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History of “The North American Times” 2, 1918-1942

"Sports Day to celebrate our 5000th issue" (Apr. 29, 1918)

By Ikuo Shinmasu For The North American Post
Translated by Misa Murohashi

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 and Hokubei Hochi Foundation (https://hokubeihochi.org/nikkei-newspaper-digital-archive/).

In the last chapter, I wrote about the development of the Japanese hotel industry. In this chapter, I share articles about Japanese newspapers, especially about the “North American Times.” In the first half of the chapter, I reviewed articles that describe people who were involved in its founding until the 1920s.

In this continuation, I share notable articles from “The North American Times“ from 1918 to 1942, which reveal more about the paper itself.

Reaching the 5000th Issue in 1918

In 1918, sixteen years after its inception, “The North American Times” celebrated its 5000th-issue milestone. It was five years after management of the company was taken over by Sumikiyo Arima from Kiyoshi Kumamoto.

“The 5000th Issue” (Mar. 29, 1918). Commemorating the 5000th issue, 32 pages of articles cover the newspaper’s history and celebration of its milestone. All advertisements in the issue have a special tag, “Celebrating 5000th Issue.” It seems like the entire Japanese community celebrated the newspaper’s milestone.

Japanese Consul (Naokichi) Matsunaga posted his message to the paper, commenting, “Congratulations on the 5000th issue of ‘The North American Times.’ The sixteen years of the publication’s history were made possible by the efforts of the management and employees of this paper. I pay tribute to them. The North American Times” has provided wisdom and comfort to Japanese people who live in the United States and has made a huge contribution to the development of the Japanese community here.” 

There was also a congratulatory message from Masanao Hanihara, the Director General of Trade with Japan in San Francisco who would later became the Ambassador of Japan to the United States.

“The 5000th Celebration” (Mar. 30, 1918). “Three years ago, when the 4000th-issue celebration was held at Nippon Kan Theater, many attendees overflowed outside the venue. People who were not able to enter the theater were disappointed. To avoid the same situation from recurring, the 5000th celebration will be held at an outdoor location. We will announce the date, venue and other details, depending on the weather. We hope that all Japanese residents will come to the event.”

“Athletic Day to Celebrate Our 5000th Issue” (Apr. 29, 1918). “We are honored to announce that the 5000th celebration sports day was held successfully yesterday on a rare sunny day. The venue was Liberty Baseball Field which was built last year by the city league. The field is familiar to the Japanese community as many of us purchased its stock. Three thousand people gathered for the event, and it may be a record for the field to host so many people….

“The Emcee was our editor (Tokunosuke) Miyazaki and the opening greeting was made by our president Arima. 

Mr. (Daihachi) Matsumi, Chairman of the Japan Association, made a speech and praised the employees of “The North American Times” saying, “The achievement of the 5000th issue is the result of the efforts and strength of its employees.”

“Our honored guests were Council Matsunaga and his wife, Mr. Tetsuo Takahashi of Toyo Trading Company, Mr. Imajiro Kudo and Mr. Tsuneyoshi Kikutake of Specie Bank, Sejiro Furuya, and Captain Tozawa of Nippon Yusen’s (NYK Shipping) Katori-maru. 

“All attendees from children to adults enjoyed different kinds of sports. The baseball game especially brought much excitement among all attendees. Between different sports events, a Seattle Boy’s Volunteer Army marched with Japanese and American flags. The day ended with a tug-of-war event by employees.”

“Seattle Boy’s Volunteer Army” (Apr. 29. 1918)

Increase of Subscription Fee

In the April 29, 1918 issue, there is a notice about an increase in the paper’s monthly subscription cost. It said that the fee would increase from 50 to 60 cents beginning the next month. An editor’s note on the cover page explains, “We increased the page count of every issue after the 5000th issue. The paper cost has risen sharply and the labor cost has risen by 45%.” Until then, the publisher had kept the subscription fee at 50 cents since the first issue of “The North American Post.” 

The rapid inflation of that time would cause frequent increases in the paper’s subscription fee. It became 70 cents in December 1918 and 85 cents in December 1919. 

The publisher explained that “we have to use paper for printing that costs 7 cents per issue. It is crazily expensive.”

