Japan Culture

Japan Culture and Mass Media

Newspapers in Japan

According to EXTRAREFERENCE.COM, Japan is a country located in Asia. Japan is one of the world’s most advanced countries when it comes to developing IT services and using the Internet and mobile services, but despite this, traditional media companies have not yet had to change their business models, mainly because they cut their costs instead.

The media landscape is dominated by a few established national players who have successfully managed to defend their markets from start-up media companies, and all the major companies have also established businesses on the Internet.

The constitution guarantees freedom of expression and pressure, however, to some extent practiced self-censorship, which is rooted in the system of kisha kurabu, a kind of press clubs where journalists and representatives of government and political management meet. Only journalists from established media are allowed to be members and reporters who write critically have been excluded. For example, at the official press conferences after the 2011 tsunami, freelancers and reporters from foreign media were excluded.

The largest news agencies are Kyodo News (founded in 1945) and Jiji Press (founded in 1945).

TV and radio

TV is the largest medium in Japan and there are about 130 commercial companies that distribute hundreds of channels via digital terrestrial broadcasts, cable and satellite. Five networks dominate the national channels. The biggest is Fuji Television Network.

The public service company NHK (Nihon Hoso Kyokai) initiated radio broadcasts in 1925 and television broadcasts in 1952. The monopoly that applied to NHK was abolished by the US Occupation Authority in 1950.

NHK, which is financed with license fees, has four TV and three radio channels. Since 1998, the company also broadcasts TV and radio programs in some 20 languages to target groups outside Japan under the name NHK World. In addition to NHK, there are over a hundred commercial companies that broadcast thousands of radio channels, most of them via the FM band.

Internet and mobile telephony

More than 99% of Japan’s over 50 million households have access to broadband. The most popular sites are Yahoo !, Google, YouTube and FC2. The latter is a portal for mainly blogs, founded in 1999 in the United States and focused on the Asian market.

The Japanese have long been at the forefront when it comes to using mobile phones. One of the reasons is the service for i.a. mobile surfing and e-mail, in-mode, which NTT DoCoMo mobile operator launched in 1999 and which quickly became popular. Another reason is the good 3G coverage, which is at 94% in 2013.

There are five mobile operators with their own networks, of which NTT DoCoMO is the largest with just over 40% of subscribers. The company is owned by one third of the Japanese state, while the rest is owned by NTT (Nippon Telegraph and Telephone), a company that was previously a state monopoly company and was privatized in 1985.

Disney Mobile, part of the Walt Disney Company, established itself in the Japanese market in 2009 as a virtual operator in collaboration with the operator Softbank.

Daily press and magazine

Newspaper reading in Japan is the highest in the world, although it has declined due to changing media habits. Five national newspapers dominate and have a total circulation of almost 50 million copies. The major national newspapers also publish in evening editions and also make regional editions for the larger cities. Over 90% of daily newspaper sales are made by subscription.

In total, there were 121 daily newspapers in 2013 with a total circulation of 68 million copies. The biggest is the conservative Yomiuri Shimbun, founded in 1874. With an edition of 13 million items. it is also the world’s largest daily newspaper. Yomiuri Shimbun also publishes a daily newspaper in English, The Japan News.

Over 2,000 magazines and magazines are published for all possible target groups and the trend is that the magazines are becoming more niche with, for example, special magazines aimed at a growing older population. Especially for Japan is also the huge market for many, cartoon series. Several hundred magazines are published, several of which have editions of over one million copies.

Book and publishing system

The oldest Japanese prints are Buddhist carmina, hyakumanto darani, from 764-70, made in block book technology. This printing technique was further developed until the end of the 16th century, when the Gutenberg printing technique – loose types – was introduced from Korea as well as by Portuguese missionaries. The older printing technique was reintroduced in the 1630s and dominated until 1868.

Although publishing in Japan began as late as the latter half of the 19th century, a high level was quickly reached: in 1927, 19,967 new book titles were published. The 1960s and 1970s saw a strong upswing in the Japanese book market. Collected literary works and encyclopedias achieved great sales success.

