MJHW (Online Meeting) on Mediatization and Interwar Japanese Propaganda - Friday, December 4th

Joelle Nazzicone Discussion

Please join us for the next meeting of the Modern Japan History Workshop on Friday, December 4th at 6 pm JST.  Our presenter this month will be Lieven Sommen (KU Leuven), who will present his work on mediatization and interwar Japanese propaganda (details below).

This month’s session will be held online through ZOOM, and can be accessed using the following sign-in information:

Meeting link: https://zoom.us/j/94820567972

The password for the meeting will be posted at the top of the MJHW website from November 30th onwards.

The workshop is open to all, and no prior registration is required.

Please direct any questions to Joelle Tapas at tapas@fas.harvard.edu.  We hope to see you there!


Looking for signs of ‘Mediatization’ of the Interwar Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs: On MOFA’s ‘Department of Information’

Lieven Sommen, KU Leuven, Department of Japanese Studies

In the second half of the nineteenth century, the growth of the Meiji State coincided with significant technological advancements in telecommunications technology that connected countries around the globe, and caused ever more popular participation and interest in domestic and international politics. The Japanese State fully revealed itself as a new imperial power through its victories in the First Sino-Japanese (1894-1895) and Russo-Japanese (1904-1905) wars, as well as its annexation of Korea (1910). In this context, from the 1890s on a consciousness was formed within the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs that Japan’s fledgling empire needed to be supported by effective propaganda strategies. The MOFA’s propaganda activities started out as very scattershot attempts at controlling individual newspapers and foreign journalists, but from the 1910s on became larger in scope and unified as the understanding of good propaganda techniques grew within the Ministry, and it gained more resources through a network of news agencies and diplomatic missions abroad.

This presentation will discuss the MOFA’s Department of Information (外務省情報部), a department for news propaganda and foreign intelligence gathering that was officially created in 1921, and represents a watershed moment for the evolution of MOFA’s propaganda activities. This presentation will attempt to trace the lead-up towards the creation of the department from the Russo-Japanese War on, as well as discuss its significance as a centralizing institution for the MOFA’s propaganda tactics. It will do so from the perspective of ‘mediatization.’ In contexts of political studies, mediatization refers to a process in which actors or institutions see their policies influenced by the presence of ‘media logic’, meaning that policy-making decisions are altered because of the need to account for media and the importance of (international) public opinion. This presentation is therefore an attempt to apply the idea of ‘mediatization’ to the growing consciousness towards media and their importance as tools for diplomacy, as it grew in the early twentieth century within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.