A ‘Diary’ Culture and Blogging

Personal Branding

Japanese may have been slower at embracing social media platforms such as Facebook and LinkedIn, but they quickly jumped on board to blogging when it became popular back in 2002. Since then, Japanese has slightly edged out English in being the dominant language of the blogosphere. Pretty amazing considering that English speakers worldwide outnumber Japanese speakers by over 5 to 1. Here are some interesting facts:

  • While 40% of English-language bloggers blog to raise their visibility as thought-leaders, only 5% of Japanese bloggers are motivated by the same reason.
  • Americans blog to stand out, make a point, or complain. Japanese blog to fit in and keep a record of their thoughts.
  • Compared with Americans, Japanese write at less length but write much more often.
  • Japanese are 5 times as likely as Americans, the British or French to read a blog every week, but less likely to actually act on what they read.

These facts are interesting for sure, but a bigger cultural behavior ingrained in Japanese from a young age has had a more direct impact on their blogging culture.

Japan’s ‘Diary’ Culture

Every day when my 7 year old bicultural daughter comes home from school in Japan, my wife tells her to sit down and do her “nikki” homework.

“Nikki” is Japanese for “diary” and every Japanese child from first grade to about sixth grade is required to keep a pencil-and-paper diary particularly during summer and winter breaks. My daughter writes about every day simple things, which matches the blogging tendency in Japan to write about small stuff – pets, meals, hobbies, favorite TV stars, etc.

Before blogging even became popular in Japan, Japanese carried forward the tradition of writing “nikki” into their adult lives by using personal computers to keep electronic diaries. Japan’s own social network Mixi has reinforced the culture of the “nikki”. Mixi actually refers to their blogging function as a “diary”.

In addition, the key reason for Twitter’s success in Japan can be easily be attributed to Japanese gravitating towards the micro-blogging tool to continue an already familiar culture of electronic diaries, but now in real-time.

Japanese, however, do not view blogging as a way to stand out. Actually, being part of a social context on Twitter by blending in is more acceptable to Japanese.

My view of a diary is something that is secret and only for the eyes of the writer. Perhaps not the best way to build one’s visibility.  The good news is that Japanese are slowly beginning to embrace personal branding, and the shift of their blogging culture more towards expressing their thought-leadership, opinions, and expertise is starting, albeit in baby steps!

Peter Sterlacci is known as “Japan’s personal branding pioneer” and is one of only 15 Master level Certified Personal Branding Strategists in the world. He is introducing a leading global personal branding methodology to companies and careerists in Japan and adapting it for the Japanese culture. In a culture where fitting-in is the norm, his mission is to pioneer a ‘cultural shift’ by helping Japanese to stand out in a global environment. His background spans over 21 years in intercultural consulting, international outreach, and global communication coaching.