The Leading Japanese Newspapers - Printed, Online, and with English Translations

Japanese newspapers are referred to as Shinbun. As with the newspapers of other countries, those of Japan range from news-oriented publications to special interest papers that focus on trade, industry, literature, sports, and economics.

Shinbun are circulated across north and south Japan by city, prefecture, or region, with some newspapers being printed twice a day, once in the morning and again in the evening. There are also several newspapers that only choose to be published on a yearly, quarterly, monthly, or weekly basis.

Currently, the leading daily newspapers of Japan are the Nikkei Shimbun, Sankei Shimbun, Yomiuri Shimbun, Mainichi Shimbun, and Asahi Shimbun.

Brief History of Japanese Newspapers (Shinbun)

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The origin of the Japanese newspapers can be traced back to the 17th century when it was initially referred to as Yomiuri, which literally translates to mean “to sell and to read” in English. It was also called kawaraban, which pertains to the method of printing using clay or tile-blocks.

According to records, the Nagasaki Shipping List and Advertiser, a bi-weekly newspaper published by A. W. Hansard served as the very first modernized publication of Japan. It was introduced to the public during the year 1861 and was rebranded several months later under the name Japan Herald.

A year after, a Japanese-translated publication of a Dutch newspaper was established by the Tokugawa shogunate. This newspaper, known as the Kampan Batabiya Shinbun, and the Japan Herald primarily featured international news as it was intended for the foreign reading community.

It was only in 1871 when local news was finally included in the coverage of Japanese daily newspapers, particularly in the Yokohama Mainichi Shinbun. During this time, Japanese newspapers were classified into two categories – oshinbun and koshinbun.

Oshinbun, which refers to large the newspapers, were considered to be politically inclined publications, while koshinbun, or small newspapers, featured a lot of light fiction, human interest stories, and the local news.

Throughout the course of time, Japanese newspapers have played major roles in the country’s conflicts regarding freedom of the press and free speech. During the 1910s and 1920s, the Japanese government made great efforts in suppressing publications that promoted constitutional democracy and the rights of citizens.

By the 1930s, Japanese newspapers were under the strict control and censorship of the Congress. It was only in 1951 when freedom of the press was reinstated in Japan by the Americans.

Japanese Newspapers in Japanese (Available Online w/ Subscriptions) – Asahi Shimbun, Mainichi Shimbun, Etc.

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Asahi Shimbun

The Asahi Shimbun is referred to as the Asahi News in the English language but actually means “The Newspaper of the Morning Sun”.

Dating back to the year 1879, it stands as one of the oldest daily newspapers in Japan. It began as a small, four-page printed publication that produced about three thousand copies per day. Its founding officers were Tsuda Tei (the managing editor), Murayama Ryohei (the owner), and Kimura Noboru (the company president).

In 1881, Ueno Riichi was enlisted as a co-owner of the publication. During the same year, the Asahi Shimbun reinvented itself as an all-news publication.

The company started receiving financial support from the local government and other entities, which kick-started its reputation as a national newspaper of Japan. By 1888, the Tokyo Asahi Shimbun’s very first issue was published.

Natsume Soseki, an esteemed writer of Japan, resigned from his job as a professor at the Tokyo Imperial University for a spot in the Tokyo Asahi Shimbun, which was beneficial to both parties involved.

Come 1908, the Tokyo Asahi Shimbun merged with the Osaka Asahi Shimbun under the name Asahi Shimbun Goshi Kaisha, which was eventually changed to Asahi Shimbun during the year 1940.

Owned/Operated By: Michiko Murayama and Shoichi Ueno

Published By: N/A

Date Established: January 25, 1879

Newspaper Type: Daily paper

Print Format: Broadsheet

Headquarters: Tokyo, Japan

Circulation (Approximate Total): 7 million


Mainichi Shimbun

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The Mainichi Shimbun literally means “The Daily News” when translated into English. It is a major newspaper in Japan and is under the management of Kabushiki-gaisha Mainichi Shinbunsha or The Mainichi Newspapers Co., Ltd.

Other than its local editions that are printed twice per day, the company also manages The Mainichi, an English news website, and the Mainichi Weekly, a bilingual magazine.

