Toast to the Times

Workers load The Japan Times newspapers for shipping in a photo dated Feb. 27, 1967.
Workers load The Japan Times newspapers for shipping in a photo dated Feb. 27, 1967.

Hiroyasu Ando

President, The Japan Foundation

Hiroyasu Ando, President, The Japan Foundation
Hiroyasu Ando, President, The Japan Foundation

I would like to extend my heartfelt congratulations on the occasion of the 120th anniversary of The Japan Times.

The Japan Times has been presenting the true aspects of Japan to the world since the Meiji Era. The nation’s largest English newspaper, supported by ardent readers of every nationality, has yet reached another milestone. It is truly impressive.

The Japan Foundation has been striving too, since 1972, in realizing valuable international exchange, as a public institution with its goal to raise recognition of Japan among the international society. Our activities are based on the three pillars of culture and art exchange, Japanese language education overseas and promoting Japanese studies and intellectual exchange.

Recently, the trend in Japan is to vigorously publicize the true image of Japan. We, the Japanese, need to make more efforts to spread globally the Japanese lifestyle and values, while promoting our society, which is peaceful, safe and convenient.

However, with globalization spreading across the world, it is needless to say that international exchange must be mutual, rather than one-way. Japan and other countries working together to create new cultures and values, with due respect for each characteristic, is another important task we must take on.
With such insight, the Japan Foundation will stay fully committed in international exchange with many countries and regions.

Kojiro Shiraishi

Chairman, The Japan Newspaper Publishers and Editors Association

Kojiro Shiraishi, Chairman, The Japan Newspaper Publishers and Editors Association
Kojiro Shiraishi, Chairman, The Japan Newspaper Publishers and Editors Association

I would like to offer my heartfelt congratulations to The Japan Times on its 120th anniversary on behalf of the Japan Newspaper Publishers and Editors Association.

The Japan Times was founded on March 22, 1897, and is Japan’s oldest English language newspaper. In The Japan Times’ inaugural editorial, Motosada Zumoto, the chief editor stressed the important role of The Japan Times by stating: “The importance of some public organs honestly endeavoring to explain things and smooth the way between foreigners and Japanese cannot be too strongly urged. If there has ever been a real want for a new journalistic enterprise, we may fairly claim that such has been the case with The Japan Times.”

The role that the English newspaper plays to promote international understanding has never changed. I have the utmost respect for their constant dedication of covering current news of Japan and the world that has resulted in building a strong trust with readers.

The Japan Times has been the member of The Japan Newspaper Publishers and Editors Association since its establishment in 1946. The Japan Times has kindly understood and cooperated with our activities through the years.

In recent years, the need for English information has increased due to rising numbers of foreign tourists and diversification of global interaction. The existence of English language newspapers that accurately convey the situation in Japan is becoming more important than ever.

With the motto of “All the news without fear or favor,” The Japan Times has been maintaining an editorial policy for coverage and reporting by dedicated English-speaking reporters.

This original information in English is recognized as being highly reliable. The role as a trusted English language newspaper with a long history will further expand as the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games approach.

The environment surrounding the world is getting closer due to development of internet media, the phenomenon of decreasing young readers and depopulation. On the other hand, it is also a fact that the value of the reliable information of newspapers, analysis and solutions, in addition to the function to organize and convey a variety of information, have been re-recognized in recent years.

I expect that The Japan Times, as the window of Japan to the world, will continue dedicating itself to the promotion of international understanding by disseminating high-quality information both domestically and overseas.

I hope The Japan Times, drawing on its 120 years of history and reader trust, will continue to make further advancements.

Masaki Fukuyama

President, Kyodo News

Masaki Fukuyama, President, Kyodo News
Masaki Fukuyama, President, Kyodo News

I would like to offer my sincere congratulations to The Japan Times on the 120th anniversary of its founding.

This coming year will be a major challenge for newspapers and journalists as the world continues to undergo significant changes and transitions. International developments are becoming increasingly uncertain, and the circumstances surrounding the media industry are rapidly changing with the advance of information technology and artificial intelligence.

Meanwhile, the number of foreign travelers visiting Japan marked a record high last year, topping 24 million, and there are predictions that the number will reach 27 million this year. It is becoming more and more important to distribute information about Japan in English. On this point, the expectations readers have of The Japan Times are higher than ever.

