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The Braille Mainichi, Japan's only newspaper for the blind, marks 100th anniversary

The German-made braille printing machine used to print The Braille Mainichi is seen in operation at The Mainichi Newspapers Co.'s Osaka Head Office in Osaka's Kita Ward. (Mainichi/Satoshi Hishida)

The Braille Mainichi, a weekly newspaper in braille that was first published in 1922, marked its 100th anniversary on May 11.

    The paper appeared in an era before regular radio broadcasts, and even globally such a publication, which allowed visually impaired people who had lacked access to information to read the paper in braille themselves, was rare. It has since continued steadily, overseen by successive editorial departments, documenting a century of history while also making a difference in the lives and culture of visually impaired readers.

    -- Preserving the foundations of 'wisdom and strength'

    It was blind educator Kyotaro Nakamura who was invited by the Osaka Mainichi Shimbun, predecessor of The Mainichi Newspapers Co., to take the helm as the first editor-in-chief of The Braille Mainichi at the age of 42. We wonder if he ever imagined the paper would still be going a century later.

    Nakamura, who was also a school teacher, aimed to use The Braille Mainichi as a textbook and increase the number of blind people and those with low vision who could read braille, working under the motto "bringing wisdom to each other to achieve strength." Just as he had envisioned, the paper became a forum for discussion among readers, for the exchange of information, and for cultural activities.

    The cover of issue 5,090 of The Braille Mainichi, marking the 100th anniversary of the paper's founding.

    It can be said that The Braille Mainichi in its initial stage built the foundations for new culture, transcending its role as a "newspaper" conveying movements in society. One hundred years on, we can see how strong those foundations were.

    It is the activities of visually impaired people who read and were interviewed by the paper over this period -- in other words, the fact that there were cultural developments among the visually impaired -- that allowed the paper to build on its foundations to reach this far.

    From topics relating to daily life, to attempts to enrich people's education and professional lives, to movements seeking the systemization and enhancement of welfare, to struggles to acquire and defend rights, successive editorial departments have been reporting developments in the paper's pages while living in those exact times. The past century saw a cycle of readers reading about these things in braille, sympathizing with them and being inspired to take further action.

    Those in the paper's editorial department believe there was great significance in the fact that, because of this, it was able to record the history of the visually impaired, a minority in society. The paper also played a role in connecting with public opinion as one division of a newspaper organization.

    At the time of The Braille Mainichi's founding, newspapers were the largest media organizations, and braille was a means of obtaining information that was going to grow. Today, the positions of braille and newspapers have changed markedly. Nevertheless, we want to continue to protect the future of this form of transmitting information in braille, and consider what role is appropriate in the current era while continuing to etch the history of the culture of the visually impaired, and move forward to the next 100 years.

    (By Yoshifumi Hamai, editor-in-chief of The Braille Mainichi, and The Braille Mainichi editorial department)

    Below are excerpts from the first edition of the Osaka Braille Mainichi.

    This photo shows the cover of the first edition of The Osaka Braille Mainichi issued on May 11, 1922.

    The Osaka Braille Mainichi publishes its first issue today. The purpose of publication is none other than to provide to the blind a newspaper that they can read themselves and drive home the cultural mission of newspapers. Thus, on the one hand, this means to provide the blind with the knowledge, courage, and comfort necessary for them to function as individually independent citizens in society, and on the other to awaken the conscience of society, which has been in a slumber regarding the blind. We hope from the bottom of our hearts that with the support of our readers and our efforts, this newspaper develops healthily, and that as soon as possible, we as a civilized institution of Japan will reach a period when our efforts embolden the world of the blind.

    Publication profile:

    The Braille Mainichi, issued every Tuesday, is Japan's only braille newspaper that independently gathers news and information for the visually impaired. It consists of 60 A4-sized pages. Since its founding, it has been published by The Mainichi Newspapers Osaka Head Office, and is printed on the first basement floor. It is currently staffed by nine people, including a reporter in Tokyo. In addition to a braille paper, it also produces a large-print tabloid and an audio newspaper.

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