Almanac of news nishikie and related topics
 Introduction  Newspapers  News nishikie  Other nishikie  Who's who  Glossary
Bakumatsu and early Meiji newspapers

Newspapers that figured in the birth, growth, and demise of news nishikie are presented here. Of particular interest are Tokyo nichinichi shinbun and Yubin hochi shinbun, which were sources of stories for many news nishikie, not only those that used their names. A few newspapers are listed only because they involved some of the drawers and writers who were instrumental in producing the most important news nishikie.

Hiragana eiri shinbun
Hiragana illustrated news

Small-news (koshinbun) paper
First illustrated newspaper

Started by Ochiai Yoshiiku, Takabatake Ransen, Nishida Densuke, and Okada Jisuke.
Published by Eiri Shinbun Sha, a subsidary of Nipposha.
Office at Ginza 1-10.

First published every other day. One issue -- 1 sen.
One month -- 20 sen.

1875-4-17 First issue published.
1875-9-2 Renamed Tokyo hiragana eiri shinbun and becomes daily.
1876-3-2 Renamed Tokyo eiri shinbun.
1889-3 Ceases publication.

Hiragana eiri shinbun made reading more enjoyable for the masses by featuring more illustrations. Yoshiiku did the drawings while Takabatake did the writing and editing.

The paper was aimed at readers who wanted kanji with furigana and illustrations. It carried serialized stories by popular fiction writers including Takabatake.

The launch of the paper has every appearance of being a decision by Yoshiiku and Takabatake to "newspaperize" the "illustrated news" idea that had been pioneered by the nishikie edition of Tokyo nichinichi shinbun. During the first few months after the launch of Hiragana eiri shinbun, Yoshiiku and Tentendo continued to crank out the Tonichi nishikie.

The masthead of Tokyo eiri shinbun, as the paper finally came to be called, was modeled after the cherub-born banner of Tonichi's nishikie. This is almost certainly Yoshiiku's declaration that, as far as Japanese newspapers were concerned, this was his design.

Yoshiiku was familiar with illustrated newspapers. In producing a series of woodblock prints about Yokohama in 1860, he is known to have made reference to copies of The Illustrated London News, whose first issue came out on 14 May 1842. (Newspark 2001:63,2-2)

Tokyo nichinichi shinbun publicized the new paper eight times beginning with its 16 April 1875 issue. The ads stated that the paper, as its name implied, would generally use hiragana and not unfamiliar kanji expressions, and would have illustrations in every issue, for the benefit of women and children. (Tsuchiya 1975:22-24)

See Morality and Censorship for a discussion of how women and children figured in the moral pretext for publishing other newspapers and news nishikie. (WW)


Keisatsu shinpo
Police news

Small-news (koshinbun) paper
First newspaper to focus on police reports

Started by Jono Denpei, Nishida Densuke, and Tatebe Kokichi.
Published by Keisatsu Shinpo Sha with support from Nipposha.
Office at Owaricho 2-1 (now part of Ginza 6 near Matsuzakaya).

One issue -- 1 sen.
One month -- 23 sen (paid in advance).
Three months -- 66 sen (ditto).
One year -- 2 yen 50 sen (ditto).
Delivered daily for one month -- 25 sen.
Delivered nine times a month -- 17 sen.

1884-10-4 First issue.
1886-10 Reborn as Yamato shinbun.
Keisatsu shinpo, like Hiragana eiri shinbun, is thought to have been started as a "small-news" (koshinbun) sister of Tokyo nichinichi shinbun, a "large-news" (oshinbun) paper. Apparently Jono, Nishida, and Tatebe remained affiliated with Nipposha, which published Tonichi. The new paper didn't last long, however, and by October 1886 its founders had revamped it into another small-news paper called Yamato shinbun. (Newspark 2001:83) (WW)


Koko shinbun
World news

News booklet (shinbunshi)
Precursor of Tokyo's first daily paper

Founded by Fukuchi Gen'ichiro, Jono Denpei, Nishida Densuke, and Hirooka Kosuke.
Forced to discontinue when Fukuchi was jailed for a provocative editorial.

Form -- pamphlet.
Size -- hanshiban, folded (about 6 by 9 inches, roughly the size of a large digest).
Pages -- 10-20 (Okitsu 1997:4; Huffman 1980:49 says 10-12).
Frequency -- every two to four days (Huffman 1980:47).
Price -- 8 fun (0.8 monme of silver; see image in Newspark 2001:108 and somewhat different image to the right).

