Tonichi early issues

Graphic changes in printing technology

By William Wetherall

First posted 3 February 2008
Last updated 8 June 2021

Founding Founders Kishida and Fukuchi Tonichi shareholders Nipposha locations Roles of founders Producing the paper Editors and publishers Lunar to solar calendar Wood blocks, metal type, wood type

The founding of Tokyo nichinichi shinbun




For descriptions and discussions of Tonichi's name and how its name was represented on various mastheads (standards), see Tonichi mastheads.



The book makes no mention whatever of the news nishikie that bore the name of the paper. However, it does give an account of how the paper started and how it was produced and managed.

Tonichi was started by Jono Denpei, Nishida Densuke, and Ochiai Ikujiro, who were joined a month or two later by Hirooka Kosuke. Soma relates how this came about through his own words and those of Jono's son and Nishida. The following biographical accounts are close paraphrasings of Soma's story.

Jono Denpei (1832-1902)

Jono Denpei was otherwise known as the gesaku writer Sansantei Arindo. According to his son, the artist Kaburaki Kiyokata (1878-1972), who wrote about his father in Tonichi's 37th anniversary issue in 1909 [Meiji 42-nen 3-gatsu 29-nichi Tonichi 37 shunen kinen], Jono ran a kimono fabric shop and liked to read while walking with packages. He had a good memory and also wrote as much as he could. Because everything he read stayed in his head, there were not many books in his home when he died. (Page 4)

Though one side of him was a writer, another side was an entrepreneur. After quitting the Tonichi and starting the Yamato shinbun he encountered a number of economic difficulties. He also started a sugar company but it failed. He accumulated a lot of debt, but even when pressed for payment he was relaxed at home, and when he went to a play he saw it in a box. (Page 5)

Nishida Densuke (1838-1910)

Nishida Densuke also reminisced on the occasion of the 37th anniversary the year before he passed on. He said he was born into an Asakusa Kuramae family which held a commission as a fudasahi to store the rice the shogun's retainers received as stipends. After suffering considerable damage during the Ansei earthquakes in 1854, the family released its fudasashi stock and Nishida became the manager of a bookshop started in Moto-Osaka-cho (now in the vicinity of Nihonbashi Ningyocho 1-1-17) by Tsuji Den'emon, who had been an official at Ginza, the silver mint in front of Edo Castle.

Through his work at the bookshop Nishida became acquainted with Jono, Hirooka, and Ochiai. It is not difficult to imagine a bookstsore manager getting to know a gesaku writer like Jono. But what about Hirooka and Ochiai? (Page 5)

Hirooka Kosuke (1829-1918)

Hirooka Kosuke also worked for the Tsuji family. Originally he served the Tsuji family itself but was then promoted to a supervisor of other subordinates. After the restoration of Meiji he became independent and was publishing books and nishikie [nishikiga]. As such he naturally became acquainted with Nishida. (Page 5)

Ochiai Ikujiro (1833-1904)

Ochiai Ikujiro was a ukiyoe artist who went by the name Yoshiiku. He was the son of a Yoshiwara tea shop propritor and studied under Kuniyoshi. It was not at all odd that he would get to know the manager of a bookstore and the publisher of nishikie and books. (Page 5)

Tsuji Den'emon himself, according to Soma, citing another contributor to the 37th anniversary issue [Miyazaki Shami Dojin dan 37 shunen kinen] (page 6), "was a person who led a very affluent life but was by nature a person of taste [ten sei furyu na hito], and he originated what were called mad-art parties [kyogakai], and at a second residence in Hashiba [on the outskirts of Edo to the east of Senju], he would hold mad-art parties, bringing together gesaku writers [gesakusha], professional drawers [gako], and worldly people [tsukaku] and others, and Jono, Nishida, and Ochiai were in fact members of this association." [Note: some sources have "art-promotion parties"]


Kishida and Fukuchi

Soma provides quite a bit of detail about the arrival of Kishida Ginko and Fukuchi Gen'ichiro, how Fukuchi became president, and his political difficulties until finally he left the paper in at Tonichi. Kishida became particularly well known as a result of his reporting on the Taiwan expedition in 1874. Fukuchi was already famous because of his prior run-ins as publisher of Koko shinbun in 1868.


Tonichi shareholders

Many men had invested in Nipposha as it grew. By the time Fukuchi was editor and fighting to take the paper in the political directions he favored, he was one of the major shareholders.

