Miyake Setsurei: About Magazines (translation and commentary by Robert Kraft)
Since its republication (kaikan), the Nihonjin1 has accumulated two hundred issues (gō); if one further adds all issues since its first publication – on the day of the anniversary of Jinmu Emperor’s death in 1888 – in total it amounts to more than three hundred and seventy issues. Shall one describe the endurance of this fortnightly magazine (maitsuki nikai no hakkō) up until now as ‘long’? We already considered it ‘long’ with the accomplished publication of one hundred issues, and again when we reached one hundred and fifty. If we now, reaching the two hundred mark, look back on the past, we see that magazines (zasshi) usually appeared and disappeared but did not exist for long periods of time. Furthermore, if we summarize their main characteristics during the time of their existence, in general they solely tried to catch the public’s fancy of the period. Eager to please as many people as possible, they came to entirely lean toward commercialism (eigyō shugi). Publishers often claim that they are willing to continue running a magazine even if it generates financial losses, but this is no more than a short-lived empty rhetoric. They only continue publication as long as they can make profits, and when after publishing some issues they cannot avoid losses, they will not tenaciously continue publication. If the income does not at least cover the expenses, they will not resolve upon long term publication. Previously there have been some people, who, instead of focusing on making money, published magazines with lofty aims, for example, commenting on politics or discussing and reporting on society or literature. In short, they cared less about making a profit and more about expressing an opinion. However, although it occasionally still happens, something of this kind has become extremely rare these days because, generally speaking, publishers devote themselves to business and sacrifice everything else in its favor.
For publishers who make business their magazine’s first principle, it is of utmost importance to efface themselves and suite other people’s taste. This and nothing else is the key to financial success. Certainly, one’s own taste does not necessarily coincide with that of others. Therefore, if one relies one-sidedly on one’s own likes and dislikes and does not know about that of other people, there is the risk that people turn away and the magazine ultimately loses all its readers. That is why, if a publisher seeks to continually win a lot of subscribers and bind their hearts to his magazine over a long period of time, he first has to make an effort to meet their tastes. What do many people like at present? What do they dislike? The publisher will not even for one moment be unmindful of this. He will persevere in meeting people’s preferences and avoiding what they detest, and in doing so he will completely abandon his own judgment of what is right and wrong. So when it comes to passing criticism on something, he will, contingent first and foremost on the curiosities of most of his subscribers, devote himself entirely to promoting and praising the most irrelevant trifles or even fallacies, while inevitably ignoring things that are very important but do not awaken people’s interest. In fact, such can be seen often among recent magazines and all of them are quite successful in terms of capturing the public’s fancy, so one has to admit that they have become strikingly masterful in running their business. Yet when we ask about their aims of publication, there is absolutely nothing worth mentioning. As for the magazine, an approach like the one described above may be commercially advantageous, but the articles it publishes become like commodities displayed in a department store, where shopkeepers simply arrange good and bad products side by side. Revealing ones individuality in particular through a magazine is surely nothing to praise. However, we wonder whether or not people who publish magazines only for business’s sake sometimes even act against their real feelings. Maybe they do hold a belief which they make public via a magazine, but people do not perceive it, so they decide to publish merely for money, not without regret, but ultimately with an unburdened conscience. Of course, making profits with the publication of a magazine is better than incurring losses; nevertheless it is evident that the absence of losses alone does not make the magazine valuable. We cannot help being startled by the insincerity and foolishness of people, who exclusively seek money, subordinate everything else to that purpose, and discontinue their magazine after a little while if the profits are not as high as expected.
In America magazines as well as newspapers (shinbun) aim at catching the fancies of the time. There are truly more opportunistically designed magazines than anywhere else in the world. Their illustrations are beautiful; their articles are amusing; what other country could compete with this? Journals like The Century2, Scribner’s3, Harper’s4 and The Cosmopolitan, with their style and the hearts of so many people they win, are without equal. The World’s Work is very well-rounded, too, and there are many other illustrated magazines, which are all worth being proud of as a distinctive feature of America. Journals of that kind are interesting to read and also moderately priced, whereas ones that only compile essays without any pictures or novels are boring and rather expensive. For instance, The Century is priced at sixty-five sen, The Cosmopolitanat twenty-five sen, Harper’s at fifty sen, and Munsey’s5 at twenty-five sen, while on the other hand the North American6, which is merely an essay compilation with no illustrations, is sold at a price of one yen and twenty-five sen and is very unmarketable in comparison to the other magazines.7 The Forum had long been a monthly (gekkan) but was forced to be made a quarterly (nen’yonkai) due to its small circulation. Still, does the existence of publications like the North American not play an important part in keeping American literature at its level?
