Japan's QAnon disciples aren't letting Trump's loss quash their mission
April 24, 2021. Summarized by summa-bot.
Compression ratio: 17.9%. 2 min read.
Hiromi spent most of her life feeling trapped.
Though there aren't solid estimates for the number of QAnon followers worldwide or in Japan, Hiromi is just one of a niche number of people who have fallen into fringe QAnon groups that have emerged in Japan.
And while QAnon's roots are in American politics, experts argue that in Japan the conspiracy theory has diverged so sharply that it has taken on a life of its own.
"I think QAnon in Japan is bootstrapping itself on a bunch of pre-existing, far-right extreme movements that already existed in Japan," Alt said.
In Japan, two QAnon splinter groups have emerged: J-Anon and QArmyJapanFlynn, which takes its name from Trump's former National Security Adviser, Michael Flynn.
Neither 2Hey nor Hiromi say they were believers of any other online or religious groups before joining QArmyJapanFlynn, which they claim is different from J-Anon and other QAnon groups.
"The difference between Japan and the US is that many QAnon believers in Japan do not understand English so well," said Watanabe.
"I started to feel like QAnon was manipulating people who loved Trump and exploiting them for a different purpose," said Matsumoto.
"I think that in Japan, people didn't fully understand what QAnon was.
Nowadays, whenever Matsumoto meets QAnon supporters in Japan, he cautions that QAnon might be manipulating Trump supporters.
According to a 2019 report from Genron, a Japanese think tank, Japan, 67% of 1,000 people surveyed said they didn't trust political parties or expect them to solve issues, and 56% of people had little to no trust in the media.
Yoshiro Fujikura, a Japanese journalist and cult expert, said the mistrust in mainstream media had spurred some people to seek alternative information sources online.
"[QAnon in Japan] was the first international community we saw being coherent and cohesive enough to show up on a network round, which means it has its own influencers, it has its own kind of linguistic markers, its own signals in terms of content that's being produced and consumed," said Smith.
In Japan, QAnon adherents have created a network where Twitter accounts follow each other, Smith said.
She said her concern isn't over whether QAnon conspiracy theories will become mainstream in Japan, but whether people will take on radical ideas as they congregate in fringe echo chambers.
Hori, the Japanese and religious studies expert, said the rise of social media had allowed people to more easily explore unconventional beliefs and religious practices.
Even if QAnon crumbles, I don't think J-Anon will," said Fujikura.