In 2011, nearly 76,000 book titles were published in Japan, and sales amounted to approximately SEK 54 billion. The number of publishers was just over 3,800, most of them small or medium; however, the Japanese Publishers Association has only 480 members. Most publishers also publish magazines, and some of the largest, such as Kodansha and Shogakukan, have evolved into media conglomerates with newspapers, radio and TV and film. A large part of the publisher’s income comes from cartoon series, manga, which enjoy enormous popularity, even outside Japan. See Japan (Cartoons).

Japan has been a pioneer in electronic publishing and has a well-developed bookstore over the Internet. The traditional bookstore still holds its positions well. Unlike many European countries, a book and commission pricing system for the bookstore has been adhered to. In 2011, there were about 60 distributors serving about 15,000 bookstores of varying sizes. In terms of price, Japan, thanks to its large population, has been able to be a low-price country, which has broken through consumption habits. Most books sold are literature in the original language, but the proportion of translated titles, mainly American bestsellers, is increasing.


According to ANIMALERTS, the pursuit of harmony, beauty and tight simplicity characterizes many of Japan’s cultural expressions. Traditional gardens and homes will radiate these properties throughout their structure. In the classic Japanese room, the colors are few and studied in unison and the furniture is sparse. The art of arranging flowers, ikebana, also strives for harmony. While the West looks more at the beauty and variety of flowers, the Japanese emphasize their line play and symbolism. In a modern western-influenced variant, the moribath, miniatures are created to give the impression of landscapes or gardens.

Equally distinctive is the tea ceremony, chanoyu, a sophisticated millennial ritual around the art of preparing, serving and drinking green tea. Led by a master, chanoyu will provide an aesthetic experience of both the beverage, the room, the aids and the decor.

Many of Japan’s traditional musical instruments have come from China. Among the most famous are koto, which resembles a citrus, the bamboo flute shakuhachi and the three-stringed, banjo-like shamis. Throughout the centuries, folk music and influences from the outside have been mixed, and after World War II, Western music has become increasingly resonant. Japan has about twenty professional symphony orchestras, and musicians such as the conductor Seiji Ozawa and pianist Mitsuko Uchida have the whole world as a workplace.

The ubiquitous Japanese pop music (J-pop) has been developed with influences from Western pop. The music is often interwoven with vibrant visual presentation. There are countless Japanese pop artists such as Ayumi Hamasaki, Kumi Koda and Hikari Kutada.

During the first heyday of Japanese literature a thousand years ago, masterpieces such as The Story of Genji and the Essay Collection Notes at the Pillow were created, two courtiers’ depictions of life in the aristocracy of that time. The novel about the Emperor Genji, written by Murasaki Shikibu (c. 978 – c. 1016), is still considered today as one of the great works of world literature. At the same time, the classic verse form was born – 31 syllables in five rows – still in use.

In the Middle Ages, samurai novels and Buddhist embossed stories were added. From the poetry system waka, both the chain poem form was developed purely, with several authors, and the concentrated poem form that for many symbolizes Japanese poetry: haiku, a three-poem poem in 17 syllables following the pattern 5-7-5. Matsuo Basho brought haikun to heights in the 17th century that today’s poets also strive for. Tanka and haiku are so popular that the daily press has special columns for them.

During the military regime of the 1930s and up to 1945, “Japanese” literature was burned, but after the war the literary supply has been the richer. In 1968, Yasunari Kawabata (1899-1972), author of, among other things, the Snow Kingdom, became the first Japanese to be awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. Other great late writers are Yukio Mishima, Kenzaburo Oe (Nobel Prize 1994), avant-garde artist Kobo Abe and Haruki Murakami, widely read also in the West.

A link between literature, book art and visual arts are the famous color woodcuts, which have greatly influenced art in Europe. In the case of porcelain and ceramics, too, Japan has been superior to the West in design and quality.

