Table Speech

“The Japan Times’ 110 Years of History alongside the Modern History of Japan”

December 5, 2007

Mr. Toshiaki Ogasawara,
Chairman and Publisher,
The Japan Times

This year, The Japan Times reached its 110th anniversary.

The Japan Times was founded by two men named Sueji Yamada and Motosada Zumoto on March 22, 1897 (33rd year of the Meiji era). After teaching English at a junior high school in Nagoya, Sueji Yamada moved to the business world and eventually served several terms as a branch manager for Nippon Yusen KK. Upon retirement, he was inspired to publish an English newspaper. Motosada Zumoto was Yamada’s pupil from his English teaching days, who later served as the secretary to Hirofumi Itoh. The financing was supported by Yukichi Fukuzawa.

Their motive for publishing The Japan Times was to “become a bridge between the Japanese and people from other countries”.
The Anglo-Japanese Alliance in 1902, and the Russo-Japanese War from 1904 to 1905, were key events of the Meiji era. The Japan Times commended Prime Minister Katsura’s foreign policy in its editorial on February 13, 1902.

The Russo-Japanese Peace Treaty was signed in Portsmouth (New Hampshire, U.S.) in August 1905. However, the terms of the agreement were humiliating, and the nation was infuriated by the fact that no war indemnities were being paid. Japanese language newspapers incited this sentiment further.

The Japan Times reproved the militant stance of the Japanese by advocating the principle of international cooperation. It was Kanzo Uchimura who issued the criticism on our paper that “the stance of militancy is unethical, and a dangerous path”.

During the Taisho era, the Japan Times became especially focused on “U.S.-Japan relations”. After the Russo-Japan War, the U.S. became cautious of the Japanese navy’s power and started viewing Japan as a potential enemy. The issue of Japanese immigrants also worked to fuel the conflict between the two countries. The sudden increase of Japanese immigrants was affecting employment and wages of other workers and with the help of racial discrimination, the sentiment against the Japanese gradually grew stronger.

The Quota Immigration Act signed by President Coolidge in 1924 in effect was an “anti-Japanese immigration law”, and prohibited all entry of Japanese nationals into the U.S.

In October 1924, The Japan Times printed 50,000 copies of a special edition titled “Message from Japan”, followed by another special edition titled “A Message from Americans in Japan” in December. This was an attempt to advocate Japan’s argument, as well as to avoid a head-on collision. The Japan Times strove to improve the relationship between the two countries by facilitating public support for the Japanese in the U.S. The efforts received a positive response from the U.S. and records remain that “letters of recognition were received from many educated readers”. In the early Showa period, the stock market crash on Wall Street on October 24, 1929 led to the Great Depression, which spread throughout world.

The Inukai cabinet in Japan took a laissez-faire policy against the plunging yen and abolished the gold standard system in 1931. This led to a “super devaluation” of the yen, plummeting from around two yen to the dollar to five yen to the dollar in just one year.

In 1932, Japan became one of the first countries to recover from the Great Depression. But the rapid growth of Japanese exports led to the boycott of Japanese products in various countries, creating frictions in trade.

The Japan Times argued the wrongfulness of boycotting Japanese goods, and worked actively to serve the role of delivering Japan’s views abroad.

In 1933, Japan left the League of Nations. Nationalism was rising and militarism grew stronger. The Japan Times was consistent in printing warnings about the danger forthcoming.

When the Pacific War broke out in 1941, The Japan Times issued an extra edition titled “WAR IS ON”.

As Japan’s war conditions worsened day by day, the pages of the newspaper had been reduced to two pages, but publishing was continued without suspension. Why was The Japan Times able to continue with publication? It was because the military used the newspaper for their pacification activities. The military recognized the need for an English language newspaper, and no orders were ever issued for suspending the publication. However, in accordance with the national policy at the time, the name of the newspaper had to be changed to ‘The Nippon Times’ in 1943.

During the later stages of the war, The Japan Times worked to contribute to its conclusion. A column titled “JAPONICUS” was published in order to convey to the U.S. that Japan only thought about continuing the war. Only six columns were published from March 1944 through and shortly before the end of the war in 1945.

The columns were also broadcasted on short-wave radio programs directed towards the U.S. and Great Britain. These were the efforts for the end of the War through The Japan Times as the sole medium open to foreign countries in Japan.

The war ended in 1945, and the Allied occupation forces came to Japan. The General Head Quarters (GHQ) of the occupation bought The Nippon Times in large volumes through the Japanese government, and distributed them to their officers stationed in throughout Japan. The staff of the GHQ would read The Japan Times, and make their demands on Japanese government officials and business leaders. The Nippon Times became a must-have item for government agencies as well as in the business world. It was truly the golden age for The Japan Times.

After the conclusion of the San Francisco Peace Treaty in 1951, the occupation troops left the county and the special boom period came to an end.

In 1956, Shintaro Fukushima was appointed as president. Fukushima had worked at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The first task that Fukushima took on as president was to restore the name of the paper from ‘The Nippon Times’ to ‘The Japan Times’. The original name of the paper was revived from the July 1, 1956 issue.

The conflict over the U.S.-Japan security pact gradually intensified from the summer of 1959. The newspapers at the time all pointed to the dangers of Japan becoming involved in a war if the pact were revised, and opposed to the ratification by the Diet. While most of the newspapers in Japan expressed their opposition, The Japan Times supported the treaty.

The newspaper made its compelling argument pointing to the merits of “the U.S.-Japan Security Pact, in terms of preventing Japan’s return to militarism and ensuring that Japan will remain a contributor to the stable and peaceful balance of power in Asia”. At the time, this recognition was in the minority.

Over the years, we have seen how ‘The Japan Times’ has made its journey along with the modern history of Japan. It has also contributed to a number of significant turning points in Japanese history. ‘The Japan Times’ is committed to continue serving and contributing a significant role not only for Japan, but to the world.