Tonichi mastheads

The character of calligraphy

By William Wetherall

First posted 3 February 2008
Last updated 8 June 2021

Early Tonichi mastheads Stage 1a: Woodblock text Stage 1b: Mincho lead type text Stage 2a: Woodblock text Stage 2b: Chincho wood type text Stage 3: Lead type text
Later Tonichi mastheads Stage 4a: Horizontal bold calligraphy Stage 4b: Vertical bold calligraphy
Tonichi names Tōkyō and Tōkei 1st issue issue of Tōkyō nichinichi shinbun 1871 Takanawa Tetsudo
Early graphics Ono on graphic variation Calligraphy styles Ono on linguistic variation Tonichi's "solemn" masthead

Early Tonichi mastheads





This article is based on direct examination of copies of newspapers in Yosha Bunko, or of images or descriptions in the cited publications. These publications are fully introduced in the Journalism part of the Stories section of the Bibliography.

The most useful publications are the following Tonichi and Mainichi histories.

Soma 1941 東日七十年史 [Tonichi 70-year history]
Mainichi 1952 毎日新聞七十年 [Mainichi Shinbun 70 years]
Mainichi 1962 毎日新聞九十年 [Mainichi Shinbun 90 years]
Mainichi 1972a 毎日新聞百年史 [Mainichi News centennial history]

The following histories have not been examined.

Mainichi 1932 大阪毎日新聞五十年
Mainichi 1948 毎日新聞西部本社史


Stage 1a: Woodblock text



Stage 1b: Mincho lead type text



Stage 2a: Woodblock text



Stage 2b: Chincho wood type text



Stage 3: Lead type text



Later Tonichi mastheads



Stage 4a: Horizontal bold calligraphy



Stage 4b: Vertical bold calligraphy



Tonichi names



"Tōkyō" and "Tōkei"

Stage 3 TNS prints are characterized not only by their cherubs, but also by their bold calligraphy, which emulates the masthead of the source newspaper -- including its use of 東亰 rather than 東京 for "Tōkyō".

The city that replaced Edo in 1868 has been called "Tōkyō" or "Tōkei" and written 東亰 or 東京. Today the city is usually called "Tōkyō" and written 東京 -- but 東亰 can be seen on older brass plates, and has a calligraphic patina that invites usage even today to create an air of antiquity, however artifical.

CCMA 2008 states that "東亰 (とうけい [tōkei]) is a different name for 東京 that was used until the middle of the Meiji period, but gradually it came not to be used" (page 79). This statement, though, is very misleading.

The character 亰 was merely a popular variation of 京. The character 京/東 can be pronounced kyō (kiyou, kiyau;), kei, and kin -- its three Sino-Japanese readings in chronological order -- respectively its Go (Wu = pre-Tang), Kan (Han = Tang, Chang'an), and Tō (Tang = Song, Yuan, Ming, Qing) readings.

Both 東京 and 東亰 could be pronounced either "tōkei" or "tōkyō". Most people at the time probably called the city Tōkyō and read both 東京 and 東亰 the same way.

The use of 東亰 on the Tonichi masthead -- and then on Stage 3 TNS banners -- was probably just a graphic affectation. For 東亰 continued to be use in the Tonichi masthead -- and in stylized colophons of the name of the newspaper company in other Tonichi publications -- until the paper became Mainichi Shinbun from 1 January 1943.

Today, 京 is read "kei" in many compounds -- including 京浜 (Keihin) -- an abbreviation of 東京・横浜 (Tōkyō-Yokohama).

You can see how masthead designs changed in the earliest issues of Tonichi. Note, however, that some of the information given in the captions is not quite correct.

You may have noticed the characters embedded in 日日 in the earliest stage. Their design has attracted the attention of some Tonichi researchers, and I have ventured my own (probably imaginary) understandings. See Ono on graphic variation (below) for details.


Tonichi-0001 1921 reproduction

Click on image to enlarge
1st issue of Tōkyō nichinichi shinbun
Published Meiji 5-2-21 (lunar) , 1872-3-29 (solar)
1921 reproduction, Yosha Bunko scan

For a detailed look at this first issue -- centering on the story of a report from a member of the Iwakura Embassy on the first leg of his trip to Washington, D.C., from San Francisco to Salt Lake City -- see Tonichi and Iwakura Embassy: Inaugural issue report on snowy Sierras and polygamous Salt Lake City, also elswhere on this News Nishikie website.

Inaugural issue of Tōkyō nichinichi shinbun

Tokyo nichinichi shinbun was launched in 1872 as a woodblock-printed paper under a masthead that read 東亰日日新聞. All the characters are highly stylized. Of special interest, however, are "kyō" (京) of "Tōkyō" and "nichinichi" (日日).

