Writing for Gawker, Neetzan Zimmerman states that a Japanese website, Naver Matome, “has finally exposed the real reason why so many Japanese kids have been showing up at school wearing eye patches: They've contracted pink eye after engaging in the intimate act known as "eyeball licking." That's weird but if it’s on the Internet, I guess it must be true.
Guess again says Tokyo-based journalist Mark Schreiber. Thinking there was more (or perhaps less) to this story than meets the eye, Schreiber took a good hard look at the source of Naver Matome’s story. It turned out to be Bucchi News, a subculture website produced by Core Magazine, a less-than-reputable institution whose offices Schreiber notes were “raided by police on suspicion of obscenity last April.” Not only that the Tokyo-based scribe goes on to chronicle that in 2006 an editor of one of Core’s biggest magazines “had the distinction of becoming the first person in Japan arrested under new laws banning child pornography.”
Schreiber says that “knowing the background of the story’s publisher didn’t instill much confidence in its veracity.” In fact this tall tale-debunking reporter went so far as to do some actual fact-checking into the dubious claims about the eyeball licking- induced epidemic sweeping Japan's middle schools. After calling a couple of Japanese ophthalmological associations and more he says, “none of them had the faintest idea of what I was talking about.”
I guess when you’re a gawker, it’s easy to overlook the facts.
If you want a real eye-opener, take a gawk at "Lick This!" by Mark Schreiber and read how the tale of a fake fad made in Japan made its way to Gawker as well as other online outlets and the pages of newspapers, magazines, and more all around the world.
Related MediaBug reports:
Neetzan Zimmerman contacted me via email to let me know that Gawker has updated the story as follows:
UPDATE: Snopes has rated this trend "Fake" based on an article by "Tokyo-based journalist Mark Schreiber" who traced its origins to a story on a subculture website that "had all the trappings of an urban legend."
Though Schreiber, who spoke with the story's author, was unable to definitively disprove that the activity had taken or was taking place, he was at least able to debunk the idea that the phenomenon was "widespread" among Japanese youths.