The monthly subscription fee of 85 cents was about 1.70 yen at that time. The value is about 1700 yen today (about $15). The 85-cent monthly subscription fee would remain fixed for the next two decades; the same fee is posted on the April 1, 1940 issue. 

Reaching the 10,000th issue in 1934

“10,000th Issue Commemorative Special Publication” (Jul. 30, 1934). “We will resume publishing “North American Yearbook” after suspension of its annual publication since the 1928 edition. We will distribute the book to all subscribers for free.”

The July 2, 1934 issue is numbered as the 10,034th issue. So, “The North American Times” reached its 10,000 the issue in late May of that year. 

My father, who was born in Seattle as a Nisei and returned to Seattle in 1936 after his stay in Japan, had the 1936 edition of the revived “North American Yearbook.” He kept the book in his safe which helped my research about my grandfather, Yoemon Shinmasu.

Sumiyoshi Arima, Chairman of the Japanese Association

After Sumikiyo Arima retired, his eldest son, Sumiyoshi Arima, took over the position of president and publisher of “The North American Times.” He also became chairman of the Nihonjinkai (Japanese Association) in 1932, staying active in the Seattle Japanese community.

On March 3, 1938, Sumiyoshi Arima was re-elected as chairman of the Japanese Association. However, on March 4, the day after being elected, he resigned from the position and returned to Japan. Several articles explain the situation at that time.

“Arima Returns Home” (Mar. 4, 1938). “Sumiyoshi Arima has been preparing to return to Japan. Today, he left for Japan with his family, sailing on (Nippon Yusen’s) Hikawa Maru ocean liner. He will stay in Japan for about three months.”

“Arima Received a Telegram Asking Him to Stay” (Mar. 5, 1938). “At the board meeting of the Japanese Association yesterday, attended by honorary members Heiji Okuda and Chuzaburo Ito, we discussed the resignation of the newly elected Chairman Arima. We decided to recommend that Mr. Arima stay in Seattle. We immediately sent a telegram to the Hikawa Maru, which is to enter the Port of Vancouver this morning.

“Hokubei Shunju, Sadness of Parting” (Mar. 8, 1938). Sumiyoshi Arima explained his feelings at the time about leaving for Japan on the Hikawa Maru. 

“About my departure, a few people have asked me, ‘What are you going to do with the Japanese Association?’ I have no words to answer. What am I supposed to do? There was also advice to postpone my return to Japan. It made me confused. But on the other hand, I am also thankful for their consideration of me.

“I’m sure I’m not doing anything wrong. Therefore, I believe that even if it causes a misunderstanding for now, it should be resolved someday. I don’t really care about the current situation and wonder why people don’t understand my beliefs. They will understand me someday….

“I sometimes complain about the Japanese Association. But that is because I care about it. If I didn’t care, I would stay without complaining. Some people have said that I have the ambition for authority as chairman. Am I so unscrupulous that people look at me like that? I don’t need to make an apology for that. However, I still feel sorry about the situation. 

“I’m not going back to Japan after being elected by the chairman and pretending not to know it. I refused the position earlier because I was already planning to leave Seattle. Why on earth do you find absurdity in my decisions? And why do you follow me all the way here? I have no choice but to urge a few people to reflect on what they did. I also rely on the correct judgment of the majority of you. (Hikawa Maru, Mar. 4).”

“Arima to Postpone His Return to the US” (Jul. 11, 1938). “Mr. Sumiyoshi Arima returned to Japan temporarily this spring to treat his health issues, but he still hasn’t regained his health. He postponed his return to the United States… He will return after he gets better.”

“Acceptance of Chairman Arima’s Resignation” (Sep. 3, 1938). “The board meeting of the Japanese Association was held yesterday. After much discussion on the resignation of Chairman Arima, we decided to accept it.”

The truth of why Sumiyoshi Arima quit his position as the Japanese Association chairmanship is uncertain. I personally imagine that he resigned because he was disappointed by the fact that the chairman position was just an honorary position, instead of working as a leader of the community. I think Sumiyoshi Arima had a strong desire to serve the Seattle Japanese community.

Sumiyoshi Arima as a Newspaper Reporter

I would like to introduce some articles from (Nisei) Sumiyoshi Arima’s column series “Hokubei Shunju (North American Spring and Autumn),” where we can find his views as a news reporter..

