Nishiki-e-shinbun (錦絵新聞)

Nishiki-e-shinbun (a newspaper having nishiki-e prints in it) refers to a visual news medium which was issued for several years in the early Meiji period in Japan, and was a newspaper which explained each one newspaper article using one nishiki-e (an especially colorful Japanese woodblock print) which was a kind of ukiyo-e (a Japanese wood-block print). Nishiki-e-shinbun is sometimes called shinbun-nishiki-e noting the nishiki-e in it as a graphic work.

Nishiki-e-shinbun had a strong 'news-reporting feature' of which ukiyo-e prints' characteristics had. Most issues of nishiki-e-shinbun were issued for a very short period from 1874 to 1881 and, later on, disappeared pressured by small-scale newspapers.


Shinbun' which was first issued in Tokyo in early Meiji period became popular to the extent that it became a souvenir of Tokyo, however, this 'shinbun' was directed to the intellectuals and, therefore, it had no furigana (small-sized phonograms put beside Chinese characters to show the sound of those characters) no pictures in it and, therefore, it was hard to read for the general public. Nishiki-e-shinbun featured this 'shinbun' as its subject matter and worked out its expression for even the general public who could only read hiragana (one of the two types of phonograms of Japanese language) to be able to understand the shinbun through pictures and easy words. Reiko Tsuchiya positioned the nishiki-e-shinbun saying 'nishiki-e-shinbun was a news medium lining up next to the small-scale newspapers which were directed to non-intellectual people as their readers'. Nishiki-e-shinbun was a medium which popularized shinbun in the period when the modern journalism rose to power.

The first nishiki-e-shinbun was issued around July or August in 1874. The first one was a newspaper which was produced by a printer-publisher named 'Gusoku-ya store' (armor and furniture store) by using articles of Tokyo-nichinichi (day after day in Tokyo) Shinbun and nishiki-e prints by Hoki OCHIAI and adding explanation texts with furigana in them to the nishiki-e prints, and was also sold by Gusoku-ya as nishiki-e-version 'Tokyo-nichinichi Shnbun'. Nishiki-e-shinbun was a medium which reported sensational incidents using a type of graphic work that was nishiki-e, and it has been said that 'its bizarre and sensational content' has 'a character similar to that of today's photography weekly magazines'.

The nishiki-e-version Tokyo-nichinichi Shinbun became extremely popular for the understandability of its nishiki-e prints, the novelty of its 'shinbun', and the interestingness of its topics. Following this, about 40 kinds of nishiki-e-shinbun were founded one after another from printer-publishers in Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto, etc., in addition to those that included articles of Yubin-hochi Shinbun newspaper added with nishiki-e prints of Honen TSUKIOKA. However, when ko-shinbun (small newspaper) began to be issued which combined therein simple texts and contents same as those of nishiki-e-shinbun, and illustrations printed in one color which needed less time to print than nishiki-e prints, nishiki-e-shinbun was overwhelmed by the ko-shinbun and most of nishiki-e-shinbun newspapers disappeared less than ten years after their appearance.

Nishiki-e-shinbun as a medium

Nishiki-e-shinbun was welcomed due to 'the novelty of its ideas and style, and its character featuring mainly gossip' and was very popular among the general public who had been away from newspapers. Explanatory captions including furigana for the prints of the news was easily readable for those who did not know Chinese characters well and, therefore, nishiki-e-shinbun let the general public know the interestingness of 'shinbun'. As a visual reporting medium and as a medium of gossip journalism, nishiki-e-shinbun had something common to it and photography weekly magazines and wide-shows on TV in the later days. Nishiki-e-shinbun was welcomed as a souvenir of Tokyo similarly to 'shinbun'.

However, in terms of quick reporting, nishiki-e-shinbun only followed the newspaper articles and could report the same news as those in the newspapers later than the newspapers for several days at earliest and, for some subject matters, nishiki-e-shinbun for each of them was issued several months after each of them occurred. When small-scale newspapers each including pictures and furigana like hiragana-eiri-shinbun started to be issued as if they followed the success of nishiki-e-shinbun, nishiki-e-shinbun disappeared from the visual field of the general public as it was overwhelmed by those small-scale newspapers. In addition to the inferiority of nishiki-e-shinbun in quick reporting, 'the trend of leaving nishiki-e prints by the general public' is pointed out as the reason for the decline of nishiki-e-shinbun.

Not a few eshi (painters) and writers for nishiki-e-shinbun became illustration painters, reporters, and contributors for the small-scale newspapers. Some of e-zoshi-ya (stores which sell illustrated story books published in Edo period) which were the printer-publishers later handled sales of newspapers.

In addition to those like the nishiki-e versions of Tokyo-nichinichi Shinbun and Yubin-hochi Shinbun whose numbers of copies were verified to be many, some nishiki-e-shinbun were issued for a limited number of times as advertisements or attachments to the main paper.

