Witnessing and recording Japan’s history

by

Managing Editor, The Japan Times

Witnessing major historical events is exciting, but it also means challenges for journalists.

In my early days as a staff writer of The Japan Times in the 1990s, tragic events such as the Great Hanshin Earthquake and Aum Shinrikyo’s sarin nerve gas attacks in 1995 kept us busy. That took away reporters’ private time and left us sleep deprived.

Sayuri Daimon
Sayuri Daimon

But the most memorable and shocking event as a journalist came on March 11, 2011.

As one of The Japan Times’ reporters, Alex Martin, wrote: “It started off like any of the other temblors that shake this island nation every so often, a rolling, sideways sway — a familiar sensation for those living in the seismic Pacific Ring of Fire. But this one didn’t go away, as they usually do. Instead, the jolts intensified,” the quake, later named the Great East Japan Earthquake, was nothing like any we had experienced before.

Soon, news reports came in and we learned that the strongest quake in Japan’s history hit off the coast of the Tohoku region. Massive tsunami reaching as high as 15 meters, destroyed more than 100,000 houses, crippled the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant and took the lives of nearly 20,000 people.

Being desperate to find out what was happening and whether possible victims included someone they knew, people who could not understand Japanese kept contacting The Japan Times. I still remember that we were swamped by calls from overseas media seeking first-hand information from Japan. We tweeted and posted our comments on social media, receiving information and encouragement from around the globe.

We worked night and day to publish extra pages filled with information about temporary shelters, radiation readings and safety information. It was a time when we felt that the eyes of the world were glued to Japan.

Today, thanks to the internet, people from all over the world come to our website every day to learn about what’s happening in Japan and how Japan views the rest of the world. What a big change this is from 120 years ago! When The Japan Times was launched in 1897, there was only a paper version of the newspaper, which served a small community of foreign residents in Japan.

In today’s newsroom, editors and reporters of different nationalities with diverse backgrounds work together and exchange opinions, something that I believe gives us rich perspectives and an edge to survive through this difficult time for the media industry.

The environment surrounding us may have changed over the years, but our primary role is still the same. We hope to remain committed to delivering news from Japan and being a world window on Japan for the years to come.


