A Japanese newspaper was dying and it left legacies.
It was Yawatahama Sinbun, a local newspaper in Ehime Prefecture that got a lot of readership back in its heyday.
The dying newspaper was a sign of a dying small town as well.
The town of Yawatahama has become a lot quieter with fewer inhabitants (34,951 only as per 2015 census).
Shopping malls are closed.
And approaching its last edition, the local newspaper highlighted the spirit of the local awakening.
It’s hard to relate to such a story because Japan whose population is aging and shrinking is so different from Indonesia which is enjoying its demographic bonus.
Japanese sees fewer children, and as a consequence many elementary schools are closed. No students came in and studied.
Though the newspaper is now non-existent, it gives profound impact on the locals.
How It All Began
Their grandfather founded the newspaper in 1926. Its missions was to respond to its readers.
A lot of its news was about the locals’ happenings and incidents, which seemed trivial, such as fights between drunk men, girls who ran away from home, a cancelled wedding.
Kazuhiro who previously working in the male clothing industry began working for the newspaper 34 years ago after his marriage with Junko, his classmate.
He got used to the journalism industry gradually as he learned by running Yawatahama Sinbun.
He admitted that the gratitude that people gave him for publishing their news was amazing to him. The appreciation kept him moving forward.
How It Went
We are existent to support locals and offer hope for them, said Kazuhiro.
Kazuhiro wrote perhaps millions of articles for 33 years of working at the newspaper.
He was quite persevere as an old man. A job of a reporter is not easy but he did it fabulously till the end.
The newspaper was run by a couple of local old journalists. They are not certified or by any means, trained ones or graduated from a journalism program at a university. They are just third generation of the previous owner of the newspaper.
Junko, the wife, and Kazuhiro, the husband, literally ran Yawatahama Sinbun on their own every single day.
Journalism is hard and unforgiving. The couple must work hard from 8 am to midnight if necessary.
They had to stop operating the newspaper because Junko is not as fit any longer. She was ill and unfit for such toil.
How It All Ended
But sadly in 2017 Junko fell ill and had to undergo a major heart surgery, making her unable to do any strenuous work. That included working for Yawatahama Sinbun, which involved working for long hours every day.
They managed to find a replacement for Junko if necessary. But Kazuhiro realized it wouldn’t last long. Junko had to retire soon.
November 2019 saw their final decision to permanently stop the publication.
But what to do after the newspaper is gone?
The couple were clueless. Running a newspaper business was what they knew and did for many years.
The readership of Yawatahama Sinbun was quite large and constant for a local newspaper, achieving 3,000 copies for 3 decades.
The newspaper left legacies. Many readers still remember their first writeups and essays being published in the newspaper, and how it felt to read news that showed their names.
A sake business owner could not contain his regret. The business had placed ads in the newspaper for 80 years.
Yawatahama Sinbun was officially closed on December 27th, 2019.
It marked the end of its partnership with Yawatahama people for 94 years through thick and thin.
At the end of the publication, Kazuhiro stated that they wouldn’t bid farewell. They just ended the publication. That’s because an end is a new beginning, he wrote in his last column.
A month after the last publication, they worked on a new project: curating noteworthy articles from the newspaper for a book.
They intend to put the legacy to the hands of youths. (*/NHK)