1868-5-24 No. 1 -- first issue (Keio 4-i4-3).
1868-6-24 No. 16 -- "Kyojakuron" [On strength and weakness] editorial (Keio 4-5-5).
1868-7-11 No. 22 -- last issue (Keio 4-5-22).

Fukuchi arrested for criticizing the Satsuma/Choshu alliance in his editorial "On strength and weakness" (No. 16). Woodblocks confiscated. Paper not continued after Fukuchi released from jail three weeks later, lucky to have his head after appeals on behalf of influential friends, contacted by Jono.

The date of arrest shown here (Keio 4-5-18) is based on Fukuchi's later recollection. Altman (1965:80 n99) does not dispute this date but questions Fukuchi's memory of the office that ordered his arrest him, claiming it had not yet been established. Huffman (1980:58, 204, 215 n48) reiterates Altman's claim, cites records that put the arrest date at 12 July, and points out that this follows the publication of the last two issues on the 9th and 11th.

A Finger Exercise

First issue of Koko Shinbun (1868)

Fukuchi Gen'ichiro, who had just turned 27, was the leader. A former samurai from Nagasaki, he had already been abroad on two government missions as an interpreter and translator. By all accounts he was a dynamo who could do anything he put his mind too. He also had things to say and needed income. The other three, all in their thirties, were literary friends. Jono was a gesaku writer, and Nishida and Hirooka had experience in publishing. (Huffman 1980:49)

The four men printed the paper on a woodblock press in Fukuchi's home across the street from Ueno's Shinobazu Pond. They managed to get out 22 issues before Fukuchi was arrested, barely six weeks after the first issue.

Fukuchi was detained for about three weeks on the pretext of violating a Dajokan decree that prohibited unlicensed new books and translations (Altman 1965:81ff, Huffman 1980:49ff, Newspark 2001:106-111). In fact he was held and interrogated for criticizing the Satsuma-Choshu alliance, which had just overthrown the Tokugawa shogunate and was in the process of setting up an imperial government.

Fukuchi was not a fan of the Tokugawa shogunate. He was in fact a loyalist that supported the restoration. His grievance was in the way the Satcho alliance was going about it. As Fukuchi later described his attitude (Huffman 1980:51-52):

From the first, I had not a particle of objection to reverence for the emperor; nor was I opposed to the shogun's restoration of the government to the emperor. But when I observed the actual situation, I saw that power had been returned not to the court but to Satsuma and Choshu. In other words, the Tokugawa had fallen and Satsuma and Choshu had formed a second bakufu. This not only ran country to my expectations but opposed the spirit of the Restoration.

Fukuchi was if anything a practitioner of his own gradualist philosophy. He vanished from public life for a while, joined the Ministry of Finance, went to the United States on one mission, and around the world on another. By 1874 he was tired of bureaucratic life and ready to return to the world of journalism with a mission of his own.

Koko shinbun had been a finger exercise. Waiting for him now was the post of chief editor at Tokyo nichinichi shinbun, Tokyo's first daily paper, begun in 1872 by none other than Jono, Nishida, and Hirooka, and the woodblock drawer Yoshiiku. The political climate for journalism had changed, and Fukuchi and his friends, too, were wiser.

Rivers and Lakes

Though "koko" (C. jianghu), literally "rivers and lakes", is nearly a dead word in Japanese today, it was a fairly common expression in the mid-19th century. It is the keyword in the title of the column that reported stories of social and human interest in Tokyo nichinichi shinbun in 1872. It was part of the title of a popular book in 1873. And it appeared in the inaugural issue of a the news nishikie in 1874.

In references to classical China and Zen, "koko" it is pronounced "goko". Regrading China, it refers to the world of the Yangzi river (Changjiang) and Dongting lake, and in certain Chinese folklore it alludes to the fighting spirit of outcasts who protect themselves with martial arts. As a Zen term, it signifies a place where monks and other practitioners gather from all quarters. If all roads lead to Rome, then the whole world is in Rome.

In the title of Koko shinbun, "koko" signifies the "world" or "society" one lives in -- much like "sanga" (mountains and rivers) is a somewhat nostalgic reference to one's country as a homeland. In this sense it is very close to its general usage in Chinese today to mean the wide (and sometimes an idealized) world.

