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Top > Publications > NDL Newsletter > Back Numbers 2012 > No. 182, April 2012

National Diet Library Newsletter

No. 182, April 2012

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Exhibition "Graphic Magazines in Meiji, Taisho and Showa Eras"

This article is based on the article in Japanese in NDL Monthly Bulletin No. 610 (January 2012) and the booklet of the exhibition.

From Feb. 1 to Mar. 2, 2012, an exhibition which displays about 190 magazines from our collections featuring visual representation was held by the National Diet Library (NDL) at the Tokyo Main Library (the same exhibition was held at the Kansai-kan of the NDL from Mar. 9 to 28). This article introduces some items shown in the exhibition.

  Image of Fujin Gurafu
Fujin gurafu, vol.3, no.5 Kokusaijohosha, 1926.5
Illustrated by Yumeji Takehisa
NDL call no.: 雑51-38
<wood engraving>
  Image of Manshu Shanhai daijihen gaho Manshu Shanhai daijihen gaho, vol.3
Kokusai johosha, 1932.3.1
NDL call no.: YA-1272
<four-color half tone>


In an age without television or the Internet, magazines were one of the most popular visual media which provided much information faster than books and more comprehensively than newspapers. Magazines were burdened with people’s “we want to see” expectations especially on the visual side such as pictures and photographs: important events of the country such as disasters and wars, faces of royalty and famous actors, fashion, fairy tales and pictures for children, art, photographs, etc. In magazines of the Meiji, Taisho and Showa eras, visual expressions which attracted people’s interests and concern are displayed as well as mass culture.

In step with people’s requests “we want to see things with more reality,” printing technology also developed: from pictures to photographs, black and white to colored, with more copies and faster. Some of the technology has already disappeared, while some were momentous invention which led to modern technology. Printing technology took a process of trial and error to achieve visual expressions for magazines.

Expansion of visual magazines

1. Disaster

Magazines showed disasters in living color such as the Ansei Edo earthquake (1855), the Meiji-Sanriku Earthquake (1896), the Great Kanto Earthquake (1923), the Isewan Typhoon (1959), the Great Hanshin Earthquake (1995) and the Great East Japan Earthquake which occurred in March 2011. In the epoch when photography was not in practical use, wood engravings and lithographs were used to show the scene of disaster. After photography came into practical use, black and white photographs were taken at the beginning, which developed to color photographs. Photographing from a helicopter has also begun.

Image of Kanto Daishinsai gaho
  Image of Kanto Ootsunami higairoku
Kanto Daishinsai gaho, Shashin jiho, Shashinjihosha, 1923.10.1
NDL call no. 415-30 <photogravure>
*The image is provided on the Digital Library from the Meiji Era (Japanese only)
Ootsunami higairoku vol.1, Fuzoku Gaho, no. 118, extra edition, Toyodo, 1896.7.10
Illustrated by Eisen Tomioka
NDL call no. Z11-604 (replicated version)
2. War

As printing technologies developed in modern times, war coverage became more visual. In the time of the Sino-Japanese war (1894-1895), photographs were first used in magazines. During the Russo-Japanese war (1904-1905), use of photographs increased and many related magazines were published. However, war scenes were still depicted in illustration. Vivid photographs of the battlefield were made available during the Second Sino-Japanese war (1937-1945) and World War II, when cameras became more downsized. Image cropping technology improvement at this time also helped produce well-designed beautiful magazines.

Image of Nichiro Senso jiji
  Image of Nichiro Senso jikki
Nichiro Senso jiji gaho, vol.1,
Jiji gahosha, 1904.3.13
Illustrated by Kensei Matsumoto
NDL call no.: 雑53-7 <lithographs>
Nichiro Senso jikki, first part (7th ver.), Hakubunkan, 1904.2.20
NDL call no.: 雑53-8
<relief halftones>
  Image of Shashin shuho
Shashin shuho, vol. 200,
Naikaku johokyoku, 1941.12.24
NDL call no.: Z23-634 (replicated version)
3. Graphic magazine

Graphic magazines are general magazines published mainly for reportage and also for entertainment with many photographs and pictures. There were various types of graphic magazines from Meiji to the Showa era: starting with “Fuzoku gaho,” the first graphic magazine, and “Kinji Gaho” by Kunikida Doppo, these types of magazines were a reflection of a wide range of areas from family life to international affairs.

Image of Fuzoku gaho   Image of Nichiyo gaho Nichiyo gaho, vol.1, no.8,
Hakubunkan, 1911.2.19
NDL call no.: 雑54-62
Fuzoku gaho, vol.2, Toyodo, 1889.3
NDL call no.: VG1-32
  Image of Kokusai shashin shimbun
Kokusai shashin shimbun, vol.1,
Shimbun sogosha, 1933.2.22
NDL call no.: 雑53-53
4. Fashion

Fashion magazines did not exist in the Meiji and Taisho eras. In the early Showa era, garment professional magazines were first published and after the war, dressmaking schools published professional magazines of dressmaking which led the general public to follow the latest fashion. Also, magazines targeting mid-age groups of readers, between girls’ and women’s, were published and these became the future of fashion magazines.

Image of Ru sharuman
Ru sharuman, vol.1, no.1, Kobunsha, 1935.9
NDL call no.: VG1-400 <probably offset>
5. People

Curiosity and big-names are universal and immutable. In the third decade of the Meiji era (end of the 19th century), as it became possible to print photographs on paper by relief halftones and collotypes, many persons appeared in newspapers and magazines. “Nisshin Senso jikki” was the first magazine with people’s photographs. With relief halftones, photographs of military personnel, celebrities and war dead as well as the situation of the battlefield were carried, and achieved popularity.
In the graphic magazines which developed afterward, many articles depicting persons’ activities were provided. There were also graphic magazines featuring the enthronement ceremony of the Emperor, and geisha magazines. And with the development of the cinema, movie stars came into the world and many movie star magazines were published.

Image of Nissin Senso jikki
  Image of Bikan gaho
Nissin Senso jikki, part 45,
Hakubunkan, 1895.11.17
NDL call no.: VG1-63
<relief halftones>
Bikan gaho, no.6, Kinji gahosha, 1906.6
NDL call no.: VG1-124
6. Children

Magazines for children appeared in the third decade of the Meiji era. At first, they mostly consisted of instructive texts, but illustrations and photographs gradually increased and at last, picture magazines using color plates became popular. Magazines for children with various plates and supplements, such as pictorial postcards and sugoroku (a Japanese board game) were a place for children to relax at that time.

Image of Kodomono kuni <offset>
Kodomono kuni, vol.9, no.5, Tokyosha, 1930.5
Front cover illustrated by Shotaro Honda
NDL call no.: Z32-B158 <offset>
7. Art and photograph

Advanced printing technology has been used in art magazines from early on to reproduce works.
For photographs, the history of photographs and magazines cannot be treated separately as evidenced by magazines for amateurs first published in the Taisho era, the emerging photograph movement in the early Showa era and the boom of photograph magazines in the postwar period.

Image of Myojo
  Image of Kamera
Myojo, vol.1, no.11,
Tokyo shinshisha, 1891.2
Illustrated by Takeji Fujishima
NDL call no.: 雑8-28
<relief halftones>
Kamera, vol.1, no.1, Arusu, 1921.4
NDL call no.: 雑35-205

note: NDL call numbers starting with “VG” are all in the Nunokawa Collection held in the Humanities Room of the Tokyo Main Library.


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