Creating a Public

Creating a Public: People and Press in Meiji Japan

James L. Huffman
Copyright Date: 1997
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  • Book Info
    Creating a Public
    Book Description:

    No institution did more to create a modern citizenry than the newspaper press of the Meiji period (1868-1912). Here was a collection of highly diverse, private voices that provided increasing numbers of readers--many millions by the end of the period--with both its fresh picture of the world and a changing sense of its own place in that world. Creating a Public is the first comprehensive history of Japan's early newspaper press to appear in English in more than half a century. Drawing on decades of research in newspaper articles and editorials, journalists' memoirs and essays, it tells the story of Japan's newspaper press from its elitist beginnings just before the fall of the Tokugawa regime through its years as a shaper of a new political system in the 1880s to its emergence as a nationalistic, often sensational, medium early in the twentieth century.

    eISBN: 978-0-8248-6201-5
    Subjects: History, Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
    (pp. 1-11)

    Something remarkable happened to Japan’s commoners, orminshū, during the Meiji era. In 1868, at the period’s outset, the vast majority of them were subjects and nothing more, as far removed from the government, in journalist Tokutomi Sohō’s words, “as heaven is from hell.”³ When his august majesty died forty-five years later, in 1912, their grandchildren were displaying the characteristics of modern citizens: writing letters to newspaper editors to discuss debates in the legislature, marching in the streets by the tens of thousands to demand lower streetcar fares and an aggressive foreign policy, using phrases such as “constitutionalism” and “the...

  5. CHAPTER 1 THE LEGACY: In Spite of the Authorities
    (pp. 12-35)

    Historians outside the mainstream occasionally argue that East Asia has a long-standing free speech tradition, that early-Meiji popular rights advocates drew inspiration not only from Western philosophers but from a long line of Eastern forebears. They point to quite a rich heritage in making their case: to Man’yōshū poets who defiantly proclaimed the dignity of paupers;² to assertions in the ChineseBook of Historythat “Heaven embraces the people and shall heed the wishes of the people,”³ to seventh-century Korean practices that permitted commoners to communicate with their rulers, to Japan’s “first press infraction”(hikka jiken), in a.d. 837, when...

    (pp. 36-45)

    Seldom does real life give historians undisputed markers for organizing the past into chronological categories. The battle at Sekigahara in October 1600, for example, seems at first glance to provide a clear starting point for the Tokugawa era, but specialists have spent careers arguing whether the new era really began then, or in 1603 when Ieyasu became shogun, or in 1598 when Toyotomi Hideyoshi died, or even decades later when Tokugawa control was indisputable. So too with January 3, 1868, the day of the Meiji Restoration. The palace coup provides a convenient milepost, especially useful for undergraduate tests on modern...

    (pp. 46-67)

    Government officials took more interest in newspapers than the original journalists did themselves in the years immediately following Fukuchi’s 1868 jailing.Chūgai Shimbun’s Yanagawa went back to work at the translation bureau, which had been renamed again, this time the Kaisei Gakkō, or School for Carrying Out the Opening, to reflect its increasing emphasis on education in Western sciences and languages. He was assigned to continue work as a translator, then was made a senior professor, but though he accepted a government paycheck, he expressed his feeling about the new regime by working at home rather than going to the...

  8. CHAPTER 4 FINDING ITS OWN VOICE, 1874 to 1881
    (pp. 68-110)

    Political crises propelled much of the press’ evolution during the first two Meiji decades. Thus, when ugly government squabbles were leaked to the public in 1873, then again when scandals rocked the Council of State in 1881, the official world’s own troubles sparked a different, but equally significant, set of upheavals in newspaper circles. And those upheavals in the end helped the press evolve from its early role as a tool of the authorities into a relatively independent medium of public discussion—indeed, into the first private medium with a public voice that Japan ever had experienced. Out of the...

    (pp. 111-149)

    The ancestral spirits must have returned troubled from Tokyo’sbonfestival in the summer of 1881. Japan’s economy was staggering under stringent retrenchment policies aimed at countering years of serious and debilitating inflation; junior councillors were waxing venomous in their debates over what kind of governing system Japan should have; unrest over taxes and political impotence was spreading like a fever in the towns and villages; and officials were whispering behind closed doors about the “land scandal” in Hokkaido. What only the most prescient among those spirits could have known, however, was that all the troubles would erupt soon in...