  1. The "kyō of "Tōkyō" may be a stylization of "kei" (亰) as in "Tōkei" (東亰) -- an earlier name for Tōkyō and possibly of the newspaper (see below).
  2. The graphs 日日 are clearly stylized -- possibly with 眞 (真) and definitely with 正 inside 口 -- possibly meaning that the "news" (新聞 shinbun) was "true and accurate" (真正 shinsei). 真正新聞 is still a common expression today -- in Chinese -- for authentic, veracious news. Or so I thought when I first saw this masthead. I was right about "right" (正), but wrong about "true" (眞), which turned out to be "bird" (鳥).

The journalist and mass communication researcher Ono Hideo (小野秀雄 1885-1977), writing in 1952, cited the opinion of the calligraphy Kawamura Kizan (川村驥山 1882-1969) to the effect that the stylizations of the graphs 日日 -- with 烏 or 丐, and 正, inside 口 -- are Zhou graphs (籀文 chūbun), which are large, more elaborate seal graphs. See Ono on graphic variation (below).

The stylized characters were dropped in favor of just 日日. But even after the paper switched to metal type, its masthead continued to be printed by using plates engraved from brushed calligraphy using 東亰 rather than 東京. Tonichi continued to be published under such a masthead until it became Mainichi Shinbun in 1943.

Tokyo Asahi Shinbun also used 東亰 in its calligraphic mastheads until after World War II.

Metal-type representations of the name of the paper, however, were 東京. Formally the paper was called 東京日日新聞, though the colophons of books published by the newspaper company sometimes used 東亰.

The masthead, whether written horizonitally or vertically, used 東亰 and 日日 (Figures 1 and 3). Titles inside the paper, however, were likely to reduce 日日 to 日々 (Figure 1). Supplements distributed with the newspaper were also likely to reduce 日日 to 日々 or even 日〃 (Figure 3).

Tonichi's original standard, used on the first eleven issues, was a highly stylized 東亰日日新聞 that ran from right to left across the top.

By the end of 1872, when Japan officially shifted from the lunar to the solar calendar, Tonichi was printing its standard 東京日々新聞 down the right side -- in other words, more simply and veritically. 東亰 gave way to 東京 and 日日 became 日々.

The font of the new verticial standard was that of a brush style. The standard kanji ditto mark 々 -- a cursive form of 同, which means "same" -- was represented by a further reduction that looks like a reversed 〃.

By no later than the end of 1873, the font had become that of an angular style with the standard ditto mark. This style was closely emulated on Stage 1 and Stage 2 TNS banners.

By no later than the spring of 1875, Tonichi had gone back to using 東亰日日新聞 for its standard, written horizonitally in a bold brush style. Though the name of the paper might be written 東京日々新聞 elsewhere, the formal standard remained the boldly brushed 東亰日日新聞 until Tonichi's demise in 1942.

Wood blocks, metal type, wood type

It took Tonichi the better part of a year to make the translation from wood blocks to metal type. The evolutionary trail was not straight, but turned back on itself and meandered. (Mainichi 1972:422-428, and color plate in front matter)

Issue 1 by wood blocks

Issue 1 was published from wood blocks in the conventional way. Its standard (at the top) and its colophon (to the left) were printed in a dark brown. The articles and an illustration were black. The characters 官許 (kankyo), meaning that the paper was officially approved, was stamped in vermillion on the edge of the standard in the upper right corner.

Issues 1 through 372 were printed on washi. Only about 1,000 copies of Issue 1 were made. A number of reproductions of Issue 1 were made, some of them on washi about the same size -- roughly 46 cm wide by 31 cm tall. The images shown in publications are likely to be of reproductions.

The images shown in Mainichi Shinbun's 100th aniversary publications are of genunine copies. The image shown in Newspark 2000 appears to be of a reproduction.

Issues 2-11 by lead type

Metal type began to be used, though still under the original elaborate masthead, from the 2ndd issue. Issues 2 to 11 were published on a foot press from Shanghai using a Mincho font lead type. But the publishers went back to wood blocks from Issue 12.

Nipposha announced that it was discontinuing the lead-type press because, with Issue 11, it had used all the paper it had preprinted with the Tonichi standard and colophon.

They had used the press and lead type to commemorate Tonichi's start. Apparently the new technology proved to be too labor intensive and limiting. (Mainichi 1972:426-427).