“Hokubei Shunju, The Sorrows of Immigrant Newspaper Reporters 1” (Oct. 29, 1935). “The newspapers here have freedom. There is no direct pressure or interference from the Japanese government here. No government authority bans our articles. Reporters should be self-controlled and make their own judgments based on their common sense and insights. There should be nothing that constrains the freedom of writing other than controlling it by yourself. However, it is not that simple.

When I write “That store is reasonable and selling good products,” another store complains. When I write about restaurants, the one which was not included in the article says, “Is my place bad?” When a movie event is held, we are expected to say “the event is brimming with full audiences, and the movie is cultural and educational.” 

Newspaper reporters have to be sweet talkers. Especially in the current situation with a decreasing Japanese population here, there is no choice but to bow down in good faith. It may be different for the editorial team, but the advertising sales team must avoid any conflicts.” 

“Hokubei Shunju, What to Expect from ‘The North American Times’ as a Reader” (Apr. 22 and 24, 1939). “I am now writing this manuscript every day from Japan and sending it by sea. It was in 1917 when I started writing for the paper from the Portland branch office. I haven’t worked for ‘The North American Times’ for about 20 years.

“I read the paper mailed from the US as a reader. There is one thing I would like to discuss with its editors about the paper’s editorials, and also ask general readers what they think. Recently, there are too many news articles from Japan…

“I understand that the first thing that Japanese in Seattle want to know is news from Japan. But at the same time, it is very important to understand what is happening in the United States. Japanese newspapers are doing a thorough job of reporting the news from Japan. However, they are not doing enough of the latter service…

“The news of the U.S. Congress, the business environment, the movements of Seattle’s local government, the movements of American society, etc. are all things that all who live in the United States should be aware of.”

Around 1939, the relationship between Japan and the United States began deteriorating. President Arima insisted that “The North American Times” should provide more information about the United States to Japanese immigrants in Seattle so that they could coexist and co-prosper with American society. He saw it as the role of a Japanese community newspaper.

Beginning of WW II and Employees’ Efforts to Continue the Paper

The attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 shook the Japanese community in Seattle. By that time, Sumio Arima, Sumiyoshi’s younger brother, had taken over the managing editor role after Sumiyoshi left Seattle. On the day of the Pearl Harbor attack, the FBI came to Sumio’s home and arrested him. The company’s funds were frozen. Under such circumstances, the remaining staff members including editors Takami Hibiya and Terumitsu Kano continued publishing the paper. In fact, “The North American Times” was the only Japanese newspaper in the United States that published on December 8th, the day after the Pearl Harbor attack.

“Company Announcement” (Jan. 2, 1942). An editorial note entitled “Company Announcement,” was published the day after New Year’s, just after the war between Japan and the United States began. It is an article that conveys the situation and thoughts of the employees who were continuing to publish during the emergency.

“Company announcement” (Jan. 2, 1942)

“Immediately after the outbreak of the war between the United States and Japan, Japanese newspapers in the United States were all suspended at once. However, as we take our responsibilities seriously during this emergency, all the employees of the head office are working hard to continue publishing our daily issues.

“Meanwhile, the headquarters was cut off from all assets. We immediately applied for a special license and waited for permission. However, we still have not received any approval. We have no access to our funds. We are not able to work on invoicing for receivables. We are not able to organize advertisements. We passed New Year’s Day in this difficult situation. We regret that we were not able to publish our New Year’s issue and are sorry to all the advertisers and subscribers. 

“However, we would like to ask for your generous understanding in that all employees are working day and night without receiving any salary. We work hard sacrificing ourselves to serve the Japanese community. We will resume publishing regularly starting with this January 2nd issue. We will appreciate subscribers’ and advertisers’ financial and moral support. 

– From all head office employees.”

In Ito Kazuo’s “Hokubei Hyakunen Zakura,” I found out why “The North American Times” was able to publish the day after Pearl Harbor. There it says, “Mr. Takami Hibiya, who became the deputy editor of ‘The North American Times,’ asked Nisei Jimmy Sakamoto of the ‘Japanese American Courier’ (a weekly English newspaper) for his help. Hibiya then received approval from the Chief Prosecutor of the State of Washington.”

