If you can read Japanese there are scores of daily newspapers and hundreds of magazines covering almost every subject. In the big cities, English newspapers and magazines are readily available, while on TV and radio there are some programmes presented in English or with an alternative English soundtrack, such as the main news bulletins on NHK. Throughout this guide we list websites wherever useful (some will be in Japanese only).
Newspapers and magazines
Japan’s top paper, the Yomiuri Shimbun, sells over fourteen million copies daily (combining its morning and evening editions), making it the most widely read newspaper in the world. Lagging behind by about two million copies a day is the Asahi Shimbun, seen as the intellectual’s paper, with the other three national dailies, the Mainichi Shimbun, the right-wing Sankei Shimbun and the business paper the Nihon Keizai Shimbun, also selling respectable numbers.
The English-language daily newspaper you’ll most commonly find on newsstands is The Japan Times (w). It has comprehensive coverage of national and international news, as well as occasionally interesting features, some culled from the world’s media. Other English newspapers include The International Herald Tribune (w), published in conjunction with the English-language version of the major Japanese newspaper Asahi Shimbun; the Daily Yomiuri (w); and the Japan edition of the Financial Times.
The free weekly Tokyo listings magazine Metropolis (w) is packed with interesting features, reviews, and listings of film, music and other events. Japanzine (w), a free monthly published in Nagoya but also available in Kyoto, Ōsaka and Tokyo, is worth searching out. The twice-yearly publication KIE (Kateigaho International Edition; ¥1260; w) is a gorgeous glossy magazine which covers cultural matters, with many travel features and in-depth profiles of areas of Tokyo and other parts of Japan. Other widely available English-language magazines include Time and Newsweek.
Bookstores such as Kinokuniya and Maruzen stock extensive ranges of imported and local magazines. If you’re studying Japanese, or even just trying to pick up a bit of the language during your vacation, the bilingual magazine Hiragana Times is good. Pia and the Walker series (Tokyo Walker, Kansai Walker) are the best Japanese listings magazines.
You can listen to FM radio in Japan the regular way (though you’ll need a radio built for the local market, as the 76–90 MHz FM spectrum here is unique to Japan) or via the internet, where you’re likely to hear more interesting music on stations such as Samurai FM (w), which links up DJs in London and Tokyo. There’s also Radio Japan Online (w), which streams programmes in 18 languages from Japan’s national broadcaster.
Pop music stations in Tokyo and the Kantō area include Inter FM (76.1MHz; w), J-WAVE (81.3MHz; w), FM Yokohama (84.1MHz; w), Tokyo FM (80.0MHz; w), and Bay FM (78.0MHz; w).
The state broadcaster, NHK (w), has two non-digital TV channels (NHK and NHK Educational). Many TV sets can access a bilingual soundtrack, and thus it’s possible to tune into English-language commentary for NHK’s nightly 7pm news; films and imported TV shows on both NHK and the commercial channels are also sometimes broadcast with an alternative English soundtrack. The other main channels are Nihon TV (w), TBS (w), Fuji TV (w), TV Asahi (w) and TV Tokyo (w). Digital, satellite and cable channels available in all top-end hotels include BBC World, CNN and MTV.
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