Ukiyo Shinbun

It is very possible that Fukuchi and his colleagues, in lighter moments, called their paper Ukiyo shinbun. For contemporary publications with furigana often glossed "koko" as "ukiyo" (floating world).

Furigana could signify the reading or the meaning of kanji, or both. Ono makes the following observation regarding the use of furigana in news nishikie stories (Ono 1972:6).

[Writers] did not attach furigana to kanji as was done in Edo-period novels, but often put the meanings in furigana, and so it was easier to easier to read by relying on the furigana and not on the [main] script.

An example of a "ukiyo" gloss on "koko" is found in the inaugural issue of the nishikie edition of Yubin hochi shinbun, where the kanji for "koko kikan" (江湖機関) are glossed "ukiyo karakuri" in furigana (see reproduction of print in Ono 1972:170). This nishikie was printed in 1874, one year after the publication of Oka Joki's Koko kikan seiyo kagami (江湖機関西洋鑑), which is also read Ukiyo karakuri seiyo kagami.

Oka Joki ("joki" means "steam locomotive") was the pen name of Kawahara Eikichi (d. 1889), a gesaku writer who had a day job as an engineer for the railroad agency. Koko kikan seiyo kagami was a humorous look at "The machinations of the world in a western mirror".

Yoshitoshi did the drawings for Hochi's nishikie, and when they finished their run in 1875 he turned to other work. In 1878 he did a study of the Satsuma warrior Ikegami Shiro called Kagoshima meian roku [A record of Kagoshima lightness and darkness]. The story brushed on the background was written by Oka Joki.

Tsuchiya cites an articles from contemporay Osaka papers to show that news nishikie were seen to be directed at the non-intelligentsia. A brief in the 8 May 1876 issue of Naniwa shinbun, an Osaka paper, glosses "koko" as "seken" (society). (Tsuchiya 1995:52)

However Fukuchi, Yoshitoshi, or Oka would have read "koko", their world was at once large and small. If living today, they would probably call their "koko" world "shakai" (society). (WW)


Onna shinbun
Women's news

Small-news (koshinbun) paper

Onna shinbun

At least 120 issues of Onna shinbun were published between June 1888 and mid 1890 at weekly or five-day intervals. Very little is known about the paper, which was produced by men.

Onna shinbun nishikie supplement

See Kenjoden
See Kenjoden gallery
See Kenjoden / Kesa Gozen

Published by Onna Shinbun Sha.
Office in Tōkyō, Shitaya-ku, Kita-Inari-chō 43.
    The ward office was in Kita-Inari-chō 43.
    Western part of present Taitō-ku.
Published and printed by Suzuki Hansaburō [unidentified]
Edited by Saga Jun'ichi [unidentified]

Issues first came out about once a week and later every 5th day.

1888-6 1st issue, Meiji 21-06.
Publication reportedly began in June 1888.
June 1888 had 4 Sundays and 6 "50 days".
1888-7 July 1888 had 5 Sundays and 6 "50 days".
1888-08 August 1888 had 4 Sundays and 6 "50 days".
1888-09-23 15th issue, Meiji 21-09-23 (Sunday)
Particulars on Kenjoden / Kesa Gozen nishikie furoku distributed with the issue.
September 1888 had 5 Sundays and 6 "50 days".
The 23rd fell on the 4th Sunday.
1889-11-15 Issue 83, Meiji 22-11-15 (Friday)
Data from Japan Archives image.
November 1889 had 5 Sundays and 6 "50 days".
1890-01-20 Issue 95, Meiji 23-01-20 (Monday).
First of 24-issue lot offered by Nagumo Shoten NLT 2016.
January 1890 had 4 Sundays and 6 "50 days".
15 Nov 1889 (Issue 83) to 20 Jan 1890 (Issue 95) spanned 14 "50 days".
Issue 83 to Issue 115 spanned 13 issues (14 days - 1).
Paper probably not published on 31 December 1889.
1890 [5-20] Issue 120, Meiji 23 [05-25 (Sunday)] <Estimated>.
Last of 24-issue lot offered by Nagumo Shoten NLT 2016.
Lot included issues 95-116, 119, 120 (last viewed March 2019).


