Japan is one of the most newspaper-hungry countries in the world. Over 70 million newspapers are sold there every day: many households get a newspaper in the morning and a newspaper in the evening. 86% of the population reads at least one paper every day, and there are seven copies of the Yomiuri Shimbun for each copy of USA Today. It's truly a massive industry.

The Japanese word for "newspaper" is shimbun (or shinbun). It is written with the kanji 新聞, literally "new hearings." In Chinese, these characters (read xinwen) are used to refer to TV news as well, but Japanese uses nyûsu for broadcast news and reserves shimbun for the print media.

The five largest national papers are:

Yomiuri Shimbun - Regarded as center-right in Japan, although Americans would probably detect very little political bias in it, and Western Europeans would probably regard it as quite conservative. Yomiuri also owns the Yomiuri Giants baseball team, which used to be the best in the country until it started to suck really hard circa 2004. Publishes The Daily Yomiuri in English.

Asahi Shimbun - Japan's liberal elite newspaper, preferred by lawyers, college professors, and those types; it spends plenty of time bashing the Liberal Democratic Party and pushing the Democratic Party of Japan. Publishes the Japanese edition of the International Herald Tribune in cooperation with the New York Times.

Mainichi Shimbun - As one friend of mine put it, "Yomiuri takes the right, Asahi takes the left, and Mainichi takes the low road in between." Although Mainichi is a broadsheet with plenty of serious articles, its content tends toward the tabloid side of current affairs. Its online English edition, the Mainichi Daily News, is a particularly good source for amusingly titillating stories from Japan.

Nihon Keizai Shimbun - Referred to as "Nikkei" for short, this is Japan's largest business newspaper, and also the namesake of the Nikkei 225 stock index. Like its American counterpart, the Wall Street Journal, Nikkei has been marketing itself to a broader audience in recent years, although it remains mostly popular among the financial and management crowd.

Sankei Shimbun - Owned by the Fuji Sankei media group that also runs Fuji TV, Sankei is Japan's unabashedly conservative newspaper, where you can read about the latest Nanjing Massacre denials and see glowing editorials praising Junichiro Koizumi and George W. Bush.

Other newspapers include:

Akarui Keizai Shimbun
Chubu Weekly (English)
Chunichi Shimbun
Financial Times - One of the only foreign papers published in Tokyo, although its hefty price (¥600) keeps it from being too popular
Gendai Kyoiku Shimbun
Hokkaido Shimbun
International Press (Spanish, Portuguese)
The Japan Times - Left-leaning English-only paper popular among expatriates
Josei Jiho
Kyoto Shimbun
Naigai News
Nikkan Gendai
Nikkan Keiba Shimbun
Nikkan Sports Shimbun
Okinawa Times (English)
Osaka Shimbun
Osaka Nichi Nichi Shimbun
Ryukyu Shimpo (multilingual)
Saga Shimbun
Sangyo Times
Sankei Sports - Half sports, half random gossip; popular among working men who don't care for real news.
Sekai Nippo
Sports Hochi
Tokyo Shimbun
Tokyo Sports Shimbun

Finally, some historical papers:

Japan Advertiser
Jiji Shimpo
Tokyo Nichi Nichi Shimbun
Yokohama Mainichi Shimbun

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