Tonichi shareholders -- late 1880s

Source: Soma 1941, pages 57-58
Yen gold Shareholders
15,000 Nishimura Torashiro
10,000 Hachisuka Mochiaki, Shibusawa Eiichi, Fukuchi Gen'ichiro
5,000 Mori Motonori, Kashiwamura Nobu, Masuda Takashi, Tateno Gozo
4,000 Hara Zensaburo
2,500 Jono Denpei, Nishida Densuke
1,500 Seki Naohiko
1,000 Nemoto Shigeki, Higuchi Tokujiro

Fukuchi, the first president, held the post from 1875 to 1888. Seki, who succeeded Fukuchi, served as president only three years. This list appears to reflect the principal owners around the time Fukuchi resigned, when there was a major reorganization of the company to deal with a continuing slide in income (from average monthly proceeds of 8,316 yen in 1880 to 3,112 yen in 1886) and the political position of the paper.

Soma notes that the names of Hirooka, Ochiai, Tsuji, and others involved in the company since its beginnings have vanished from the list. According to Hirooka's retrospect in 1909, he and Ochiai had severed their ties with Nipposha in 1881. Nishida said he retired in 1891, the year the presidency passed from Seki Naohiko to Ito Miyoji, who held the post until 1904, thus serving as many years as Fukuchi. Jono launched Yamato shinbun in 1886, so he too had probably cut his connections with Nipposha by this time. (Pages 58-59)


Nipposha locations

1-20 (Meiji 5-2-21 to Meiji 5-3-10) Jono's home Tokyo Asakusa Kayacho 1-chome

21-299 (Meiji 5-3-12 to Meiji 6-2-?) [Mainichi 1972: M5-3-6] Nihonbashi Moto-Osakacho Shinmichi. [Mainichi 1972: Iseya Shirozaemon rental bookstore]. Nippo kaisha.

300 (meiji 6-2-25) [Mainichi 1972:6-2-24] Asakusa Gomon-gai Kawaracho [Kawaramachi] 16-banchi [Soma 1941: Iseya Shirozaemon rental bookstore]. Nipposha.

1872 new building Ginza 2-chome (corner building)

1877 moved to Ginza 1-chome (middle of block)


Roles of founders

According to Nishida they hoped to make at least a yen a day. Once they began, though, they found themsleves so busy they had no spare time, and the paper became their principal work.

Jono did the editing and Nishida the accounting, while Hirooka took care of general affairs, and Ochiai was in charge of illustrations and dispatching. All four were involved in reception duties and made the rounds collecting payments.

Miyazaki Shami Dojin [not identified as of writing] related that, when he was at the school of the Sinologist Yoshino Kinryo (1802-1878) in Koishikawa, he had seen Nishida himself, even in the broiling heat of summer, come in tekko [cloth or leather hand and wrist protectors] and kyahan [cloth leg wrappers, resembling gaiters or puttees] to collect money. (Page 6)


Producing the paper

Hirooka himself described Tonichi's early operations on the occasion of its 37th anniversary in 1909. The first issues were produced at Jono's home at Asakusa Kayacho 1-chome (later part of Asakusabashi). The first issue so impressed Eto Shinpei, then the Ministry of Justice, that he took a horse and buggy and paid a visit to Nipposha in Asakusa Kayacho. This caused quit a stir in the neighborhood, as only high placed people used such means of transportion, and the unfamiliar sound of a horse and buggy brought people out on the streets. (Pages 7-8)

The earliest issues were printed from woodblocks, as the founders didn't have moveable type. A thick block the size of the paper was cut into twelve thinner blocks. There were six carvers in the editorial room, and as soon as the writers finished a manuscript, it would be passed to the carvers and each would carve two blocks. Two printers would take the twelve blocks and work through the night, running off copies that Ochiai would deliver in the morning.

The early print runs were around 2,000 but in time the circulation increased to the point they could not print enough by hand so they considered moveable wooden type. At the time such type was made only in Nagasaki, and traveling there from Tokyo was more difficult than going to America today [1941, when the book under review was published]. So Tsuji Den'emon's son, Tsuji Yasujiro, one of the founders of the parent Nipposha company that published Tonichi, took upon himself the task of coming up with moveable type and a press.

Soma cites Hirooka's dramatic account of how Tsuji managed to do this, then remarks that, while the passage of time has undoubtedly resulted in some deviation from fact, it appears that Nipposha was located at Jomo's home for the first twenty issues (through Meiji 5-3-10). From Issue 21 (Meiji 5-3-12) the paper was published from property the company owned on Moto-Osakacho Shinmichi. A photo press Tsuji imported from Paris was set up at this second location.