絵入新聞 西國戦争日誌
Eiri shinbun / Saigoku senso nisshi
Illustrated news / Western provinces war daily journal
See article Saigoku senso nishi: A chronicle of disturbances heralding Seinan War.


News record

Yokohama's first Japanese-language newspaper

Published by Joseph Heco with the help of Kishida Ginko and Honma Senzo.

Place of publication -- Heco's residence Foreign Settlement No. 141 in Yokohama.

Genji 1-6-28 1864-7-31 -- First issue.
Genji 2-3 Circa 1865-4 -- Changed named to Kaigai shinbun (海外新聞) [Overseas news].
Keio 2-10 Circa 1866-11 -- Discontinued publication.

Shinbunshi carried general news, but also news about gold and other markets overeas, some shipping news, and advertising from shops run by foreigners. It was basically intended to promote trade and commerce in Yokohama.

The paper was hand-written for the first nine months, and was printed from woodblocks after changing it was revamped as Kaigai shinbun. It was published twice a month and ran for 26 issues. Its cover featured sketches of sailing ships in Yokohama bay, Mt. Fuji, and the Port of Yokohama seen from the sky.

Foreign Settlement No. 141 is now 141-banchi in Yamashitacho, Naka-ku, Yokohama. A monument has been erected on Kaiteibyo dori street in China Town in commemoration of the "Birthplace of the Japanese Newspaper" (Shinbun Hassho Kinen Hi).


Tokyo eiri shinbun
Tokyo illustrated news
Name of Hiragana eiri shinbun from March 1876.


東亰日日新聞 (東亰日日) [東日]
Tokyo [Tokei] nichinichi shinbun (Tokyo [Tokei] nichinichi) [Tonichi]
Tokyo daily news

東京 (Tokyo, Tokei) was commonly written 東亰 (Tokei, Tokyo) until about the middle of the Meiji period. The character 東 is considered a popular alternative of 京 though careful writers would graphically differentiate them. The Sino-Japanese Go (Wu = pre-Tang), Kan (Han = Tang, Chang'an), and To (Tang = Song, Yuan, Ming, Yuan, Qing) readings of both characters were kyō (kiyou, kiyau), kei, and kin.

Large-news (oshinbun) paper
Tokyo's first daily paper

Started by Jono Denpei, Ochiai Yoshiiku, Nishida Densuke, and Hirooka Kosuke.
Published by Nipposha.
Office at Kayacho 1 in Asakusa.
Carried government briefs and general news reports.

One issue -- 140 mon (of copper).
One month -- 20 me (75 grams) of silver.

1872-3-29 First issue (Meiji 5 Jinshin 2-21).
1874-6 Absorbed Kankyo Tokyo nichinichi shinbun.
1911-3-1 Absorbed by Osaka mainichi shinbun but retained name.
1936-12-26 Absorbed Jiji shinpo.
1943-1-1 Renamed Mainichi shinbun / Tokyo.
1951-10-1 Absorbed Yukan mainichi shinbun.



Tokyo nichinichi shinbun was published in 1872 by Nipposha (日報社), a company founded the same year by gesaku writer Jono Denpei (1832-1902), woodblock drawer Ochiai Yoshiiku (1833-1904), lending library manager Nishida Densuke (1838-1910), and Hirooka Kosuke (1829-1918), a colleague of Nishida's. The first issue of the paper came out on the 21st day of the 2nd month of the 5th year of Meiji (29 March 1872). Tonichi continued to publish under its own name after it was bought by Osaka mainichi shinbun in 1911. Both papers were merged in 1942 and from 1943 they became Mainichi shimbun.

Tokyo nichinichi shinbun seems to have been conceived during the 10th month of Meiji 4 (October or December 1871), at a lending library owned by Tsuji Den'emon. The bookstore sponsored art promtion parties [興画会 kyogakai] attended by gesaku writers, woodblock drawers, and others (Soma 1941:6, and Ono 1972:9 following Soma, have 狂画会 [kyogakai] or "mad-art parties"). Things had quieted down after the initial confusion of the restoration, and they talked about how to make money. Someone suggested starting a newspaper.

