Turning a new page

The Japan Times is saying goodbye to Shibaura, the district in Minato Ward, Tokyo, that has been home to our company for the past 52 years. We are moving to a new office in the Kioicho district in Chiyoda Ward — but that is the ward where the company spent the first 69 years since its founding in 1897. We will miss this area’s townscape with a beautiful (and occasionally odorous) network of canals that serve as a reminder of its history as land that was reclaimed way back in the 1910s.

Through the years we spent here, the Shibaura area has gone through much change. In the mid-1980s, walking from the east exit of Tamachi Station took you to streets lined with warehouses. When the 14-story building that we’re now vacating was completed in 1989, it towered over much of its immediate neighborhood. Now it is dwarfed by the high-rise condominiums and office buildings that have shot up one after another amid the area’s redevelopment since the turn of the century. During the bubble boom of the late 1980s to the early ’90s, the “waterfront” area was also home to dance clubs and live houses that characterized the latest trend in youth culture, including Juliana’s Tokyo, which is still remembered as a social phenomenon that mirrored the times.

The roughly half-century that The Japan Times spent in the area also marks its evolution from a newspaper publisher to a media company. The period has witnessed significant changes in the way news and information is circulated and consumed — along with the development in technology and the means of disseminating the news. When the company moved from the Uchisaiwaicho area of Chiyoda Ward to build a three-story (and 79.8-meter-wide) building of its own in Shibaura in 1966, it was in search of a site that could accommodate the “best and the latest” equipment available for printing the newspaper (according to the book “The Japan Times Story” published in 1966). We printed our newspaper here to be physically delivered to readers throughout Japan.

That was a long, long time before the arrival of the internet. The Japan Times launched its online edition in 1997, which enabled us to deliver news and feature stories on Japan to a much wider international audience, who were previously beyond our reach because of the limitations in our physical operation. While our web operation initially took a back seat to the printed version, the “web-first” policy we introduced in recent years enabled us — assisted by ever-growing communications technology — to report on the news as it happens.

Major disasters that hit this country, including the Great Hanshin Earthquake in January 1995 and the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami of March 2011, became tipping points and changed the way we viewed the value of information, especially to a larger, more global readership. We began to embrace the immediacy of social media and this summer we started live-blogging major news events, including the serial disasters that hit the nation. This is yet another indication of our much wider reach. It is also a manifestation of how news reporting — which used to be fairly one-way conservation from newspapers to readers — is now becoming a more interactive process wherein the audience can contribute and complement the news.

The Japan Times outsourced its printing and shipping operations in the 2000s. Technological progress has made the overall news publishing process much more compact and lightweight. Today, physical space carries less weight in our operation. New technology also makes it easier for us to report on and edit news on the go, from any location. We are less bound by where we are, enabling us to focus more concisely on who we are.

That prompts the question of what is our core value as a media company. The internet and technological advances have made the news of what’s happening around the world more readily available to the English-speaking audience. More than ever, we need to be committed to our mission of reporting on what’s happening in Japan to the foreign community in this country and the whole world. We believe our move closer to the heart of Tokyo will help us do a better job as we reach out to an even broader audience.

So farewell, Shibaura. Thank you for being our home for five decades, and providing us with the foundation for what we are today that we hope will enable us to meet the various challenges as we explore the new frontier.