face of Japanese business culture
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- [1976-1999] hiroyuki’s Early Life and the Birth of 2channel
- Nishimura’s Life Before 2channel
- Ayashii World: The Great-Grandfather of 2channel?
- Amezou World: The Next in Line
- [2000-2013] The Golden Age of 2channel
- The Early Days of 2channel
- 2channel’s Mainstream Appeal
- The Naked Heroism of 2channel
- Media Recognition and 2channel’s Influx of Popularity
- hiroyuki’s Concurrent Projects
- Miscellaneous Business Ventures
- Nishimura & Nico Nico Douga
- 2channel Faces Obstacles
- Financial Issues and Monetization
- Legal Issues and Lawsuits
- [2013-Present] Like a Phoenix: The Death and Rebirth of hiroyuki
- Nishimura’s Departure from 2channel
- 2channel’s 2013 Credit Card Scandal
- hiroyuki Strikes Back
- Post-hiroyuki: 2channel Without Its King
- hiroyuki and 4chan
- hiroyuki and moot: Two Peas in a Pod
- Editor-in-Chief of Variety Japan
- Hiroshima Nagasaki: 4chan Administrator
- Yet More Financial Woes
- hiroyuki’s Slacker Persona & the Japanese Psyche
- Related Links
- Official Websites and Resources
- Tangentially Related Videos
- Similar and Related Content on 256 Kilobytes
Hiroyuki Nishimura is most well-known as the founder and former administrator of the Japanese textboard site 2channel, which became the template and inspiration for similar Japanese sites, such as Futaba Channel (also confusingly known as 2chan.net, an entirely different website than 2channel). The popular and infamous western imageboard site, 4chan, was in turn based off of Futaba Channel, leaving 2channel an impressive legacy in the US as well, even if many westerners haven’t heard of it. Christopher “moot” Poole, has called Nishimura the “great-grandfather” of 4chan and western imageboard sites as a whole.
Aside from 2channel, Nishimura is also known for his work as a director at Niwango Inc., and for his role as the current owner and administrator of 4chan, both of which also have dedicated communities, just like 2channel.
Nishimura is generally well-regarded by the communities he helped foster on 2channel, Niwango Inc.’s Nico Nico Douga service, and 4chan, and is usually referred to solely by his username (and given name) hiroyuki. In some ways, he is regarded as a bit of a “bad boy,” as he casually ignores the cultural norms and expectations implicit through Japanese business culture in favor of projecting a more laid-back and careless persona. He is also known for outright talking smack about Japanese culture, values, and laws, and well as his own abilities, projects, and work ethic.
This attitude has helped shape the communities that he’s served as well. Forums such as 2channel provide a reprieve from the rigid formalities of professional life, allowing the user to lay back, speak their mind, and vent without thinking about what their friends and coworkers would think. Nishimura has become somewhat of a folk hero to the underground Internet communities of Japan.
[1976-1999] hiroyuki’s Early Life and the Birth of 2channel
Nishimura’s Life Before 2channel
Nishimura was born in Sagamihara, Kanagawa on November 16, 1976, and raised in Tokyo. According to Nishimura, he taught himself to code in grade school and did mostly odd jobs growing up, before eventually finding success with 2channel.
Based off the dates given on his LinkedIn page, Nishimura attended college from 1998 to 2000, partly at Chuo University in Tokyo, and also as an exchange student at the University of Central Arkansas. He received a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology from his time at university, but found himself bored at school, and used his free time to pursue his own ventures.
According to an interview with RealTokyo, Nishimura founded a joint-stock company called Tokyo Access while at Chuo University in 1998, but it isn’t clear what came of this company.
While at the University of Central Arkansas, most of Nishimura’s classmates went home for summer break, leaving him virtually alone in the dormitories. Nishimura’s boredom led to the creation of 2channel. “I made it to kill time,” he told Wired.com in a 2008 interview. The name “2channel” is a reference to how RF modulators default to VHF channel 2 in Japan when connecting older video game consoles, such as the Famicom. Nishimura says that he opted for a name that wasn’t immediately understandable, in order to hint at the subculture aspect of the site.
