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Vol. 37, No. 2, April 2010


Since its launch in November 1974, the journal Japan Echo has kept non-Japanese readers abreast of developments in Japan in fields ranging from politics and the economy to society, culture, and beyond by offering translations of significant articles from the Japanese print media. But as a result of the government’s review of budget appropriations for the coming fiscal year, the publication of this journal is to end with the April 2010 issue.

Japan Echo, born at the tail end of Japan’s post–World War II period of rapid growth, was a pioneer in the field of Japan’s international public relations, undertaking to promote understanding of Japan by providing an ongoing stream of English-language translations of articles selected to give a well-balanced view of intellectual currents within Japan. Over the years that followed, sister periodicals came to be published in other languages as well: French, Spanish, Korean, Chinese, and Arabic. I would like to express gratitude to the many people who made this undertaking possible, including our readers, the editors in chief who took responsibility for the content, the editorial board members, and the authors of the articles.

We are also grateful to the support this publication received at its launch and over the years that followed from the people of Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, who recognized the importance of "soft power" as the process of internationalization accelerated in the 1970s and who continued to provide the backing without which Japan Echo could not have continued up to this point.

Our company, Japan Echo Inc., was established in June 1974. In January of that year, Prime Minister Tanaka Kakuei had visited a number of Southeast Asian countries, and in some of his destinations, notably Indonesia and the Philippines, he had been greeted by anti-Japanese demonstrations. Many in these countries were unhappy over the flood of exports from Japanese companies that had developed momentum from rapid growth at home and were turning their sights on overseas markets. Japan had been making meticulous efforts to conduct cultural exchange and public relations in its diplomacy toward other Asian nations over the course of the postwar period, conscious of the negative legacy of the war years. But the angry demonstrations that broke out during Prime Minister Tanaka’s visit brought home the fact that these efforts had been too introverted and that Japan, which had grown into the world’s number-two economy, needed to do more.

It was based on this recognition that Japan’s government, the Foreign Ministry in particular, undertook to strengthen our country’s international public relations in a balanced manner, and this led to the launch of Japan Echo. Centering on the intensive efforts of the late Mochida Takeshi, our company’s founder, and Seki Yoshihiko, the journal’s first editor in chief, with the support of Hasegawa Kazutoshi, director of the Foreign Ministry’s Overseas Public Relations Division, the new journal appeared in short order, offering non-Japanese readers an introduction to the articles appearing in Japan’s general-interest monthlies and elsewhere.

Now, 36 years after the launch of Japan Echo and 21 years after the end of the Cold War, though the wave of globalization continues, Japan seems to be turning introverted again. In the context of a severe crisis in government finances, the budget of the Foreign Ministry for public relations has been slashed, and it has become necessary for the journal to undergo a metamorphosis in the spring of 2010.

We currently expect the paper journal Japan Echo to be reborn as an online publication later this year. The name has yet to be decided, and the publisher will be chosen through competitive tenders each year.

At Japan Echo Inc. we are looking at this development not merely as a rebirth but as the opportunity for the start of something new, and we are prepared to meet this challenge. With the explosive growth in the amount of information provided by the Internet, it has become all the more difficult to determine what merits attention. It is our company’s intention to tackle this paradox of information overload by selecting articles of high value from the Japanese print media, supplemented by original offerings, and presenting them in English for the sake of readers around the world.

I thank you for your readership and request your ongoing support. (Harano Jôji, Publisher, Japan Echo; President, Japan Echo Inc.)

© 2010 Japan Echo Inc.