A Japanese Newspaper's
100th Anniversary watch - the 1974 Seiko 7005-7001 "Yomiuri Shimbun" Emerald Automatic
More evidence the 1960’s and 1970’s were a golden era for Seiko is evident in its long-running 700X line - such as the example from 1974 here, with its uniquely-designed spectacular emerald dial celebrating the 100th anniversary of Tokyo-based newspaper Yomiuri Shimbun...all with links to Cold War espionage and an alleged WWII war criminal.
But first, some history...
The 700X line debuted in 1969 and was made until the 1990’s, when it was replaced by Seiko’s famed 7S26 line.
The 7005 line featured Seiko’s Magic Lever winding system, and allowed the automatic rotor to gather energy in a bi-directional fashion. Of note, the earlier versions of the 7005 line, like this one, did not suffer from plastic parts (which caused later models to suffer in terms of accuracy), and was all metal in construction.
The 700X line came in several sub-variants, which included the 7005 here, as well as the 7002, 7006, and 7009, all of which were almost identical and shared numerous parts in common (which also makes watch servicing less expensive).
The Yomiuri Shimbun Newspaper
The conservative Tokyo-headquartered Yomiuri Shimbun (讀賣新聞/読売新聞, lit. Reading-selling Newspaper or Selling by Reading Newspaper) – founded in 1874 – is one of the top three major newspapers in Japan. It would become part of a Japanese zaibatsu/conglomerate that dominated Japan post-WWII and remains incredibly influential in contemporary times.
As of June 2020, Yomiuri had the largest newspaper circulation in the world with a circulation of 7.7 million and two printings daily. Its parent company, Yomiuri Shimbun Holdings, is Japan’s largest media zaibatsu by revenue and the second largest by size after worldwide mainstay, Sony. The paper is privately held and controlled, directly and indirectly, by the Shoriki family – all relatives of Shoriki Matsutaro.
Yomiuri Shibun's First Edition in 1874
Launched in 1874, throughout the 1880s and 1890s, the paper was in its early days known as a literary arts publication. Shoriki – the William Randolph Hearst of Japan (Hearst was one of Shoriki’s biggest Western admirers) – had been the head of Japan’s tortuous secret police, the Metropolitan Police, before he took over Yomiuri. In 1924, with financial backing by a leading conservative Japanese politician, Shoriki bought Yomiuri and transformed it into an establishment crusader for the Imperial Japanese Government.
In 1924, Shoriki-induced new management innovations included improved news coverage, radio program guides, and the introduction of professional baseball to Japan and the subsequent establishment of the country’s first professional baseball team (in an effort to sell copy), the Yomiuri Giants. Shoriki also shifted coverage towards Tokyo-based readers – the strategy worked, as by 1941 it had the largest circulation in Tokyo.
Per a 2012 Economist article, “Next to lurid stories about adultery and photos of flapper-era mogas (modern girls) are advertisements for clinics treating the consequences (“Before the parties at the end of the year, you should sort out your gonorrhea”). There are pages about hit songs from the new craze of radio that was sweeping the country, a trend that Japanese newspapers had until then ignored… This cloak of supposed public interest, wrapped around gory sensationalism, sent the Yomiuri’s circulation soaring. Between 1924 and 1937 it rose from 58,000 to 800,000, a feat that made the Yomiuri the biggest newspaper in Tokyo.”
Shoriki was also well known for his pro-American stance in the years leading up to WWII, which won him few fans among militant Japanese society; undeterred, he was successful in bringing Babe Ruth to play in Japan in 1934. The visit’s success earned Shoriki an assassination attempt – he was stabbed in the neck by an ex-policeman, lost a litre of blood and nearly died.
Class A War Criminal Accusations
However, Yomiuri’s explosive expansion was not without other growing pains and scandal, and it was engulfed in a large labor scandal in 1945 and 1946. In late 1945, a post WWII-“democratization” organization, the Struggle Committee (encouraged by the liberal American occupation of Japan) – which included Yomiuri employees within its senior leadership – began calling for the removal of Shoriki for his support of Imperial Japan’s war policies. Shoriki responded by firing five of the leading members, all writers and editors.
The scandal resulted in additional scrutiny upon Shoriki, and he was arrested by the U.S. General Douglas MacArthur-led American Occupation Authorities in December 1945 as a WWII Class A war criminal (alleging crimes against peace, brought against Japan's top leaders who had planned and directed the war) and sent to Tokyo’s Sugamo Prison. After their coup at the paper, Yomiuri’s employees continued to produce the paper, disregarding executive leadership orders until a Tokyo police raid in mid-1946.
Like many, Shoriki would be held a total of 21 months, the first three in solitary confinement, under a vague blanket charge – he had been the publisher of an influential newspaper used by the Imperial Japanese Government as a propaganda channel during the war and thusly labeled as a “major war-crimes suspect.”