The establishment of the Mainichi Shimbun can be traced back to a couple of old newspapers – The Tokyo Nichi Nichi Shimbun and the Osaka Mainichi Shimbun which were founded in 1872 and 1876, respectively. Both publications merged with each other in 1911 but remained independently printed newspapers until the year 1943, when they were finally published under the masthead of the Mainichi Shimbun.

At present, it serves as the only daily newspaper in Japan to have been awarded the Pulitzer Prize.

Owned/Operated By: The Mainichi Newspapers Co., Ltd.

Published By: Masato Kitamura

Date Established: February 21, 1872

Newspaper Type: Daily paper

Print Format: Broadsheet

Headquarters: Chiyoda, Japan; Osaka, Japan; Nagoya, Japan; Kita-kyushu, Japan

Circulation (Approximate Total): 5 million


Yomiuri Shimbun

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The Yomiuri Shimbun is owned and operated by the Yomiuri Group, the biggest media conglomerate of Japan. With an estimated total of 14 million copies in circulation per day, it stands as the largest daily newspaper in the world.

It started out as a small newspaper during the year 1874, under the management of the Nisshusha Newspaper Company. From the 1880s to the 1890s, it served as a popular publication that focused on literary arts, featuring works by Japanese writers like Ozaki Koyo.

Come 1924 when the management of the company was turned over to Shoriki Matsutaro, the coverage of the newspaper expanded to include local news and a full page dedicated to radio programming. Shoriki Matsutaro’s efforts in promoting innovation also led to the establishment of the Yomiuri Giants, the first baseball team of Japan.

From then on, the newspaper gradually shifted into a news coverage publication and focused on making a name in the city of Tokyo, Japan. By 1941, it became the largest daily newspaper in the area. A year later, it was rebranded under the name Yomiuri-Hochi, as a result of merging with the Hochi Shimbun.

Other ventures and publications under the Yomiuri Group include:

  • The Japan News – an English-language newspaper that formerly went by the name The Daily Yomiuri

  • Hochi Shimbun – a daily newspaper focused on sports

  • Chuokoron-Shinsha – a publishing company that was acquired by Yomiuri Shimbun Holdings during the year 1999

  • Nippon Television Network – a broadcasting and communications network that also goes by the names Nippon TV, NTV, and AX

Owned/Operated By: Yomiuri Group

Published By: N/A

Date Established: 1874

Newspaper Type: Daily paper

Print Format: Broadsheet

Headquarters: Otemachi, Japan; Chiyoda, Japan; Tokyo, Japan

Circulation (Approximate Total): 14 million


Sankei Shimbun

The Sankei Shimbun, which literally translates to mean “The Economic and Industrial Newspaper” is among the ten biggest newspapers in Japan in terms of daily circulation and is one of the five national newspapers considered in Japan.

Its origin can be traced back to the year 1882 when the Jiji Shimpo was first established by Fukuzawa Yukichi, a Japanese journalist, translator, and author who, interestingly, also founded the Keio University.

51 years later, another newspaper known as the Nihon Kogyo Shimbun was established, this time by Hisakichi Maeda. This particular news publication, which the Minami-Osaka Shimbun published, focused on economic affairs, business matters, and issues in the industry.  

Come 1941, the Minami-Osaka Shimbun and the Jiji Shimpo of Osaka merged together to produce a single business-inclined newspaper for the region.

Just a year after, the Nihon Kogyo Shimbun followed suit and merged the other industrial affairs and business newspapers that served Western Japan. It then changed its name to Sangyo Keizai Shimbun or Sankei for short.

From 1950 to 1952, the Sangyo Keizai Shimbun made waves with the female crowd by publishing the very first female page of Japan and hiring a female editor, not long after.

The Sangyo Keizai Shimbun then merged with the Jiji Shimpo in 1955, which eventually led to the two editions being placed under the masthead of the Sankei Shimbun.

Owned/Operated By: Sankei Shimbun Co., Ltd.

