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Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Minikomishi magazines: Japan's underground press


minikomishi is a Japanese word that refers to privately published, small-circulation magazines. By definition, minikomishi are therefore magazines that appeal to a small audience.

minikomi is an abbreviation of "mini communication" as opposed to "mass communication"; shi means "magazine." Being mini, minikomishi are seen as avoiding the major pitfall of mass communication, i.e., social and political circumspection for the sake of maintaining circulation figures.

minikomishi began, and flourished, in the 1960s and 1970s in Japan, when the educated youth of Japan, like youth in the rest of the world at that time, expressed their outrage against the socio-economic-political system that had led first to war and then, in peace, to the worship of the pursuit of ever greater national GDP.

The most vocal opponents of the system were students of Tokyo University and Nihon University, both elite institutions, and their students therefore highly literate.

During the 1960s and 1970s, the biggest foci of youthful opposition were the renewals of the Treaty for Mutual Cooperation and Security between Japan and the USA (abbreviated to Anpo in Japanese) in 1960 and again in 1970, and the Sanrizuka protests against the building of Narita Airport—a struggle now archived in the Narita Airport and Community Historical Museum.

Therefore, most minikomi were dedicated to thought and action centered on issues such as these, and most died out when the next, politically more docile, generation, took over.

However, minikomishi remain, and the most conspicuous of them are doujinshi (literally "like-minded magazines"), which typically feature more or less extreme erotic content. Another notable minikomishi that has survived is the entertainment information and ticketing magazine, Pia, which began as a minikomishi by students of Chuo University in Tokyo who were movie enthusiasts. However, by having turned into a mass communication magazine, Pia cannot really said to have survived as a minikomishi, but rather evolved. 

The National Museum of Japanese History in Sakura City, Chiba Prefecture, is the main repository now of historical minikomishi, which is commendable, but also evidence that the minikomishi that tried to change the world have now been consigned to history.

However, all is not lost for alternative thought and action in Japan. The internet has become the perfect combination of mini- and mass-communication, and much of the buzz on the streets created by the previous generation through self-publication of paper-and-ink organs has now moved online. 

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