Present during this conversation were Jono Denpei and Nishida Densuke, who had helped Fukuchi Gen'ichiro publish Koko shinbun in 1868, and Ochiai Yoshiiku. These three men -- and Hirooka Kosuke, another Koko shinbun veteran -- brought out the first issue of Tokyo nichinichi shinbun on the 21st day of the 2nd month of Meiji 5 (29 March 1872). The first issue was printed with two colors on one side of a sheet of mulberry washi known as minogami. It reported a few government announcements and an account of a murder. (Ono 1972:8)

The gesaku writer Takabatake Ransen (1838-1885) joined Tonichi in the third month of Meiji 5 (April or May 1872). In April 1873, Yoshiiku started Hiragana eiri shinbun, Japan's first illustrated newspaper. Ransen became its editor -- then moved to Yomiuri shinbun in December.

The writer Hokiyama Kageo, and the colorful journalist Kishida Ginko (1833-1905), also joined the Tonichi staff in 1873.

Woodblocks to Moveable Type

The first issue was printed on one sheet from woodblocks. The second and subsequent early issues were printed on a press using both lead and wood moveable type.

An acquaitance in the neighborhood, on the advise of Kishida Ginko, had imported a moveable-type press from Shanghai, where Kishida had lived while helping Hepburn edit his dictionary. Problem was, there wasn't a lot of type, so Yoshiiku and his friends made due with what they had, throwing in kana whenever they didn't have kanji. This resulted in an "atrocious layout" (muzan-na shimen) which required careful reading to understand. (Okitsu 1997:10-11)

Fukuchi Becomes Chief Editor

In 1874, Fukuda Gen'ichiro (1841-1906) resigned his post at the Ministry of Finance and joined Tonichi as its chief editor, turning down an offer from Tonichi's rival, Yubin hochi shinbun.

Fukuchi was not a stranger to Tonichi's founders. They were same men who had helped him publish Koko shinbun in 1868, a venture which culminated in Fukuchi's arrest, making him the first Japanese journalist to be jailed for his thoughts and actions. Fukuchi's friendship with Jono went back much further.

Living up to his reputation, Fukuchi immediately began reforming Tonichi along his lines of thinking. Its status as an official mouthpiece of the government created a bit of a problem for him. Though close to many of the most powerful people of the times, and politically ambitious, as a polemicist he believed in editorial independence.

In the early 1880s, the major newspapers, most of them already supported by political patrons, began to align themsevles with one of the political parties that formed to debate issues involved in the drafting of the constitution. In 1884, Fukuchi's loyalist gradualist (conservative, go-slow) leanings moved him to affiliate Tonichi with the Constitutional Imperial Party -- Rikken Teisei To (立憲帝政党), literally "constitution-formed imperial-government party -- of which he was a leading member.

Like many southwesterners (Saigo Takamori and Eto Shinpei), Fukuchi had backed the imperial restoration, and he continued to favor the idea of imperial sovereignty mediated by an elite oligarchy. Though a reformist who advocated a free press, Fukuchi also believed in safeguarding the imperial polity while wading very slowly into the uncharted waters of liberal democracy. This made him somewhat of a minority at a time when many political leaders, intellectuals, and journalists were pushing for reforms that would have weakened the principle of imperial sovereignty, and the powers of the ruling oligarchy that gained its legitimacy through the imperial system.

Founders Leave

After Fukuchi threw Tonichi's support to the Constitutional Imperial Party, all of the paper's founders decided it was time to move on. The reasons they quit are not entirely clear. The paper was having all kinds of problems. It was losing its privileges with the government, and circulation was down. Jono, Nishida, and Yoshiiku may have felt a bit cramped by Fukuchi's style. Perhaps they just wanted some fresh air.

Jono and Nishida immediately started a paper called Keisatsu shinpo (Police bulletin), which reported police news. It quickly folded, but the never-say-die Jono resuscitated the paper as Yamato shinbun, a paper of popular tastes which did quite well. Jono hired Yoshitoshi to draw illustrations for the revamped paper and produce a nishikie supplement called Kinsei Jinbutsu Shi. Jono started writing again, and some of his stories were serialized in the paper (it helps when you're the boss).

Yoshiiku went into business and continued to produce a few woodblock prints.

Fukuchi Retires

Fukuchi himself, fed up with politics, quit Tonichi in 1888 to design and build the Kabukiza. He spent the rest of his life writing plays and fiction, translating works from English, and hanging out with old literary friends, including Jono. During 1901 and 1902, the last years of Jono's life, Fukuchi regularly contributed to Jono's Yamato shinbun.

