More info less design

This is a subject that I argued a lot with some friends, that Japanese advertisers don’t care much about design.

If you see products brochures in tech stores is noticeable that is more about exploring specs about the products then alluring the client.

This is easy to understand, Japanese people are the world greatest readers, it’s a cultural thing, they have more printed media then most countries.

Here is a small piece from the 2007  Mapping Media and Communication Research: Japan of the University of Helsinki.

The prototype of the newspaper in Japan was kawabaran or “tile block print,” which first appeared in 1615. Kawabaran were one-page flyers printed using roof tiles of houses as negative prints. They appeared regularly and contained scandalous information on lovers’ suicides, disasters and other sensational events. The first modern newspaper in Japan appeared fairly late in international comparison. The first paper was published in English, in 1861. It was The Nagasaki Shipping List and Advertiser and appeared twice a week. The first Japanese language newspaper appeared in 1862. Thefirst daily newspaper, Yokohama Mainichi was first published January 28, 1871. (Moeran 1996, 7.) Currently newspapers in Japan can be divided into four categories: general newspapers, sportsnewspapers, specialized (often business) newspapers and free papers.
There are five general newspapers with national circulation (zenkokushi): Yomiuri Shimbun (10 million), Asahi Shimbun (8 million), Mainichi Shimbun (four million), Nihon Keizai Shimbun (three million) and Sankei Shimbun (two million). Each of these national newspapers prints two editions every day. (Fujitake 2005.)

Chart 1.1. Largest Daily Newspapers by Circulation

(Shimbun Nenkan ’06-’07, 106-142)
The saturation level of national newspapers is very high in the cities. They also have local editions. However, local newspapers are more popular than the national five in some prefectures, such as Tokushima, Aichi and Hokkaido. (Fujitake 2005.)

There is a historical reason for the current strength of national newspapers. During the militaristic system in the 1920s and 1930s, the government promoted the merging of newspaper companies, especially after the Manchurian incident in 1931. This was because fewer newspapers with larger readerships were easier to control and censor for the government. (Ibid.) Japanese newspapers are mostly delivered to the door, and only a minority of the income of newspapers comes from newsstand sales.
Table 1.2. Largest newspaper companies by turnover (unit: million, 1€ = 157 yen)

(Joho Media Hakusho 2005, 2006, 2007)

Sports newspapers are the equivivalent of the yellow press in the Britain. The content of the sports papers consists of sports, entertainment, leisure, gambling and sex. Recently sports newspapers have moved into  scandal journalism with articles about atrocious crimes, natural disasters, large-scale accidents and social scandals. Major sports newspapers include Nikkan Sports, Sports Nippon, Sankei Sports, Daily Sports, Chunichi/ Tokyo Sports, Tokyo Sports, Kyushu Sports and Chukyo Sports. Most of the sports papers are in corporate alliance with general newspapers. Sports newspapers are sold on the newsstands at train stations. (Fujitake 2005.)

Specialized newspapers and business papers have significantly smaller circulation. The largest business papers are Nikkan Kogyo Shimbun (20 thousand), Nihon Nogyo Shimbun (390 thousand), Nikkei Ryutsu Shimbun (270 thousand), and Nikkei Sangyo Shimbun (180 thousand). There are three major English language newspapers: Japan Times (50 thousand), Herald Asahi (40 thousand) and Daily Yomiuri (40 thousand). (Ibid.)

Free papers and magazines have been published and distributed in Japan since 1971. They are distributed at stations and funded through advertising only. The largest is Sankei Living with circulation of little over 2 million. The free papers compete with newspapers and sports papers in advertising and readers. (Ibid.)

And to illustrate all this, here is a bizarre website for the Men’s Premium Brassiere, click on it to make a visit


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One response to “More info less design

  1. Pingback: Blogging in Japan 2 « Media, Marketing and Culture

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