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Number 1 Shimbun

Celebrating our 50th Year - Part I

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This month marks a half-century since the Number 1 Shimbun, the official “newspaper” of the Club, was launched in September, 1968. To mark this milestone, we offer some reminiscences from those involved with the magazine over the years.


Why the name No. 1 Shimbun?

In the days immediately after World War II, most of Tokyo lay in ruins. Street addresses were a problem. What was to be the address of the newly established Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan? One of the many geniuses in our membership back then hit upon the happy solution: No. 1 Shimbun Alley. Despite three moves, the post office continued to deliver mail and telegrams promptly to that address.

Since shimbun, as anyone here for 15 minutes could tell you, means ‘newspaper,’ what better name than No. 1 Shimbun.
---From the launch issue, September, 1968

* * *

“‘Newspapers must not be run behind closed doors. They must face the masses, and must have the general orientation and at the same time be fresh and lively.’ This quotation is neither from Lord Thomson of Fleet nor from the late great Joseph Pulitzer, though it might have been. In fact, it comes from an acquaintance of my Yenan cave days, Mao Tse-tung.
The Chinese Communist chairman conceivably may be wrong on some matters but what he said about newspapers is wonderfully relevant to No. 1 Shimbun, the first edition of which you hold in your hands. The editors will strive to make it ‘fresh and lively’ each month, while resolutely facing the proletarian masses. . . .

The Chairman, chock-a-block full of useful quotes, had another on newspapers, to the effect that ‘we must rely on everybody, on the masses of the people . . . not merely on a few persons working behind closed doors.’

And that’s where you, gentle reader, come in. Faithful servants of the Chairman, and more important, lazy critters that we are, we will regularly callonyoutogiveusahand.... No. 1 Shimbun’s aim is to report on the comings and goings of correspondents, their problems in covering major news stories, the professional activities they sponsor and how they feel on issues big andsmall....

More important, perhaps, will be the contributions by member correspondents of articles they have written on a variety of subjects. You will read some of them today, ranging from a report from Mongolia to the foreignization of Japanese.

Our idea is to give other Club members a chance to read, appraise, enjoy the journalistic accomplishments of our brethren; for many of us it will be a first glimpse.

It seems appropriate to close with a quotation from the other side, President Liu Shao-chi. ‘Correspondents,’ he said, ‘should be given recognition and recompense, or else their initiative will be stifled.’

When’s the next train for Peking?

John Roderick (editor, Sept. 1968 to Nov. 1970 – from the launch issue)

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“The readership of Number 1 is broader than people realize, which I learned back in April 1977. We had been let down by a contributor and were on deadline. I had been working on a spoof of Sherlock Holmes for another purpose, and as it was available we filled up the space with the piece. The piece revealed that the Great Detective had been active in Japan for the two years he went missing, according to Conan Doyle's narrative, and John Herrick edited it with the headline, “The 86% Proof Solution.” A few days after it came out, I was called by a reporter from the Yukan Fuji, who wanted to know how I knew that Holmes had been in Japan. A reporter interviewed me at some length and a piece duly appeared on page two of the Tokyo tabloid on May 5. For a couple of days I was famous.”
--Geoff Tudor (from Genesis to the present)

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“The Number 1 Shimbun we wrangled 40 years ago was a far cry from today’s artfully designed and expertly edited magazine. Back then, the paper, typically eight or so folded pages, was produced in the absence of anything approaching modern workflow management. Our salvation was Geoff Tudor, who supervised layout in those adventurous pre-digital times and always managed to rally the troops when deadlines loomed.
We were young, mostly in our twenties, which may explain the injection, among plenty of more standard offerings, of some typically exuberant twenty-something snark. This included a sendup of embassy national day coverage, a staple of Tokyo’s English-language press at the time, with a takeout heralding “Martian National Day.” If memory serves, the spread included a photo of a Japan Airlines articulated lug- gage buggy zipping metal containers along the tarmac over a caption announcing the arrival of the Martian delegation. Older, wiser club members were mostly polite about our shenanigans.
Luckily, Number 1 Shimbun survived the seventies to live long and prosper. It’s an honor to be related, however remotely, to today’s impressive publication.”
--Tracy Dahlby (July 1977 to July 1978)

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“The highlight of my year as editor, assisted by Ken Merrigan and Donald Kirk, was our spoof issue about a Rupert Murdoch takeover of Number 1 Shimbun. Not everyone saw the joke. The Japan Post Office threatened to withdraw our press postage discount because we'd changed the masthead to a London "red top" style without its okay. An East German lady correspondent thought our Page Three Girl was going to be a regular sexist feature, and protested at the next general meeting.”
--Hamish MacDonald (July 1980 to June 1981)


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Published in: September 2018

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