Japanese media

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Manga and magazines on sale in Japan.

The media in Japan caters to a nationwide audience or readership of many millions; most households subscribe to a newspaper, and a wide variety of television channels cater to the public's taste for news, drama, education and so on. The frequent use of flashy graphics or cute animations distinguish programmes and magazines from their international equivalents, though the focus on the lives of celebrities, politicians and other personalities in the news will perhaps be more familiar.

Newspapers and magazines

Japan is a nation of avid newspaper and magazine readers. About 92% of households subscribe to a morning newspaper, and the Japanese apparently consider print media to be the most reliable way to get their news. In 2011, daily sales were 48.35 million[1] in a nation of 126 million people. Newspaper circulation, with about 630 people to every thousand copies in the country, is significantly ahead of other nations,[2] including the USA[3] and the UK. News reporting ranges from serious political stories to the latest celebrity gossip, with the lives of these 'idols' detailed in popular magazines as well as on-line. Newspapers and the government often make use of comics (manga, 漫画 'comic') to put across important issues to people of all ages.[4]

The biggest-selling newspapers are the right-wing Yomiuri Shimbun (読売新聞), the left-leaning Asahi Shimbun (朝日新聞),[5] and the Mainichi Shimbun (毎日新聞) - together, these make up the "big three" in print media.[6] The Japan Times is the main English language newspaper, and other titles publish a range of stories in English both in print and online. One of most widely read magazines is FRUiTS, a monthly guide to street fashion.[7]

Newspapers were important sources of information following the Tohoku earthquake in 2011; in the disaster region, one newspaper, the Ishinomaki Hibi Shimbun, saw its journalists writing out reports by hand, which were then manually distributed to emergency shelters.[8]

Television

A wide variety of television programmes are broadcast around the clock in Japan, and in many ways a typical line-up of programmes consists of just what a viewer would expect: regular news bulletins, documentaries, films, and light entertainment such as quiz shows. The main broadcaster is NHK (日本放送協会 Nippon Hoosoo Kyookai 'Japanese Broadcasting Corporation'), a public body funded through a television licence, which runs two national terrestrial channels alongside its satellite, radio and internet services. NHK's output is supplemented by various other regional television stations. Foreign output includes Hollywood movies and popular South Korean soap operas.

News

NHK and other channels provide regular news broadcasts, some of which include a live English translation as a secondary soundtrack, though the focus is generally on Japanese news. The same newsreaders are generally used every night; after a major report, the more senior presenter (usually a man) often expands on the stories with the junior presenter (usually a woman). Sport news and a weather forecast round off major news programmes, such as NHK's 9 p.m. broadcast. The serious tone of news broadcasts contrasts with the use of cute characters in weather forecasts; for example, the position of snowmen indicates where cold weather is expected. The weather forecaster is traditionally armed with a pointer to indicate areas of the country on a map, and offers advice to viewers on how to prepare for oncoming weather (for example, warm coats are recommended for wintry conditions).

Drama

Drama is a staple of Japanese television. NHK's historical drama series Taiga Dorama (大河ドラマ) has become a national institution since it began in 1963 as a televised kabuki (歌舞伎)[9] play. Other series are contemporary, such as San-nen Bii-gumi Kinpachi-sensei (3年B組金八先生 'Mr Kanpachi's Third-year Class B'[10]), one of many 'trendy dramas' (トレンディドラマ Torendi Dorama) that tackles issues such as teenage pregnancy, adolescent isolation, homosexuality and gender identity disorder. This series, running since 1979, has been used as educational material in real Japanese junior high school classrooms.[11]

Internet

Major news organisations maintain websites where new stories are published or articles supplement the contents of the print version. Alongside the official online sources is a vast range of blogs in which which amateur newshounds, pundits, activists and observers cover or react to the latest news stories; the Japanese language 'blogosphere' is estimated to be the world's largest, with the number of English blogs placed second.[12] See this article's external links for a selection of sites.

Radio

Celebrities

See also: Japanese popular culture

'Idols'

Japanese media extensively covers celebrity news, particularly the activities of aidoru (アイドル, 'idol'). Typically well-promoted female singers or bit-part actors distinct from other 'talents', their media lives are often short-lived, usually because they are selected mainly for their youth and cute looks rather than obvious ability. While occasionally idols such as Aya Sugimoto (杉本彩, Sugimoto Aya) continue to appear in the press for some time, often due to controversies in their personal lives, a few of them stay around long enough to influence a new fashion or craze, and even go on to become mainstream performers. For example, the singer Kumi Koda (倖田來未, Kooda Kumi), who has enjoyed success in the music charts for several years, is also associated with the fashion for hot pants, and the singer and actress Kyoko Koizumi (小泉今日子, Koizumi Kyooko) has been around in a variety of guises since the heyday of idols in the 1980s.[13]

'Talents'

Often distinct from 'idols' are tarento (タレント), i.e. 'talents'. Television celebrities, generally famous for their own personalities rather than their work, regularly appear on the nation's TV screens in usually short-spanned careers, as guests on quiz programmes, chat shows and so on. Some tarento may become famous for a particular gimmick or act, while others might have become known through a drama series or sporting activity. One of the more notorious recent examples of a tarento is Masaki Sumitani (住谷正樹 Sumitani Masaki), better known as '(Razor Ramon) [H]ard [G]ay' (レイザーラモンHG Reizaa Ramon Eichi Jii or ハアドゲイ Haardo Gei), a heterosexual wrestler and comedian whose act involves dressing in a leather fetish outfit.

Footnotes

  1. France 24: 'Newspapers in Japan defy West's media malaise'. 18th January 2012.
  2. Yomiuri Shimbun (2008): 'Japanese newspapers have stable readership'.
  3. In the USA, readers have moved to online news sources over print media in recent years. See USA Today: 'Newspaper circulation off 2.6%; some count Web readers'. 5th November 2007. This was also true in the 1950s: see Time: 'Record Press Run'. 21st May 1956.
  4. See Kinsella (2000) and the manga section of this article.
  5. See Yomiuri Shimbun (2008), above.
  6. Britannica: 'Asahi Shimbun'.
  7. STREET/FRUiTS/TUNE - official English website.
  8. France 24: 'Newspapers in Japan defy West's media malaise'. 18th January 2012.
  9. Traditional Japanese theatre.
  10. Approximate translation; in English, the programme is referred to as just Kinpachi-sensei.
  11. Japan Times: 'Schools of hard knocks and TV docs'. 7th October 2001.
  12. Technorati: The State of the Live Web, April 2007'. 5th April 2007.
  13. Internet Movie Database: 'Kyôko Koizumi'.

See also