One Mutant Frog You Won’t Want To Miss

By Dominique Flemings

One of my girlfriends in college was something of a tomboy. She had and has an intrinsic fascination for all things amphibian, and when you couldn’t reach her on her cell phone, it typically meant that she was out traipsing along the river that wound its way around the college. One day, she came back with a discovery that no doubt sealed her fate as a biology major; a squirming paper sack containing a frog with not two but three legs. I was appalled, and she was fascinated.

Since then, she seems to have never gotten over her obsession for animals with extraneous limbs, despite her professional and refined image as a researcher. This is evidenced by the emails I receive now and then with the subject “WEIRD [insert animal name here] PICS – THESE ARE GREAT.” I try not to open them before meals.

Her most recent email to me was not one of links to various biological grotesqueries, though I had suspected as much by the subject: “MUTANT FROG – MIGHT BE GOOD FOR YOUR WEBSITE.” I was going respond and explain that I reviewed websites and blogs, not natural oddities, but it turned out that my friend had discovered a good website while searching for “mutated frogs.”

Unlike most mutant frogs I have seen, Mutant Frog Travelogue is not only endurable but an enjoyable website to read. We really have not reviewed any websites that focus on delivering commentary on everyday news with a bit of dry wit and analysis, and Mutant Frog is an excellent first example of that style writing.

I must admit, however, that the quality of the writing is not the first thing to occur to you. The rather overt yellow background stuck out like a sore thumb and proceeded to make my eyes a little sore, too, but I suppose that the color is in theme with the title and motif of the website’s décor. As an interior designer, I am not allowed to critique style (“Art is subjective,” my professors would chide me), but only quality, and the layout of the website is in keeping with the theme desired by its creators, Adam Richards, Joe Jones and Roy Berman.

Plus, there is little use in letting personal taste overshadow the content that lies within the site. The stories you’ll find on the website are certainly not the average daily news – the writers seem very capable at finding an obscure news story or subject concerning anything and giving it some real life relevance. Story subjects vary from the quirks of NHK to the Democratic Party of Japan; forgiveness to life expectancy of those living here. It’s certainly not an assortment that you would see on the home page of GaijinPot. You never really know what you might find the next time they post another story.

On first glance, the site might seem slightly cynical at times, but I think a better adjective is realistic. While those who know me know I have a profound dislike of those who come to Japan and complain about everything and anything they find here, I also realize that there are parts of Japan which can be irksome and it’s good to point these out so they can be dealt with, rather than ignore them. The folks at Mutant Frog have created a good balance in that they are quite content living here but realize it’s no utopia. Consequently, they’re able to enjoy themselves much more, applying some wit and common sense to those oddities of Japan.

With that realism comes an almost patriotic viewpoint of a country in some stories, which is something I appreciate. Too often do we forget that, despite our non-citizenship, Japan is still very much our home away from home, and ought to be treated accordingly. Mutant Frog has a genuine like for the country, and that is essential in being able to call this place “home” and mean it.

Mutant Frog is a site that can be viewed in perhaps the same way as my friend viewed that frog and its third leg – different, unique and fascinating. Each article is a intriguing bit of news that I’d be hard pressed to find elsewhere online, accompanied by a way of looking at the situation I’d never have thought of. And thank goodness that, unlike my college biology course, there is no dissection required. Thumbs up to this online amphibian.


~ by Japan Blog Review on October 5, 2010.

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