History of Magazines in Japan: 1867-1988

A partial and unofficial guide to history of magazines in Japan 1867 - 1990.

The first magazine of Japan was Seiyo-Zasshi, or Western Magazine, published in October 1867 by a scholar Shunzo Yanagawa. That was ten and some pages wood printed booklet, and six issues had been public until it closed in September 1869. Since then, the term Zasshi has been used for the translation of magazine.

Uncountable number of magazines have been appeared and disappeared for over a century. Here introduces some of the epoc-making magazines in Japan.

1867 Seiyo-Zasshi, the first magazine in Japan
1874 Meiroku-Zasshi. The first all-round general magazine. Issued by many Meiji scholars who had studied western culture. The Yomiuri Shimbun was established this same year.
1887 Hanseikai-Zasshi, the ancestor of Japan's leading opinion-leader magazine Chuo-Koron (The Central Review) , started.
1895 Toyo-Keizai-Shimpo (Oriental Economic News) started
1897 Jitsugyo-no-Nihon (Business Japan), Japan's first business magazine, started
1903 Katei-no-Tomo (The Companion of Family), ancestor of Fujin-no-Tomo (The Companion of Women), started. Fujin-Gaho (Women Illustrated) was established in 1905, by a novelist Doppo Kunikida.
1917 Shufu-no-Tomo (The Companion of House-wives) started.
1922 Junkan-Asahi (issued every 10 days), soon changed to Weekly Asahi, and Sunday Mainichi establised. The beginning of Japan's weekly magazine.
1923 The Bungei Shunju started by Kan Kikuchi. This has been one of the leading opinon magazines, paralleled with Chuo Koron, and has a significant influence.
1930 Ohru-Yomimoon (All Readings), another magazine by Bungei Shunju, started. It was filled with so-called "middle" novels -- not pure literature, but not popular entertainment.
1932 The Bungakukai (The Literary World) established by several leading novelists and critics.
1937- Japan went to War. The freedom of press was restrained. Many magazines closed or forced to change their policy
1945 The World War II was over. A lot of new magazines were founded in spite of lack of paper. It was called "Scrap Rush".
1946 Sekai (The World), one of the most liberal magazines in Japan, published from Iwanami Shoten.
Shufu-to-Seikatsu (The House-wife and Life) started this year, and Fujin-Seikatsu (The Women's Life) next year, reflecting the new life styles of Japanese women. In 1948, Kurashi-no-Techo (A Note of the Life), the first consumer magazine, that does not rely on advertisement, started.
1956 Weekly Shincho started. The first weely by a publishing house.
In those days, weekly magazines were issued by newspaper companies with around a million of circulation. It was not easy for a publishing house to issue weekly, because it required strong correspontents' network, large printing capacity, sales network and advertising income.
Thus, key success factor for this magazine was how to distinguish itself from those newspapare-owned magazines.
1957 Shukan-Josei (Weelky Women) started. Shukan-Josei-Jishin (Weekly Women Themselves) started next year, and Shukan-Josei-Seven (Weekly Women's Seven) in 1963.
1959 Asahi Journal, quality news and report weekly magazine established. It had been influencial on university students in 60-70's, but once left wing loose their power, the circulation of this magazine also has dropped, and closed in 1992.
Shonen-Magajin (The Boys' Magazine) started, which opened the door to the realm of comic.
Weekly Gendai and Weekly Bunshun also established this year.
1963 Fortune Japan, the ancestor of President, established. It started with the translation of Fortune magazine of U.S. as its core. It changed the name and concept in 1972, putting the articles on Japanese management and study of Japanese historical hero its main content, which made it one of the top business magazines in Japan.
1968 Shonen-Jampu (The Boys' Jump) started. At that time, Shonen-Magajin had reached a million circulation. To compete with this giant, Jump educated fresh comic writes with serious readers enquete. The circulation became a record high of 6.5 million in 1993.
1969 Weekly Post started by Shogakukan, ten years behind its rival Weekly Gendai. Now it became one of the leading weeklies in Japan and issues a unique on-line magazine.
1970 an-an, the leading lady's fashion magazine, started. Together with non-no (1971), it produced an-non fashion stream.
1972 Pia established by college students who loved movies. It was just a list of information, i.e. which movie is played when and where, etc. Though its start was not easy, it now became Japan's center of entertainment information and the biggest box office.
1976 Popeye started by Heibon-shuppan (now Magazine House). It is sort of a catalog of goods and life styles for city boys, and regarded as a college sutudents' guide book. The popularity of this magazine led Hot-Dog Press in 1979.
The elder brother of Popeye, Brutus started in 1980 and sister Olive in 1982.
1980 Big Tomorrow started by Seishun-Shuppan. Its selling point is two-way communication, enquete and hot-line. Its contents are very practical, different from most other magazines for young men. The lady's version, SAY, was established in 1983. Both are quite successful.
1981 Big Comic Spirits, the brother adult comic magazine of Big Comic and Big Comic Original, started by Shougakukan. It has provided so many pupular works and, in a sense, led some part of Japan's subculture.
FOCUS is another big magazine founded this year. The Shincho-sha's new photo magazine opened a new genre of journalism in Japan, followed by FRIDAY (1984) and other same type of magazines.
1985 Orange Page began new style of daily-life-oriented magazine for housewives. It is published by a giant supermarket chain, Daiei. It is inexpensive and puts daily cooking made of supermarket items on its cover.
1988 Hanako founded from Magazine House, and presented new gourmet-oriented information magazine. Many young ladies rushed the restaurants that appeared on the magazine, and they were called Hanako-Zoku.
The long hovered Weekly Sankei renovated itself as Weekly SPA! this year. The dramatic change from traditional newspaper-magazine to visula subculture magazine achieved significant success, made SPA! one of the most popular magazines among young readers.

Reference: Minobu Shiozawa, 100 Years History of Magazines (Japanese), 1994, Green Arrow Shuppan