By Edward Echtle
For The North American Post
Editor’s note. After a long lapse, we continue this series here, left off on Sept. 16 (napost.com). This part is probably the most interesting to readers thus far; it reveals what was happening behind the scenes at the Post from the early 1960s to the late 1980s, a period that many would remember.
The early 1960s saw increasing cultural and economic exchanges between Washington State and Japan as Seattle’s Nikkei population reached 11,000. Of major interest to the Post’s readers was the four-day visit by Japan’s Crown Prince Akihito and Princess Michiko to Seattle (Misa Murohashi, “Japanese Imperial Visit in 1960,” napost.com, June 2020).
Near the end of 1960, editor Haruo Hashiguchi passed away and the Post’s staff went through another shakeup with Takami “Tak” Hibiya becoming editor and Terumitsu Kano leaving to take a public relations and marketing position with Japan Airlines. (See Kazue Ito and Michele Fujii, “Reprinted Articles from ‘The North American Post,’ Biographical Articles on Former NAP President Takumi Hibiya,” napost.com, July 2022).
One promising addition to the Post’s writing pool at this time was UW student Hitomi Kunimi. Born in Japan, she had worked as an interpreter for US Vice President Richard Nixon and his wife, Pat, during their 1953 trip to the island nation. Afterwards, the Nixons helped her secure scholarships to attend UW. She later married Post staffer Kiyoshi Jitodai and contributed articles to newspapers in Japan as well as to the Post.
In 1962, Seattle hosted the “Century 21” World’s Fair, featuring cultural displays and exhibits from countries around the world. In its coverage of related events, the Post paid special attention to its “Japan Week” in late July, recounting the festivities in detail as fairgoers enjoyed displays of Japan’s traditional arts and dance, as well as exhibits highlighting Japan’s technological advancements and growing importance as an economic trade partner. Many local Nikkei participated in the exhibitions and were featured prominently in the pages of the Post.
Throughout the 1960s, the Post carried on, despite declining readership, a shrinking staff and occasional setbacks such as a 1964 fire in the hotel above its Fifth Avenue newsroom. Although the fire never reached the Post, water damage made meeting its next deadline a challenge.
Small stories of community interest remained the paper’s mainstay, such as occasional visits from Japan’s Maritime Self-Defense Force training sailing-ship, or the paper sponsoring a Go tournament in partnership with Seattle’s Go Club. Throughout, the paper remained a key source of important news in Japanese such as the passage of the Immigration Act of 1965, which ended restrictive quotas on Asian immigration, as well as Washington State’s repeal of its 1921-1923 Alien Land law in 1966. Both were welcome news to the generations of Nikkei who had endured those restrictions.
By the early 1970s, outmigration from Nihonmachi and a declining readership made the Post’s future increasingly uncertain. In a 1973 article, the “Seattle Times” reported that the Post struggled to meet deadlines and generate revenue with its small staff and increasingly antiquated equipment. (See many recent articles on the NAP’s historical printing equipment, including David Yamaguchi’s “Old NAP Printing Press Resurfaces, napost.com, Dec. 2020, and “The Print Quality of the Olde NAP,” Jan. 2022).
The staff shrank to 15, still led by editor Takami Hibiya and assistant editor Dick Kanaya, who were also the principal writers. The balance of the staff worked in ad sales, in subscriptions, or in printing production and distribution. Despite budget-cutting, revenues often fell short of costs due to unexpected Kubota was awarded the Fourth Order of the Sacred Treasure in 1975 by the government of Japan for his service as an important liaison between Japan and the US.
Despite its diminished status, the aging Japanese-reading Issei population still relied on the Post as an important connection to the local community and to Japan. In 1975, Seattle hosted Japan’s Prime Minister Takeo Miki on his visit to Seattle for a multi-day tour. Miki’s long friendship with editor Hibiya gave the journalist a front row seat throughout Miki’s visit and resulted in a special edition of the Post, detailing the Prime Minister’s activities in Seattle.
By the late 1970s, the Post was the last remaining Japanese language newspaper in the Pacific Northwest and the last non-English newspaper in Seattle. As the industry shifted to newer technologies, the Post outsourced its printing and retired its historic printing press to serve as a window display. Declining subscriptions also forced the Post to reduce publication to three issues per week. By 1979, H.T. Kubota wished to scale back his involvement and stepped down as publisher.
Despite the Post’s steady decline, Seattle’s Japanese community still saw it as a cornerstone of local Nikkei culture and rallied to save it from closure. In July 1981, the Post suspended production for the first time since WWII. A group of community investors then came together to stabilize it with an infusion of funds and the Post reorganized as a corporation, The North American Post Publishing Company, Inc. Its directors were Yoshito Fujii, president and publisher, Edward Shigeru Hidaka, vice president, and Noboru Kageyama, business manager. The pool of community investors also included cousins Tomio Moriguchi, CEO of Uwajimaya, and Edward Tsutakawa of Spokane (brother of artist George).
With these funds, the Post began to modernize, purchasing new typewriters and large-format camera equipment to streamline production (the former described in Edward Echtle, “Pre-Computer Days of the NAP, Historic Typewriters Find Renewed Purpose,” napost.com, Dec. 2022).
As the methods of production changed, so did the NAP’s leadership and staff. In 1984, Noboru Kageyama became president and publisher and longtime editor Takami Hibiya retired. Shiro Masaki also joined as editor through 1988. The following year Akiko Kusunose joined the Post, beginning her long association with the paper while Yoshito Fujii retired as president.
In this era, the passing of the founding Issei and Nisei generations received frequent mention in the Post. In 1987, former “North American Times” editor and publisher Sumiyo Arima died at age 87.
By the late 1980s, the number of investors was dwindling and Noboru Kageyama decided to retire as well. Tomio Moriguchi’s long history of community building and his family’s long relationship with the Post, as business neighbors and supporters, prompted him to accept the role as the Post’s publisher, while H.T. Kubota briefly served as vice president, Tsuyoshi Horike as second vice president, and Minoru Tsubota as secretary.
Under the new leadership, Akiko Kusunose became editor and the Post launched a sister publication, the English Language “Northwest Nikkei,” to capture more readers, especially the Sansei and Yonsei generations who were reaching adulthood, living and working beyond Nihonmachi. Among the first stories reported was the passage of the Civil Liberties Act of 1988 in which the federal government granted long-awaited redress funds for Japanese and Japanese Americans incarcerated during WWII.
In 1989, the Post marked the passing of long-time publisher H.T. Kubota, noting his decades of commitment to keeping the paper viable through difficult times.