The March 22, 1897, inaugural issue of The Japan Times was filled with ads on the front and back pages with the news crammed into the inside pages, imitating the layout style of The Times of London.
The March 22, 1897, inaugural issue of The Japan Times was filled with ads on the front and back pages with the news crammed into the inside pages, imitating the layout style of The Times of London.
The Sept. 7, 1923, Japan Times & Mail was typewritten and posted at the Imperial Hotel as its headquarters was severely damaged following the Great Kanto Earthquake on Sept. 1, 1923. The cover story describes a devastated Tokyo:
The Sept. 7, 1923, Japan Times & Mail was typewritten and posted at the Imperial Hotel as its headquarters was severely damaged following the Great Kanto Earthquake on Sept. 1, 1923. The cover story describes a devastated Tokyo: ‘There are heaps of dead, many of whom suffocated in railway stations where they crowded in fear of fire. The river Sumida is full of discolored bodies floating face down.’
The Sept. 22, 1923, issue of The Japan Times & Mail shows photos taken after the Great Kanto Earthquake hit Tokyo and the surrounding area.
The Sept. 22, 1923, issue of The Japan Times & Mail shows photos taken after the Great Kanto Earthquake hit Tokyo and the surrounding area.
The front page of Dec. 26, 1926, issue announces the enthronement of Emperor Hirohito and name of the new era to be Showa (Radiant Peace).
The front page of Dec. 26, 1926, issue announces the enthronement of Emperor Hirohito and name of the new era to be Showa (Radiant Peace).
The Front page of The Japan Times on Dec. 8, 1941, reports the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.
The Front page of The Japan Times on Dec. 8, 1941, reports the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.
The front page of the April 12, 1951, edition reports the news of Gen. Douglas MacArthur
The front page of the April 12, 1951, edition reports the news of Gen. Douglas MacArthur’s dismissal from his Far Eastern Command.
The Nov. 24, 1963, issue of The Japan Times reports U.S. President John F. Kennedy
The Nov. 24, 1963, issue of The Japan Times reports U.S. President John F. Kennedy’s assassination;
The Japan Times reports on Nov. 26, 1970, that Yukio Mishima, a well-known writer, committed hara-kiri at the Ground Self-Defense Forces Ichigaya facility in Tokyo.
The Japan Times reports on Nov. 26, 1970, that Yukio Mishima, a well-known writer, committed hara-kiri at the Ground Self-Defense Forces Ichigaya facility in Tokyo.
Crown Prince Naruhito and former career diplomat Masako Owada marry before the Shinto altar at the Imperial Palace on June 9, 1993. This June 10 edition of The Japan Times reports tens of thousands of people turned out in Tokyo to cheer the motorcade of the Imperial couple.
Crown Prince Naruhito and former career diplomat Masako Owada marry before the Shinto altar at the Imperial Palace on June 9, 1993. This June 10 edition of The Japan Times reports tens of thousands of people turned out in Tokyo to cheer the motorcade of the Imperial couple.
The nerve gas sarin, planted by the Aum Shinrikyo cult group on packed commuter subway trains in Tokyo, killed six people and injured nearly 3,230 others on March 20, 1995.
The nerve gas sarin, planted by the Aum Shinrikyo cult group on packed commuter subway trains in Tokyo, killed six people and injured nearly 3,230 others on March 20, 1995.
The Japan Times
The Japan Times’ Sept. 12, 2001, edition shows a huge image of one of the towers of the World Trade Center in New York, which collapsed after terrorists crashed two planes into the iconic buildings.
The Sept. 18, 2002, issue of The Japan Times reports late North Korean leader Kim Jong Il admitted that four Japanese citizens abducted by North Korea in the 1970s and 1980s were still alive.
The Sept. 18, 2002, issue of The Japan Times reports late North Korean leader Kim Jong Il admitted that four Japanese citizens abducted by North Korea in the 1970s and 1980s were still alive.
The front page of the March 12, 2011, issue features breaking news on the previous day
The front page of the March 12, 2011, issue features breaking news on the previous day’s Great East Japan Earthquake.
The front page of the May 28, 2016, issue highlights U.S. President Barack Obama
The front page of the May 28, 2016, issue highlights U.S. President Barack Obama’s visit to Hiroshima.
The front page of the June 5, 2016, issue of The Japan Times On Sunday features the late boxing champion Muhammad Ali.
The front page of the June 5, 2016, issue of The Japan Times On Sunday features the late boxing champion Muhammad Ali.
The front page of the Nov. 27, 2016, issue of The Japan Times On Sunday features the picture of the late Cuban leader Fidel Castro.
The front page of the Nov. 27, 2016, issue of The Japan Times On Sunday features the picture of the late Cuban leader Fidel Castro.

This special supplement issued on Sept. 27, 1914, features an illustration of a Japan Times delivery person.
This special supplement issued on Sept. 27, 1914, features an illustration of a Japan Times delivery person.
A page from a supplement issued on Sept. 27, 1914, is filled with ads.
A page from a supplement issued on Sept. 27, 1914, is filled with ads.
A special supplement on overseas trade issued on Feb. 25, 1927, shows modern products surrounding a Japanese motif.
A special supplement on overseas trade issued on Feb. 25, 1927, shows modern products surrounding a Japanese motif.
Created for the 1940 Tokyo Olympic Games this supplement was issued on Sept. 12, 1936. The games were canceled in July 1938 due to war.
Created for the 1940 Tokyo Olympic Games this supplement was issued on Sept. 12, 1936. The games were canceled in July 1938 due to war.
The special supplement on Manchuria was issued on Sept. 20, 1931, only two days after Manchruian Incident.
The special supplement on Manchuria was issued on Sept. 20, 1931, only two days after Manchruian Incident.
Nippon Times issued a special issue on the Tokyo War Crimes Tribunal on Feb. 27, 1947.
Nippon Times issued a special issue on the Tokyo War Crimes Tribunal on Feb. 27, 1947.

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