toast to the times

Reliable news sources crucial for making informed decisions

by Takeharu Tsutsumi

President, The Japan Times

Takeharu Tsutsumi
Takeharu Tsutsumi

On the momentous and historic occasion of the 120th anniversary of the inauguration of The Japan Times, it is a great pleasure and honor for me to address you as president and celebrate this unique moment with our esteemed readers, who have provided such a long and lasting patronage of our paper. The Japan Times deeply recognizes that we could not have reached this significant milestone without the backing of our entire support base. As such, I would like to extend my heartfelt gratitude to all of our readers and supporters who have made this glorious achievement possible. Furthermore, we are proud that we can continue to seek out and implement new ways to add value in the marketplace and gladly look to our business partnership with The New York Times as a highly respected means of providing additional world-class English journalism to everyone here in Japan.

In the Meiji Era, several foreign settlements remained in Japan after the imposition of the so-called unequal treaties on the country. Residents of those districts were conferred extraterritoriality, which led to strong resentment among Japanese people. The Japan Times was established as an attempt to convey to the 5,000 or so foreign residents of those settlements the current state of affairs in Japan in English. Our first edition, published on March 22, 1897, carried an editorial that described the two missions of the newspaper. One mission was to develop and promote a better understanding between the Japanese people and foreign residents, while the other was to report on and explain Japan’s foreign policy, behavior and place in the world. Today, this agenda remains largely unchanged. In fact, it is now more important than ever in this rapidly changing global environment. I promise here that The Japan Times will continue to play an invaluable role in providing both news from an independent Japanese perspective that other media do not carry, as well as the necessary information that foreign people need to help with their daily lives here in Japan.

We are living in an era where science and technology are progressing extremely rapidly and situations change in the blink of an eye. There are many media reports on the huge impact of artificial intelligence on human society. Such progress is moving at an exponential rate and we are told that it could take us to astonishing places in the very near future. This is perhaps a double-edged sword. On the one hand, people become nervous and anxious over an uncertain future, but on the other hand, it provides us with an opportunity to really consider what is essential and plan for the future.

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Media Lab formulated and set nine key ideas known as “The Principles.” These nine statements describe nine major guiding principles for life in a changed world paradigm in the post-internet era. Each guiding principle is itself a suggestive phrase or approach, but one that I feel truly represents the future symbolically is “Compasses over Maps.” This principle asks us to realize that having a compass is more important than having a map. In this age of intense and lightning-fast change maps can become obsolete and overwritten immediately. In other words, even the latest map is out of date in a short time. However, if you have a compass with a clear destination, then you will know which way to go regardless of how much or how often the terrain and boundary lines change. While the outlook is uncertain, business strategy now requires breaking new ground and moving into uncharted territory to generate success. For us to plot this course, defining our own coordinates has become more important than ever.

The current offices of The Japan Times in Shibaura.
The current offices of The Japan Times in Shibaura. | YOSHIAKI MIURA

Last year, The Japan Times quickly sold out at many newspaper stands the day after the U.S. presidential election. Even in this day and age when there is an abundance of free news online, a vast number of people still care to buy print newspapers at places such as train stations. I do not mean to say that I am relieved that straight or breaking news still sells newspapers. I believe that the phenomenon itself of our newspaper being sold out indicates that people are looking to The Japan Times to be their compass. People are eager to understand what’s happening and what’s coming next. This reminds us that our core work is, and must continue to be, providing our readers with reliable material from which they can make informed decisions regarding their daily lives. I mention “reliable information” because as the amount of information that is distributed digitally increases, the demand for reliable information within that increases, too.

The Japan Times itself started from an attempt to solve a social problem. Since that time and over 120 years we have surmounted myriad difficulties in continuing to fulfill that same role and function. With our history in mind, we continue to think about how to create shared value today. How can we continue to be a company that contributes to society and how can we establish sustainability? The answers to these questions must and do involve you, our readers, and I would like to conclude by again asking you all for your continued support, guidance and encouragement as we navigate and document the years to come.

The Japan Times, whose office was just behind Tokyo
The Japan Times, whose office was just behind Tokyo’s Imperial Hotel, was temporarily renamed the Nippon Times during World War II.

Download the PDF of this 120th Anniversary Special


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