In the U.S., His Site Has Been Linked to Massacres. In Japan, He’s a Star.

In 2004, 2chan went mainstream with the publication of “Train Man,” a collection of posts from the board that purportedly showed how users had helped a hapless nerd woo the woman of his dreams. The story became a best-selling book, a blockbuster movie and a popular TV show. It made 2chan the most heavily trafficked site in Japan.

While most users discussed hobbies or griped about work, others threatened murder, posted bomb threats and spawned reckless conspiracy theories. A flood of posts from far-right users denied Japan’s war crimes and contributed to a nationwide rise in anti-Korean hate.

As Mr. Nishimura profited handsomely from the site — earning as much as $100,000 a month — he also became adept at dodging its costs. By his own account, he was sued more than 100 times over 2chan posts. He refused to pay at least $1 million in court judgments, pointing to the lack of criminal penalties for doing so.

“If I would be put to death for not paying, I would. But nothing’s going to happen to me if I don’t pay, so I won’t,” he told reporters after a 2007 court hearing.

For Mr. Nishimura, dodging the lawsuits — like everything else related to 2chan — was “just a game,” said Eichiro Fukami, who worked closely with Mr. Nishimura on 2chan-related projects for years. Mr. Fukami successfully sued Mr. Nishimura for libel after Mr. Nishimura had accused him of embezzlement.

Mr. Nishimura, he said, spent countless hours thinking up ways to avoid laws and regulations. The servers used by 2chan were based in the United States, beyond the reach of Japanese law. At one point, Mr. Nishimura considered declaring the site a religious organization to receive a tax exemption, Mr. Fukami said.

“He was always moving at the very edge of the rules,” he added.

As the reputational costs of 2chan grew, Mr. Nishimura sought to distance himself. In early 2009, he suddenly announced that he had sold the site and severed his connections. He wrote a book titled “The Reason I Threw Away 2chan.”


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