A Partial Guide to Newspapers in Japan

Unofficial guide to Japan's major newspapers as of 1996


There are 121 daily newspapers (as members of Japan Newspaper Publishers and Editors Association or JNPEA) in Japan, and total daily circulation is 72 million (morning issue and evening issue combined). Population per copy is 2.38 and copies per household is 1.22.

Typical in Japan, more than 90% of these newspapers are for home delivery to regular subscribers.

Above figures based on 1992-94 statistics

Circulation of National Newspapers

                      morning  evening
newspaper             issue    issue
--------------------  -------  -------
Asahi Shimbun          8,252   4,398
Mainichi Shimbun       3,990   1,908
Yomiuri Shimbun       10,050   4,416
Nihon Keizai Shimbun   2,869   1,631
Sankei Shimbun         1,922     967

Source:PR Handbook '97, Unit:1,000 copies / day

How people read newspapers

More than 80% of people read newspapers everyday, according to the survey by JNPEA. However, ratio of "read everyday" decreases as age goes dowm, even to 51.7% in age 18 and 19. And 54.2% answerd that they read newspapers less compared to past...

Most popular pages, you may guess, are TV programs (66.4%), and social issue (60.5%), regional articles (56.7), sports (54.3) pages follow.

Press Club System

There is the famous (notorious?) Press Club system in Japan's newspaper journalism. That is the closed membership circles stationed in major government offices or big companies such as NTT. Writers who cover specific field usually register the appropriate press club and have their own desks at the club. It is convenient system both for journalists and news sources (i.e. government, companies...). Journalists can get information while sitting in their desks. Corporations can efficiently hand out their newsreleases. Also, club members usually enjoy privilege to have regular round-table conference with the officials.

Press Clubs used to be closed to foreign press, because they required a participant to be a member of JNPEA. In 1993, the JNPEA announced a new guide line for press club and changed this rule. Now, a few foreign media such as Reuter became members of several press clubs, including MFA and Kabuto-cho (Tokyo Stock Exchange).

Still, there are many arguments over this system. It is convenient, but may spoil journalists....

Anonymous Articles

Typically, most articles of Japanese newspapers have no signature. News writes are educated to write "objective" articles without any personal opinion. This could be a root of some trouble or miss-leading articles.

We find some sections with personal view point and signature such as "My Opinion" of the Asahi Shimbun or "Eyes of a Writer" of the Mainichi Shimbun recently. Some local newspapers are trying to introduce named writing system for all articles.

Sales network and Retail Price Maintenance System

Because most papers are delivered directly to readers, not picked up at news stands, their management are quite stable, but tend to be prudential. The system of Saihan-kakaku-iji, or legal guarantee of the retail price maintenance (the exception from anti-trust law), is another privilege of newspaper companies and always argued as the cause of spoiled media giants. 10 millions of circulation, which is exceptional volume compared to those of quality papers all over the world, is achieved with over-heated sales competition by nation wide network of distributers. As a cost of this huge circulation, articles may be diluted to fit the taste of all readers. Ironically, statistics say most popular pages of Japanese national papers are TV program and sports.