The magazines in Britain cannot at all compete with the American ones in terms of beautiful pictures. Although there are several illustrated magazines, it is obvious that they are no match for those in America in respect of suiting the public taste. However, the expensive ones without pictures are actually much better than the American journals. The Nineteenth Century, The Contemporary Review, The Fortnightly Review, The Monthly Review, The Independent Review, Blackwood’s Magazine, the National Review, they are all sold at a price of one yen and twenty-five sen per issue. Last year the Edinburgh Review published its centenary issue, with the same blue cover, the same quarterly cycle of publication, and the same topics of politics and literature as a hundred years ago. To retain style, cycle of publication, and scope of content unchanged over such a long period of time looks rather ridiculously stubborn and mindless, but it is indeed not easy for others to keep up with this endurance and austerity. And its price per issue amounts to three yen. Is it not somewhat unusual that a magazine like this is continuously published in a time in which there are so many low-priced and multifaceted journals? That there are many kiosks (zasshiten) with magazines displayed at the storefront is the same as in our country, but those magazines are all illustrated and sold at low prices, not the expensive ones without pictures. If one wants to buy the latter, e.g., The Nineteenth Century or The Contemporary Review, one has to order them from the publishing office (hakkōjo), not to mention journals like the Edinburgh Review, which many shopkeepers selling magazines (zasshishō) have not even seen once in their lifetime. The only magazine that contains essays and is sold regularly at kiosks is the Review of Reviews, but this is because it is illustrated and cheap. Is it not an indicator of Britain’s cultural degree and achievements that, while no other discourse-centered magazine is displayed in shops, there are some expensive ones which are not displayed but still continue to be published and flourish over decades, with one not even changing its outward appearance for a hundred years?
America is just on the road of progress and some may be in favor of turning everything into American-style; for in the near future the country will become superior to Europe. It is true that America has its strong points, but it is still a young nation and there are more than a few things which are not progressive yet, for example the universities with the grand sight of their architecture. Judging only from their façade, no other countries’ universities are a match for them. However, their inner substance is out of proportion to that. They may meet the present American requirements, but the professors, as well as the students, generally lack a great deal of academic ability. This is due to the nation’s young age. In a few years the inner substance will also naturally improve and for sure be in line with the splendid façade. Anyway, it would be mistaken to simply extrapolate from outward grandeur to inner quality and, based on this, to aim at imitation. The Americans themselves know of their interior deficiencies and are seeking for what they lack in Europe. Many American students head to Europe for study and even some university professors go to study abroad. That says it all, and it is the same with magazines. In accordance with technological progress the advancement of paper and printing is remarkable and low postage rates in America are also advantageous, but the journals’ contents are by no means of a similar quality. It is sufficient to win the favor of the masses, yet intellectuals do not get anything out of it. We think that as time goes by America will make further progress and successively bring out truly great magazines (shinmenmoku no daizasshi) of the same type as the ones Britain is currently proud of. However, it would be a terrible mistake if people, being ignorant of that, see only their outer appearance and believe it necessary to model all magazines after them.
Our Japan is in many respects inferior to America and well-advised to take it as a model, but even though in general there are cultural aspects with respect to which the Americans take the lead, our nation is older than theirs and therefore on some points not only not worse but rather a bit better. To give an example, the scale of their universities is larger than that of ours; still, concerning the inner substance, we do not suffer much in comparison. Trying solely to catch the public’s fancy as the publisher of a magazine is not altogether wrong; especially from the viewpoint of a businessman it is inevitable. But are the people, who do not consider it right to make publishing a business and are still intent on following this example, not betraying themselves? Although it is in principle neither impossible to make the publication of a magazine a commercial enterprise, nor to only meet the needs of the moment with it, as a mere profit-oriented business it is not in the least pleasant. Hakubunkan started with the cutout magazine (kirinuki zasshi) Taika ronshū and has finally built up its present fortune, which is indeed great. But if the late Mr. Sahei had engaged in another business, and, with a bit of luck, had led this to prosperity, he might have been much more successful.8 There must be other businesses to pile up huge amounts of money. Especially people who want to voice their own opinions through magazines should be mindful of that because, in the event that somebody cherishes such an ambition and at the same time aims at profits, he then, as the saying goes, hunts two hares9 and might lose both – or even worse.
