EJ: I'm here today with the man known as Our Man in Abiko. Welcome, thank you for taking the time today.
Our Man in Abiko: Thank you very much. Thank you for having me.
EJ: So I guess we're here to talk about Quakebook.
Our Man: That's right. That's why I'm here. Um, shall I explain a little about Quakebook?
EJ: Please do. Now the title of the actual book is 2:46?
Our Man: Is 2:46: Aftershocks: Stories from the Japan Earthquake. That's right.
EJ: OK, please tell us a little about it.
Our Man: Well, sure. And really, we call it, uh, Quakebook. Uh, that's how it's known. It started out as just a crazy idea. I was having a shower one week after the earthquake, and I thought, “What can I do to help? I'm just an English teacher, uh, in Abiko, uh, on the outskirts of Tokyo. Um, so what can I do?” Well, I used to be a newspaper reporter and newspaper subeditor, so I have some skills. Uh, not, nothing that I thought was useful, but I could make a book. Um, so, I have no staff; where can I find some staff? Aha! I have Twitter. So that's really a very simple idea, and so I thought I would collect people's experiences of the earthquake, put it together, sell the book, and all the profits will go to the Red Cross. That's the basic idea, and it's just grown from there.
EJ: Now you were fairly active on Twitter before this, right?
Our Man: I was, yeah. I had a, a crazy blog, uh, “Our Man in Abiko,” uh, and it was a way of, uh, letting off steam from being an English teacher. I sometimes, I wanted to talk about politics, I wanted to talk about media and things that maybe my students were tired of hearing about. So I had this, uh, crazy character, this anonymous character who, um, was a kind of, uh, out-of-work British secret agent. Uh, that was the idea. That was the character, um, who could just talk about any, any silly stuff.
Uh, then, you know, so I had a, I had a following of at least some journalists and, um, artistic people, and people interested in Japan, so that was a good base to start with. Uh, then when the earthquake happened, suddenly I thought, well this character, instead being a wa-, a waste of time, could really spring forward and become a real, almost a real person. And, uh, lead the resistance against the earthquake.
Uh, it's, but of course, I can't do that. I'm just an English teacher. But maybe Our Man in Abiko can, can lead the troops. And that's how it all began.
EJ: I, I know the fact that you were using this alias, it almost left some people suspicious. They were worried that this Quakebook thing might be a scam, that, uh, the money would be going to you. I mean, why did you choose to remain anonymous?
Our Man: Um, many reasons. I mean, you know, people are suspicious and naturally suspicious, especially when you ask for their money. So, I've been, I've been very clear right from the beginning, no money comes to me or to Quakebook. And we don't even touch the money. It all goes straight to the Red Cross. It goes through Amazon. Um, I, I don't even know exactly how much money there is because we don't touch it.
Um, but, yeah, why did, why be anonymous? Again it's to be a character. I, if I tell you my real name, it's just, “Oh.” You know, nothing interesting there. But if I say, “Well actually I'm the, I'm the leader of the, of the resistance movement to the earthquake and my name's Our Man in Abiko,” you may think I'm kind of crazy, but you think, “OK. Tell me more.” And that's what I wanted. “OK.” You know, ha-ha.
So, and knowing, other reasons are I want to be anonymous, um, so that my family is not involved in this. I didn't know how big this would become. Um, or, you know, I didn't want to bother anybody. So that was another reason. Um, and also, frankly, it's just more fun this way. And it's a, it's a, it was a project born on the Internet, so it deserves to have a sort of Internet identity. So people use crazy names on the Internet, um, but that's why I've, I've been happy to do interviews like this one to prove I am a real person and this isn't a scam. Um, all the money does go to the Red Cross, um ... and that's it.