By Edward Echtle and David Yamaguchi
For The North American Post
By the early 1990s, the Post began transitioning to desktop publishing and brought on staff familiar with the technology. It also covered a number of high-profile issues, including the shooting of Japanese college student Yoshihiro Hattori in Louisiana by a homeowner who mistook him for a threat. Hattori and a friend had approached the wrong house for a Halloween party. He spoke little English and likely didn’t understand that he was in danger of being shot when the homeowner shouted “Freeze!” US courts exonerated the shooter of wrongdoing. In the aftermath, Asian Americans and the people of Japan widely condemned the verdict.
During this period, the Post covered major local stories involving Japanese people. In 1992, when Hiroshi Yamauchi, the president of Nintendo, a Japan-based company, extended an offer to buy the Seattle Mariners to keep the team in Seattle, there was a backlash from whites who considered it an unacceptable encroachment on “American” culture. Eventually, Major League Baseball approved a sale that included Yamauchi as a co-investor, but not as a principal owner. A few years later, the Post similarly covered the Seattle Mariners’ recruitment of players from Japan including Mac Suzuki (1996), Kazuhiro Sasaki (2000), and Ichiro Suzuki (2001). It reported regularly on their playing as well as on their personal lives.
The Post followed in detail the Great Hanshin (Kobe) Earthquake of January 1995. In response, the Post printed a message of support from Seattle mayor Paul Schell and called for donations as Kobe’s sister city. The Post served as a conduit for relief funds and later printed the victims’ names, echoing its role in providing relief for the Great Kanto Quake of 1923, which leveled Tokyo (see Part 1 of this series).
In the late 1990s, the Post also tracked an ongoing controversy in Japan over allowing overseas Japanese to cast ballots in Japan’s elections. The Post editorialized in favor of expatriate suffrage, which eventually became law in Japan in 1998.
By the late 1990s, The North American Post, Inc. again faced financial challenges as new electronic media sources, including cable news and the internet, competed for its Japanese-reading audience. To reduce costs, the Post absorbed the “Northwest Nikkei” as one paper with two titles with both Japanese and English sections. To differentiate itself from its competitors, the Post also shifted its content from news of Japan to stories focusing on Seattle and the Pacific Northwest.
In 1999, Akiko Kusunose retired as editor, beginning a period of instability as the Post sought a long-term replacement.
Over the next several years, interim editors included Nui Tateyama, Hitoshi Ogi, Akira Yagi, Mikiko Amagai and Vince Matsudaira. In 2009, Shihou Sasaki assumed the editor’s duties, holding that position until 2016.
To again cut costs, the Post reduced publication to twice a week. In 2001, it relocated to its present location, the recently vacated “old” Uwajimaya building at 519 6th Ave S, after the Moriguchis expanded Uwajimaya into a new flagship store one block south.
In 2002, the Post celebrated a century since the founding of the North American Times with a special commemorative edition. However, by then, in spite of its longstanding status as the primary community news source, a more recent local Japanese-language publication was gaining readership and by the early 2000s had surpassed the Post’s circulation. Founded in 1992, “Soy Source” was a free tabloid, aimed mainly at younger Japanese nationals working and residing in the Puget Sound region. Focused on entertainment and expatriate small-business advertising, “Soy Source’s” young target readership didn’t overlap a great deal with the Post’s older one. However, it demonstrated the Post’s need to adjust its editorial focus to capture this growing audience.
By 2004, the Post entirely retired the “Northwest Nikkei” subtitle, thereby fully combining its Japanese-language and English content in a single publication. The following year, the Post became a free publication, following the trend of many community news publications at a time when competition from free internet content was cutting deeply into the market for paid publications.
To commemorate the 60th anniversary of its post-war revival, the Post issued special editions in June of 2006, featuring a history of the publication and an interview with owner Tomio Moriguchi. In his interview, Moriguchi outlined the challenges for the paper as its historical readership continued shrinking, but reiterated his belief in the Post’s continuing importance:
“Unfortunately, the news is not as relevant as it used to be because the Issei had no other source of information. Now the next generation has other newspapers. Plus, if you go to the web, you can even get the Japanese NHK, so it’s a different world now…
“As long as the culture of Japanese (persists locally), for example, Mochitsuki, Obon, Sakura Matsuri… those are all important and good for business, so I think it’s important to provide cultural information for people.”
As technology advanced, the Post began printing in color in 2010.
In 2011, following the lead of other community papers, its staff and investors formed the Hokubei Hochi Foundation, a non-profit sister organization that enables the Post to receive donations and grants for special projects. Among its first initiatives, the foundation partnered with University of Washington Libraries to digitally preserve back issues of the Post and its pre-war predecessor, the “North American Times,” and make them available to researchers on the web. (See many recent articles on the NAT based on the resulting digital archive by Ikuo Shinmasu, napost.com).
In February 2012, NAP Inc. purchased “Soy Source” from its original publishers, Andy Taylor and his wife, Junko Yajima Taylor so they could eventually retire. Both the Taylors and Moriguchi saw North American Post Inc. as the logical purchaser, as the two newspapers would benefit from economies of scale. With the two papers, NAP Inc. would also begin directly targeting the two main ethnic Japanese readerships in Puget Sound. Japanese Americans (JA), war brides and other post-1965 immigrants (“Shin Issei,” or new Issei) are used to reading the Post. Younger, later arrivals dependent on introductory regional information in Japanese (the “Shin Shin Issei”) prefer “Soy Source.”
