If you're not familiar with what "Chinese Whispers" is, it's the game where you say something and whisper it to another person who in turn whispers it to another and so on. By the time the phrase reaches the last person, it's distorted and incorrect. The less ethnically insensitive name for this game is supposed to be "Telephone", but I've never heard it referred to as such. My apologies in advance for using a name which may be offensive, but I didn't want to name this post "Telephone" because it'd be very misleading.
This game came to mind recently because I foolishly swung by one of the better-known and more widely-participated in foreigner forums. I had forgotten the forum was around until someone recently recommended that Joseph at Tame Goes Wild visit it as a resource for information about some aspects of life here. I have also been shackled to the computer on and off today doing telephone tests and ran out of things to read so I ambled over to see what was shaking. I won't give the name of this forum, but it begins with "G" and ends with "t" and has a word for a cooking implement as part of its name. You'll recognize it if you've heard of it before. If you don't, you really don't need to know what it is and I'll tell you why in the remainder of this post.
First of all, the forums are full of people who have nothing better to do with their time than to post about their contempt and derision for various other people. You name it, they hate someone for it. Most of all, unsurprisingly, they hate other foreigners and those who teach in particular. Presumably, the teacher haters live in Japan and aren't teaching so one must wonder what sort of profession is allowing them to waste their valuable time making angry posts about other people. I'm guessing such non-teaching jobs are not very fulfilling or they'd be a bit nicer people and have less time on their hands.
The primary reason for not bothering with such forums isn't the angry people. The big reason is that they are chock full of misinformation. I would assume that people aren't simply making up all of the "wisdom" they are imparting about all things related to life in Japan. I believe that all of the incorrect "help" can only be the unfortunate consequence of the equivalent of "Chinese Whispers". Someone read or heard something then told someone else who told someone else and so on until it reached the end of the line and no longer bore any resemblance to the reality.
I knew that the forums had this unfortunate tendency before (which is why I stopped reading them... that and all the ugly attitudes), but my memory was refreshed when I did a search on the name of my husband's current place of employment out of curiosity. I found about 5 posts about his employer and all of them were largely or completely wrong. I don't bother to correct such people because I've decided not to do that anymore, but also because there is no way for an astute reader to tell whose ship is sailing straight in a sea of misinformation. There would really be no point. I just want to caution anyone who visits forums for foreigners living in Japan to take anything they read with a giant vat of salt.