2channel was launched on May 30, 1999 from Nishimura’s apartment in Conway, Arizona. Although 2channel would go on to become the largest anonymous forum in the world, and get credit for inspiring popular imageboard sites like Futaba Channel and 4chan, it was actually the successor to earlier anonymous textboard sites, most notably Ayashii World and Amezou World.
Ayashii World: The Great-Grandfather of 2channel?
Ayashii World was created by Shiba Masayuki in 1996, and pioneered the concept of anonymous posting and discourse that would become the defining trait of textboard and imageboard sites both in Japan and outside of the country. Users often posted as “Nanashi,” or Nameless.
Just as 2channel and other BBS (bulletin board system) sites owe their existence to Ayashii World, Ayashii had in turn grown out of the Usenet culture in Japan. Usenet had been around since 1980, and allowed users to read and post messages in a variety of categories (mostly related to technology), making it a precursor to modern forums. However, Usenet used a large assortment of servers, while forums typically have a central server and primary administrator.
Usenet also contributed toward the advent of online anonymity, as in the late 1990s some users began giving invalid emails for posting to newsgroups regarding sensitive topics. Ayashii World took this concept and ran with it, letting users post with no authentication at all.
Due to its Usenet roots, Ayashii World was primarily created with the discussion of various technology subcultures in mind. However, topics varied, and the “gesu” (or “scum”) board, there hosted a large amount of random conversations, hacking discussions, and coordination of site raids, similar to the /b/ - Random board that would later develop on 4chan.
Ayashii World also contributed to the rise of meme culture, perhaps best exemplified by ASCII Art, or Shift_JIS art. Giko-neko, an ASCII drawing of a cat, that says (often rude) messages, later found its way over to 2channel.
However, Ayashii World had a fatal flaw. The site had terrible servers and crashed frequently. They were so bad that Masayuki began to receive personal threats, and he shut down the site in 1998.
Amezou World: The Next in Line
The end of Ayashii World created a diaspora of its former users, who desperately tried to fill the void that Ayashii had created. Many similar sites were created, but the most popular and influential was Amezou World.
Amezou World went up on June 9, 1998, and was created by a coder known solely as Amezou-shi.
Amezou brought a couple new aspects to the table that would become ubiquitous among other textboards and imageboards. One of these was the system of “floating threads” in which new threads would display above older threads. This differed from the system of “tree type” threads that Ayashii World had used, in which new threads grew out of replies on older threads, making them difficult and confusing to go through.
Amezou-shi also created a bumping system for floating threads, in which new replies to a thread bump the thread to the front page of a board to join new threads, while unpopular threads go down the board and are eventually eliminated.
Unfortunately, Amezou World became overrun with spammers who assaulted threads with irrelevant information that made them more difficult to read. Amezou-shi also received violent threats and he shut down the site. Apparently, threatening the administrators of websites you enjoyed was more common back in those days.
Hiroyuki Nishimura was a regular on Amezou World and was well aware of these issues. Some sources indicate that Nishimura created 2channel after Amezou World was already dead, while others say that Amezou World did not go down until December 30, 1999, after 2channel had already been around for seven months. In that recount, it seems that Amezou World’s clear problems with serves and spammers caused people to flee Amezou for 2channel early.
Regardless of the exact timeline, 2channel became the home of the majority of lost Amezou World users, just as Amezou had taken in Ayashii refugees before. More than creating a new home for old textboard users, 2channel was the first anonymous forum to project itself into the public consciousness and find mainstream success.
[2000-2013] The Golden Age of 2channel
The Early Days of 2channel
2channel’s Mainstream Appeal
“I created a free space,” said Nishimura, “and what people did with it was up to them.”
