Saturday, May 7, 2011

Handwritten Tsunami Newspaper Leads to Discovery of Japan at Newseum

I went on a day trip to DC to see a piece of paper. It wasn't just any piece of paper; it was the Ishinomaki Hibi Shimbun's March 12, 2011, edition. The day after a 9.0-magnitude earthquake and the resulting tsunami battered northeastern Japan, reporters from the Ishinomaki Hibi Shimbun in hard-hit Miyagi Prefecture found themselves in a dilemma. The reporters couldn't publish the paper in print or electronically because there was no power. Wanting to – needing to – report the news of the largest natural disaster to hit Japan in the last 140 years, the journalists took pen and paper – and, occasionally, flashlights – and wrote the news by hand and taped the sheets of paper to the doors of evacuation centers in the area.

When my husband told me that the Newseum in Washington, DC, an interactive museum dedicated to journalism and the history of news, had acquired some of the handwritten newspapers, I knew that I had to see them.

On Monday morning (May 2), I hopped on the Acela from New York and arrived in DC around noon. I wasn't sure what to expect, but I thought it would be more of an exhibit than the modest display I found.

A handwritten copy of the Ishinomaki Hibi Shimbun is in a case in the Newseum's third floor World News section.

Ishinomaki Hibi Shimbun from March 12, 2011

The accompanying text describes the efforts of the staff of Ishinomaki's newspaper and provides thumbnails of three other editions acquired by the Newseum.

Explanation of the handwritten newspaper

Edition from March 13, 2011

March 16, 2011, edition

From March 17, 2011

Residents in Fukushima were able to receive news through the paper

One of the scariest photos of the tsunami I've seen

Here are closeups of the newspaper:

Japan's display is a World Hot Spot nestled between Egypt and Libya.

I know it's a small section with only one newspaper on display, but I didn't feel as if my time was wasted. I found other evidence of Japan in the news enshrined in the Newseum.

In the same section as the Ishinomaki newspaper is an interactive monitor where visitors can select a news program from anywhere in the world. I chose Japan, of course.

Japanese news from NHK

Japan is one of only three countries in Asia that is considered to have a free press. (The other two are Taiwan and Papua New Guinea.)

World Press Freedom Map: Green = free; Yellow = partly free; red = not free

According to Freedom House, an organization that promotes democracy around the world, Japan is considered a "free press nation" based on criteria that allow individuals to express their opinions and distribute ideas and information through any form of media. The organization first published Freedom of the Press, a survey of media independence in the world, in 1979.

Japan received a rating of 21 out of 100 (nations that have a free press have a rating between 0 and 30). The higher the number, the less free the press, as that country is found to have more restrictions with its news media. Freedom House describes Japan's media as having a "lack of diversity and independence in reporting, especially in political news."

Of course, it's difficult to separate Japan's political history with the United States, so there were a lot of images of World War II at the Newseum. The front pages of newspapers and radio news recordings detailing Pearl Harbor, WWII in general, and Japan's surrender are scattered throughout the building.

With this touch screen, I selected a recording of an announcement of the attack on Pearl Harbor that was made during a football game in New York.

Iva Toguri D'Aquino

Iva Toguri D'Aquino, one of a dozen English-speaking women who broadcast Japanese propaganda on the radio during World War II, was the most recognizable of what the Allied Forces dubbed "Tokyo Rose." She appeared on Tokyo Radio as "Orphan Ann" on The Zero Hour, a radio program that intended to bring down the morale of American GIs. Toguri, an American citizen born to Japanese immigrant parents, was under surveillance in Japan because she refused to renounce her American citizenship. Despite being pro-American, she was tried and imprisoned for treason but was later pardoned by President Gerald Ford. Read the amazing story of her WWII experience in The Washington Post.

The news during WWII isn't all about the US struggling with "the Japs." The Newseum also has information about Japanese Americans voices in journalism.

Newspaper from a Japanese American internment camp

William K. Hosokawa from Seattle was the editor of the Heart Mountain Sentinel while interned in Wyoming during World War II

Heart Mountain Sentinel

Americans of Japanese decent were placed in internment camps during World War II. It is, in my opinion, one of the ugliest moments in US history. People confined to the camps set up schools and shops and even newspapers, like the Heart Mountain Sentinel in Wyoming. The editor, William K. Hosokawa, went on to become a journalist and writer.

Another important Japanese American figure in US journalism was Fred Kinzaburo Makino, whom the Newseum described as "Hawaii's Asian Voice." Born in Yokohama, Japan, Makino fought for Japanese laborers' rights on Oahu.

The Newseum also has a section dedicated to journalists and photojournalists who have lost their lives covering war and other conflicts. One of them is photographer Keisaburo Shimamoto, whose meager remains – along with those of the other three photographers who perished in the incident – are interred at the Newseum. Richard Pyle wrote this incredible piece about the four men and the almost 30-year search for their remains for Vanity Fair in 1999.

The Newseum's Pulitzer Prize Photographs Gallery contains some of the world's most compelling photos. (Of course they're compelling; they won Pulitzers for a reason.) Anyway, here are a couple of Japan-related photos that won the prestigious honor.

"Iwo Jima" by Joe Rosenthal

Everyone recognizes this picture. Associated Press photographer Joe Rosenthal won the 1945 Pulitzer Prize for the photo of five US Marines and one US Navy corpsman raising the American flag at Iwo Jima during World War II.

"Tokyo Stabbing" by Yasushi Nagao

When I first saw this photo, I thought the men were dancing. Then I read the caption "Tokyo Assault." Then I noticed the young man on the left was holding a sword.

The photo, which was also named the 1960 World Press Photo of the Year, was taken by Yasushi Nagao of the Mainichi Shimbun, and it depicts the assassination of Socialist Party Chairman Inejiro Asanuma by 17-year-old right-wing student Otoya Yamaguchi during a debate at Hibiya Hall in Tokyo on October 12, 1960. Asanuma, a critic of both the United States and Japan's Liberal Democratic Party, attempted to block a bill establishing a security treaty between the two nations. Asanuma died that night before he reached the hospital; Yamaguchi hanged himself in a juvenile detention facility two weeks later.

On the lighter side, "First Dogs" is a delightful look at US presidents and their pets. Here's LBJ with his favorite pet, Yuki, named after the Japanese word for "snow."

Newseum entrance

The Newseum provides an excellent history of news and how media has transformed through the years.

Newseum interior with satellite and news helicopter

The Newseum's big screen

The terrace of the Newseum

View of the Capitol from the Newseum's terrace

The Newseum houses the broadcast antenna from the World Trade Center

I happened to be there the day after Osama bin Laden was killed, so I had the opportunity to see the museum's display of the front pages of newspapers from all fifty states.


Six hours, two trains, one piece of paper. It was worth the trip.


allie said...

Wow, what an interesting (and dedicated) post! Even though it was a modest display for the handwritten newspaper it's still a powerful piece. I also especially liked the press freedom map-- I didn't realize so many countries were still so restricted!

Thank you for posting all of this :D

shrinecastle said...

Allie, thanks for reading and commenting. I was extremely moved when I saw the handwritten newspaper. It made me think about what March 11 must have been like for the reporters. As far as press freedom - there is a LOT of red on that map, isn't there? We take freedom of the press for granted.