Japanese weeklies and tabloids

Concerning the closure of the Mainichi's WaiWai column, it may be worthwhile to describe how an average Japanese person (it's me) look on Japanese Weeklies and Tabloids. The following is a list of some Japanese weeklies and tabloids categorized into three groups.

(A) Shukan Shincho, Shukan Bunshun, Yomiuri Weekly, Sunday Mainichi, Shukan Asahi

(B) SPA!, Shukan Gendai, Shukan Post

(C) Asahi Geinou, Shukan Jitsuwa, Jitsuwa Knuckles, Tokyo Sports

Magazines in group A have relatively reliable articles. Writers in these weeklies actually gather news materials and data to write their articles. They care not to be sued. These weeklies are both for males and females of all ages.

Magazines in group B has lower reliability than those in group A.

SPA! is a subculture magazine, main target of which is males in their 20s and 30s. Articles are mainly for entertainment; they may contain fictional stories. This magazine tend to publish controversial articles. I remember that I read an extremely disturbing interview to Issei Sagawa in this magazine in the early 1990s. In the interview, the interviewer, Taku Hachiro, made a talk with Sagawa in a yakiniku (barbecue) restaurant. In the middle of the dinner, Taku asked to Sagawa, "This meat is really good. Which do you think is better?". Sagawa replied, "Err...either one has its own taste. So I cannot say which is better." I also remember that SPA! had been advocating AUM Shinrikyo cult just for entertainment when many people were concerned about its cultic nature in the early 1990s. Also I remember column series published in the late 1980s that positively introduced Toyama Koichi as a left-wing extremist highschooler. Toyama Koichi's video circulated in the Japanese blogosphere last year when he stood as an anarchist candidate in the election for the Governor of Tokyo. I was really astonished when I noticed that he was that guy who had been known by the readers of SPA! in the late 1980s as an anachronistic left-wing extremist highschooler wearing a helmet and carrying a gebabou stick.

Main target of Shukan Gendai and Shukan Post is males older than 30. These magazines regularly contain nudity. Their writers usually gather news materials and data by themselves to write their articles on politics and economy. My impression is that they often twist news materials to make them meet their agenda. Articles on politics are always with anti-government taste. Articles related to sex contain fictional stories for entertainment.

Magazines in group C have little reliability. It is highly probable that anyone who sues these magazines for libel will lose the case. Any article published in them usually does not constitute defamation of character since few Japanese believe what are written in these magazines. A rare case that a plaintiff won was Professor Uekusa's case. Asahi Geinou reported several incidents of molesting by Prof. Uekusa in 2004-2006 after he was arrested for molesting in other cases. However, all of the molesting reported by Asahi Geinou were revealed to be groundless. Writers of Asahi Geinou made up the incidents just for entertainment using the name of Prof. Uekusa. The judicial decision was that the fictional reports in Asahi Geinou were defamation of character; some might believe the reports even though they were written in Asahi Geinou, since everyone at the time knew that Prof. Uekusa was a pervert.

Although Asahi Geinou has "Asahi" in its name, it has nothing to do with Asahi Shimbun, a major Japanese newspaper. I suppose that the name of the magazine itself is a joke, openly pretending to be related to Asahi Shimbun when everyone knows the magazine has nothing to do with Asahi Shimbun.

Shukan Jitsuwa and Jitsuwa Knuckles are called jitsuwa-kei (実話系) weeklies since they contain "jitsuwa" in their titles. Literal meaning of Jitsuwa is "true story", but stories in jitsuwa-kei weeklies are fictions related to extreme violence and sex written in the style of news reports and inside reports. They also have fictional inside reports of yakuza organizations. You can see cover illustrations of Jitsuwa Knuckles in this page (scroll down the page to find the cover illustrations).

Magazines in group C are not sold in usual bookstores. I know neither where they are sold nor who buy them. The blow job story and the beastiality restaurant story mentioned in the previous post originally appeared in Asahi Geinou and Jitsuwa Knuckles, respectively, both of which belong to group C.

Of the tabloids belonging to group C, Tokyo Sports has different taste than other magazines. It is a daily newspaper that is famous for its hoax articles. Some say that what are credible in Tokyo Sports are only dates of issues. It's sold in kiosks in JR stations with regular newspapers.

The problem of the WaiWai column was that it took stories from magazines in group B and group C out of literal and social context without putting a proper disclaimer. Especially problematic were articles from group C. The WaiWai should have put a disclaimer stating that they were fictions in the form of news reports and inside reports.


Jordan said...

Great post, Aki. I've always wondered about the kinds of stories and readership of tabloids in Japan. Not having a good enough grasp of Japanese I could not actually read an issue for myself. Thanks for sharing this information with us!

Particularly interesting to me is SPA!'s coverage of Toyama Koichi from the late 80's. I didn't know that he was known before his 政見放送 was put on the internet. At some point I was under the impression that he was just an "underground" comedian of sorts, though I am not so certain of that now. I must admit that I love his character nevertheless.

On an unrelated note: Have you seen 「炎上」 yet? Once I move back to Japan perhaps I will send you a copy. I've also added your blog to my blogroll. Keep up the good work!

Aki said...

I liked SPA!. That magazine introduced various subcultures from otaku culture to political performers in an entertaining way. I don't think Toyama Koichi is a serious left-wing extremist. He is rather a performer.

I saw 炎上 finally finding it in a video shop. It was pretty good. BTW, you will come to Japan! If you are visiting Kyoto, let's have beer or somethig in Kyoto.

ponta said...

Great post.
Though I don't read shukanshi, the post is of great use for many people in many ways.
Thank you.

Jordan said...

Yeah, I thought he was a performer at first, but he is so straight faced that its hard to tell sometimes. I've almost memorized entire parts of his 政見放送. His delivery is perfect. He sounds like a regular politician though his message is ridiculous.

I have yet to go to Kyoto. I will be back in August and hopefully I will have some time to travel. If I can get out to Kyoto I will let you know and we'll meet up for some nama biru!

Julián Ortega Martínez said...

Aki, thanks for this useful and "enlightening" post. Of course I had an idea of the kind of magazines WaiWai was based on, but this post explains how reliable or unreliable are. I like the last sentence of your article. Do you actually think that if that disclaimer, properly written, was added to every WaiWai article the 2channelers wouldn't started this huge controversy?

Aki said...

Haha, I too love his character. His speach was perfect from the silence in the beginning to the gesture to move his neck in the end. It's もったいない that so talented person like him is making his living as a street musician.

Ponta, thank you.

Yes, I think so.