Although topics on prior textboard sites had been fairly limited, Nishimura aimed to create a comprehensive forum that would grow exponentially and cover a huge range of interests. Before 2004, the site had built up 400 different message boards on a variety of different topics and was receiving 5 million visitors per month. During his time as 2channel administrator, Nishimura routinely downplayed the success of 2channel, one time saying, “Since I don’t understand people’s motivations for visiting the site, I don’t really understand what’s so great about it…”
As important as it was that 2channel cover a wide variety of users’ interests, what contributed even more to 2channel’s success was that it was truly a free space, where anonymity allowed posters to discuss exactly what they pleased.
From his time on Amezou World, Hiroyuki Nishimura saw the value in anonymous posting, particularly in the setting of Japanese business culture, which is infamous for being strict, rigid, hierarchical, and unforgiving. Japan’s severe business culture has bled into essentially every aspect of their society, leading to the commodification of things that should really never be commodified, such as personal interactions and cuddling.
Whereas it is pretty much the norm for Americans to say whatever they want on Twitter, Japanese workers do not have the luxury of posting their precise thoughts on social media without it having real ramifications in their professional lives. For this reason, the need for anonymous posting is even more important in Japanese society than it is in the west.
This sums up the concept very well:
But namelessness is much more complex and much more useful as a concept in Japan. Japanese culture more carefully delineates between private and public personas, interpersonal hierarchies, and ingroups and outgroups.
When you remove a person’s name, you effectively remove a person’s place in society. And when you do that, people have the liberty to say whatever they want without consequences.
The anonymity allowed by 2channel and other similar forums allow Japanese workers to vent, and say whatever they want without fear of it seeping into their professional lives. It allows them to have a distinct online identity.
The Naked Heroism of 2channel
Shortly after 2channel was created, the Toshiba scandal took place (not to be confused with Toshiba’s completely unrelated accounting scandal in 2015), in which a customer was verbally abused by a Toshiba customer service representative, and uploaded a recording of the entire incident to the site. 2channel users called Toshiba customer service en masse and forced them to apologize to the customer.
Though this incident with Toshiba did not gain widespread recognition at the time, it was significant because it was one of the first examples of “naked heroism” seen on 2channel.
Kensuke Suzuki, the author of numerous books about Japanese Internet culture, had this to say on the phenomenon of naked heroism:
2-channel stirs the naked heroism that lives in every individual. This can be dangerous, but in a community where you can't ordinarily express your true feelings because of its restrictions, it's really important.
You have likely heard the Japanese proverb, “the nail that sticks up gets hammered down.” Although this represents a simplistic way of looking at Japanese conformity, there is some truth to it. While typical Japanese expectations often prevent people from sticking their neck out for different causes, the anonymity of 2channel allowed users to become activists.
Above: The cover of the Train Man (Densha Otoko) novel, based off of a story chronicled on 2channel. The story has also been made into a movie, television series, and manga.
This article provides a more in-depth discussion of naked heroism, specifically as it pertains to 2channel, and some examples of related newsworthy events at the bottom of the page.
Media Recognition and 2channel’s Influx of Popularity
The early days of 2channel also played host to the Neomugicha incident, taking place between May 4 and 5, 2000. A 2channel user posted a warning on 2channel under a thread named “Neomugicha,” saying that they were planning on committing a hijacking. Other 2channel users mocked him, but only an hour later the user hijacked a bus at knifepoint, killing one passenger and injuring two more. The perpetrator was captured alive by a Special Assault Team.
This incident inspired two copycats, “Neouuroncha” and “Neomugishu,” who independently conceived plots to target railway companies, but were arrested before they could do so. Following the Neomugicha incident, the police had been keeping a closer eye on 2channel. This led to so many arrests that most would-be wrongdoers stopped posting their intentions on 2channel.
