Japanese newspapers online

About a year ago, I stopped subscribing to newspapers. I found myself reading the news online more than on paper. Once upon a time, I subscribed to both an English and Japanese daily newspaper in Japan. Needless to say, the stack of old newspapers piled up very quickly. Especially in the case of Japanese newspapers which include many advertising inserts.

I made it a habit to give the old newspaper to paper recyclers who sometimes came by. It was quite troublesome to haul all that paper to their truck. Now it’s more convenient in Tokyo where there is a weekly pickup for old paper, cans, bottles, and plastic bottles.

Being able to read the news online from all over the world is really a godsend for those of us living faraway from our original hometown. Before the Internet, I sometimes went to the Hawaii Visitors Bureau in Tokyo to read the local newspaper that they had there. One of the staff there had an international subscription (prohibitively expensive). I asked what they do with the old newspapers. They just discarded it, so I asked if I could take them home to read. Sure thing, so I took home a stack of Honolulu newspapers whenever I could. But this didn’t continue for long since the newspapers were heavy to carry home and I could not go to HVB that often.

That’s the way it was before the Internet. It was near impossible to keep up with the news back home.

Those of you interested in Japan but live outside of Japan would know how great it is to read the online version of Japan’s English newspapers. There’s The Japan Times, the Mainichi Daily News, Asahi.com, the Daily Yomiuri, and others. I usually read the Japan Times and the Mainichi Daily News. The Asahi and Yomiuri are almost the same in content and format. What prevents me from reading the Asahi regularly is that half or more of the screen’s area (depending on how wide your browser window is) is covered with ads.

The Japanese version of Asahi.com is great though. It includes a news page for all 47 prefectures of Japan. If you can read Japanese, you can keep up with the local news of your favorite prefecture.

Yomiuri does not have any features which interest me on a daily basis. A feature called “Lens on Japan” is good, but it’s not a daily thing.

I read the Japan Times mainly because it is based in Tokyo where I live. But I don’t like their online page design and format which is just too cluttered. For those of us who access the page every day, it is difficult to recognize which topics are current and which are old (by a few days). They should append the date to each topic. My favorite page at JT is the monthly Festivals notice page. The only problem is that they update that page around the 1st of the month. If there’s a festival on that day or weekend, it might be too late for us to know about it. They should update the page slightly before the end of the month. I was glad to stop subscribing to the paper version of JT which costs 3,900 yen/month (or 150 yen/copy). This is comparable to how much I pay for Internet access.

The Mainichi Daily News has a very different page layout from JT and all the others. In fact I think it has the best page layout out of all the online English newspapers in Japan. It is uncluttered and easy to read and understand, and there’s a minimum of ads.

One problem is that they often mix serious news with tabloid gossip, so it can be difficult to recognize which are the day’s top stories. The headlines are also often lurid, sexually suggestive, or somewhat sensational. They do have a section covering tabloid gossip. So if you like gossip, read the Mainichi. One good feature is their photo specials. They have a number of photo albums showing a good number of pictures of various people and events. The Mainichi is apparently also more online-oriented than the Japan Times. For example, after Shizuka Arakawa won the gold medal in figure skating, the story appeared online in English at the Mainichi site within 30 min. Whereas the Japan Times seems to update their site only once a day, and we had to wait the next day to read about it.

One disadvantage of reading newspapers online compared to on paper, is that we lose the context of how important the article is. On a paper newspaper, we can immediately see which news is most important by seeing which articles are on the front page and seeing their position on the page. We can also see how big the headline is and how much space is devoted to the article. This is more difficult to discern online.

The days when I used to sit outside on my balcony under the warm sun while having breakfast with a paper newspaper before my eyes are now long gone. It’s now breakfast in front of my computer while reading email and the news online. Paper newspapers are still great to read in the train or plane though.

Earthquake maps

On recent trips to the bookstore, I now see a lot of earthquake maps and books. Perhaps due to the Aneha scandal, the architect who falsified building designs and made them less earthquake resistant, there is definitely a heightened earthquake consciousness in Japan now.

We can now buy maps of Japan showing known earthquake faults. They are the most detailed I’ve seen so far. It’s high time that they publish such maps. I’ve been looking for such maps for a long time. And they show what I’ve expected: That Japan looks like it has more earthquake fault lines than the wrinkles on my 96-year-old grandmother’s face.

These fault lines are just all over the place. I confess that I get very jittery and nervous whenever I feel an earthquake at home. It didn’t bother me before, but now, I’m getting earthquake-phobia. Especially after the Kobe quake in 1995.

Here are a few of the books and maps on sale now (at Amazon.jp):

Newton magazine on earthquakes – Shows how earthquake occur, Japan’s earthquake history and a map of fault lines in each prefecture.

Japan earthquake map– Map of earthquake faults.

Emergency walking route in Tokyo – A map of possible ways to walk back home when all the trains and subways are knocked out by an earthquake.

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