In 1874–1875, hundreds of colorful nishiki-e (woodblock prints) pictorialized individual articles previously published in Tokyo’s main daily newspapers. Because many prints foregrounded violent, sexual, and supernatural themes, they have been viewed as “hybrid” Edo-Meiji media forms that demonstrate an imperfect understanding of what constituted the news. In the context of 1870s’ urban culture, however, news nishiki-e were part of a broader category of “old media”—including theater, short illustrated fiction, and oral storytelling—that self-consciously incorporated the newly prominent term shinbun (news or newspaper). These prints exploited the indeterminacy of images and the possibilities of text-image interplay to draw out social tensions and encourage audiences to reflect critically on changes wrought by the Restoration. Because the choice of what to think always remained with the reader-viewer, the disappearance of news nishiki-e thus constituted the loss of a mode of criticality.
新聞錦絵は、 1874 年に登場し、以前報道された殺人や猥雑な事件を色彩豊かな錦絵で表象した。「古いメディア」の絵の不確定性、書画の相互交錯を駆使しつつ、新造語の「新聞」を意識的に取り入れ、読者に社会的緊張を自主的に思索するよう促したメディアであった。