Although Nishimura has said that there was no epoch-making event at 2channel, and the development and expansion of the site was very gradual. Despite this, the Neomugicha incident might have been the closest thing to an epoch-making event that 2channel experienced. Though tragic, this event propelled 2channel into the public eye and created a huge wave of user access, causing the servers to go down temporarily.
From that point forward, 2channel was no longer quite the underground community that Nishimura had envisioned. It surged in popularity and attracted more and more users, routinely found the attention of the media, and was consistently monitored by the police.
hiroyuki’s Concurrent Projects
Miscellaneous Business Ventures
Along with Nishimura, the rest of 2channel’s central management consisted of Ichiro Yamamoto and Yoshihiro “Yakin” Nakao. Nakao, a server specialist, began working with 2channel around the same time as the Neomugicha incident, and managed most of the 2channel servers from 2000 through the present. Other than that, 2channel was moderated solely by volunteers.
In June 2001, Nishimura co-founded Irregulars and Partners Co., Ltd (aka I & P), again with 2channel business partner Ichiro Yamamoto. I & P specializes in business development and investment support, offering services such as the technical evaluation of technology, business plan preparation, marketing support, fund procurement, and so on. It isn’t precisely clear what Nishimura’s role in the company was, and it would seem it was more of a passion project for Yamamoto, while Nishimura was more invested in 2channel.
Nishimura left I & P, shortly thereafter in 2002, around the same time that Yamamoto resigned from his job at 2channel, and it is possible that the two had a falling out. Presently, Ichiro Yamamoto is listed as the President and Representative Director on the company website.
From 2011 to 2013, Nishimura’s Linkedin page also lists him as a director at a company called NNI. A screenshot of his page can be found here.
All in all, Nishimura devoted his time a number things outside of 2channel. To illustrate this, in January 2007, Nishimura was simultaneously acting as an advisor to Skip-Up KK, CEO of Tokyo Plus KK, director of Mirai Kensaku Brazil Ltd. (Future Search Brazil), and a director of Niwango Inc, as well as retaining his duties as 2channel administrator.
Nishimura & Nico Nico Douga
As mentioned above, Nishimura held the position of director at Niwango Inc, from 2005 to 2013, and specifically worked with their principal feature, a video sharing service called Nico Nico Douga.
This selection from Wired more fully explains Nishimura’s relationship and involvement with Niwango, and its parent company Dwango:
Nicodou got its start when Nobuo Kawakami, CEO of the mobile-applications developer Dwango, saw an opportunity to port 2channel's irreverent, free-for-all sensibility from an archaic BBS to a full-fledged Web 2.0 application.
Dwango, a public company with nearly 500 employees, already had a relationship with Nishimura. The company advertised on 2channel and even sold ringtones of him reciting popular catchphrases from his BBS. In 2005, when Dwango created a subsidiary called Niwango, it chose a name that further linked the company to Japan's most notorious BBS: Ni is the first syllable of Nishimura and also the Japanese word for two — as in ni channeru, or 2channel. Nicodou is the subsidiary's flagship service.
Through Niwango, Nishimura managed the company’s Nico Nico Douga (Nicodou) service, which allows users to upload, watch, and share videos. As a unique feature to Nico Nico Douga, viewers can create comments that appear directly over the video, and are synchronized to specific timestamps. The idea behind this was to create a sense of a shared watching experience and community.
While discussing Nico Nico Douga in an interview, Nishimura said, "Even when the videos are boring, the viewers are getting together and entertaining each other."
A screenshot of a Nico Nico Douga video, with comments appearing over the video player, and timestamps shown on the sidebar:
Many of the videos on Nico Nico Douga were representative of otaku culture, making Nishimura a perfect match for the project. Nishimura fostered a similar atmosphere and community on Nico Nico Douga as he did with 2channel. In just over a year after Nico Nico Douga inception, it had become a the fifth largest site in Japan, due in part to Nishimura’s influence.
