History of Seattle Nikkei Immigrants
from ‘The North American Times’
This series explores the history of the pre-war Japanese community in Seattle, by reviewing articles in “The North American Times,” which have been digitally archived by the University of Washington Library and Hokubei Hochi Foundation (Nikkei Newspaper Digital Archive | Hokubei Hochi Foundation).
History of “The North American Times” 1
In the last chapter, I wrote about the development of the Japanese hotel industry. In this chapter, I will share articles about Japanese newspapers, especially about the North American Times. In the first half of the chapter, I review articles that describe people who were involved from its founding until the 1920s.
Birth of Japanese Newspapers
In the early 20th century, as the Japanese community grew in Seattle, various Japanese newspapers appeared. Kiyoshi Kumamoto, a dentist, Kuranosuke Hiraide, the founder of Hiraide Store), Juji Yadagai, and Ichiro Yamamoto invested together to launch the “The North American Times.” Its first issue was published on September 1, 1902. The chief editor was Sakutaro Sumigyu Yamada. The office was located inside the basement of Hiraide Shoten, on Jackson Street.
In the same year, “Shin Nippon” (“New Japan”) began. “Asahi Shimbun” (“Morning Sun Newspaper”) also started on March 1, 1905 and “Taihoku Nippo” (“Big Northern Japan News”) followed on January 1, 1910. The Japanese newspapers were significant information sources for Japanese immigrants who did not read English.
Chief Editors in the Early Days
“The North American Times and Me” by Gogai Nakajima (Mar. 29, 1918)
Gogai Nakajima, who used to work for “Shin Nippon,” writes about the “The North America Times” in its founding era.
“I came to the US in July 1903. At that time, there were two major daily newspapers in Seattle, The North American Times and Shin Nippon. The North American Times represented a group of prospering businessmen. In contrast, Shin Nippon had a sort of “revolutionary” tone. The Japanese community in Seattle was heading toward its golden age, so the power of The North American Times was noticeable.
“The day after I landed, I visited the office of Oriental Trading Company (Toyo Boeki Gaisha) and met Ototaka Yamaoka, the president of Shin Nippon. After listening to his lengthy speech, I joined Shin Nippon.
“Mr. Yamaoka had a few writers including Mr. Kawakami as chief editor. At the North American Times, Nashimura Hatsugano was the general chief. Nashimura-sensei, who is now retired and no longer appears at social events, was like a community star back then. All the young writers were following after him.
“I must not forget mentioning former president and owner Mr. Kumamoto. His struggle with a strong attachment to the publishing business was remarkable. I believe that today’s North American Times is the result of the efforts of his hard work without sleeping.
“The North American Times was against outlandish and radical revolution. Rather, sometimes, the newspaper attacked plans by radical activists. The paper was moderate, but opportunistic if I may say. The two daily newspapers (NAT and Shin Nippon) were totally different…. I told the printing craftsman to choose disagreeable words so I can create articles attacking Nashimura-sensei. I selected worse slanders every day. Now, when I enjoy teatime with Mr. Nashimura, we both laugh about these dirty debates we used to have between the two papers.
“Eventually, I left Shin Nippon and lived in Eastern Washington for a while. When I came back, the North American Times had become a decent respectable newspaper, rather than an immature town paper. What I remember is that the change happened when Tetsuyuki (Shiro) Fujioka was working as chief editor. The sincerity of his tone and his moderate and honest writing certainly upgraded the paper. I think that the basis of today’s North American Times was formed during the Fujioka era.
“When I lived in Pasco nine years ago (in 1909), I sent a letter to Mr. Fujioka and asked him to support the development of Pasco’s Japanese community. He immediately replied yes. I started contributing articles about Pasco to the North American Times. The effect of the newspaper was amazing. Surprisingly, many Japanese visited the desert after seeing my articles. Soon, a Japanese laundry and a general store were opened in Pasco. Some restaurants followed. That made me so busy. The contribution of the newspaper to Pasco’s regional development was substantial.
“I would like to pay tribute to the dedication of the North American Times and its efforts that contributed to the development of the Japanese community.”
