“[T]he First World War marks for the Japanese print media a critical transition from the nineteenth to the twentieth century: from an era of experimentation to one of truly mass circulation.
“In 1905, Japanese dailies had a [total] circulation of 1.63 million a day. By 1924, this had grown almost fourfold, to 6.25 million. The expansion was facilitated by dramatic changes in newspaper content made expressly to appeal to a mass readership.
“The dailies converted their editorial pages and economic coverage from formal prose to the vernacular. And they vastly expanded the content of their ‘society’ sections from simple police reports to attempts to relate any and all developments in politics, thought, society, finance and economy to people’s daily lives.”
– World War I and the Triumph of a New Japan, 1919–1930, by Frederick R. Dickinson, 2013
Tokyo Nichi Nichi Shimbun (Newspaper), Yurakucho, c. 1930.
Asahi Shimbun (Newspaper) Building, c. 1930.
“Japanese newspapers began in the 17th century as yomiuri (literally ‘read and sell’) or kawaraban (’tile-block printing’, referring to the use of clay printing blocks), which were printed handbills sold in major cities to commemorate major social gatherings or events.
“The first modern newspaper in Japan was the Nagasaki Shipping List and Advertiser, which was published bi-weekly by the Englishman A. W. Hansard beginning in 1861. Later same year, Hansard moved the paper to Yokohama and renamed it as the Japan Herald.
“In 1862, the Tokugawa shogunate began publishing the Kampan batabiya shinbun, a translated edition of a widely distributed Dutch government newspaper. These two papers were published for foreigners, and contained only foreign news. The first Japanese daily newspaper that covered foreign and domestic news was the Yokohama Mainichi Shinbun, first published in English in 1871.
“The history of the later nationally-distributed Mainichi Shinbun began with the founding of two local papers during the Meiji period. The Tokyo Nichi Nichi Shimbun was founded first, in 1872. (The Mainichi claims to be the oldest existing Japanese daily newspaper with nearly 140-year history.) The Osaka Mainichi Shimbun was founded four years later, in 1876.
“The two papers merged in 1911, but the two companies continued to print their newspapers independently until 1943, when both editions were placed under a single Mainichi Shimbun masthead.”