During the interview with Wired, Nishimura displayed his characteristic and practiced apathy toward the video sharing service, saying:
Nico Nico Douga is a total waste. You'd be in trouble if you didn't have Google, but you wouldn't die if Nico Nico Douga didn't exist. But waste is our culture in Japan; look at how we package each candy individually.
Despite Nishimura’s dismissal of Nico Nico Douga, it’s hard to believe from the work that he put into the project that he truly doesn’t care about it. Rather, his comments seem to reveal more about his thoughts toward Japanese culture than about Nico Nico Douga.
Nishimura’s role at Niwango was primarily as an advisor, and he showed up a couple times per week to offer input and guidance. A Niwango board member named Koji Mizoguchi said, “Hiroyuki is the Steve Jobs of our company. He’s the idea man, but he’s not concerned with the specifics of how to make it work.”
In February 2013, Niwango announced that Nishimura had resigned from his position there, citing personal reasons.
2channel Faces Obstacles
Financial Issues and Monetization
At the beginning, Nishimura started 2channel using a single set of free servers and had no rental costs. As it became more popular, Nishimura had to acquire more servers almost went broke. He had to come up with a way to monetize the site and develop a business model if 2channel was going to survive.
For the most part, Nishimura said that he was able to make ends meet via banner advertisements on the website and selling 2channel-related publications. He also started charging an annual membership fee of $33.00 for users who wanted to access archives.
By 2008, Nishimura was making about 100 million yen (about 1 million USD) annually from ad revenue. He ran the BBS with the help of about 300 volunteer moderators (290 of which, he said he never personally met). None of these moderators received payment.
Nishimura is generally dismissive when asked about not paying his moderators. Then again, with the full responsibility for the 2channel community resting on his shoulders, and the millions of dollars of court settlements this would cost him, this may have been a fair tradeoff.
Legal Issues and Lawsuits
One advantage that 2channel had over previous Japanese textboard sites was that the servers were located in the US, since Nishimura had established the site while living in Arkansas. Because of this, 2channel had a greater degree of freedom and immunity to legal action than previous textboards.
Despite this, Nishimura still found himself falling prey to Japan’s bystander laws, which state that a website’s administrator holds full responsibility for its community. 2channel and Nishimura were overrun with lawsuits early on in the site’s lifespan. In the early days of 2channel (c. 2003-2004), Nishimura says that these lawsuits and court appearances were fairly routine.
In an interview with RealTokyo, Nishimura said:
For the first trial I asked a counselor, and strictly followed what he had written down for me. Most of the trials are about deleting a message posted on 2-channel, and some are about providing information on authors or paying money for the publication. These are the only three patterns I know, and now it takes me less than five minutes to prepare the necessary documents. The lawyer knows what to expect when he sees me. When he asks me to identify the sender of a message, I always show the same paper that says the server doesn't store the log data. The lawyer says, "I see, you don't have the data…" and then we're done.
However, Nishimura became desensitized and increasingly apathetic toward the legal actions taken against him. Due to some of the more controversial activities and posts made by 2channel users, Nishimura was served with an impressive amount of lawsuits during his time as the site’s administrator, and lost at least fifty of them by 2008, the charges ranging from libel, defamation, copyright violations, privacy, and personal injury.
As with most things, Nishimura appeared unconcerned about libel suits and frequently missed court dates. “I used to show up in court,” he told Wired in a 2008 interview. “Then one day I overslept and nothing happened. So I stopped going.”
By 2008, the 2channel servers had been relocated to San Francisco, presumably under the care of N.T. Technology. In 2009, Nishimura transferred ownership of the site’s domain to Packet Monster Inc. in Chinatown, Singapore, while staying on as administrator, possibly as an attempt to distance himself from site and avoid responsibility for the actions of its users. He still received payment from Packet Monster Inc., and it appears that he remained the owner in all ways except for in name.
Not to be confused with:
Despite these precautions, Nishimura was routinely charged as the accessory to numerous crimes due to Japan’s bystander laws, such as promoting narcotics sales on December 20, 2012.