“Headquarters Memorial Ceremony” (Jul. 29, 1918)
In 1918, the North American Times hosted a memorial ceremony for its founders.
“The day before yesterday, a memorial service was held at Manshinro Restaurant to commemorate the deceased who were associated with the North American Times, including Kiyoshi Kumamoto and Juji Yadakai. Mr. Sumigyu Yamada gave a memorial speech. It was a great ceremony with many attendees.”
In 1913, the ownership of the North American Times was handed over to Sumikiyo Arima from Kumamoto. From then, the Arimas continued publishing the paper until its last issue on March 12, 1942. Sumikiyo’s older son Sumiyoshi Arima worked as president for decades. He was once president of the Nihonjinkai (Japanese Association) in the 1930s. At the start of World War II in December 1941, he was forced to leave his position, as he was stuck in Kumamoto while visiting his sick father, Sumikiyo. Sumiyoshi’s younger brother Sumio Arima became president, but he was arrested by the FBI on the day of the Pearl Harbor attack. Sumio was one of the original members who continued the paper as the North American Post after the war.
“Recollections of Three Decades Ago – Seattle, the North American Times and Me” by Ryozo Azuma (Jan. 1, 1938)
Ryozo Azuma, who worked for the North American Times in the 1910s, described the time when the Arima family started.
“I first started working for the North American Times around 1909, when Mr. Kumamoto was president. Mr. Shiro Fujioka, who is now in Los Angeles, was the chief editor. Arima-sensei (Sumikiyo) had just resigned from the position of professor of Meiji Gakuin University and moved to America as a minister of a church in Tacoma. He is a great writer and was contributing his articles to the North American Times and to Taihoku Nippo. His penname was ‘Tacoma Sanjin (people in mountain).’ He became a partner to us literary fellows.
After a while, Arima-sensei took over the North American Times from Mr. Kumamoto and became its president and chief editor…. It was around that time (1917) when the current president, Sumiyoshi Arima, started working for the publisher. Sumiyoshi was a young student who had just graduated from a college in Portland. To reveal a secret, the romance between his wife Tamaki (maiden name, Fukuda) began when he was in Portland.”
Extended Circle of Contributors
Even after the Arima family took over the North American Times, the founding members and former editors stayed involved in the publishing of the paper. Also, it seems that even after editorial staff left, many of them continued writing for the paper from different locations.
“The North American Times Credit List” (Jan 1, 1918, and Jan 1, 1919)
In the New Year’s issues of 1918 and 1919, the names of employees and contributors are listed, as in the image below. Looking at this list, the North American Times had over 20 employees in Seattle, over ten writers in Los Angeles, New York, Vancouver, etc., and several writers in Japan. It appears that president Sumikiyo Arima was in Tokyo in 1919. He may have started shifting his home base to Japan as Sumiyoshi was taking over his work.
It is interesting that Shin Nippon’s founder Ototaka Yamaoka and its former editor Gogai Nakajima are both listed as “Company Friend.” Nakajima was contributing many articles to the North American Times around that time.
You can also find the names of former chief editors Nashimura Hatsugano as company friend, and Shiro Fujioka as Los Angeles correspondent. Please let me introduce some articles about Hatsugano and Fujioka after they left the North American Times Seattle office.
“Mr. Hatsugano Returns”(Sep. 9, 1918)
“Mr. Hatsugano, who went to the Alaska Oak Cannery, came back home yesterday, full of ideas of writing his own poetry.”
In response to the above article, Hatsugano himself wrote an article in the April 19, 1919 issue. He wrote “Since the North American Times wrote that I was thinking of poetry, my friend teased me and said, ‘Were you thinking of only one poem?’ Then I started my speech. He said ‘Ha!’ and just left.”
“Hatsugano’s Return” (Oct. 28, 1919)
“Nashimura Hatsugano, who went to Alaska, came back to Seattle yesterday morning. He says he caught so much salmon that he founded a school of salmon at the end of this season.”
It seems that Hatsugano was enjoying salmon fishing every summer in Alaska.
