Chapter 10. Leading a Public, 1905 to 1912
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C H A P T E R 1 0 310 LEADING A PUBLIC 1905 to 1912 A newspaper is like a morning glory. . . . It lives only for a morning; in the afternoon it becomes wastepaper. Kuroiwa Shûroku1 Newspapers today are commercial products . . . their aim is to increase sales and profits. Yamaji Aizan2 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 Tògò Heihachirò of Tsushima naval fame thanked the masses for their wartime support, and the people indulged in a feast of thanksgiving, more organized but nearly as fervent as their angry outbursts seven weeks earlier.3 Something strange surely must have occurred, as citizens who had cursed and spit at the authorities in September joined them in praising the troops in October. Or had it? At one level, these urban minshû were making it clear that their protests had not been against the establishment per se, that while they might cry out bit- Leading a Public 311 terly against “corrupt politicians” and “vacillating officials,” they supported the same national causes as those officials did. At another level, they were demonstrating just how quickly “normal” times could be expected to return in modern, urban Japan. Like the political upheaval of 1881 and the outcry over the Tripartite Intervention in 1895, the Hibiya outburst seemed, at least in the short run, to be all the venting the people needed. Catharsis accomplished, they returned to the usual routine of making a living during the week and celebrating when given an opportunity. It was almost as if the Hibiya tumult had not occurred. For the press, that meant a new normalcy of its own journalistic type, a return to the profit-oriented, news-based, minshû-centered journalism that had emerged during the fourth Meiji decade. This is not to say that things went back to the pre-1904 status quo. We already have seen how much the war changed the press, how it increased readership and demanded more expensive newsgathering methods, the way it undermined some of the livelier but less well endowed papers, the role it played in bringing populism and nationalism together. Those changes were not ephemeral. But as the wartime frenzy passed, the editors were able to resume, somewhat more reflectively, what had become the standard day-to-day tasks of journalism by now: fine-tuning the methods and institutions for producing , selling, and delivering the daily “news” package, finding an editorial-reportorial blend that would satisfy popular tastes without wholly abandoning ideas of the “public good,” and struggling with the authorities to influence policy and obtain wider freedom for their own writers. MODERN TIMES, SHIFTING VALUES The most important reason the papers did not return to the prewar status quo was that society would not let them do so. All the forces of change that we observed in the 1890s continued now, with enough momentum that contemporary observers began to describe the Russo-Japanese War in grand historical terms, as the beginning of a frenetic, often frightening, kind of modernity that had to be confronted lest the country lose its way. Several features of the new era merely marked an acceleration of prewar trends: movement of people from the provinces to the cities, the appearance of new jobs, the maturation of the educational system. Another of the changes, however, was relatively new. As never before, these years saw the 312 Creating a Public breathtaking transformation of urban material culture—and, most alarmingly for many old-timers, of the commoners’ value systems. The migration into the urban centers, from “villages that have been bled for all they are worth,” was particularly striking to many of the intellectuals. “Everyone and his brother is setting out for the city,” said Yokoi Tokiyoshi in 1907, “as if gripped by a kind of fever.” And he was right about the brothers at least, as younger sons and their friends moved into Tokyo and Osaka at rates approaching 40,000 a year (109 a day) now, pushing Tokyo past the two million mark in 1906.4 They moved not only to escape rural poverty...


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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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