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Creating a Public

People and Press in Meiji Japan

James L. Huffman

Publication Year: 1997

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.

Published by: University of Hawai'i Press


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pp. vi-viii

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pp. ix-x

I am a debtor. This study has been under way for two decades, and with each passing week I have become more and more aware of the crucial role played by those friends and colleagues who have plowed the furrows before (and sometimes beside) me, lightened my research load, prodded me to keep going, and provided unending sustenance...

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pp. 1-11

Something remarkable happened to Japan’s commoners, or minshû, 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 Sohò’s words, “as heaven...

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Chapter 1. The Legacy: In Spite of the Authorities

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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...

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Chapter 2. Coming into Being, 1868

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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...

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Chapter 3. Serving the Government, 1868 to 1874

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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. Chûgai Shimbun’s Yanagawa went back to work at the translation bureau, which had been renamed again, this time the Kaisei Gakkò, or School for Carrying Out the Opening...

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Chapter 4. Finding Its Own Voice, 1874 to 1881

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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...

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Chapter 5. Serving the Political Parties, 1881 to 1886

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pp. 111-149

The ancestral spirits must have returned troubled from Tokyo’s bon festival 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...

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Chapter 6. Developing a New Persona, 1886 to 1894

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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...

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Chapter 7. Reporting a War, 1894 to 1895

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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...

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Chapter 8. Building a Mass Base, 1895 to 1903

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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 ...

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Chapter 9. Covering a Bigger War, 1903 to 1905

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pp. 271-309

Yorozu Chōhō hawkers 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 at Yorozu...

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Chapter 10. Leading a Public, 1905 to 1912

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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...

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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...

Appendix One. A Chronology of Leading Tokyo and Osaka Papers

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pp. 381-385

Appendix Two. Circulation of Major Papers, 1875–1915

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pp. 386-387

Appendix Three. Selected Subscription Rates (sen per month)

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p. 388-388

Appendix Four. Number of Registered Newspapers and Magazines, 1897–1911

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pp. 389-390

Appendix Five. Newspapers and the Law

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pp. 391-392

Appendix Six. Fifty Journalists: Biographical Sketches

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pp. 393-402


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pp. 403-510


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pp. 511-544


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pp. 545-573

E-ISBN-13: 9780824862015
Print-ISBN-13: 9780824818821

Publication Year: 1997

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Press and politics -- Japan -- History -- 19th century.
  • Press -- Japan -- History -- 19th century.
  • Japan -- History -- Meiji period, 1868-1912.
  • Public interest -- Japan -- History -- 19th century.
  • Journalism -- Social aspects -- Japan -- History -- 19th century.
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