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2channel (or 2ch) is a Japanese forum created by college student Hiroyuki Nishimura and launched in 1999.  2ch utilizes anonymity, meaning that most users of the site prefer to remain unknown.  The reasoning behind this is that when users are allowed to remain anonymous, there is no fear of backlash and users will make honest opinions about topics.  A "username" field does exist, but is usually ignored.  Use of a name, unless the user is an admin or moderator, is considered to be either a new user who doesn't understand the forums or someone seeking to be an internet celebrity  The forum is largely unmoderated, except for spam or flood posts (which could fall under Japan's anti-slander laws) or posts that signal criminal intent.


             Hiroyuki Nishimura


2channel is by far the most popluar non-business related site in Japan, netting over ¥100 million (roughly over $1,024,435.00) per year.  It is also thought to be the largest message board in the world.  However, with the userbase remaining largely anonymous, this is hard to verify.




Popular Culture


Train Man


The 2004 story of Densha Otoko (Train Man) involves a socially inept man, an incident on the Japanese trains, and the 2channel's users.  In March of that year, a man posted on the 2channel's "Single men" sub-forum recounting the story of a drunk man bothering many female passengers on the train.  The drunk started to sexually harass one which prompted the young man to intervene until the conductor took control of the situation.  The grateful woman exchanged addresses with the man and the two parted ways.  Forum users gave the young man the nickname "Densha Otoko" or "Train Man" for his bravery.  A short time later, the man received a package from the woman as a "thank you" gift.  However, it was in the form of an expensive tea set.  Realizing this wasn't a generic thank you, the man started asking the 2channel users for advice.  The man cleaned up and purchased new clothes and began seeing the woman.  Shortly thereafter, he announced his love for the woman and she accepted.  At hearing the news of this, the 2channel users began celebrating and offering congratulations to the couple.  Because of 2channel's popularity, the story reached the mainstream media.  The fairytale-ness of the story became an immediate success, prompting the release of a book, four manga, a feature film (which reached number 1 in the box office after its release), and a popular TV Live-action drama in 2005.



Man of the Year


When Time magazine began running polls for their 2001 Man of the Year awards, 2channel users sought to create a bit of a debacle by voting en masse for Japanese performer Masashi Tashiro.  Tashiro had once been a popular television performer and formed a band called Rats & Stars.  However, by 2001, he had been arrested several times.  His crimes included filming upskirt shots of a young woman on the subway, drug use, and peeping and secretly filming in a white-collar male public bath.  2channel users began utilizing several script programs that auto-voted for Tashiro.  These programs were humourously called (in succession): the "Tashiro Cannon", "Mega Particle Tashiro Cannon", "25-Round Repeating Tashiro Cannon", and the "Super Tashiro Cannon".  The "Super Tashiro Cannon" was so powerful that it actually crashed Time's servers.  A final script was made but was never used, the "Satellite Cannon Tashiro".  Because of these measures, Tashiro was actually number 1 in the polls for a brief period until Time realized something was amiss and removed him from the candidates.




2ch Language and Characters


                          Assorted 2ch characters in Shift-JIS



The user base of 2ch is responsible for the creation of many different characters, mostly in the form of Shift-JIS (a Japanese form of ASCII) art.  Many of these characters are based off 2ch's completely unique language (resulting in the creation of a 2ch online dictionary).  Most of the characters appear cat-like and are often featured in different forms of art.


Some of the conventions used by 2channel users include replacing similarly sounding kanji with one another, leaving out the small "tsu" character for double consonants, and using phrases derrived from Japanese words.  Some examples of these phrases are as follows:



Derrived from "sageru" or "to lower".  Users reply with "sage" in the email field when they do not want to bump a topic to the top of the page but want to reply.



Derrived from "ageru" or "to raise".  It is essentially the same thing as someone bumping a topic to the top of the page without actually replying (as old topics are deleted after they fall to the bottom).



The w in the Roman alphabet sort of resembles the "ha" (ハ) katakana character when they are in succession.  Thus "wwwwwwwwwwwwww" is interpreted as a series of "ha"s or laughing.



Literally means "I came".  Used to show great excitement over content and represented as "キタ━━━━━━(゚∀゚)━━━━━━ !!!!!".  Rather self-explainatory.



"orz", "OTZ", "O| ̄|_", or "OTL".  Meant to depict a person bowing with their knees and hands on the ground.  Can depict either appreciation or defeat.





One of the most popular forms of user-generated content is that of animations using Macromedia (Adobe) Flash.  These animations usually include the 2channel characters, but not always.  Some parody popular anime and manga.  Here are a few examples of these animations.





















American Spin-offs


The popularity of the Japanese fourms has spilled over into the English-speaking internet community in the form of 4ch, an English language forum modeled after 2ch's style.  Similarly, 4chan-BBS (not to be confused with the image board 4chan).




2ch.net - The 2channel site (Japanese)

4-ch.net - The 4channel site (English)

Densha Otoko - The Wikipedia page on the Train Man

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