Nishimura was also audited by the Tokyo Regional Taxation Bureau and found, on August 24, 2013, that he had failed to declare 100 million yen of income that was subject to taxation.
In 2007, Nishimura had acquired over $4 million in settlements and court penalties due to a variety of lawsuits, but said in multiple interviews that he had no intention of paying them.
"I don't have any intention of paying up to a country whose laws I don't respect," he told Yomiuri Shimbun, a major Japanese newspaper, last month. "As long as they're not handing me the death sentence, I'm not backing down.”
Source: Wired.com (2007 interview)
"If the verdict mandates deleting things, I'll do it," he says. "I just haven't complied with demands to pay money. Would a cell phone carrier feel responsible when somebody receives a threatening phone call?”
Source: Wired.com (2008 interview)
Though Nishimura’s staunch disapproval of most Japanese laws and cultural values had generally served him well as the 2channel administrator, this attitude only made his legal troubles worse. Unfortunately, these lawsuits did not represent the end of 2channel’s legal problems
[2013-Present] Like a Phoenix: The Death and Rebirth of hiroyuki
Nishimura’s Departure from 2channel
2channel’s 2013 Credit Card Scandal
In August 2013, there was an accidental leak that exposed the personal details and credit card information of thousands of 2channel users into the public domain. This left users vulnerable to identity theft and revealed the anonymous profiles of various well-known figures, including politicians and writers. The site was subsequently hit with a series of lawsuits.
A real image of a criminal stealing credit card information.
Around the same time as the credit card scandal, 2channel was simultaneously beset by another problem: the increasing popularity of “matome blogs,” blogs which lifted 2channel content and summarized them. Many 2channel users spoke out against this, as it drastically decreased the traffic on 2channel, which in turn decreased posting and discussion.
Jim Watkins, the chairman of San Francisco-based N.T. Technologies and a key stakeholder of 2channel, instigated a domain name repossession of the site. On February 19, 2014, Nishimura was stripped of his administrative powers and Watkins assumed full control.
This period of 2channel is rife with misinformation and counter claims from both sides. Some sources claim that 2channel was suffering from financial mismanagement problems under Nishimura’s leadership and that Watkins stepped in to make the site sustainable again. Given Nishimura’s transfer of the site’s ownership to Packet Monster Inc. in 2009, it is not quite clear who had ownership of the domain going into this mess.
Nishimura, however, claimedthat Watkin’s N.T. Technology had been hosting the 2channel servers and provided domain privacy protection services. According to Nishimura, N.T. secretly stored users’ personal information and credit card numbers without his knowledge, as he did not have access to the servers.
After hackers stole and leaked the stored personal information, Nishimura says he felt he could no longer trust N.T. and declined to work with them. Desperate and nearly bankrupt, Nishimura says that Watkins took the opportunity to steal his domain.
More background on Watkins and his evil deeds can be found here.
hiroyuki Strikes Back
Regardless of why Watkins took control, Nishimura was outraged and created a clone of 2channel, called 2ch.sc, that scraped the entire contents of 2channel in real-time and cost the original site substantial bandwidth costs. Nishimura also organized a series of denial of service attacks against the original 2channel in order to disrupt services and make the site unavailable to its users.
2ch.sc homepage (2channel clone)
Shortly after being ousted from 2channel, Nishimura held a Q&A session on 4chan, during which he claimed that Watkins had stolen control of 2channel from him. In the same Q&A, he repeatedly denied involvement with the mining or storage of credit card information and other personal details, again placing the blame at the feet of Watkins and N.T. Nishimura said that he had filed a lawsuit against Watkins, beginning in December 2015, but it is unclear whether anything came of it.
Although Nishimura did not succeed in reacquiring control of 2channel, his outspoken resistance against the new leadership and denial of service attacks caused many 2channel users to go elsewhere. Some went to other anonymous posting sites, while others abandoned true anonymity for pseudonymous posting on websites like Reddit, where subreddits like r/NewSokuR catered to former 2channel users.