Nishioka Kosuke, one of Tonichi's founding publishers, gave his account of what happened in an article that ran in the 29 March 1909 edition (Issue 11,599) of Tonichi entitled "The first moveable type" (最初の活字). The edition was a special issue celebrating the 37th anniversary of the paper, four years before its merger with Osaka Mainichi. (Mainichi 1972:426)

Indeed, Issue 11 shows all manner of irregularities that resulted from an insufficient supply of type. When they ran out of type for certain kanji, they had to swap in katakana. When they ran out of a certain size, they had to swap in a different size. They even resorted to different kanji. So high-frequency characters like 月 and 銀 became ゲツ and ギン. (Mainichi 1972:425)

There is also evidence of swapping katakana for kanji that apparently existed in sufficient supply -- possibly because the typesetter couldn't immediately find the kanji in the unfamiliar Nanking case box. The situation was truely a nightmare for typesetters and readers alike. The only remedy was to go back to the familiar, tried-and-true woodblock printing -- which impossed no limitations on availability of suitable type.

Issues 12-117 by wood blocks

From Issue 12, and for about four months, Tonichi publishers returned to using wood blocks -- the technology they knew.

The standard and colophon of Issues 12 and 13 were dark blue. For Issues 14 to 16 they were light a blue close to light green, and for Issues 17 to 29 they were the same brown as Issue 1. Everything became just black from Issue 30. The characters 官許 (kankyo), meaning that the paper was officially approved, were printed in vermillion on Issues 21 through 29. (Mainichi 1972:427)

Issues 117-303 by moveable wood type

Moveable wooden type was used from Meiji 5-7-2 (5 August 1872, Issue 108) through the end of February 1873 (Issue 303). In other words, two months into the first year that Japan adopted the solar calendar (Mainichi 1972:128).


Hiroshige III Takanawa tetsudo

Click on image to enlarge
1871 Hiroshige III Takanawa ironroad triptych
Copped and cropped from National Diet Library Digital Collections

The above copy preserves the original colors better. The copy below shows (1) oxidation of red, which thus becomes darker, and (2) fading of the yellow component of the green, which thus becomes bluer.

1871 Hiroshige III Takanawa ironroad triptych
Copped and cropped from Konishi 8 (1972:4-5)
Click on image to enlarge

Hiroshige III Takanawa tetsudo

Hiroshige's Takanawa triptych

The 3-part woodblock print to the right portrays the Takanawa stretch of the new "ironroad" between Yokohama and Tokyo in 1871. Of greater interest, though, is the mixed kana-romanji title, which begins right to left like this.


Parsed and written left to right, it becomes this.

            Kana   ト ヲ キ ヨ ウ
 Received romaji  TO TE KI YU OO
Corrected romaji  TO WO KI YO  U
   Standard then  TO  U KI YA  U
    Standard now  TO  U KYO    U

The full Japanese title and the mixed kata-romaji title, as written and after correction, and according to contemporary and present-day standardized orthography, look like this.

Received script parsed

トヲキヨウ メヰシヨ タカナワ テツト ノ ヅ

Romaji corrections

トヲキヨウ メヰシヨ タカナワ テツト ノ ヅ

Contemporary orthography

トウキヤウ メイシヨウ タカナワ テツダウ ノ ヅ
Toukiyau meishiyō Takanawa tetsudau no dzu

Present-day orthography

トウキョウ メイショウ タカナワ テツドウ ノ ズ
Toukyou meishō Takanawa tetsudou no zu
Tōkyō meisho Takanawa tetsudō no zu

Kanji, kana, and romaji titles

My impression is that while the kanji title was definitely carved from brushed kanji, the kana and romaji may have been printed with a line of moveable type set into the block.

A number of observations can be made about the kanji title and its kana and romaji representations.

  1. The "kyō" (京) of "Tōkyō" (東京) is written with a highly stylized form of "kei" (亰), in which the bottom of 日 is extremely enlongated.
  2. ヲ (WO) is confused for テ (TE). As a lenthening of "to", "wo" (ヲ) should be "u" (ウ).
  3. Some variations of "T" are confused with "I".
  4. ヨ is romanized as YU rather than YO.
  5. All but the last "A" in TAKANAWA are shown as ∧ -- sort of like JAL (Japan Airlines) became J∧L.
  6. ∩SO may reflect DZU in contrast with TSU. Hepburn romanization was not yet stardard it would become by the end of century.
    1. ツ was "tsz" -- and both ズ and ヅ were "dzu" -- in the 1867 1st edition Hepburn's dictionary (J. C. Hepburn, A.M., M.D., A Japanese and English Dictionary with an English and Japanese Index, Shanghai: American Presbyterian Mission Press, 1867).
    2. ツ had become "tsu" by the third edition (J. C. Hepburn, M.D., LL.D., A Japanese-English and English-Japanese Dictionary, Third Edition, Tokyo: Z. P. Maruya & Co., Limited, Yokohama: Kelly & Walsh, Limited, New York: Steiger & Co. London: Trubner & Co., 1886).
  7. 圖 (図) is represented by voiced "dzu" (ヅ), but 道 is shown as unvoiced and short "to" (ト) rather than voiced and long "dou" (ドウ). While probably already pronounced "dō" (ドウ) by most people, its usual contemporary kana representation was "dau" (ダウ), which compares with "dao" -- its familiar Chinese pronunciation today.