That said, when the war ended in 1945 the charge-sheet against Shoriki looked intimidating: he had been a director of the quasi-fascist Imperial Rule Assistance Association, set up in 1940, which promoted war.
During his nearly two-year imprisonment, Shoriki would be interrogated twice with general questions asked of most other alleged war crimes prisoners. Meanwhile, regular war crimes executions were carried out in the same prison.
Shoriki was never tried, and all charges against him were dropped in 1947 after it was determined the accusations against him were mostly of an “ideological and political nature” (the Economist surmises the U.S. – during growing Cold War tensions – was growing nervous of left-wing unionism it had inadvertently nurtured) and he was released.
A Contemporary Example of the Yomiuri Shibun
Nippon TV and a Cold War "Atomic Marshall Plan"
In 1952, and following Shoriki’s release, he took advantage of Cold War tensions and appealed to have his blacklisting lifted, under the condition he would found an anti-communist television channel – at the time, the U.S. Cold War strategy was to utilize West Germany and Japan success to showcase the benefit of democracy over communism.
The blacklist lifted, Shorik would found the first private station, Nippon Television, to this day one of the most popular stations in Japan.
Shoriki’s next strategic moves would have immense repercussions on Japan for the next half century. After a mid-1950’s rise in anti-American sentiment in Japan, after U.S. nuclear weapons testing in the Pacific Marshall Islands resulted in the deaths of Japanese fisherman caught in the fallout, Shoriki – a staunch opponent of communism – was fearful the Soviet Union and China would take advantage of this surge to supplant American influence in Japan.
Following President Eisenhower’s “Atoms for Peace” speech, advocating for the spread of nuclear energy to counter the negative stigma of nuclear weapons, Shoriki devised an ingenious plan for a Japanese “Atomic Marshall Plan” (per The Economist, it is debated if the plan was devised with or without the help of American intelligence, as some counter – as common during the Cold War – Shoriki exploited the U.S. as much as vice versa in the name of anti-communism). The plan used nuclear energy as a tool of pro-American leverage, and called for the establishment of a number of nuclear power reactors in Japan.
In 1954, Shoriki pressured the president of pioneering nuclear conglomerate General Dynamics to travel to Japan, whence the former pitched the latter on his Atomic Marshall Plan idea – following assent, Shoriki then used.0 his control of the Yomiuri to advocate for the plan publicly. He then implemented the next part of his strategy, to win a Japanese Diet seat on a nuclear-energy platform and to form the Japanese Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) – the party would rule Japan for the next 55 years.
In early 1956, Shoriki – after being added to the cabinet of a newly elected LDP Government – was appointed as the chairman of the newly created Japanese Atomic Energy Commission. He announced shortly thereafter Japan would have its first nuclear reactor within five years (a supreme irony, the first reactor was British, vice American), with Shoriki thusly known as the Japanese “father of nuclear power.” Per The Economist, “To cap it all, he was the “father of nuclear power,” using his cabinet position and media clout to transform an atom-bombed nation into one of the strongest advocates of atomic energy.”
Declassified Documents Lead to the Discovery of Espionage
Intriguingly, subsequent Japanese academic research into declassified U.S. documents, discovered by a professor at Tokyo-based Waseda University within the U.S.’s National Archives and Records Administration in 2006, revealed Shoriki had agreed to work with US intelligence as an informant to establish a pro-U.S. nationwide commercial television network (Nippon TV) and to introduce nuclear power plants using U.S. technologies across Japan.
Before his nuclear energy work, Shoriki was the first inductee into the Japanese Baseball Hall of Fame, and the namesake of the annual Shoriki Matsutaro Award for the person that contributes the most to Japanese baseball – for this, he would also gain the title “father of Japan baseball.” He would pass away of natural causes in late 1969, at the age of 84 – for better or worse, his legacy lives on.
HBO Max's "Tokyo Vice"
Fast forward to 2022, HBO Max's eight-episode series "Tokyo Vice," (directed by Michael Mann) features Yomuri Shibun (under the guise of a Japanese prestigious newspaper, Meicho Shimbun), whose main protagonist is a new crime reporter for the paper. Taken under the wing of a veteran detective in the vice squad, the young journalist starts to explore the dark and dangerous world of the Japanese yakuza.
The series is an adaption of "Tokyo Vice: An American Reporter on the Police Beat in Japan," a 2009 memoir by journalist Jake Adelstein of his years spent in Tokyo as the first non-Japanese Yomiuri reporter.
Good stuff. Set in the late 1990’s, we just need to keep our eyes open while watching the HBO series in an effort to continue the vintage Seiko spotting...