“Shiro Fujioka’s Inauguration” (Feb. 5, 1918)
Shiro Fujioka “became the secretary of the Japanese California Agricultural Co-op after resigning as General Secretary of the Los Angeles Japanese Association.” He moved to California to start his agricultural business. But he was still working for the North American Times by contributing articles.
In an article “Japanese Exclusion Immigration Bill,” published on March 29, 1939, Fujioka talks about his past.
“At that time (around 1913), after eight years of working for the North American Times, I set my goal to be successful in the agriculture field and moved to Yakima. However, I lost my business there and returned to Seattle within one year. It felt shameful. Mr. Furuya and Mr. Matsumi felt sorry for me and offered to support me to move to California. I accepted their favor and left for California the next day.”
“Rolling Introduction to People in Seattle” (Jan. 1, 1918)
There is an article about Gogai Nakajima in the 1918 New Year issue.
“As a member of the North American Japanese Association, he seems to have 24 skills including his eight mouths, eight hands, and all his pencils…. As a father of three sons and one daughter, he has an ideal family. His “Home Magazine” proves that he is a great family guy with good housekeeping skills, too.”
It can be said that Gogai Nakajima was a great writer, while he was also a person who cherished his family at the same time.
Articles About Employees
Many articles in the North American Times detail the movement of employees and the situations of their families. It must have been a caring company that valued its employees.
For example, the January 22 and 28, and February 1 and 13 issues of 1918 contain articles about the departure of Suetaro Hamano. He resigned after working for three years because he moved to New York to continue his relatives’ business. A farewell party was held with more than 20 employees. It was a farewell for Shuichiro Hirai as well. Hirai was an advertising manager. When Hamano departed on the transcontinental railroad, “a large number of people were seeing him off at the station. He arrived safely in New York a few days later.”
According to an article on January 1, 1938, by Ryozo Azuma, Hamano later became an executive of South Manchuria Railway, assigned to work for the company’s Economic Research Bureau. He was sent to Shanghai during the Second Sino-Japanese War. There, he was active in the position of preparing for the postwar economy.
There is an article about Seiji Nagato joining the company in the February 8, 1918, issue. He moved from “Shin Sekai (New World)” which was a newspaper in San Francisco. According to Ryozo Azuma’s article in 1938, Nagato later became editor of “Tokyo Asahi (now Asahi Shimbun).”
“Kinoshita’s Wnikkeiedding” (May 6, 1918), “Nakagawa Welcoming his Wife” (Jul. 26, 1918)
There are articles about the marriages of Toshi Kinoshita and Oka Nakagawa. Their wives moved to the United States to marry. My guess is that both were picture brides. Regarding Nakagawa, there is also an article about his son’s birth in the May 17, 1919 issue.
“Staff Picnic” (Jul. 29, 1918)
“On Sunday, the Seattle staff had a picnic retreat at Pleasant Beach (Bainbridge Island). We all had a good time playing in the mountains and picking up shellfish on the beach. Mr. Kitayama and Mr. Kimura have houses there and welcomed us. The party was grateful. We went back to Seattle on a small steamship leaving there at 7:00 p.m.“
Reading the article, I can imagine all the employees enjoying the trip together.
“Seattle Friends in Hankou (China)” (Jul. 21, 1919)
“Friends from Seattle gathered in Hankou, six thousand miles away from Seattle. People who gathered there were Sadajiro Tamura (listed in the credits of the 1918 New Year’s issue), who was promoted to work at the embassy in Beijing, Isoji Ebisu of Yusen, Toyotaro Namura of Sumitomo Bank (former manager of Sumitomo Bank, Seattle branch), Koushichi Sakai of Mogi Shokai, Asaro Hiyoshi of Mitsubishi Shoji, and our former employee Shuichiro Hirai. The world is large, but small at the same time.”
According to an article posted by Azuma Ryozo in 1938, Sadajiro Tamura was the chief editor of the Sunday edition of the North American Times while studying at the University of Washington around 1914. He later passed the diplomatic examination and became the Consul General in China.