Post-hiroyuki: 2channel Without Its King
Now that Nishimura was out of the picture, Watkins apparently tried to solve the matome blog issue by prohibiting third parties from reusing 2channel comments. However, the language barrier proved to be a large obstacle, and he later rolled back his decisions on the matter. This incident showed that, without speaking the language, Watkins would have significant trouble running a forum as large as 2channel.
In October 2017, 2channel was sold to Loki Technology Inc., and was rebranded to 5channel to avoid any legal issues that might arise.
hiroyuki and 4chan
hiroyuki and moot: Two Peas in a Pod
Nishimura met Christopher “moot” Poole at the South by Southwest conference in 2011. Inspired by Futaba Channel, an imageboard site that had likewise taken inspiration from Nishimura’s 2channel, Poole had launched the western imageboard site 4chan in 2003.
The two became friends and, according to Nishimura, would meet up anytime Poole came to Tokyo. Though Poole famously rarely drinks, Nishimura said that during a recent visit they both got quite drunk.
Poole, citing stress, had long been considering selling 4chan. Upon hearing that he wanted to quit 4chan, Nishimura offered to buy the site. He and Poole agreed that they wanted 4chan to survive.
Poole finally made the decision to do it following the Fappening and Gamergate controversies, which contributed to what he called the most stressful month of his life. In January 2015, Poole stepped down as 4chan administrator, leaving it in the hands of a team of moderators.Nishimura was officially announced as 4chan’s new owner and moderator on September 21, 2015.
A dramatic reenactment of moot selling 4chan to hiroyuki
Regarding the transfer, Poole told the New York Times:
Hiroyuki is literally the only person in the world with as much if not more experience than myself in running an anonymous, large destination community that serves tens of millions of people. He’s the great-grandfather of all of this.
Following the turnover, Nishimura held a 4chan Q&A in order to introduce himself to the 4chan community. Already very fluent in English, he proved a better fit for 4chan than, say, Watkins was for 2channel. During the Q&A, Nishimura famously chose Asuka over Rei, following some prodding from his new community.
He was also asked about how much he paid for 4chan, but declined to answer, saying they should “ask moot” instead. Nishimura did say that he had to borrow money in order to afford to purchase the site.
Editor-in-Chief of Variety Japan
On September 15, 2015, just a week before becoming owner and administrator of 4chan, Nishimura was announced as the editor-in-chief of the newly launched Variety Japan. The new site went online September 28.
Perhaps more professional than usual, Nishimura said this about the new Variety Japan: “We are proud of working together and being a group member of Variety which has been dedicated to the global entertainment industry and Hollywood history for long time.”
Nishimura remained Editor-in-Chief of Variety Japan through August 2018.
Hiroshima Nagasaki: 4chan Administrator
Nishimura’s fluency in textboard and imageboard culture certainly made him a perfect match for 4chan. When appointed, Nisimura again spoke uncharacteristically highly of the site:
I’m proud to be taking Mr. Poole’s place as the owner of 4chan. I’ve long admired 4chan’s place on the web as a producer of anonymous and Internet culture, and look forward to continuing to grow and develop the site and support the community.
Source: New York Times
During his initial Q&A, Nishimura seemed to be quickly accepted by the 4chan community, answering questions honestly and trolling users back when appropriate.
Like his predecessor, moot, Nishimura said he would like to adopt a 4chan pseudonym. His community immediately offered a wealth of clever (and mostly racist) suggestions, including gookmoot, mootwo, hiroshimoot, Hiro, and Hiroshima Nagasaki.
Yet More Financial Woes
At the time of acquiring 4chan, Nishimura expressed concerns over the imageboard’s huge server costs, but stated he would be happy to break even.
Just as Christopher “moot” Poole had discovered before him, advertisers were hesitant to run their ads on 4chan given the questionable and controversial nature of some of the content that passed through the site. This obstacle, combined with the steep cost of maintaining servers, infrastructure, and network, presented Nishimura with a serious problem.