Published By: Takamitsu Kumasaka

Date Established: June 20, 1933

Newspaper Type: Daily paper

Print Format: Broadsheet

Headquarters: Tokyo, Japan; Osaka, Japan; Fukuoka, Japan

Circulation (Approximate Total): 2.85 million


The Nihon Keizai Shinbun

The Nihon Keizai Shinbun, or simply referred to as The Nikkei, is a flagship publication owned and operated by Nikkei Inc. At present, it serves as the largest financial newspaper in the entire world, with more than three million copies in circulation per day. When translated to English, its name literally means “The Japan Economics Newspaper”.

This newspaper originally started back in the year 1876 under the name Chugai Bukka Shimpo, which means “Local and Foreign Commodity Prices Newspaper”. At the time, it was run by Mitsui & Company and was published as a market-quotation bulletin on a weekly basis.

By the year 1882, the in-house department in charge of the Chugai Bukka Shimpo was spun out and given the name Shokyosha. Three years later, the Chugai Bukka Shimpo became a daily newspaper, with the exception of Sundays. It was then rebranded as the Chugai Shogyo Simpo during the year 1889.

Come 1942, the Chugai Shogyo Simpo merged with two other publications – the Keizai Jiji and the Nikkan Kogyo – and was reintroduced to the public under the name Nihon Sangyo Keizai Shimbun. The newspaper eventually acquired its current name, Nihon Keizai Shimbun, four years later.

The Nihon Keizai Shimbun is sold in nearly every part of the world and is available in various translations. Nikkei Inc. also makes it a point to make most of its published articles available online, with English translations.

Other news publications handled by Nikkei Inc. include:

  • Nikkei Weekly – a newspaper focused on business matters and written in the English language

  • Nikkei Veritas – a newspaper focused on financial matters and published on a weekly basis

  • Nikkei Marketing Journal – a newspaper focused on commerce matters

  • Nikkei Business Daily – a newspaper focused on industry matters

  • Nikkei Asian Review – a journal focused on business matters and written in the English language

Owned/Operated By: Nikkei Inc.

Published By: Tsuneo Kita

Date Established: December 2, 1876

Newspaper Type: Daily paper

Print Format: Broadsheet

Headquarters: Tokyo, Japan

Circulation (Approximate Total): 4.5 million


Japanese Newspapers in English (Available Online w/ Subscriptions) – The Japan Times, Japan Today, Etc.

The Japan Times

The Japan Times was established in 1897 and is currently run by The Japan Times, Ltd, which is managed by Minako Kambara Suematsu (chairperson), Takeharu Tsutsumi (president), and Hiroyasu Mizuno (director and executive editor).

Its other publications include The Japan Times St, The Japan Times on Sunday, and several English and Japanese books. Six main search sections make up its website:

  • News – subcategories include Multimedia, Columns, Reference, Asia Pacific, Business, World, and National

  • Community – subcategories include Columns, How-Tos, Event Listings, Our Lives, Issues, and Voices

  • Opinion – subcategories include Cartoons, Reader Mail, Commentary, and Editorials

  • Culture – subcategories include Multimedia, Columns, TV, Books, Festivals, Events, Stage, Art, Music, and Film

  • Life – subcategories include Multimedia, Columns, People, Lifestyle, Language, Style and Design, Environment, Food and Drinks, Digital, and Travel

  • Sports – subcategories include Multimedia, Columns, Tennis, Figure Skating, Rugby, Sumo, Basketball, Soccer, Baseball, and More Sports


Japan Rubber Weekly

Japan Rubber Weekly, as implied by its name, is an industry newspaper that primarily focuses on rubber, tires, plastics, and other related materials. It initially started out as a solely Japanese-language publication back in 1961 but has gradually developed through the years to be more accessible to foreign countries.

Its English website was launched in 2015 and is currently managed by the Gomu Hochi Shimbun, one of Japan’s leading industrial newspapers.


Japan Today

Japan Today is an online newspaper that was launched back in 2000, sometime during the months of July, August, or September. It features the latest domestic and foreign news, as well as a various original content such as interviews, article submissions about Japanese pop culture, and English translations of popular local magazines.

The main library sections of its website include National, Crime, Entertainment, Politics, Business, Tech, Sports, and World. There is also a Features section which is composed of Events, Opinions, Executive Impact, Travel, Food, Health, New Products, Kuchikomi, and Lifestyle matters.

Headquarters: Tokyo, Japan