The people who gathered in Hankou had once lived in Seattle and worked hard in growing the Japanese community there in the early 20th century. By 1919, each of them had obtained important roles in Japanese government offices and corporations in China but continued their friendships far from Seattle. Companies such as Nippon Yusen (NYK Shipping), Sumitomo Bank and Mitsubishi Shoji were advertisers in the North American Times.
Opinion From a Female Employee
“Newspapers, Reporters, Readers, and Contributors” by Shikako Takatani (Mar. 29, 1918)
This is an article by a female editor, Shikako Takatani, who worked as a corresponding writer in Montana.
“I have something to ask you all, while encouraging efforts of the newspaper publisher. Even if the newspaper owner has a contributory spirit, the machine cannot run without oil. No matter how priestly a teacher is, he cannot stand in front of students without eating. I need to ask for your support of this newspaper to reward its contributions to our community.”
“When I arrived in Seattle, I stayed at Tokiwa Ryokan (Tokiwa Inn). On a table upstairs in the building, I found about six or seven small papers. A few of them were published in Seattle. I don’t think it’s necessary to have so many small newspapers. If all the papers were combined into one, a good newspaper could be made and would be financially beneficial.”
“There is a Japanese Association (Nihonjin-kai) in Seattle that hires secretaries who work to unify Japanese people here. Why don’t we use their system of collecting money to hire newspaper reporters in places wherever we see Japanese residents? These reporters can also work for the Japanese Association. People will pay higher subscription fees, combined as a fee for the Japanese Association.
If we encourage people to subscribe to the newspaper, maybe with the authority of the Japanese Council office, that subscription income would pay for a reporter at each location.“
Shikako Takatani moved from Japan in 1917, so it was just six months after her arrival when she wrote this article. She frankly expressed her opinions and unique suggestions, considering the financial aspects of newspaper operation. She asked for public assistance to support the paper which contributes to the Japanese community.
After reading all the above articles, I can tell that the long-term success of the North American Times was possible with all the efforts of diversely talented employees.
In the latter half of this special New Year’s Chapter, I would like to introduce more articles where you can learn about the North American Times from around 1918 to 1942.
The names of people listed in the New Year’s issue of the North American Times in 1918 and 1919. This table was created by the author, from the credit list and from the references. Names in green appear in this article. Dates in parentheses are the source North American Times issues.
|Seattle||Sumikiyo Arima||President and Publisher since 1913, taking over after Kiyoshi Kumamoto|
|Tokunosuke Miyazaki||Presenter of the Sports Day to celebrate the 5000th issue of NAT, held on April 28, 1918|
|Suetaro Hamano||Left NAT in January 1918 (Jan. 2, 1918)|
|Toshi Kinoshita||Visited Japan as a Leader of Taisho Sightseeing Tour Group (Sep 10, 1918)|
|Goroku Masui||Lecture at the UW (Mar 15, 1918)|
|Jyunichi Iguchi||Writer of “Diary of a Young Man Working in a Factory” (Jan. 1, 1920)|
|Hozo Maeno||Writer of “Year-End”(Dec 26 – 28, 1917) and “Housewife and Home Education” (Jan. 1, 1918)|
|Syuichiro Hirai||Advertising Manager, left NAT on January 31, 1918 (Jan. 28, 1918)|
|Taira Miyauchi||Spokane Branch Manager (Jan. 28, 1918), Office Manager (Apr. 21, 1918)|
|Oka Nakagawa||Article about his marriage (Jul. 26, 1918)|
|Seiji Nagato||Recruited from “Shinsekai” (New World), San Francisco, to NAT|