Shinbun-nishiki-e' as ukiyoe

When regarded as ukiyoe, nishiki-e-shinbun sometimes is called 'shinbun-nishiki-e' meaning nishki-e prints handling shinbun as their subject matter. Shinbun-nishiki-e was a form of nishiki-e (ukiyo-e woodblock print) in terms of its printing technique, however, was not highly evaluated so often as art. One of the reasons was that shinbun-nishiki-e handled realistic subject matters and carried not only nishiki-e prints which were created by eshi who were artistically highly evaluated such as Yoshiiku and Yoshitoshi. Hideo ONO and Gaikotsu MIYATAKE can be listed as the researchers who noted shinbun-nishiki-e early on.

Shinbun-nishiki-e has high value as a visual reference for manners and customs, general society, and culture. Through shinbun-nishiki-e, we can visually learn what the manners and customs in those days were, what incidents happened then and how people understood them, and what events people were interested in.

Like other ukiyoe prints created in Meiji period, carminite and ramco which were based on imported inexpensive aniline were used in shinbun-nishiki-e and they exerted a colorful and loud effect and, therefore, shinbun-nishiki-e had different color tones from those of ukiyoe created before the end of Edo period.

Subject matters of nishiki-e-shinbun

Subject matters which were especially journalistic and scandalous were picked up from newspaper articles.

Crimes, bloody affairs, and murders.

Love affairs and gossip

Strange incidents, rare incidents, and mysterious incidents.

Heroic tales, filial piety tales, and educational tales.

Foreigner tales and police-man stories

Seinan War

Simplified chronological table of nishiki-e-shinbun

On February 24, 1868, the first newspaper in Japan, Chugai Shinbun started to be published (the frequency of its issuance was once per about 4 to 5 days).

On January 28, 1871, the first daily newspaper in Japanese language in Japan, 'Yokohama-mainichi Shinbun' started to be published.

On February 21, 1872, 'Tokyo-nichinichi Shinbun' started to be published as the first daily newspaper in Tokyo.

On June 10 of the same year, 'Yubin-hochi Shinbun' started to be published as a weekly newspaper (this paper became a daily newspaper on June 6 in the next year).

Around July to August in 1874, nishiki-e-version 'Tokyo-nichinichi Shinbun' started to be published.

In 1875, nishiki-e-version 'Yubin-hochi Shinbun' and 'Osaka-nishiki-ga (nishiki-e picture) Shinbun' started to be published.

In April in the same year, a small-scale newspaper 'Hiragana-e-iri Shinbun' (a newspaper in hiragana with pictures therein) started to be published with Aisen TAKAHATA as its editor in chief. In this time, nishiki-e-version 'Yubin-hochi Shinbun' stopped its publication.

In September in the same year, a new publishing ordinance was promulgated and the change-seal system was abolished. Around this time, 'Nishiki-ga-hyakuji Shinbun' started to be published.

In November in the same year, a small-scale newspaper 'Kana-yomi Shinbun' (read-in-kana newspaper) (in Tokyo) and 'Naniwa (Kansai Region) Shinbun' (in Osaka) started to be published.

In September 1876, the Hiragana-e-iri Shinbun was renamed to Tokyo-e-iri Shinbun and became daily. At the same time, the publication of the nishiki-e-version 'Tokyo-nichinichi Shinbun' was stopped. The last issue of 'Nishiki-e-hyakuji Shinbun, No. 190 was published.

In 1877, the Seinan War broke out and nishiki-e-shinbun featuring the war as their subject matter were published in March to May. With this war as a trigger, most of the nishiki-e-shinbun in Tokyo and Osaka were abolished.

In 1881, 'Nishiki-ga Shinbun' started to be published in Kyoto.

Nishiki-e-shinbun in Tokyo

Many of the nishiki-e-shinbun published in Tokyo carried large-sized nishiki-e prints. Hoki OCHIAI and Honen TSUKIOKA who were representative e-shi (painter) were fellow disciples studying under Kuniyoshi UTAGAWA. In addition to the above, there were Kokushu TOYOHARA, Eisen SENSAI (Eisen KOBAYASHI), Toshinobu YAMAZAKI, Kunimasa UMEDO, Mosai UTAGAWA, Hoshu SHINSAI, Shoso MISHIMA, etc.

Tokyo-nichinichi Shinbun

Nishiki-e-version 'Tokyo-nichinichi Shinbun' was produced based on a daily paper 'Tokyo-nichinichi Shinbun'.

Printer-publisher: Kahei FUKUDA of an e-zoshi-ya 'Gusoku-ya'

E-shi: Yoshiiku OCHIAI

Writer of the texts: Aisen TAKASHIMA, Denpei JONO, Densuke NISHIDA, Jisuke OKADA, etc.

This nishiki-e-shinbun is characterized by its red frame and its frame decoration with angels. There were not a few cases where other nishiki-e-shinbun used this design of the angels without permission.