1See the commentary below.
2The Century Magazine.
4At the time Miyake wrote his essay, Harper & Brothers published Harper’s Weekly, Harper’s Magazine, and Harper’s Bazar. Theoretically, Miyake could refer to any one of these three.
6North American Review.
7Miyake indicates prices in Japanese currency (1 sen = 1/100 yen). Since the exact date and the source of the information is not clear (maybe he gathered it on a world trip he made from April 1902 till June 1903), and how, if at all, (e.g., based on what exchange rates) he converted currencies is neither, I will leave them as they are in the original text and make the verification thereof the subject of future research.
8Hakubunkan was a publishing company founded in Tokyo by the entrepreneur Ōhashi Sahei (*1836-†1901) in 1887. Its first publication was the Nihon taika ronshū (‘The Collection of Essays by Eminent Writers in Japan’), which was a magazine that, like an anthology, collected and newly compiled outstanding essays from various academic journals. This is very likely what Miyake means by the term ‘cutout magazine’.
9Lit. ‘a horsefly and a bee’.
Japanese: (old kanji have been replaced by new ones and kenten left out)
(Source: MIYAKE Setsurei 三宅雪嶺, Zasshi wo ronzu 雑誌を論ず [About Magazines], in: Nihonjin, Vol. 200, 1903b, pp. 6-9.)
Miyake Setsurei (*1860-†1945) was a philosopher, journalist, historian, and founding member of the Seikyōsha (‘Society for Politics and Education’) and its main publication, the magazine Nihonjin (‘The Japanese’). The day of the society’s founding as well as the publication of the magazine’s first issue was April 3, 1888. As Miyake says at the beginning of his essay, this was also the day the anniversary of the death of Jinmu, the legendary first emperor of Japan, was celebrated, which symbolically signifies the nationalist character of the Seikyōsha and the Nihonjin. However, this nationalism is not to be confused with the emperor-centered kokutai ideology propagated by the Meiji government at the latest from the 1890s (for a study of the role the emperor played in modern Japanese nationalism and the concept of kokutai, see ANTONI 1991). As Miyake later remembered in his historical work Meiji shisō shōshi (‘A Small History of the Thought in the Meiji Period’, 1913), the Seikyōsha had brought forward its arguments under the label of kokusui hozon (lit. ‘preservation of national characteristics’; since this was criticized as being too conservative, the term ‘preservation’ was later changed into ‘promotion’ [jochō] and ‘commendation’ [kenshō]) in opposition to the government’s approach of what the Seikyōsha members considered weakening foreign and rigorous domestic policy (see MIYAKE 1971: 410-412). Put simply, they criticized the government for superficially westernizing Japan and argued that while it is reasonable to introduce to Japan those Western things necessary to modernize the country and compensate its weaknesses, it is imperative to preserve the essence of what makes the Japanese nation unique, i.e., the spirit of Japan. The Nihonjin served as a medium to communicate this thought, but it is important to note that the Seikyōsha was by no means a homogenous society with every member entertaining the same view on how kokusui hozon was to be understood or put into practice. It was more like a guiding principle, which the members could interpret according to their individual fields of interest (see YANAGIDA 1956: 34-35, NAKANOME 1993: 146-147 and ARIYAMA 1977: 3-5, 14). For this reason at the beginning, until the eighth issue, the name of the author of each article published in the Nihonjin was given to make clear whose opinion the article reflects. From issue nine on, the magazine carried also leading articles (shasetsu) without the author’s name, which then showed the position held by the society as a whole in distinction from personal discourse (ronsetsu) (see ARIYAMA 1977: 17). The responsibilities within the society also changed over time. First, Shiga Shigetaka (*1863-†1927) alone was editor in chief (shuhitsu) of the Nihonjin; after a while Shiga and Miyake shared this position. Around the middle of the 1890s, Shiga devoted himself more and more to political engagement and the other founding members, too, turned away from the Seikyōsha one after the other or had already died. So, when Shiga eventually entered the political party Rikken seiyūkai (‘Friends of Constitutional Government Association’) in 1900, Miyake remained as head of the society and the Nihonjinvirtually became his own journal (see NAKANOME 1993: 253-257, 291-293, YANAGIDA 1956: 25, 37, ARIYAMA 1977: 13, 27-29). It therefore seems right to assume that Miyake was responsible for the essay presented above, which was published as a leading article with no author’s name given in the two hundredth issue of the Nihonjinon Dec. 5, 1903. This assumption is further backed by the fact that the essay appeared twice in Sōkon (‘Traces of Thought’, 1915), a collection of essays by Miyake Setsurei. In this later version the first sentences about the occasion of publication are missing and it differs slightly from the original text in terms of punctuation and kana syllables besides Chinese characters (furigana), which did not exist in the original version, but were added later to aid in reading. Still, it is the same essay. Of course it happens that articles, which were formerly thought to have been written by Miyake, are found to be actually of somebody else’s authorship. For example, the essay Ajia keirin saku(‘Measures to Administrate Asia’) was likewise published in the Nihonjin in three parts as a series of authorless leading articles in 1890 and has long been said to be a work by Miyake Setsurei, but Nakanome Tōru’s research has cast doubts on whether this is true. He believes Omoto Toshitarō (*1862-†1899) to be the author of Ajia keirin saku(see NAKANOME 2014: 118-120). However, since Miyake was still alive when the collective volume Sōkon was published and he himself added a preface to it, his authorship of ‘About Magazines’ can be taken for granted.
As Miyake says, the issue his essay was published in was the two hundredth since the republication of the Nihonjin (in 1895), which in total amounted to more than three hundred and seventy issues at this time, if all issues since its first publication are taken into account – this may require some further explanation. The magazine could not be continuously published due to two major reasons. Firstly, the Seikyōsha was financially in a bad condition. It sometimes had problems in paying the salary of its members or covering the expenses of printing (see NAKANOME 1993: 127-128, 252). This was to some degree a result of the society’s moral principles. In the founding manifesto of the Nihonjin it was emphasized that the magazine shall not be sold at a price higher than necessary to defray production costs (see SEIKYŌSHA 1888: inside front cover). Secondly, as the Seikyōsha formulated harsh political criticism, it faced suppression by the government in the form of temporary bans on publication of the Nihonjin. The Seikyōsha members helped themselves by publishing another journal titled ‘Ajia’ (‘Asia’) in the times that the Nihonjin was forbidden (see NAKANOME 1993: 127-128, ARIYAMA 1977: 24-27 and YANAGIDA 1956: 37-38). This was possible because in 1887 the government had decided to relax the regulations, which earlier had stipulated that, upon the imposition of a ban on one newspaper or magazine of a person or society, all other publications of this person or society are likewise to be forbidden and the printing machines to be confiscated (see OKA 1977: 46-48). Most of the time the Nihonjin was published semi-monthly, sometimes weekly, with a circulation of between one thousand five hundred and eleven thousand copies per issue (see NAKANOME 1993: 129). At the time Miyake’s essay was published, one copy was priced at twelve sen plus one sen for postage; subscription was one yen and twenty-five sen for half a year or two yen and thirty sen for one year, respectively, with no payment needed for postage. Because the magazine was written in a difficult classical style without furigana, it is believed that most readers were well educated people (see ibid.: 133-135 and ARIYAMA 1977: 13-14). Publication under the title ‘Nihonjin’ lasted until the end of 1906. The magazine then partly took over the newspaper Nippon (‘Japan’) and changed its name into ‘Nihon oyobi Nihonjin’ (‘The Japan and Japanese’, since Jan. 1, 1907; the Nippon continued being published until 1914). The Seikyōsha and the publishing company of the Nippon, the Nippon shinbunsha, had always had a good relationship. They shared largely the same thought; some members of one society were also members of the other; they contributed articles to each other’s publications; and since 1898 they even had their company headquarters in the same building in Tokyo. The partial fusion of their publications was an attempt to keep the ‘traditional’ Nippon alive somehow after its owner Kuga Katsunan (*1857-†1907), who had in a somewhat conservative manner long struggled to resist the trends of commercialization and capitalization of the press and maintain the elite character of his newspaper, had to sell it due to illness, and many staff members left the company because the new owner wanted to overhaul it in accordance with the tendencies of the time (see YANAGIDA 1956: 29, ARIYAMA 1977: 28-29, 32-34, NAKANOME 2014: 7 and n.a. 1906: 3). Thereafter Miyake Setsurei continued to be the head of the Seikyōsha and its magazine under the new title, but left the society in 1923 after internal quarrels and founded a new magazine called ‘Gakan’ (‘My Views’, temporarily renamed as Tōtairiku or ‘The Eastern Continent’ from 1936 till 1943), which he published until his death (see ARIYAMA 1977: 47-48 and YANAGIDA 1956: 39).
