Sayonara Amerika, Sayonara Nippon

All I Know is What I Read in the Papers

Posted in Change is Bad,Current Events,Japanese film by bourdaghs on the March 9th, 2010

There was an amusing editorial cartoon in the Chicago Tribune this past weekend by Scott Stantis. A mother sits at the breakfast table, reading the newspaper, and announces to her two children that the Post Office might stop delivering letters on Saturday. Her son, busy at his laptop, asks, “What’s a letter?” Her daughter, texting on her cellphone, tops this by asking, “What’s a newspaper?”

The state of the newspaper industry in Japan isn’t quite so grim as in America, but the numbers are still tumbling. The hard-right Sankei newspaper is taking the biggest hit, report Peter Alford and David McNeill in a very interesting article up this week at The Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus. Daily circulation figures for Japan’s major newspapers still dwarf those in other countries.

Slowly, however, the gravity-defying circulations appear to be heading for earth. ABC statistics on the main morning-edition circulation for 2006 to 2009 show that every Japanese newspaper recorded a loss of sales, except the business-oriented Nikkei. In relative terms, the declines are tiny: the world’s best-selling newspaper, the conservative Yomiuri is down from 10,042,075 to 10,018,117; the liberal-left Asahi from 8,093,885 to 8,031,579; the liberal Mainichi has taken a more substantial hit, from just under 4 million to 3.8 million. The Nikkei is up slightly from 3,034,481 to 3,052,929. Perhaps more indicative, and worrying, for the industry is the sharp drop in advertising revenues: from one trillion yen in 2007 to an estimated 600 billion in 2009, a year in which online advertisements continued to grow.

Those same newspapers are reporting just now (so far Japanese-language only, but I’m sure the English papers will be carrying this in a few hours) that film director Kitano Takeshi has just been awarded France’s highest cultural honor. This all coincides with a film festival and art show in Paris featuring his works.

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