Sixty years ago this month Shukan Shincho began publishing their weekly magazine. The inaugural issue’s cover illustration featured a young girl in kimono walking on a breezy shoreline, fighting to keep her paper umbrella from blowing away. Behind her a train with homes as cars puffed along the water with billowing clouds of seashells rising from the smokestack. It was illustrated by artist Rokuro Taniuchi – 35 at the time – who, for the next 25 years until his untimely death in 1981, illustrated numerous covers for the magazine.
Taniuchi’s nostalgic, evocative and surreal landscapes (many of the archived here) became a signature look for the magazine. Dignified and handsome, they helped establish Shukan Shincho as one of the most well-respected magazines in Japan and an essential publication for any waiting room. For its 60th birthday, or kanreki, the magazine, whose name translates as “Weekly New Currents,” put out a replica of their inaugural issue. They’ve also made an effort to digitally enhance many of Taniuchi’s old covers, making them available as limited edition framed prints.
In keeping with its dignified look, Shukan Shincho was also one of the only weekly magazines (shukanshi) to not feature pornography. It also shuns the standard practice of running a young woman in bikini on the cover surrounded by sensationalist headlines. Unfortunately, and to borrow the words of author Adam Gamble, “don’t judge a shukanshi by its cover.”
I feel the need to mention that, unfortunately, Shukan Shincho does not have the best track-record in terms of journalistic practices. Despite plenty of good articles, the magazine, according to author and journalism professor Kenichi Asano, has a strange and nasty habit of slipping in “coverage that unnecessarily disparages or defames individuals and groups” as well as featuring “material designed to support nationalism” by justifying excesses during WWII.
Anyway, I hate to take away from Taniuchi’s gorgeous covers so I won’t spend any more time on this but if you’re interested go read Adam Gamble and Takesato Watanabe’s “A Public Betrayed.”