As noted in Issue 300 (Meiji 6-2-25), Nipposha moved for the second time to its third location at Asakusa Gomon-gai Kawaracho [Kawaramachi] 16-banchi, which Soma believes to have been what Hirooka referred to as the site of the residence of Iseya Shirozaemon. [Note: Until the end of the Edo period, Iseya Shirozaemon had been an Asakusa Kuramae kudashiya, as Nishida Densuke's family had been. Perhaps this connection explains why Nipposha was able to locate on this property.] (Pages 12-13)


Editors and publishers

Soma observes how the names of the editor and publisher changed in the early years.

The 24 October 1876 issues shows Jono as the editor (編輯者 henshūsha) and Nishida as the printer/publisher (印務者 inmusha). However, the 29 October 1876 issue has Kishida as the editor, and later issues again show Jono, or Hokiyama, as the editor. And Hirooka, Ochiai, and others took turns as printer/publisher. Kishida's name appears in the paper [as a writer] several days before than Hokiyama's. This does not mean he joined Nipposha earlier. The 37th-year anniversary issue in 1909 states that Hokiyama was first an editor, and that Kishida joined Nipposha in September 1873. In any event, it is clear that Kishida entered the company over half a year before it moved to Ginza. (Soma 1941: 16)

Not much is known about Hokiyama. According to Suematsu Kencho (1855-1920), an early Tonichi reporter who went on to make a name for himself in international politics, he had been a retainer of the former Shogunate, and married into the family that oversaw the Kanda Meijin shrine. He was well-schooled in Chinese and Japanese and wrote general reportage with Jono. Fukuchi praised Hokiyama's sentences as skillful and most precise. Fukuchi also wrote that Hokiyama died in 1880. But Soma says Fukichi's memory was incorrect, that Hokiyama collapsed at work and never recovered in 1884. (Soma 1941:18).


Lunar to solar calendar

The official change from the lunar calendar to the solar calendar, effective from Meiji 6-1-1 (1 January 1873), which corresponded to Meiji 5-12-3 was a big event. Tonichi published the official announcement of the changeover, and related information, in Issue 232 (Meiji 5-11-9) and also in the following issue. The Meiji 5-11-16 edition reported that, on the 10th and 11th, after the first announcement on the 9th, people came to the Nipposha office and other sales points "like clouds, like mist". Sales exceeded 10,000 these two days and even more copies were sold the following day. (Page 13)


Wood blocks, metal type, wood type

It took Tonichi the better part of a year to make the translation from wood blocks to metal type. The evolutionary trail was not straight, but turned back on itself and meandered. (Mainichi 1972:422-428, and color plate in front matter)

Issue 1 by wood blocks

Issue 1 was published from wood blocks in the conventional way. Its standard (at the top) and its colophon (to the left) were printed in a dark brown. The articles and an illustration were black. The characters 官許 (kankyo), meaning that the paper was officially approved, was stamped in vermillion on the edge of the standard in the upper right corner.

Issues 1 through 372 were printed on washi. Only about 1,000 copies of Issue 1 were made. A number of reproductions of Issue 1 were made, some of them on washi about the same size -- roughly 46 cm wide by 31 cm tall. The images shown in publications are likely to be of reproductions.

The images shown in Mainichi Shinbun's 100th aniversary publications are of genunine copies. The image shown in Newspark 2000 appears to be of a reproduction.

Issues 2-11 by lead type

Issues 2 to 11 were published on a foot press from Shanghai using a Mincho font lead type. But the publishers went back to wood blocks from Issue 12.

Nipposha announced that it was discontinuing the lead-type press because, with Issue 11, it had used all the paper it had preprinted with the Tonichi standard and colophon.

They had used the press and lead type to commemorate Tonichi's start. Apparently the new technology proved to be too labor intensive and limiting. (Mainichi 1972:426-427).

Nishioka Kosuke, one of Tonichi's founding publishers, gave his account of what happened in an article that ran in the 29 March 1909 edition (Issue 11,599) of Tonichi entitled "The first moveable type" (最初の活字). The edition was a special issue celebrating the 37th anniversary of the paper, four years before its merger with Osaka Mainichi. (Mainichi 1972:426)

Indeed, Issue 11 shows all manner of irregularities that resulted from an insufficient supply of type. When they ran out of type for certain kanji, they had to swap in katakana. When they ran out of a certain size, they had to swap in a different size. They even resorted to different kanji. So high-frequency characters like 月 and 銀 became ゲツ and ギン. (Mainichi 1972:425)

There is also evidence of swapping katakana for kanji that apparently existed in sufficient supply -- possibly because the typesetter couldn't immediately find the kanji in the unfamiliar Nanking case box. The situation was truely a nightmare for typesetters and readers alike. The only remedy was to go back to the tried-and-true familiar wood block woodblocks -- which impossed no limitations on availability of suitable type.