The number of Japanese-language articles on Wikipedia has passed the 1 million mark, eclipsing Japan’s most well-known printed encyclopedia and growing by more than 100 entries per day.
The Japanese version of the crowd-sourced online encyclopedia was inaugurated in 2001 following the launch of the prototype English site the same year. The Japanese venture hit milestones of 100,000 entries in 2005, half a million three years later and 1 million in January this year.
Japanese ranks 13th in entry volume, following Vietnamese, among the nearly 300-language varieties of the Wikipedia world funded by the U.S. nonprofit Wikimedia Foundation. English has the most extensive coverage with more than 5 million items.
Japanese publisher Heibonsha Ltd. said its 34-book World Encyclopedia has 90,000 entries.
While paper versions typically undergo rigorous scrutiny by editors and experts, Wikipedia has been criticized for its sometimes sketchy quality, including articles with dubious elements owing to the nature of its platform that allows anyone to alter posts online.
There are, however, some pieces of writing that have drawn attention for their high quality or meticulous information comparable to those authored by professional researchers.
One available in the Japanese version is an article on a parasite-borne infectious disease that troubled a central region of Japan for centuries. The entry detailed the history of locating the cause and its eradication.
The lengthy article is written under the Japanese entry chihobyo, literally meaning “a regional disease,” a name coined locally by people in Yamanashi Prefecture for Schistosomiasis japonica.
Yoshio Nakao, director of Sugiura Memorial Museum featuring exhibits on the disease in the town of Showa, Yamanashi Prefecture, says the article “is extremely accurate and detailed and has a narrative that goes with it.”
The main writer of the entry is Wataru Ono, 47, a self-employed man from the prefectural capital, Kofu. He says he heard about the disease that tormented local people when he was a child. While writing about monuments and other places of note in the prefecture, he learned of efforts made by researchers and other people in pining down the parasite and eradicating the illness.
Kumiko Korezumi, a librarian at Kyoto Prefectural Library who is familiar with Wikipedia, says the project “is increasing articles with richer content than conventional encyclopedias, especially on new terms. It’s very useful so long as we keep in mind that the accuracy of the content has not been confirmed.”