    (pp. 150-198)

    Monday, February 11, 1889, was a reporter’s dream (and nightmare)—full of promise at daybreak, disastrous by mid-morning, glorious later, and brimming with news enough to fill a month of papers. It snowed in the villages of Gunma that morning, and silk merchants piled barrels of sake into high monuments, while housewives cooked special rice for those who had not trekked off to Tokyo to join the capital celebrations. Before the day was out, the Emperor Meiji had given his people a new constitution; a Shintō nationalist had assassinated Education Minister Mori Arinori, an amnesty had given freedom to scores...

  11. CHAPTER 7 REPORTING A WAR, 1894 to 1895
    (pp. 199-223)

    If Diet quarrels stimulated a public thirst for news at the beginning of the 1890s, rising tensions with Korea and China had the same effect, multiplied several times, in the summer of 1894. Japanese officials had regarded Korea as crucial to their own security since the first Meiji years and twice had seriously considered going to war there to assure Korean cooperation with Japan’s Asian plans. The first episode, in 1873, resulted in Saigō Takamori’s dramatic departure from the government, and the second, in 1885, produced the Tianjin Convention, in which Japan and China, Korea’s other dominating neighbor, agreed to...

  12. CHAPTER 8 BUILDING A MASS BASE, 1895 to 1903
    (pp. 224-270)

    Wars produce unanticipated consequences, for the winners as well as the losers. They touch nerves, change relationships, and create social forces that generals and diplomats never foresee. Certainly that was the case in Japan after 1895, at the end of the Sino-Japanese War, for the journalists as much as for the political and military leaders. Any editor who expected the end of fighting to bring back a more relaxed style of journalism must have received a shock, because if the war months had created a maelstrom of change, the late 1890s found the press in an unstoppable typhoon, produced in...

  13. CHAPTER 9 COVERING A BIGGER WAR, 1903 to 1905
    (pp. 271-309)

    Yorozu Chōhōhawkers must have had a field day on October 12, 1903. At the top of that morning’s issue were editorials by three of Japan’s best known journalists—Uchimura Kanzō, Sakai Toshihiko, and Kōtoku Shūsui—explaining their decision to leave the paper. Uchimura, who had argued in an editorial a few days earlier that “supporting war with Russia was tantamount to supporting the destruction of Japan,”² wrote now that for him to remain atYorozuwould make the paper “lose society’s confidence.” Sakai and Kōtoku declared in a joint essay that “keeping silent” about their own opposition to war...

  14. CHAPTER 10 LEADING A PUBLIC, 1905 to 1912
    (pp. 310-358)

    The citizens of Tokyo massed again on their city streets late in October 1905, 250,000 strong this time and with quite a different purpose than they had had at Hibiya. Responding now to an imperial call, they walked through triumphal arches and rode festooned streetcars to another “people’s park,” the one at Ueno, where they officially welcomed the imperial navy home from battle. Meiji himself presided over the ceremonies; Mayor Ozaki Yukio led the cheers; Admiral Tōgō Heihachirō of Tsushima naval fame thanked the masses for their wartime support, and the people indulged in a feast of thanksgiving, more organized...

  15. Conclusion
    (pp. 359-380)

    Bringing a study of the Japanese press to a conclusion in the summer of 1912 is a bit like stopping at the ninth stage of a climb up Mt. Fuji. We have seen and felt nearly all of the terrain—the enticement of higher profits on ahead, the energizing winds of populism, the treacherous, unending threats of the authorities—yet we have not reached the summit. To stop with the death of the emperor, just before so many of the late-Meiji trends reached their fullness, seems artificial. Written history is like that, demanding that one start and end processes that...

  16. APPENDIX ONE A Chronology of Leading Tokyo and Osaka Papers
    (pp. 381-385)
  17. APPENDIX TWO Circulation of Major Papers, 1875–1915
    (pp. 386-387)
  18. APPENDIX THREE Selected Subscription Rates (sen per month)
    (pp. 388-388)
  19. APPENDIX FOUR Number of Registered Newspapers and Magazines, 1897–1911
    (pp. 389-390)
  20. APPENDIX FIVE Newspapers and the Law
    (pp. 391-392)
  21. APPENDIX SIX Fifty Journalists: Biographical Sketches
    (pp. 393-402)
  22. Notes
    (pp. 403-510)
    (pp. 511-544)
  24. Index
    (pp. 545-573)
  25. Back Matter
    (pp. 574-574)