Realizing a long-cherished dream, Fukuchi was elected to the Lower House of the Diet in 1904, though the Russo-Japanese War, and his failing health, prevented him from having any impact. He died of a kidney condition in 1906. (Huffman 1980:187-188)


Ono 1972, Huffman 1980, and Takahashi 1992a, and Tsuchiya 1995, 2000, and 2001 all have information about Tokyo nichinichi shinbun. They vary somewhat on details but tell the same story. Okitsu 1997 includes a lot more detail on the people involved and has more vivid reconstructions of what probably transpired between them. (WW)

A very brief and sketchy history of the Tokyo nichinichi shinbun from 1872 to 1943 is posted by Waseda University Library in both Japanese and English.


Yamato shinbun
Yamato news

Small-news (koshinbun) paper

Yamato News

Yamato shinbun was founded in 1886 by Fukuchi Gen'ichi and Jono Denpei. Jono, who had written several stories for the Eimei nijuhasshuku and collaborated with Yoshitoshi on other works, employed Yoshitoshi as an illustrator for the paper. Yoshitoshi also drew a monthly nishikie supplement called Kinsei jinbutsu shi (Accounts of recent-age personalities).

Jono's young son Ken'ichi, later the Nihonga drawer Kaburaki Kiyokata, took an interest in art from about this time. His father also put him to work as an illustrator for the paper, and he about the time of Yoshitoshi's death in 1892, Ken'ichi became a student of one of Yoshitoshi's understudies, Mizuno Toshikata.

Yamato News nishikie supplement

See Kinsei jinbutsu shi
See Kinsei jinbutsu shi gallery


Yubin hochi shinbun
Postal dispatch news

Large-news (oshinbun) paper
First newspaper delivered through postal system

Founded and edited by Konishi Gikei (小西義敬) with the backing of Maejima Hisoka (前島密 1835-1919), and published by Ōta Kin'emon (太田金右衛門).

Began as a pamphlet (sasshi) of hanshiban paper which, when folded, was about 6 by 9 inches, roughly the size of a large digest, and was published five times a month. Later it became a daily.

1872-7-15 First issue (Meiji 5-6-10).
1873 "Hochisha" company founded.
1894-12-26 Yubin hochi shinbun became just Hochi shinbun.
1942-8-5 Joined with Yomiuri shinbun, which was renamed Yomiuri hochi, as result of wartime government-mandated newspaper mergers.
1946-5 Published as part of Yomiuri shinbun.
1946-12-15 Hochi group left Yomiuri and launched new paper called Shin Hochi.
1948-9-1 Name of paper restored to Hochi shinbun.
1949 Floundered and returned to Yomiuri fold.
1949-12-30 Reborn as Yomiuri-affiliated sports sheet called Supootsu Hochi, which today is published and distributed nationally.

See Hochi early issues for further details, images, and samplings of stories.


Yomiuri shinbun
Yomiuri news

Small-news (koshinbun) paper
Longest running newspaper

1874-11-2 First issue.
Present Still publishing under same name.

Yomiuri Kawaraban

The writing of kawaraban (瓦版) in kanji meaning "tile print" is deceiving and most likely reflects a folk etymology related to a place name. News sheets in Japan probably go back to the late 16th century though the earliest extant example of a so-called kawaraban is dated 1615. Such one-off sheets were not, in fact, called kawaraban until the middle of the 19th century. Moreover, a kawaraban printed from a clay block has not yet to been found. All known kawaraban have been printed from woodblocks.

Until the Bakumatsu period, kawaraban were called yomiuri, denoting the fact that the news was read and sold. The Yomiuri Shinbun, Japan's highest circulating daily today, in fact originated as a kawaraban news sheet.

The etymology of kawaraban is thought to be either a place in Kyoto (Kawara) where yomiuri-like stories were published, or an allusion to kawarake, an unglazed earthenware, in the sense that yomiuri news sheets were materially rather plain publications. (Nakae 2003:70)

Yomiuri vendors read the newsprints aloud to sell them. Just think of a newspaper vendor who hawks papers shouts "Read all about it, read all about. Kerry tromps Bush by a landslide. Read about it. Read all about it." (WW)

Yomiuri News