With regard to the contents of ‘About Magazines’, it is obvious that Miyake considers it the main function of magazines to serve as a vehicle for the expression of opinions. In Miyake’s view, this is a quality of the magazine as medium – also in distinction from newspapers, which, according to him, are limited in their influence only to the one day they are published, whereas magazines can have an effect over a longer time (see MIYAKE 1915a: 2-3). Miyake himself wrote for many different magazines and newspapers during his lifetime, but his contributions to newspapers were less frequent than those he made to magazines, because his primary aim was expression of opinion rather than news coverage. He never entered a newspaper publishing company as a regular employee; the only newspapers he was willing to write for over a longer period were papers like the Nippon, which guaranteed him absolute freedom of expression (see YANAGIDA 1956: 212-215, 237 and MIYAKE 1997: 117-118). He also used magazines to publish his larger philosophical and historical works as well as his autobiographical writings in serial form. In contrast, publishing magazines only as a means to make profits is something Miyake, who seems to have been caring not in the least about money matters in business as well as in private life (see MIYAKE 1997: 82-83 and YANAGIDA 1956: 218-223), criticizes in his essay. He directed a similar criticism at the Japanese newspapers of the time (see MIYAKE 1903a). Although his appraisal of the conditions of the press in Meiji-Japan is a very interesting contemporary witness, as historians we naturally have to question it and perhaps relativize it in some points. This cannot be done exhaustively here, but at least I would like to point two problems out. First, Miyake says that in the past there were some magazines published for lofty purposes like commenting on politics, or discussing about and reporting on the society or literature, what probably refers to the critical magazines (hyōron zasshi), political magazines (seiron zasshi) and literary journals (bungaku zasshi) of the first third or so of the Meiji period, i.e., of the ‘civilization and enlightenment’-phase (bunmei kaika) and the time of the ‘Freedom and People’s Rights Movement’ (Jiyū minken undō) (for an introduction to the development of magazines during this early period see NISHIDA 1989: 179-186), but it is not clear which magazines exactly Miyake has in mind when criticizing the latest trend of commercialism and based on what grounds he judges publishers’ concentration on profits. Furthermore, and related to this, even if it is found that a magazine was discontinued out of financial considerations, the question arises whether this was due to mere commercialism or whether there were some other reasons behind it. For example, Tokutomi Sohō (*1863-†1957) founded the magazine Kokumin no tomo (‘The Nation’s Friend’) in 1887 and the daily newspaper Kokumin shinbun (‘The Nation’) three years later in 1890. Tokutomi considered newspapers the more effective medium to influence politics, so, after the well-selling Kokumin no tomohad been supporting the Kokumin shinbun financially for some years, in 1898, when Tokutomi’s business did not go well, he decided to stop publication of the magazine and incorporate it into his newspaper (see ARIYAMA 1992: 9-10, 48-56, 87, 107). In this case, although there surely were financial considerations behind the decision to discontinue the magazine, one can hardly speak of commercialism. In fact, it is believed that Tokutomi used his private money (besides financial aid he may have received from political friends) to back the Kokumin shinbun in times it faced financial straits (see ibid.: 114-127). My point is not whether or not Miyake’s criticism is true for the particular case of Tokutomi and the Kokumin no tomo – maybe this was one of the exemptions of which Miyake admits that they exist –, but that, while Miyake’s essay gives an insight into the conditions of magazines in the Meiji period, it is important to check it through case studies and to take information into account, which Miyake might not have had at hand, before making a more general judgment – of course Miyake’s essay is most probably not the result of in-depth research but rather an account of his personal impressions.