“Doing Well Under Autonomy” (Jan. 30, 1942). There is an article about men who were taken to the Fort Missoula detention camp in Montana immediately after the start of the war. The article reports that people at the camp are doing well, by governing themselves. According to the article, Tadashi Yamaguchi, who had previously worked at the Tacoma office of the “North American Times,” was working as a purchasing manager for the camp.

Internment and End of “The North American Times”

On February 19, President Franklin Roosevelt issued Executive Order 9066, which made the incarceration of Issei Japanese and Nisei Japanese Americans a reality.

Still, the employees continued publishing the daily paper, by continually asking for financial support. It seems like some people cared and provided support. 

An editorial note on February 24th says, “Thank you so much for the support from patients in a sanatorium.” 

Another note on February 25th says, “Someone donated a box of oranges for our employees.”

Here is a note I found in the issues of March 6 – 11: “In order to reduce costs so we can continue as long as possible, we have to reduce the circulation and stop shipping to some readers. Please send your financial support to Takami Hibiya.”

“This is the Last Issue” (Mar. 12, 1942). On March 12, 1942, the publication of “North American Times” finally came to an end. It was about a month before April 21, when the Japanese in Seattle would be forced to leave. An English article was posted on the first page of the last issue.

“The North American Times,” page 1 (Mar. 12, 1942)

“Beginning tomorrow, THE NORTH AMERICAN TIMES will be no more. Just how long, we do not know.

But the final decision was reached when the United States Treasury Department this morning notified us that the TIMES must cease publication.

It must be disheartening news to all of our thousands of readers throughout the Northwest who have always looked forward to each copy of the TIMES for its accurate account of activities among resident Japanese.

And it is also disheartening to us in that we — and much as we hated to see this come to a head — must suspend publication, especially in view of the fact that the TIMES, established in 1903, was the oldest Japanese language and English section family newspaper in the Northwest.

And we are more so disappointed because we are no longer able to serve the Japanese public as a medium of releasing valuable information for the United States Department of Justice, War Department and other government agencies. 

Yes, regretfully disappointed because we felt that it was vitally necessary to have the TIMES continue, at least until the evacuation of the Japanese, so that resident Japanese of American ideals and democracy may be kept intact so as to comply sanely with army and government officials.

With this edition, the TIMES says “30” and with a “30” ending, the editors honestly hope the Japanese readers of this newspaper will not lose confidence in the United States and continue to support the cause for which the United States is fighting.”

The “30” expression dates from the late 19th century, when news began being transmitted by telegraphers using Morse code. Here, “30” was the code marking the end of a story, which writers would type in before sending copy to a telegraph office. It is the origin of the now-antiquated journalists’ expression, “That’s 30 for now.”

“—bf” is written at the end of the English message. The writer of the message was undoubtedly English editor Budd Fukei.

The last issue of “The North American Times” was number 12,278. The newspaper, which had served Seattle’s Japanese community for nearly 40 years, had come to its end in history. I admire the employees who continued to publish it with a strong sense of responsibility, which I believe continued during the paper’s long history. 

After the war, Mr. Hibiya and Mr. Kano would reestablish the paper as “The North American Post.” 

In the next chapter, I will introduce articles about picture brides from 1918 to the 1920s.


“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 World War II 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 American families began. After the war, the paper was revived as “The North American Post.”

References

Kazuo Ito, “Zoku Hokubei Hyakunen Zakura” (Sequel of 100-Year Cherry Blossoms in North America), Nichibou Shuppan, 1971. 

Kazuo Ito, “America Shunju Hachijyu Nen” (America Spring and Autumn 80-Year), PMC Publishing, 1982. 

The North American Post “100th Anniversary Special Issue,” North American Post Publishing, 2002. 

Sumitatsu Arima, “Hundred Years of Japanese Newspaper in Seattle,” 2005.  

Editor’s notes. “North American Yearbook” was a directory of Japanese in the United States. Tadashi Yamaguchi, formerly of the Tacoma office of the “North American Times,” was current editor David Yamaguchi’s grandfather.

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Ikuo Shinmasu retired in 2015 from Air Liquide 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.