Saturday, December 19, 2009

Birth of a Million Seller, Part 2

Picking up where we left off in part 1...


(Kokumin no Tomo (People's Companion) magazine cover, 1887, from Birth of a Million Seller, used for review purposes only.)


(Nihonjin (Japanese) magazine cover, 1888, from Birth of a Million Seller, used for review purposes only.)


(Toyo Keizai Shimpo (The Oriental Economist) magazine cover, 1895, from Birth of a Million Seller, used for review purposes only.)

The second narrative article from Birth of a Million Seller, by Koichi Kabayama, attempts to break up the time span of the exhibit into 4 eras, (Meiji in 1888-1902, Meiji to the first year of the Taisho Era between 1902-1912, the first decade of Taisho from 1912 to the start of the 1920's, and then the 1920's themselves) and then picks 2 pairs of magazines to represent each period. For the first period, Koichi chose Kokumin no Tomo (People's Companion) and Nihonjin (The Japanese); followed by Jitsugyo no Nihon (Business of Japan) and Toyo Keizai Shimpo (The Oriental Economist). People's Companion, the largest magazine of the period, was modeled on England's Nation as a populist critic of the government, including editorials and serialized literature. The Japanese was more conservative, nationalist and traditional "to promote the national interest". Business of Japan, formed by former workers at the Yomiuri newspaper, is still in print today. It promoted capitalism and business practices as controlled by government pressure. Conversely, The Oriental Economist spent its time criticizing government economic policy making. (Not all of the magazines mentioned here were included in the exhibit book.)



(Taiyo (The Sun) magazine cover, 1913, from Birth of a Million Seller, used for review purposes only.)


(Chuo Kuron (Central Opinion) magazine cover, 1913, from Birth of a Million Seller, used for review purposes only.)


(Seito (Blue Stockings) magazine cover, 1910, from Birth of a Million Seller, used for review purposes only.)


(Shirakaba (Birch) magazine cover, 1910, from Birth of a Million Seller, used for review purposes only.)

For 1902-1912, we have Taiyo (The Sun) and Chuo Koron (Central Opinion); along with Shirakaba (Birch) and Seito (Blue Stockings). The Sun was a populist magazine containing essays and lectures, critiques in English, and contributions from politicians, economists and writers, with a peak circulation of 300,000. It was aimed at higher income citizens. Central Opinion, on the other hand, started out as an educational journal for the Nishi-Honganji Temple in Kyoto, and became a general interest magazine after moving to Tokyo in 1899. It ran essays, interviews and round-table talk. It became a staunch advocate of the movers behind the Taisho Democracy. Then we have Birch (1910), which started as a Gakushuin University publication, with literature, self-actualization, art and science articles. Blue Stockings (1911) came from the Japan Women's University, with an emphasis on women's education, social problems, and commentary on modern morals. Because Birch and Blue Stockings were published from the Yamanote region of Tokyo, they had a reputation for an elite readership.


(Kaizo (Change) magazine cover, 1919, from Birth of a Million Seller, used for review purposes only.)


(Shufu no Tomo (Housewife's Friend) magazine cover, 1917, from Birth of a Million Seller, used for review purposes only.)


(Fujin Koron (Ladies' Opinion) magazine cover, 1916, from Birth of a Million Seller, used for review purposes only.)

In the 1912-1920 period, we have Kaizo (1919, Change) and Warera (1919, We); plus Shufu no Tomo (1917, Housewife's Friend) and Fujin Koron (1918, Ladies' Opinion). We're starting to see more social upheaval, rice riots and the affects of the Russian Revolution. Change was founded by Sanehiko Yamamoto, founder of 1 yen books. He was an advocate for democracy and the proletariat and this showed in the magazine, inviting Einstein and recruiting Lu Xun and Russel. We, as well, carried current affairs and opinion, with a socialist, anti-military bent. Then there's Housewife's Friend, which promoted domestic happiness, and the more radical Ladies' Opinion advocating for gender equality and equal rights.


(King (King) magazine cover, 1925, from Birth of a Million Seller, used for review purposes only.)


(Ie no Hikari (Light of the House) magazine cover, 1934, from Birth of a Million Seller, used for review purposes only.)


(Asahi Shukan (Weekly Asahi) magazine cover, 1922, from Birth of a Million Seller, used for review purposes only.)


(Mainichi Sande- (Sunday Everyday) magazine cover, 1922, from Birth of a Million Seller, used for review purposes only.)

Finally, for the decade of the 1920's, Japanese society had moved away from it's pre-Meiji traditions and had to deal with the accumulation of wealth followed by its total loss due to the Kanto Earthquake. The representative magazines are King (1925) and Ie no Hikari (1925, Light of the House); coupled with Shukan Asahi (1923, Weekly Asahi) and Sunday Mainichi (1923, Sunday Everyday). King toned down its political essays and critiques, and aimed its entertainment for "the masses" (i.e. - urban residents). Light of the House was aimed at farmers, with practical agricultural information. Asahi and Sunday introduced the new concept of "weekly news" to their audiences. Both magazines still exist, but took their current forms following WW II. What's important here is that previously, time spans were based on the 5th and 10th of the month, and half-month and 1-month cycles. Asahi and Sunday both brought with them the idea of a 7-day week, which was a novelty back then.


(Bungei Kurabu (Literature Club) magazine cover, 1902, from Birth of a Million Seller, used for review purposes only.)

The reason for writing about all this is to put the growth of shojo magazines into some kind of a focus. When magazines first appeared in the late 1860's, the literacy rate was very low and the readership was pretty much limited to the educated elite, with subjects confined to translated western texts, economics and politics. It wasn't until the 1890's that magazines started appealing to the average adult, and that children could actually read and understand them. Then, with the beginning of the 1900's, magazine readership expanded and started gearing towards entertainment and hobbies, rather than just education. Shojo no Tomo was the first really successful shojo (girl's) magazine, starting in 1908 and lasting for over 50 years. It was also the home for some of the early manga (as we know it today) artists, including Katsudi Matsumoto and Takei Takeo. It was joined by Shonen Kurabu (Boy's Club)in 1918, which then ran the Norakuro manga starting in 1931. Along with a handful of other girls' magazines (Shojo, Shojo Sekai), and the newspapers that ran political cartoons and illustrations for serialized novels, the foundations were being set in preparation for Tezuka's eventual debut in 1946.

2 comments:

MikeM said...

Hmm, I'd just assumed King was "The Shonen Jump of the 30's", but perhaps it was closer to British magazines such as The Penny Pictorial, which contained a lot of text stories but which were aimed at adults (adults of the time though, so the stories weren't sexy or ultra violent XD). I did a review of an issue here:
http://blog.crystal-knights.co.uk/2012/11/06/peeps-at-foreign-comics-1-king/
These articles have given me quite a bit shopping list for my next visit to Jinbocho!

TSOTE said...

Right. Early magazines were mostly articles with accompanying illustrations. Manga, as we know it today, didn't really start to come together until after WW II. At best, pre-war manga consisted of single panel, or 4-panel gag strips. Katsudi was one of the earliest artists to experiment with story manga in the 30's, but it was a one-shot deal. "Norakuro" was a story manga of sorts, but that was about it. Modern story manga started in the girls' magazines, specifically Shojo no Tomo (which still featured mostly illustrated text.) This is partly why Tezuka's appearance made such a big splash just after the end of WW II - he was the first to really try to do story manga more fully.