In October 2016, Nishimura made a post titled “Winter is Coming,” which announced that financial difficulties, would either lead to the site’s closure or substantial changes. In his post, Nishimura said, “We had tried to keep 4chan as is. But I failed. I am sincerely sorry."
On November 17, 2018, Nishimura announced that the site would be split in two, with the NSFW boards remaining on 4chan.org and the SFW boards migrating to the new 4channel.org domain. Though many 4chan users reacted dramatically, this change allowed Nishimura to run advertising on the safe-for-work 4channel domain, which secured adequate funding for both sites.
Aside from that change, 4chan has been going strong under Nishimura’s leadership.
hiroyuki’s Slacker Persona & the Japanese Psyche
Going by many accounts with people who have interviewed Hiroyuki Nishimura, he comes across as willfully unprofessional. Not quite humble, he is often apathetic toward his accomplishments with 2channel, Niwango, and other ventures, and routinely downplays his own involvement.
“Taking care of tasks like server maintenance or clearing the message board from rubbish is something that other people can do, and since I'm not a particularly competent person it's sometimes better to let someone else do these jobs.”
Nishimura seems adamant to present himself as lazy and uncaring, despite the work that he has clearly done to become successful. In short, his demeanor is the antithesis to what you’d expect from Japanese business culture, where image and reputation are everything.
In a way, it is fitting that Nishimura adopted this persona, because it embraces perfectly what makes places like 2channel and 4chan special.
Overall, online identities are becoming more and more entwined with each other, and with personal identity. Websites like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Linkedin, Google, Snapchat, and more, all collect and store personal information, creating a vast and interconnected online identity that become indistinguishable from a user’s real life personal and professional identity.
In the US, we’ve seen well-known politicians and celebrities ignore this simple fact again and again. Hollywood directors are fired for ten-year-old tweets. Authors lose integrity by posting stupid shit on Twitter. An average person posts their political opinions on Twitter, not thinking that it could cost them a job with a potential employer.
The separation of online identities and professional identities are even more important in Japan than the US. Japanese businessmen are expected to work long hours; staying overtime is the rule, not the exception. They are expected to show unwavering loyalty to their company. The work environment is fiercely competitive and every first impression you make, and professional relationship you maintain matters. One of the biggest needs that 2channel met for the Japanese community was that it allowed them to adopt multiple, distinct identities.
Nishimura’s uncaring act and self-deprecating demeanor makes perfect sense, because in his case his online identity IS his professional identity. He’s characterized his career by giving other Japanese a place to not be professional. It’s no wonder that his professional demeanor is so deliberately unprofessional.
Nishimura said in his 2007 book, Why 2channel Will Never Fail:
If running the site required me to get up at 9 am every morning, wear a suit, and not have time to play videogames, I'd probably quit.
Nishimura is a rare example of a Japanese man who managed to escape the tangles of salaryman work culture, while still finding success on his own terms. He said “fuck you” to the system in place, and found a way to live while still retaining the lifestyle he wants. If anything, his attitude toward professional norms and self-assured laziness is an attempt to distance himself as far as possible from the average Japanese business executive.
Every country has people who have been failed by the system and fell through the cracks. In Japan, there are some people who were so completely unprepared for the harsh work environment that they went in the opposite direction, shunning work altogether. Nishimura isn’t one of these people. He may have shunned the system in place and refused to put in the overtime hours that have become the standard for white-collar workers, but he found a way to carve out his own place. He isn’t lazy; he just has his priorities straight.
Official Websites and Resources
- 2channel / 5channel
- Hiroyuki Nishimura (@hiroyuki_ni) on Twitter
- 4chan: a “simple image-based bulletin board” based on 2chan, now owned by Nishimura
- 4channel: a safe-for-work domain added to 4chan by Nishimura in late 2018 for advertising purposes
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