Japan’s oldest preserved theater form is no, which sheds all unnecessary decoration and has a single protagonist. Easier for the accustomed is the colorful Kabuki Theater, where all roles are played by men, and the puppet theater bunraku. Today’s cartoon and textual culture includes the cartoon series, manga, which are also read by adults. A Japanese comic book is often several hundred pages thick and has a storytelling technique similar to that of the film.

Japanese pop culture in the wider sense is a phenomenon that has gained many followers in other countries. It is characterized by manga series, animated films and a variety of subcultures, for example, role-plays with imaginative costumes that are often inspired by different manga characters.

Japan also has extensive film production, and among the major filmmakers who have achieved international fame include Akira Kurosawa, Yasujiro Ozu and Kenji Mizoguchi. In recent years, director Hirokazu Koreeda and animator Hayao Miyazaki (Spirited Away With Several) have received attention.

Unmistakable expressions of Japanese culture also exist in the world of sports, especially when national sports sumo wrestling and martial arts such as judo and karate.



Historical settlement of six slaves

Japan and South Korea conclude a historic settlement that countries hope to resolve the protracted conflict over how Japan can make it possible for Korean women and girls to be used as sex slaves by Japanese soldiers during World War II. In 1993, Japan acknowledged that the women were exploited but no apology was delivered. According to the new settlement, Japan agrees to a demand from South Korea and promises to establish a 1 billion yen fund (US $ 8.3 million) on behalf of women. Prime Minister Abe also apologizes, saying that Japan has a “deep responsibility” for women’s fate. South Korea announces that the issue will be considered definitively resolved if Japan lives up to its promises.


Controversial legislative changes are adopted

Parliament’s upper house adopts the controversial legislative changes that allow Japanese troops to be deployed in combat abroad. Despite the opposition’s attempts to block a vote in various ways, the proposals were voted through with 148 votes in favor and 90 against.


Abe thanks no to military parade

Japan’s Prime Minister Abe refuses the invitation from China to participate in the country’s military parade in early September as a result of the end of the Second World War.

Nuclear power plants start again

The first nuclear power plant in the country is restarted after the long break after the Fukushima disaster (see March 2011). A reactor is set to start in Sendai, after the plant has undergone extensive new safety tests. Demonstrations are ongoing outside the Sendai plant and outside Prime Minister Abe’s residence in Tokyo. 25 nuclear power plants have applied to start operations again.


Controversial legislative changes

Parliament’s lower house adopts two legislative amendments that make it possible for the first time since World War II to deploy Japanese troops in combat abroad (Compare June 2014). The law changes are very controversial. According to opinion polls, over half of the Japanese are against them, and opposition members are leaving the parliament in protest before the vote. The amendments now go to Parliament’s upper house where they will be considered within 60 days.


Japan and the United States agree on new guidelines

The US and Japan are adopting new guidelines for their defense cooperation. The guidelines allow for greater cooperation between the countries and open up for more active Japanese participation. They reflect both Prime Minister Abe’s desire to abandon the strict focus on self-defense in the country’s defense policy and the perceived threat from China in the region.


Japan and China in summit

Japan and China hold a high-level meeting on security issues. It is the first meeting to be held since 2011. Among other things, we discuss how direct communication between the countries’ military can be improved with regard to the dispute over islands in the East China Sea.


The Crown Prince comments on historical writing

Crown Prince Naruhito says it is important to remember the Second World War “properly”. The statement is seen as a post in a debate that has erupted since Prime Minister Abe suggested that Japan’s war history should be described in a less humiliating way for the country.

Minister of Agriculture resigns

Agriculture Minister Koya Hishikawa resigns after admitting he has received illegal financial aid from a company. He is the first minister to leave Prime Minister Abe’s new government.


IS requires ransom

The extremist Islamist movement IS demanding $ 200 million as ransom to release two Japanese citizens captured by the movement. At the end of January and the beginning of February, video films are released at intervals of one week, which are reported to show that both Japanese were beheaded.

DPJ selects new leader

DPJ chooses Kutsuya Okada as new leader. He is a 61-year veteran of the party who has held several government posts.

Japan Culture

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