The block carvers could have produced any script the drawer or calligrapher wrote. They worked from templates, like typesetters worked from cases of moveable type, focusing on discrete script rather than words. Carvers, like typesetters, might notice errors, and might have license to correct them.

Errors by calligraphers and scribes, and errors introduced by carvers or typesetters, are supposed to be spotted in proofs and corrected when feasible. What happened here?

The Latin letters follow the kana as though they are transcriptions of the kana. Not only are there errors in the kana, but the transcriptions are not faithful. The result is that, in several places, both scripts are odd.

The oddness of some of the Latin script is easier to understand, given its novelty. But why should the kana script be odd? Carelessness, probably, rather than dialect.

Contemporary standard orthography

The main features of kana orthography in the early meiji period, and in some legal and other formal texts until after the Pacific War, are as follows.

  1. Katakana rather than hiragana were typically used in laws and other formal writing whether brushed, penned, or printed.
  2. Hiragana, katakana, and hentaigana were commonly mixed in stories on woodblock prints. Some hentaigana (such as 志 for "shi") were also at times used in metal-type publications. On woodblock publications, the topical marker "wa (ha)" was usually written ハ though the object marker "o (wo)" might be ヲ or を.
  3. Voicing (dakuon (濁音) was not marked. For example, what today would be written 問わず (towazu) would be written 問ワス (towasu).
  4. Geminate consonants (sokuon 促音) were not marked with "small tsu" (っッ). Thus "yotte" (よって) would be "yotsute" (よつて).
  5. Punctuation marks (kutōten 句読点) were not commonly used in Japanese until recent times, as junctures are marked by syntax. They became more common as visual in popular writing during the Meiji period, but laws and imperial edicts, and other formal texts, remained unpunctuated. After the Pacific War, punctuation began to be used in laws as well as other formal writing. As in English, usage rules are controversial, and writers and publishing houses differ in their usage.


Ono Hideo on early graphics


Ono on graphic variation

The variation in the style of the characters in Tonichi's various mastheads has been of some interest and even controversy. Here is Ono Hideo's observation, which was separately boxed in his article on Tonichi's 80th year anniversary in Mainichi's 70th year anniversay publication (Mainichi 1952, page 572, my translation).

On masthead

As for Tonichi's masthead (題字 daiji) its change never stopped, it was modified every first printing [of a new layout or typeset]. The title (表題 hyōdai) during the period when [the paper was] first published is of the seal-writing style (篆書様式 tensho yōshiki) and was [most] likely the idea of Nishida [Densuke (1838-1910], who was illuminated [well-informed] about calligraphy, and [among] brushers (揮毫 kigō) he would be called a master [名人謙堂氏] of seal writing at the time. (Nishida's talk [in 1907]) As for [who] put the flying-cloud pattern on each character it was probably drawing master Yoshiiku. According to the appraisal (考証 kōshō) of the leading authority (泰斗 taito) of present-day calligraphy the venerable (翁 ō) Kawamura Kizan (川村驥山) [1882-1969],

"The 京 of 東京 is 亰 but 京 [and] 亰 are used the same (同じく通用 onajuku tsūyō), and 新 [立木] and 新 [立未] are also thus (また然り mata shikari)." From old there has been increase and decrease [variation] in stokes of characters. [The number of strokes] are particularly many in clerical writing (隷書 reisho) [scribe style] and such. [The graphs] [written as 烏 inside 口, 正 inside 口, and 丐 inside 口] are all together [one and all] the character 日 and are Zhou graphs (籀文 chūbun) [large (more elaborate) seal graphs]. The sun (日) [hence "day"] is a golden crow (金烏 kin'u) [a three-legged bird that resides in the sun]. The graph [written as 烏 inside 口] probably comes from this [legend of the golden bird in the sun]."

The 日日 of the masthead became 日々, and changes from reddish brown to black, green and so forth. From 4 January 1877 it became to be written 東亰日日新聞 horizontally at the top in a good brush, and [this] became the [company's] standard (冠標題 kanpyōdai). The characters are said to said to be the brush of Fukuchi Ouchi (福地桜痴 1841-1906) [Fukuchi Gen'ichiro, Tonichi's most famous editor].


