History of International Newspapers: Asahi Shimbun in Japan Part 1
About the International newspaper Asahi Shimbun published in Japan, history and information.
ASAHI SHIMBUN (Tokyo, Japan)
The Past. The journalistic world into which Asahi Shimbun ("Rising Sun") was born was not the most auspicious. In 1875, the Japanese Government had passed a stiff libel law and was putting editors in jail for "dangerous thoughts." Yet in 1879, Rhuhei Murayama and Noburu Kimura applied for a license to start a paper with a courageous statement: "The newspaper will be edited for easy reading, even by children, with illustrations and other devices . . . for the guidance of the common people, both men and women, young and old, in order to teach them social justice." Social justice was hardly the aim of Japan's authoritarian militaristic Government.
Kimura was soon out of the picture, replaced by Riichi Ueno. Ueno, prosaic and stable, was the perfect foil for the enterprising and effervescent Murayama, the idea man of the paper. Though Asahi Shimbun was begun in Osaka, Tokyo soon became its headquarters. By the turn of the century, circulation for the 2 branches was more than 150,000.
After the turn of the century, Asahi continually sniped at and embarrassed the traditionalist Government. In 1915, for instance, it published the 21 Demands against China at what the Government thought was the wrong time, and in 1918, it published what the Government thought was too much information about the race riots. During those years, reporters and Murayama were beaten up by right-wingers. It didn't stop them. By 1925, censorship was worse than ever. Papers were forbidden to publish anything "undermining the existing governmental and economic system." An Asahi historian has said: "Under the forces of totalitarian rule, restrictions on free speech were drawn tighter and tighter; the rattling of sabers became louder and louder. . . . The outward trappings of civilian control remained, but army arrogance was rampant."
In the 1930s, Japan was in the depths of a depression, as was most of the world. At Asahi, old Murayama, 83 years old, died; the newspaper was passed on to his adopted son and son-in-law, Nagataka Murayama. In 1936, the paper conducted a successful campaign against the military Government and its interference in civilian matters. Public opinion was against the military regime. But the young military extremists rose up with force and wrecked Asahi's printing plant and editorial offices.
By 1937, there was war in China and Japan tightened control on newspapers by controlling newsprint, and slowly over the next 4 years ended any independence the Japanese press had. During W. W. II, censorship was incredibly tight, and Asahi did not oppose the Government. However, after the war, Asahi, now very left-wing, regained its freedom and attacked the postoccupation Governments viciously. Prime Minister Nobusuke Kishi, hounded out of office, said: "Violence is not only that of pistols and fists; that of the pen is more dangerous."
Gen. Douglas MacArthur stopped publication of Asahi Shimbun for a while because of its inflammatory stand. It accused the U.S. of breaking international law in using the A-bomb, for instance. Some even called it "red Asahi." However, when street demonstrations, fomented somewhat by the newspaper, got out of hand, Asahi called a halt.
In 1960, during the Japanese-U.S. mutual security treaty riots, Asahi and other newspapers were able, by their opposition, to bring down the Japanese Government and force President Eisenhower to cancel his visit to Japan.
In 1969, it opposed a trade agreement with China, and a year later berated the Sato Government for insisting on the reversion of Okinawa to Japanese sovereignty.
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