By David Yamaguchi,
The North American Post
READERS have recently inquired on the whereabouts of Shihou Sasaki, longtime former editor of the North American Post. His English news stories have been missing from the Post since spring.
While Shihou has still been writing his popular opinion column, “Isseki” on the Japanese side of the paper, it is his absence from the English pages that has been especially noticeable. He commonly wrote most of that content.
That Shihou did so was not obvious to the reader. He commonly wrote under the pseudonym, “North American Post Staff” to reduce the frequency with which his byline appeared.
I first met Shihou in 2005, shortly after his arrival at the paper. Then, he wrote under editor Vince Matsudaira. After Mr. Matsudaira left to return to his regular job, Shihou labored under the later editors Chris Nishiwaki and Yaeko Inaba. When Yaeko had to return to Japan, Shihou became the editor in 2010.
It was at that juncture that Shihou began writing “Isseki” [one stone], from the expression “Isseki wo toujiru” [to cast one stone (upon the water)]. Building on earlier columns by Ms. Inaba and himself, it has shared his bird’s-eye view of the community. Its title was suggested by reader and calligrapher Aiko Fujii, who also brush-stroked its logo.
Many longtime readers will remember the way Shihou ran around the Japanese community with his trademark cap and camera, covering local events—church bazaars, concerts, and film showings—in a way that hasn’t been done since. In many ways, Shihou’s persistent coverage showed the community at its best.
Of course, providing such firsthand local news takes legwork, and thus staff time, to produce. Still, when it appears in print, it is simply hard to beat in its power to capture the heart and soul of a community.
After more than a decade of doing so, frequently on nights and weekends, Shihou has felt that it is time for him to move on. Now 40, he has wanted to see “what else is out there.” While his initial plan was for his last issue to be the 2017 New Year’s issue, he remained at the helm of the paper through the Cherry Blossom Festival issue so that suitable replacement staff could be hired and trained before his departure.
Personally, I found that I enjoyed working with Shihou. While we tussled over our fair share of sentences—he commonly changed my native English sentences to Japanese English that sounded better to his ear but drove me nuts—what made it work was his clear love of the job and of our community.
Before coming to the Post, Shihou earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism at the University of Oregon. Before that, he studied political science at Rikkyo University, Tokyo. With his ability to write publishable content in both Japanese and English, Shihou’s skill set remains rare.
Since spring, Shihou’s shoes have been more or less filled by two staffers. Misa Murohashi has been editing and laying out the Post, while also doing the same for Soy Source, the Post’s sister Japanese-language publication. It is Misa’s design sense that has imparted a fresh, new look to the Post. Bruce Rutledge has been writing English news stories and interviews.
Beyond weekly tasks, Misa’s job is to serve as general manager of the two papers. In that capacity, her main charge is to put the Post on track toward financial sustainability in today’s difficult business environment for newspapers. The dilemma is that Soy Source has been supporting the Post.
Towards this end, Misa will be drawing on her background in business management from Sophia University, Tokyo, and experience in the international marketing of video games. Misa studied the history of Seattle’s Nihonmachi [Japantown] for urban planning coursework in the UW graduate school. That exposure sparked Misa’s interests in managing and editing the Post.
By day, Bruce is a publisher at Chin Music Press, a local press for English-language books centered on Japan. His skills include being able to translate written Japanese to native English, which he learned from 15 years of living in Tokyo.
Both the Post and Soy Source are owned by publisher Tomio Moriguchi. Describing himself as “the last of seven or eight key investors,” Mr. Moriguchi has been generously sustaining the Post through thick and thin.
We wish Shihou the best in his new ventures. He will remain in Seattle, so we can all plan on seeing him from time to time.