Last year, Britain voted to leave the European Union in a national referendum, while the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump was inaugurated earlier this year with its “America-first” policy. In the EU, populist parties against mass immigration are gaining more support, with this year’s presidential election in France and general elections in Germany drawing attention. The situation in East Asia is also becoming uncertain, with North Korea heightening tensions by developing nuclear weapons and test-firing missiles in defiance of the global community, while political confusion continues in South Korea. Some experts say the recent world situation looks like that of the early 20th century. I understand that news articles published by The Japan Times in those days are still a major source of information for researchers looking into Japanese politics and society at that time.

Kyodo News is strengthening its distribution of news articles in English, Chinese and Korean, in addition to Japanese. We are determined to contribute further to The Japan Times and its newspaper publications and deepen our long cooperative relationship.

As social networking services grow with the spread of smartphones, the time has come when everybody — from politicians to movie stars and athletes — can send information by themselves. It is becoming more important than ever before for media organizations to confirm whether information is true. For 120 years The Japan Times has been reporting what happens in Japan in a fair and accurate manner. I believe that readers’ trust in the newspaper and its achievements will continue.

Masao Omuro

President, Jiji Press

Masao Omuro, President, Jiji Press
Masao Omuro, President, Jiji Press

I offer my heartfelt congratulations on the 120th anniversary of the founding of The Japan Times. At the same time, I would like to take this opportunity to pay my respects to the past and present staff of the publisher for their strenuous efforts to sustain The Japan Times and lead its growth as the oldest English-language daily in Japan continues to provide a broad range of information to the world.

The Japan Times is a quality tool for Japanese businesspeople active across national borders, including workers at trading houses and financial institutions, to develop a cosmopolitan way of thinking. It also provides Japanese students with a key educational resource that helps them to look outside the country and build proficiency in English. At Jiji Press, I often come across journalists and other employees who read The Japan Times to prepare for future assignments overseas.

As a major Japanese news agency, Jiji Press continues to support the publication of The Japan Times with a variety of news gathered via its network of 78 offices in Japan and 28 abroad. Last year, Britain’s landmark decision to exit the European Union, or Brexit, and the surprise victory of Donald Trump in the U.S. presidential election are said to have thrown us into a “post-truth” era in which appeals to emotion carry more influence than objective facts in shaping public opinion. Jiji Press, however, remains firmly committed to the fundamental journalistic principle of seeking truth from facts. I believe that this attitude makes an essential contribution to the news pages of The Japan Times.

I would like to pay renewed tribute to the 120-year history of The Japan Times under the slogan of “All the news without fear or favor.”

Established in 1945, Jiji Press has long maintained the corporate credo of “Bringing world affairs to Japan, giving voice to the Japanese.” It is my sincere hope that Jiji Press will continue to work hand in hand with The Japan Times in communicating information from Japan widely overseas in efforts to keep the country relevant in the international community.

Last but not least, I look forward to the further development of The Japan Times in the decades to come.

Kiyotaka Akasaka

President, Foreign Press Center Japan

Kiyotaka Akasaka, President, Foreign Press Center Japan
Kiyotaka Akasaka, President, Foreign Press Center Japan

I would like to extend sincere congratulations to The Japan Times on its 120th anniversary.

The importance of a quality newspaper like The Japan Times is now keenly felt in a rapidly changing world. The internet and new media such as social networking services are affecting the media industry in all countries. Moreover, new developments in recent months, including “post-truth” and “alternative facts,” are the subjects of heated discussions, and derogatory remarks about media reports as “fake news” have been frequently heard lately.

Many people fear that freedom of expression and the press is at serious risk worldwide, and, therefore, the media should take a strong stance to fight for fundamental human rights. The Japan Times’ long-serving mission of “All the news without fear or favor” is all the more important in this dangerous world.

Demand for accurate and unbiased information about what is happening in Japan and the rest of the world will expand, as the number of tourists from abroad, as well as foreign residents in Japan, will continue to increase rapidly. The 2020 Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games will also provide additional impetus to this trend.

The Foreign Press Center Japan is happy to work closely with The Japan Times as we have a similar mission to promote the diversity and accuracy of foreign reporting from Japan. We aim at creating an international society where people respect different cultures and values, while making a difference in global peace and development. Looking forward to further enhancing our partnership, we wish The Japan Times all the best and a bright future.