Yoshiiku painted his works in a realistic painting style and he painted like Gasan who directly wrote text in a black portions of each of his nishiki-e prints.

Yubin-hochi Shinbun

Nishiki-e-version 'Yubin-hochi Shinbun' produced based on a daily paper, Yubin-hochi Shinbun.

Printer-publisher: Shoshichi KUMAGAI of an e-zoshi-ya 'Ebisu-ya-kinsho-do'

Eshi: Yoshitoshi TSUKIOKA

Writer of the texts: Hakuen Matsubayashi, Encho SANYUTEI, etc.

This paper has a purple frame and a red background for the title lettering, and text in the upper portion in the form of columns, as its basic layout.

In 1875, "Yubin-hochi Shinbun Nishiki-e prints" started to be published. Nishiki-e prints by Honen were realistically painted in detail including even the background, and the portions for text and nishiki-e prints were clearly separated from each other. In addition, a series of nishiki-e prints by Kokushu TOYOHARA which were based on the Yubin-hochi Shinbun are still preserved.


Nishiki-e-version 'Asano Shinbun'

Nishiki-e-version 'Kana-yomi Shinbun'

Nishiki-e-version 'Tokyo-maiyu' (every evening in Tokyo) Shinbun

Nishiki-e-version 'Kabuki Shinpo' (new kabuki newspaper)

Kakushu-shinbun-zukai' (various newspapers illustrated)

Dai-nippon-koku E-iri Shinbun' (great Japan illustrated newspaper)

Tokyo Kakusha-senbatsu Shinbun' (selected publishers' newspaper in Tokyo)

Shinbun Zukai' (newspaper illustrated)

Shokoku Chindan Shinbun-banasi' (strange topics and news in regions in Japan)

Shinbun-zukushi' (full of news)

Shinbun-ekai-zukushi' (newspaper full of illustrations)

Tokyo-nishiki-e Shinbun' - topics about Seinan War

Nishiki-e-shinbun in Osaka

Nishiki-e-shinbun were also published in Osaka and Kyoto. In Osaka, because of the reasons including that there was no daily paper regularly published and, therefore, nishiki-e-shinbun there played a more important role than that of nishiki-e-shinbun in Tokyo as a news medium. The size of nishiki-e-shinbun in Osaka was mainly chuban (middle size) which corresponded to B5.

As eshi there, Sadanobu HASEGAWA II, Yoshitaki SASAKI, Hoko SASAKI, and Shigehiro RYUO were engaged in a plurality of nishiki-e-shinbun and, in addition, there were Hironobu KINOSHITA II, Yoshikage GOTO, Raisai SUZUKI, Yoshimine GYOKUTEI, etc.

Osaka-nishiki-ga Shinbun'

Osaka-nishiki-e Shinbun'

Osaka Nishiki-ga Shinwa' (Osaka's new topics illustrated with nishiki-ga prints)

Osaka Shinbun Nishiki-ga'

Osaka-nichinichi Shinbun'

Osaka-nichinichi Shinbunshi'

Osaka Nishiki-ga-nichinichi Shinbunshi'

Nichinichi Shinbun'

Shinbun Zukai'

Yubin Hochi Shinbun Nishiki-ga'

Nishiki-ga Hyakuji Shinbun': Nishiki-e-shinbun which had the widest circulation in Osaka. This newspaper counted 190 issues during September 1875 to September 1876.

Kanzenchoaku Nishiki-ga Shinbun' (poetic-justice newspaper with nishiki-ga therein)

Ari-no-sonomama' (as it is): A newspaper reporting topics about Seinan War

Kagoshima-ken Makoto-no-denchi' (true stories transferred by wireless from Kagoshima Prefecture): A newspaper reporting topics about Seinan War

Naniwa-chinbun': A newspaper reporting topics about Seinan War.

Arita-sonomama' (as it is)

Nishiki-ga Shinbun': This is a reduced-size version.

Nishiki-e-shinbun and similar publications in other areas

Saikyo Nishiki-e Shinbun' (a newspaper with nishiki-e sold in western Kyoto area) and 'Nishiki-e Shinbun' were published in Kyoto and, in addition, it is said that there were also nishiki-e-shinbun published in Nagoya, Kochi, Niigata, Tsu and Kanazawa, however, some of these papers were not news media but were positioned as 'attachments to the main paper.'
That is, the publications which took the form of nishiki-e-shinbun included those that were produced incidentally as advertisements or attachments of the main paper.

On the other hand, there were 'Kanzenchoaku Yomikiri Koshaku' (poetic-justice each-volume-concluded story-telling), 'Meiyo Shinbun' (honor newspaper), etc., which could not be said to be 'nishiki-e-shinbun' because their contents were not 'newspaper articles' though the combination of nishiki-e prints and explanatory texts in each of them had a style similar to that of nishiki-e shinbun.

[Original Japanese]