Books: Clubby Magazines

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NOMA OF JAPAN—Seiji Noma—Vanguard ($3.75). Dai Nippon Yubenkai Kodansha, founded in 1910, is the leading publishing house of Japan. Its nine magazines comprise some 70% of the total Nipponese output. In book publishing it is the birthplace of mass production in Japan with best sellers passing the million mark. Founder Seiji Noma has been compared to Newnes, Northcliffe, Hearst, Curtis. Since 1930 he has been head of the Tokyo Hochi Shimbun ("Intelligence Newspaper"), oldest and one of the most influential Japanese dailies. This book is his autobiography, written in English by his friend, Shunkichi Akimoto. Unusually frank, it reveals a man who seems to represent his people, combining Western push with Eastern fatalism, occidental morals with oriental philosophy.

Born in 1878 when the new Japan was in its infancy, Seiji Noma, whose father had been of the samurai, was rooted in the feudal past. His family was poor but proud. At school he was an idle, mischief-making but lusty youth, excelling in oratory and fencing. Despite early pride and poverty, and the vein of moralizing that runs through his narrative, Noma is no Horatio Alger hero, dislikes being called a self-made man. Sent to the Luchu Islands as a Government teacher, he displayed marked talents for conviviality, enjoyed wining, dining and the entertainment of geisha girls at "The House of the Wind and the Moon," found pleasure in a "tropical romance" with a "faithful courtesan" in a genteel house of entertainment, piled up debts. He resisted efforts of lady matchmakers to marry him off to one of the local girls, but finally permitted his best friend to pick a stranger for his wife. The marriage has been a perfect success. Noma returned to Tokyo and an administrative position at the Imperial University, settled down to business. Several trading ventures, undertaken on the side, failed and he came to the conclusion he was no businessman. His first magazine grew out of a debating society. Founded in 1910 and still going strong, Yuben ("Eloquence") contains orations and essays by professors and students. Encouraged by its modest success, Noma ventured into the publishing world on a shoestring, begging, borrowing, digging deeper & deeper into debt, dodging creditors, pleading, threatening, making many a mistake. No sooner would he catch up than he would start a new magazine, create new debts.

The second half of the book is mainly the story of the fortunes of the nine magazines. After Yuben came Kodan Club* a light magazine containing old historical romances recited by professional storytellers, folk tales preserved by word of mouth from generation to generation. A boys' magazine called Shonen Club was intended to teach sound morals and national pride in a familiar chatty style. Omoshiro ("Interesting") Club (now Fuji) was inspired by the Curtis magazines in the U. S. "An organ for all that was interesting and amusing, light and soothing," it was designed to sell at a low price and develop into a popular advertising medium. No. 5, Gendai ("Present Generation") was a serious magazine of the review type. With No. 6, Fujin Club, Noma entered the women's field against heavy competition, lost money for four years. Shojo Club, for girls, was No. 7. "We must not preach greatness or ambition to girls as much as to boys." No. 8, King,

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