|Sumio Arima||Younger son of Sumikiyo Arima. Later becomes chief editor and publisher after his brother Sumiyoshi. He becomes the first chief editor of the North American Post after WWII|
|Naosuke Misawa||Yoshitaka Inoue|
|Ichiei Suginoo||Inoko Takemoto|
|Chihei Urakawa||Kentaro Nsakazawa|
|Genzabro Ohashi||Nobuo Sakiyama|
|Chiyoko Ishida||Takichi Kawakami|
|Yoshiko Okanoue||Fujita Furukawa|
|Senri Arima||Yoshio Hashiguchi|
|Syosaku Fukayama||Toshi Yamagami|
|Masao Nishio||Ichiyo Nishikawa|
|Honen Nishinomiya||Tasuku Nakao|
|Fujisuke Murakami||Seiji Nishida|
|Teru Nakagawa||Kinu Yamamoto|
|Tokyo||Motoi Kumamoto||He may be a relative of the founder, Kiyoshi Kumamoto|
|Mase Kumamoto||She may be the wife of Kiyoshi Kumamoto|
|Syoichi Suginoo||An early manager of NAT|
|Japan||Suetaro Hamano||Moved back to Japan (Oct. 25, 1918)|
|Ryozo Azuma||Writer of “Recollections of three decades ago – Seattle, North American Times and Me” (Jan. 1, 1938)|
|Kozan Yoshida||Tatsuya Arai|
|Portland||Sumiyoshi Arima||Older son of Sumikiyo Arima. He became chief of Portland Branch, just after he graduated from Pacific University. He later became president of the NAT after his father.|
|Los Angeles||Tetsuyuki Fujioka (Shiro)||Joined NAT in November 1906 as Editor-in-Chief. After leaving the company, he continued contributing articles including “Post-War USA”(Jan. 1, 1918)|
|Retsu Kiyosawa||Joined Asahi Shimbun in Japan in 1927, then became a freelance journalist. He is famous in Japan for his criticism of the international politics of the pre-WWII Japanese government|
|Kyokuko Yamanaka||Keitoku Takamura|
|Oakland||Rokkei Okina||Kadan Otani|
|New York||Kenji Enosawa||Shigetsu Sasaki|
|Montana||Shikako Takatani||Writer of “Commemoration of 5000th issue” (Mar. 29, 1918)|
|Vancouver||Hashiemon Tainaka||Visited Seattle (Feb. 11, Mar. 21, 1918)|
|Hankou,China||Sadajiro Tamura||After leaving the NAT, he worked at the Consulate-General of Japan, Hankou, China (Feb. 14, 1919) and Embassy of Japan in Beijing (Jul. 21, 1919)|
|Friends of NAT||Sumigyu (Sakutaro) Yamada||NAT’s first Chief Editor.|
|Nashimura (Senjiro) Hatsugano||General Manager of NAT in its founding era. After retiring, he continued contributing articles including “Haiku” (Apr. 19, 1919)|
|Tanei (Torataro) Takabatake||Principal of Seattle Japanese School, who used to work at NAT.|
|Gogai Nakajima||Writer of “The North American Times and me” (Mar. 29, 1918)|
|Ototako Yamaoka||Founder of Shin Nippon|
|Suzan Aizawa||Yasujiro Osawa|
|Ougado Sasaki||Syudo Matsumoto|
|Fudei Azuma||Yuzo Abe|
About The North American Times:
The North American Times was first printed on September 1, 1902, by publisher Kiyoshi Kumamoto from Kagoshima, Kyushu. At its peak, it had a daily circulation of about 9,000 copies, with correspondents in Spokane, Vancouver BC, Portland, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Tokyo. When WWII started, Sumio Arima, the publisher at the time, was arrested by the FBI. The paper was discontinued on March 14, 1942, when the incarceration of Japanese Americans began. After the war, the paper was revived as “The North American Post.”
Jyushiro Kato, “History of Development of Japanese in the United States,” Hakubun-sha, 1908. / Japanese Association in the United States, “History of Japanese in the United States,” 1940. / Sumitatsu Arima, “Hundred Years of Japanese Newspaper in Seattle,” 2005. / Kazuo Ito, “Hokubei Hyakunen Zakura” (100-Year Cherry Blossoms in North America), Nichibou Shuppan, 1969.
About the Author:
Ikuo Shinmasu retired in 2015 from Air Liquide Japan Ltd., then researched his grandfather who migrated to Seattle. He shared his findings through the series, “Yoemon Shinmasu – My Grandfather’s Life in Seattle,” in the NAP and in Discover Nikkei in Japanese and English during 2019-2020. He lives in Zushi, Kanagawa, with his wife and son.