Hugh Cortazzi

Former British Ambassador to Japan

Hugh Cortazzi, Former British Ambassador to Japan
Hugh Cortazzi, Former British Ambassador to Japan

I have been a regular contributor to The Japan Times for 20 years. I first came across the paper as far back as 1946 when I came to Japan with the occupation forces. As a young diplomat in the British embassy in the 1960s I recall belonging to a discussion group of which Shintaro Fukushima, the then-proprietor of the paper and president of Kyodo News, was an active member. I first met Toshiaki Ogasawara before he became the proprietor. So, as one of the oldest of the paper’s contributors, readers and friends, I am particularly delighted to congratulate The Japan Times on its 120th anniversary.

English-language newspapers were published in Japan in the mid-19th century for the foreign community in the treaty ports of Yokohama and Nagasaki before Japanese-language newspapers were published. They provided Japanese and foreign residents alike with useful information not only about commercial developments, but also about events outside Japan. Once the Japanese-language press became established, the main readers of the English language papers were the foreign community. However, copies of the papers also circulated among foreign people interested in Japan and were important sources of information about Japan overseas, particularly in the days before there were foreign correspondents resident in Japan.

A journal called the Japan Times was first published in Yokohama in 1865, but its name was soon changed to the Japan Mail. The Japan Times title was revived in 1897. It came under increasing Japanese government influence from 1931 onward, but regained its independence after World War II. Under the leadership of Fukushima and Ogasawara, it established itself as the leading English-language newspaper in Japan.

The Japan Times is not affiliated with any party and has tried to reflect a wide variety of views while adhering to the principles summed up in the phrases “the rule of law” and “a free press.”

The number of non-Japanese able to read Japanese newspapers has increased, but the majority of foreign residents in Japan, including most foreign diplomats, rely on the English-language papers, especially The Japan Times. News and commentary in The Japan Times circulates more easily abroad than reports in the mass circulation Japanese newspapers.

The development of the internet and digitization have increased the paper’s reach so that it can now be read by anyone interested in Japan anywhere in the world. The paper thus contributes significantly to the spread of knowledge about Japan and its policies, and its influence is greater than its limited circulation might suggest.

Japan’s geographic and strategic position in East Asia, its developed and sophisticated economy, its high standards of education and advanced technology all ensure that Japan has a key role in the councils of the world. But its influence stems also from its cultural achievements, as well as its adoption of democratic principles of government and its dedication to the maintenance of world peace.

Takamitsu Sawa

Distinguished Professor, Shiga University

Takamitsu Sawa, Distinguished Professor, Shiga University
Takamitsu Sawa, Distinguished Professor, Shiga University

For years, I have contributed monthly columns to The Japan Times. I realized the enormous impact of commentaries written in English when the newspaper ran my article, “Humanities under attack,” in its Aug. 23, 2015 edition. The column — which criticized the notice sent on June 8 that year in the name of the education and science minister to the presidents of all 86 national universities telling them to endeavor to abolish their schools’ departments of humanities and social sciences at both the undergraduate and postgraduate levels or shift them to fields that are in higher social demand — received many reactions. Western mass media organizations reported favorably on my views, with comments by experts.

I subsequently received an email from Thomas Katsouleas, executive vice president and provost of the University of Virginia, who wrote to the effect that the education ministry instruction — ostensibly to raise international competitiveness of Japanese industries — could have the opposite effect. He said that a recognition is rapidly growing among leaders of the STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) fields in the U.S. and Europe that humanities and social sciences are crucially important to making achievements in the STEM fields — and that when a shift is taking place in other countries from STEM to STEAM (adding arts, or humanities and social sciences, to STEM), it is a wrong policy for Japan to drive its higher education in a direction that runs counter to the global trend.

From the email from Katsouleas, an authority on electronics engineering, I learned two things. The first is that Japan’s education policy stands out among the world’s advanced countries in neglecting humanities and social sciences in favor of natural sciences. The second is that the criteria of technological advancement significantly changed in the last quarter of the 20th century — that while the aim of technological progress up to the 1960s was making things “faster, bigger, stronger and higher,” the 1973 oil crisis altered the standard of technological advancement to such values as “more resource-saving,” “more multifunctional,” “safer,” “smarter” and “in greater harmony with society.” As a result, the major shift from STEM to STEAM became essential.

I owe it to The Japan Times that I gained support from knowledgeable people around the world for my criticism of the education ministry notice. I believe I see signs that the education ministry modified its policy of neglecting humanities and social sciences in favor of natural sciences because I was able to share my views in English with a global audience.

