What is the deal with so many photographers over there not bothering with internet sites? If I had to take a guess I’d say it’s maybe because of all the small self-run galleries, so photographers can potentially get exposure that way where they couldn’t in other parts of the world. Or is it Jun Abe’s policy? But it does seem kind of weird by today’s standards.
I’ll take a quick stab at answering this question. The short answer, of course, is that “there are a few reasons.” In particular…
Communication. This is a combination of the language barrier, plus a different usage of social networks (which also has to do with the language barrier). More and more Japanese photographers are starting to use Facebook, which will help, especially if they can muster the courage to post with even the most minimal level of English. Some people have websites but you can’t find (let alone read) them. It’s shocking to me how many actually really good websites are out there, and even have an English version, but haven’t made the slightest effort to promote themselves to a foreign audience! Parapera and spacecadet.jp come to mind.
No interest, or awareness of reaching an online audience. A lot can actually be accomplished without a website here, just by meeting people. I don’t think it’s viewed as particularly unprofessional to not have a website, either. Apart from that, I think a lot of people might have never even considered reaching an audience outside of Japan. Whether this is a kind of psychological, self-defeating attitude or just simply not caring, I’m not sure. It’s strange to think of in today’s Tumblrized world, but I don’t know of too many Japanese photo students who have a good website. (I’m starting to look harder.)
The Japanese internet is different than the Western internet. Technically, of course, this is not true, but many people point to the fast development of cell phone technology in Japan as a reason that the terrestrial internet has lagged behind. Basically this story goes that, because Japanese people could surf a miniaturized version of the internet on their cellphones in the mid-90s, the development of the full-screen web experience was stunted. Compare the websites of Japan’s Bic Camera with B&H and you can see this in practice.
I’m sure there are some others, and this is a huge question which I can already see branching out to include other topics like social networks, etc. In any case, it’s definitely not a “policy” of Abe’s, I’m guessing the thought of creating a website has literally never crossed his mind. If I think of more stuff I’ll add it here, if anyone has any other thoughts let me know.