ANTONI, Klaus (ed.), Der himmlische Herrscher und sein Staat. Essays zur Stellung des Tennō im modernen Japan, Munich: Iudicium, 1991.
ARIYAMA Teruo 有山輝雄, Kaidai: Zasshi ‘Nihonjin’ • ‘Nihon oyobi Nihonjin’ no hensen – sono genron to dōjin 解題 雑誌「日本人」・「日本及日本人」の変遷――その言論と同人 [Introduction: The Magazine ‘Nihonjin’/‘Nihon oyobi Nihonjin’ in the Course of Time: Its Journalism and Members], in: NIHON KINDAI SHIRYŌ KENKYŪKAI (ed.), Zasshi ‘Nihonjin’ • ‘Nihon oyobi Nihonjin’ mokuji sōran I, Tokyo: Hayakawa tosho, 1977, pp. 1-54.
ARIYAMA Teruo 有山輝雄, Tokutomi Sohō to Kokumin shinbun 徳富蘇峰と国民新聞 [Tokutomi Sohō and the Kokumin shinbun], Tokyo: Yoshikawa kōbunkan, 1992.
MIYAKE Setsurei 三宅雪嶺, Jiden/Jibun wo kataru 自伝/自分を語る [Autobiography/About Me] (Ningen no kiroku 43), Tokyo: Nihon tosho sentā, 1997.
MIYAKE Setsurei 三宅雪嶺, Jo 序 [Preface], in: MATSUMOTO Chiwaki (ed.), Sōkon, Tokyo: Shiseidō, 1915a, pp. 1-4.
MIYAKE Setsurei 三宅雪嶺, Meiji shisō shōshi 明治思想小史 [A Small History of the Thought in the Meiji Period], in: KANO Masanao (ed.), Kuga Katsunan, Miyake Setsurei(Nihon no meicho 37), Tokyo: Chūō kōronsha, 1971, pp. 397-438.
MIYAKE Setsurei 三宅雪嶺, Shinbunshi wo ronzu 新聞紙を論ず [About Newspapers], in: Nihonjin, Vol. 201, 1903a, pp. 9-10.
MIYAKE Setsurei 三宅雪嶺, Zasshi wo ronzu 雑誌を論ず [About Magazines], in: Nihonjin, Vol. 200, 1903b, pp. 6-9.
MIYAKE Setsurei 三宅雪嶺, Zasshi wo ronzu 雑誌を論ず [About Magazines], in: MATSUMOTO Chiwaki (ed.), Sōkon, Tokyo: Shiseidō, 1915b, pp. 1331-1338.
NAKANOME Tōru 中野目徹, Meiji no seinen to nashonarizumu: Seikyōsha • Nippon shinbunsha no gunzō 明治の青年とナショナリズム――政教社・日本新聞社の群像 [Meiji-Youth and Nationalism: The Seikyōsha and the Nippon shinbunsha], Tokyo: Yoshikawa kōbunkan, 2014.
NAKANOME Tōru 中野目徹, Seikyōsha no kenkyū 政教社の研究 [A Study of the Seikyōsha], Kyoto: Shibunkaku shuppan, 1993.
NISHIDA Taketoshi 西田長壽, Nihon jānarizumu-shi kenkyū 日本ジャーナリズム史研究 [A Study of the History of Japanese Journalism], Tokyo: Misuzu shobō, 1989.
OKA Mitsuo 岡満男, Kindai Nihon shinbun shōshi: sono tanjō kara kigyōka made 近代日本新聞小史――その誕生から企業化まで [A Small History of Newspapers in Modern Japan: From Birth to Commercialization] (Shakai kagaku sensho 60), revised edition, Kyoto: Mineruva shobō, 1977.
SEIKYŌSHA 政教社, [Nihonjin Founding Manifesto], in: Nihonjin, Vol. 1, 1888, inside front cover.
YANAGIDA Izumi 柳田泉, Tetsujin Miyake Setsurei-sensei 哲人三宅雪嶺先生 [The Philosopher Miyake Setsurei], Tokyo: Jitsugyō no sekai sha, 1956.
n.a., ‘Nihon oyobi Nihonjin’ to kaidai suru yuen『日本及日本人』と改題する所以 [The Reason for the Change of Title into ‘Nihon oyobi Nihonjin’], in: Nihonjin, Vol. 449, 1906, pp. 3-6.