Mark Schilling

Film Writer

Mark Schilling, Film Writer
Mark Schilling, Film Writer

When I first starting writing for The Japan Times and The Japan Times Weekly in the mid-1980s — I filed my first story for the former in 1984, the latter in 1986 — the local English-language media was on the cusp of the wild ride that was Japan’s bubble era. Budgets, page counts and ambitions were all on the rise. Japan, as everyone from Ivy League academics to best-selling authors were telling the world, was destined to be an economic superpower.

But the JT, as I knew it in the early days, still had something of a postwar atmosphere in everything from its crumbling office building to graying staff members pecking away at typewriters probably purchased during the Occupation. What’s more, its pages were filled with the writings of such long-term expats as Donald Richie (The Asian Bookshelf column), Jean Pearce (Getting Things Done in Japan column) and Andy Adams (film reviews and sumo articles).

Everyone from the editors to the veteran writers were unexpectedly welcoming to this beginner. Andy, who was also my editor at “Sumo World” — the first English-language magazine about the sport — helped me get my first bylines in the JT and, when he decided to stop reviewing films for the paper, told me his spot was open and advised me to apply for it.

And, after my reviews began running in 1989, Donald Richie sent me my first fan letter, the beginning of a long and precious friendship.
Even Jean Pearce, who by the time I came to know her was a legendary figure at the paper, greeted me like an old acquaintance whenever we happened to run across each other, probably for no other reason than our bylines ran in the same newspaper.

That time is now long past, but I still like to think there is something special about being a JT writer. We are tiny drops of alien water in the vast ocean of the Japanese publishing world, but have somehow managed to keep this publication afloat for more than a century. Long live the brotherhood (or “ink-stained-wretch-hood”) of The Japan Times!

Roger Pulvers

Former Columnist, Film Director

Roger Pulvers, Former Columnist, Film Director
Roger Pulvers, Former Columnist, Film Director

The first time I read The Japan Times was on the day of my arrival in Japan in 1967. Japan has changed considerably in the past half-century, but The Japan Times itself has changed beyond recognition — and for the better.

The country was, in a word, much more provincial back then. The great Japanese “MASK” phenomenon — manga, anime, sushi and karaoke (which had not, in any event, been invented yet) — had not taken over the world. Grapefruit had not been liberalized, and so was not available in shops. Women who wore jeans or sunglasses to their children’s schools were frowned upon. A foreign person who spoke fluent Japanese was such a rarity that some Japanese people conversing with them were shocked that they could understand “English” so easily.

As for The Japan Times, it was a highly conservative newspaper whose views often mirrored those of either the government or the sociopolitical establishment.

The English-language daily newspapers in Japan primarily served the foreign community. In many cases it was their only way of keeping up with news from home, particularly scores from sporting events. The foreign community that these dailies served was overwhelmingly from English-speaking countries.

Things changed both in the country and at The Japan Times in the 1980s.

Japanese society set itself on the course of kokusaika, or internationalization. Only about 64,000 Japanese tourists left Japan in 1964. Even by 1980 the figure was less than 500,000.

By the end of the ’80s, Japanese tourists made more than 10 million overseas trips annually. This enhanced the consciousness of the Japanese people of the need to explain Japan in English to the outside world, and The Japan Times was fast becoming the best medium for them to acquire the skills to do it.

This is because The Japan Times, being the only English-language daily not tied to a Japanese one, had begun to exploit its independence. In-depth analytical articles about Japanese politics, economics, society and culture could be found on its pages. This trend continued as the readership, both foreign and Japanese, cottoned on to the fact that their comprehensive understanding of Japan would be heightened by reading the newspaper. The foreign community had also become much more international and diverse as the boom of the 1980s saw great increases in the numbers of Europeans, Asians and others coming to work and live in Japan.

Today I would say without hesitation that The Japan Times has transformed itself into the most independent-minded daily newspaper in Japan. Considering the fetters put on the vernacular press by the government today and the invidious self-censorship that the Japanese press imposes on its own freedom, The Japan Times remains the place to go to dig up the subsoil of Japan and unearth the truth.

A reporter types out a story in a photo dated May 11, 1959.
A reporter types out a story in a photo dated May 11, 1959.

Download the PDF of this 120th Anniversary Special


Back to special index