Taketoshi Yamamoto(Waseda University)
It was in the mid-1960s that I began my life as a scholar. My immediate goal then was to write my masterfs thesis on the history of Japanese newspapers at the turn of the 20th century. In particular, I wanted to focus on the social class of newspaper subscribers during the late Meiji era from the late 1890s to the first years of the 1900s.
Whenever I had time, I would research in places such as the Meiji Newspaper and Magazine Library at the University of Tokyo and the newspaper room at the National Diet Library. In a random but earnest manner, I tried to get hold of every newspaper article, advertisement and company publication, thesis and articles in magazines -- anything that had relevance to my field of study.
Back then, however, microreaders and microprinters did not exist. In fact, there were hardly any microfilms of newspapers. The Xerox copy machine had only just been developed. And the small indexed versions of newspapers published from around 1916 were nowhere to be found.
The only way to go about my research was to physically turn over every page of the documents I came across. It was an extremely time-consuming process, but I had no choice but to copy out the material by hand into notebooks and cards.
It took me more than an hour to transcribe a paragraph, and a whole day to copy out one page of newspaper. Even if I had had plenty of time and stamina I would have felt like screaming out of frustration.
Naturally, I began to think of ways to save time. I came up with the idea of photographing the newspapers and purchased a single-lens reflex camera. After taking some blurry photos, it soon occurred to me that even if I improved enough to take more visible pictures of the writing, it would still take me a lot of time to confirm the date of each photographed article and then to organize them. And in those days, there were very few magazines that published the annual table of contents of newspapers. So I gave up the photographing endeavor.
I decided that the only way after all was to copy the articles by hand. Other people studying newspapers were also doing the same, and this thought made the task bearable. I tried at least to cultivate a discerning eye, choosing articles that would be really useful, and copying only the most important parts.
By the 1970s, when I finished graduate school, the number of microfilms of newspapers and reprinted editions of magazines had increased. Printers and copy machines were increasingly widespread, and making copies had become much easier and cheaper. At last I was freed from copying out by hand and the proportion of hand-written cards in my files decreased drastically. I had high hopes that my research would take a big step forward.
After a while however, I reached a stage in my life when I grew conscious of falling eyesight and physical stamina. I was also able to spend less time on research. Once again, I began to wonder about more efficient ways to access articles and theses.
In the late 1980s, I came across microfiche reproductions of the internal documents of the GHG/SCAP kept at the National Diet Library. It was possible to easily make copies of these papers thanks to the printer, but it was hard to find the exact data one was looking for. Time and perseverance, as well as luck were necessary. I may be one of the last scholars of the analog age, but during the times I was in the reading room, I always felt that the computer, which was becoming more common, would help make research more efficient.
By the late 1990s, the University of Maryland and the National Diet Library had microfilmed all the censored magazines of the Prange Collection ? the collection of newspapers, magazines and books published in occupied Japan after World War II. The collection comprises an estimated 13,700 titles, 6.10 million pages, 150,000 books, and 2 million articles. Most of the publications no longer exist in Japan.
Calling on other researchers to take part, I set up a study group to compile a database for a table of contents of the magazines in the collection. After applying with the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science I was fortunately granted funding for studies for fiscal 2000. A five-year project is currently underway, with the aim of preserving data on all the magazines into the computer under roughly 50 categories such as the titles of articles, the authorsf names, the publishers and places of publication.
During my struggle with articles as a graduate school student, I tried in my own way to devise a better method of searching for documents. In that process, I feel I have acquired a craftsman-like intuition for speedily discerning the value of materials and summarizing the vital points. I sometimes wonder though, if this particular knack is no longer needed in the digital world of the 21st century where massive data can be accessed in a matter of seconds. Perhaps I have grown too old to gain a new kind of intuition necessary for the database. On the other hand, when I sit in front of a computer, I like to tell myself that the skills of the analog era are still proving useful.