Regarding print languages, English became the bilingual Post’s leading language early during Post editor Shihou Sasaki’s 2009-2016 tenure (Table). He had printed alternate issues English-side out and Japanese-side out, until he realized that when English was on the cover, more papers left the racks.
Sasaki especially learned to appreciate the inner workings and interactions of the JA community. He was frequently seen at community events behind his camera. On weekends, sometimes he would attend four events a day.
In 2016, Misa Murohashi became editor and chief. A former magazine publisher, she created the present visually appealing “look” for the Post, modernizing its cover design and layout. An astute business manager, she was also exceptionally good at bringing in ads. She very nearly brought the newspaper “into the black” in 2019, losing only about $500 across the year.
In January 2020, however, COVID-19 arrived in Seattle and small businesses began withdrawing their advertising. To lessen costs to survive the ensuing pandemic, the paper reduced its page count from 16 pages to 12. It also reduced its print run and distribution to outlying small businesses and restaurants, relying mainly on racks at key Japanese groceries, Uwajimaya and Maruta. Like most Seattle offices, the staff quickly adapted to working remotely.
In mid-April 2022, following the pattern of recent Post editors moving on when family responsibilities forced them to take better-paying jobs, Murohashi left the newspaper’s editing to David Yamaguchi, who has written for the Post in various capacities since 2006.
In July 2022, the Consul-General of Japan in Seattle hosted a combined 120th & 30th anniversary party for the Post and “Soy Source.” There, Tomio Moriguchi received a commemorative clock from the papers’ board and staff for his long service to the community as publisher.
Across its 2022 120th anniversary year, a key accomplishment was the printing of eight lengthly review articles mining the content of old issues of the pre-WWII “North American Times.” The latter have been archived electronically at University of Washington Libraries. The reviews, published in Japanese and English, were written by Japan-based Ikuo Shinmasu, whose grandfather was a Seattle Issei. They were then translated to English by Mina Otsuka, a freelance translator working for the Japanese American National Museum. (The entire set of articles is being reprinted online by “Discover Nikkei,” a project of the museum.) By year’s end, the Post had completed the close of the picture-bride era in 1920.
Additional 2022 accomplishments included the publication of six feature interviews of community leaders by board member Elaine Ikoma Ko. Yamaguchi and Edward Echtle also largely completed descriptions of the Post’s historical printing equipment.
As 2023 begins, new goals are being set. On the editorial side, Yamaguchi is beginning to actively pursue writing from newly retired Sansei. This matters because each “five-year slice” of JAs has a slightly different perspective on community history.
A renewed effort to build a complete digital archive of back issues is also underway. Building on past work, staff and volunteers are identifying gaps in the digital collection and implementing a plan to gather missing issues. Envisioned as a long term ongoing project, the goal is a searchable online archive of the Post and its sister publications.
This summary brings the North American Post’s history to the present. After 120 years, it remains in print, as “Your Link to Seattle’s Japanese Community since 1902.”
As the Post moves into a new era, its staff, volunteers and supporters remain committed to a shared sense of purpose, to continue the Post’s 120-year mission as a touchstone for the region’s vibrant Nikkei culture. Despite the diversity of the current Nikkei population, many continue to rely on the Post to provide a connection to their shared heritage and identity as a community. In the years to come, the Post will continue to evolve as it has in the past to meet new challenges. But its core mission will remain, to serve as the journal of record and as a forum for its readers to define and redefine themselves as a community.
Moriguchi arrived in Seattle in 1946 at age 9 with his parents and siblings after their release from the Tule Lake Relocation Center, northern California. His parents, Fujimatsu and Sadako Moriguchi, had been grocers and importers by trade, operating a small market and delivery business in Tacoma’s Nihonmachi from 1928 to 1942.
Through family connections, the Moriguchis restarted Uwajimaya in the heart of Seattle’s Nihonmachi, just around the corner from the Post’s newsroom. Through the years, the Moriguchis helped support the paper as advertisers and knew the staff well.
Tomio, the third eldest of six children, became CEO of Uwajimaya after his father’s death in 1962. Over the succeeding decades, the Moriguchis built Uwajimaya into a thriving anchor business in the International District as well as opening stores in Bellevue, Renton and Beaverton, Oregon.
The four stores serve as cornerstone Post pickup locations.
Recent “North American Post” Editors
• 1988 – 1999, Akiko Kusunose
• 2000 Akira Yagi, Editor-in-Chief; Hitoshi Hagi & Tetsuya Takeuchi, Editors
• 2001 – 2004, Mikiko Amagai, General Manager & Editor-in-Chief
• 2004 – 2009, Yaeko Inaba, Japanese Editor
• 2009 – 2016, Shihou Sasaki, Editor-in-Chief
• 2016 – Apr. 2022, Misa Murohashi, General Manager & Editor-in-Chief
• Apr. 2022 – David Yamaguchi
English Editors (in some cases, of “Northwest Nikkei”)
• 1989 – 1991, Leslie Mano
• 1991 – 1996, Sandee Taniguchi
• 1997 – 2001, Kamilla Kuroda McClelland, Carey Giudici, Nui Tateyama & Max Wurzburg
• 2004 – 2005, Vince Matsudaira
• 2005 – 2006, Chris S. Nishiwaki
• 2010 – Travis Suzaka
Edward Echtle is a public history consultant and preservation professional based in Tacoma, Washington. He specializes in immigration and labor history in the Pacific Northwest. He has worked on projects for the Wing Luke Museum, HistoryLink, the City of Olympia and Ron Chew of Chew Communications.