Calligraphy styles

The styles in which characters are written has changed over the millennia and centuries. The ways in which a given style of character can be written will also vary with how one represents the strokes of a character, as a matter of how a brush or other writing instrument is moved, or as a matter of graphic design.

In general, there are five styles of writing.

1. seal (bamboo) writing (篆書 tensho, zhuanshu)
2. clerical (subordinate) writing (隷書 reisho, lishu)
3a. block (square) writing (楷書 kaisho, kaishu)
3b. semicursive (running) writing (行書 gyōsho, xingshu)
3c. cursive (grass) writing (草書 sōsho caoshu)

The seal style evolved from the style used on bronzeware, which evolved from the style used on oracle bones. Clerical and block styles represent later stages of simplification.

The semicursive and cursive styles are essentially stroke abbreviations of the block style when written with a brush, pen, or pencil. Most people in Japan who have finished compulsory education can read and write block style.

Most can also read semicursive, and many can write semicursive -- though skillful handwriting requires practice. Women are more likely than men to enroll in "penji" (pen script) classes to polish their skills.

Very few people learn to read, much less write, extremely cursive styles. The cursive styles of some characters, though, are familiar and even popular. The simplified characters in use today in the People's Republic of China are generally based on cursive forms.

Ono's informant, Kawamura Kizan, touches upon the first two styles in the above list. Seal writing survives on custom-made seals that are registered for legal use. Ready-made (over-the-counter) seals, and cheaper seals made for legal use, generally use simplier block styles.

"Zhou graphs" (籀文 Chūbun, Zhouwen) are sometimes called "large seal script" (大篆 daiten, dazhuan), in contrast with "small seal script" (小篆 shōten, xiaozhuan). The lesser script, which historically followed the greater script, were formalized during the Qin dynasty of the First Emperor roughly 2200 years ago.

A popular style that co-existed with the formal Zhou style evolved into the clerical script, which was standardized during the early Han dyansty. Clerical script was the immediate precursor of the block style, which was in common use by the time the Tang dynasty was established in the 7th century.

Most Chinese and Korean texts brought into Japan were written in block script, though some were written in clerical script. Clerical script is generally readable by people who know standard block script.


Ono on linguistic variation

How the graphs 東京 / 東亰 were pronounced is of interest to historical linguistics. Here is what Ono Hideo wrote about this problem in his article on Tonichi's 80th year anniversary in Mainichi's 70th year anniversay publication (page 571, my translation)

Tōkei nichinichi

At the beginning of Maiji when Edo became Tokyo (東京), Tokyoites (東京人 Tokyojin) at least are pronouncing 東京 "Tōkei". This comes out in a Tonichi news report., and [the pronunciation] becomes "Tōkei" in [some] official telegrams of government offices at the time. So it is thought that [people] generally referred [to the newspaper] as Tōkei nichinichi shinbun. And people now and then said "Nippōsha no shinbun" [News(paper) of Nipposha; Nipposha's news(paper)].


Tonichi's "solemn" masthead

Mainichi's centennial publication expands Ono's remarks on Tonichi's mastehead, in the 70th anniversary book, into over a page of small print (Mainichi 1972: 423-424).

The writer comments on the structures of all graphs in the name of the paper, from 東 (east) to 聞 (tidings) -- as follows, in brief.

is exactly the same as in standard kanji today. It combines "tree" (木) with "sun" (日) to signify the direction in which the sun rises.

reflects "high" (高) in 亠 and 口 and "hill" (丘) in 小 -- a citadel were a person of high status would reside and control a territory -- hence capital. It is read kyō or kei in Sino-Japanese, and miyako in Japanese. The problem is that there are 口 (京) and 日 (亰) forms in Japanese -- and "Kangxi Zidian" (康煕字典), the most authoritative Qing (Ching) dynasty character dictionary, has only the 口 form. From its very first issue, Tonichi had 東亰 -- in order, apparently, to differentiate the name of Japan's new capital from 東京 -- the long established city of Tonkin (Tonking, Tongking, Dong Kinh), better known today as Hanoi.

日日   See Ono on graphic variation (above) for details"

is a combination of 辛, 木, and 斤. The meaning of "new" or "fresh" derives from the spitting of wood (木) with an ax (斤). The Sino-Japanese pronunciation -- shin -- is signified by 辛. The character has come down to the present from antiquity.

is the same as now. The Sino-Japanese pronunciation -- bun or mon -- is signified by 門.