Nippu Jiji (newspaper)
From 1895 to 1985, the Nippu Jiji, later known as the Hawaii Times, was the oldest and largest Japanese-language newspaper in Hawai'i and the United States prior to World War II. Translated, Nippu Jiji means "newspaper for telling timely news." It was a critical source of local and international news and information in the Japanese American community and played a pivotal role in plantation history. In the early 1900s it advocated the improvement of the wages and working and living conditions of Japanese plantation workers and was critical in the 1909 and 1920 sugar strikes. One of its most famous editors and owners, Yasutaro Soga, was active in labor issues and the language school controversy and was interned during World War II. He was joined by a number of Nippu Jiji employees who were also suspected as Japanese activists in Hawai'i. Despite wartime restrictions and the internment of staff members, the Nippu Jiji remained a critical source of information for Hawai'i's Japanese community throughout its history until its close in 1985.
History of the Nippu Jiji
The Nippu Jiji, originally named the Yamato until ten years after its founding in 1895, was established during a period when large numbers of Japanese immigrants began to arrive in the Islands following the end of the Sino-Japanese war of 1894-1895. According to Yasutaro Soga, the Yamato which was then owned by Shintaro Anno, began as a six-page semi-weekly paper printed on a lithography machine "in a small, squalid shop, and had a circulation of only a few hundred." Between 1895 and 1905, its ownership and location changed four times, revealing the challenges of running a newspaper in the early immigrant community. In 1905, Soga became proprietor and editor and described the difficulties of gathering news in the early years of the paper:
The gathering of news in the early days was a slow process. There was no radio, no wireless. Cable service between Hawaii and America was not launched until January, 1903. In July of that year it was extended to Manila. Wireless service between Hawaii and the mainland was inaugurated in 1914, and the service between America and Japan was opened in 1916. There was trans-Pacific steamship service between the United States and Japan through Hawaii, but it cannot be compared to the present service with crack liners and air Clippers plying to and fro in days, instead of weeks.
As a result of the "slow and inadequate" means of procuring information, news that appeared in the columns of local papers was often several weeks or even a month or more old at times. Notwithstanding these challenges, the Nippu Jiji continued to grow in content and circulation. In 1896, the paper, then called the Yamato Shimbun and edited and owned by Hamon Mizuno, became a tri-weekly. Finally, six years later, it became a daily. "However," recalled Soga, "there were only about half a dozen employees then, and the circulation was about 350." When it came under the direct management of Soga in May 1905, it was "a four page affair with a circulation of approximately 500. It was soon enlarged to eight pages." On November 3, 1906, on occasion of the birthday anniversary of Emperor Meiji, the Yamato Shinbun was renamed Nippu Jiji.
As early as 1903, the paper allocated one or two English columns but this was later discontinued until January 1919, when a separate English section was inaugurated. "The object of this innovation," wrote Soga, was "to enable Americans to understand what was happening in the Japanese community, to acquaint the children born of Japanese parents in Hawai'i with what was occurring in their own community, and to promote better understanding between the Japanese and the Americans." During the 1930s, the Nippu Jiji became a member of two leading American news agencies, namely the Associated Press, the International News Service, and the powerful Domei News Agency of Japan.
As a result of the Nippu Jiji's efforts to provide news from Japan to its readership, the paper became involved in various fundraisers for Japan. During the great earthquake in Tōkyō and Yokohama in September 1924, the Nippu Jiji took prompt action, appealing for contributions for relief funds and clothes for the thousands of homeless victims. It also handled voluntary contributions from Japanese residents in Hawai'i during the Sino-Japanese conflict and approximately 1,000,000 yen was remitted up to June 1938. More than half of this amount was handled by the Nippu Jiji and the Hawaii Hochi. The Nippu Jiji also supported the Liberty Bond campaign during World War I and the campaign for the production and conservation of food to support American soldiers.
Nippu Jiji and Labor Movements
The remarkable activism and progress made by the Nippu Jiji reflected the growth of the Japanese community in Hawai'i as a whole. At its height, the Nippu Jiji was a bilingual daily with twelve or more pages, printed on a rotary press "with a daily circulation of 15,000 and giving steady employment to 200 persons." The Nippu Jiji and other Japanese-language newspapers were essential to the early Japanese community in disseminating news and information to primarily plantation workers. Thus, these newspapers became active in labor and community movements, extensively publicizing the plight and experience of the common worker. According to historian Ernest Wakukawa, "had it not been for the initiative taken by the Japanese press" in calling attention to the unsanitary living and exploitative working conditions, "the status of semi-slavery of the laborers of the early days might have remained undisturbed even to this day." In 1909 and 1920, the Nippu Jiji and other leading newspapers of the day became involved in strike movements by Japanese laborers on the plantations. While both strikes failed and newspaper editors like Soga and Fred Makino of Hawaii Hochi were arrested for their activism, planters granted some concessions to the workers such as higher wages and improved living conditions. (See Plantations.)
The Nippu Jiji and other newspapers were also active in the foreign language school controversy in Hawai'i as language schools were accused of indoctrinating Mikadoism to Japanese American children as part of Japan's plan to colonize the United States. Government efforts to restrict the Japanese language schools in the Islands were met with fierce resistance within the Japanese community and divided the Japanese press. According to Wakukawa, the controversy "split the press and the Japanese community into two camps—the Nippu Jiji and its associates taking sides with the non-litigating schools and the Hawaii Hochi and its allies in support of the litigating schools." Eventually the language schools were allowed to continue operations but the activism of the local Japanese press in this issue cannot be understated.
World War II and the Wartime Press
With the start of World War II, all Japanese-languages newspapers were forced to close on December 12, 1941. Soga and many of the employees of the Nippu Jiji were subsequently interned. A month after the papers were forced to close, the military government, having no way to communicate with Issei residents who could not read English, had to reverse its initial order to shut down these newspapers. On January 9, 1942, the government ordered the Nippu Jiji and the Hawaii Hochi to reopen and operate under its directives. After some resistance by editor Makino, the Hochi was finally renamed Hawaii Herald on October 23, 1942 and the Nippu Jiji became the Hawaii Times on November 2, 1942.
When the Japanese-language dailies resumed publication, the censorship office sent Bill Norwood and Kenneth Barr, a former Seattle Times newsman in the Honolulu insurance business, to the Nippu Jiji and the Hawaii Hochi respectively. Neither knew Japanese but read the English versions of the articles, many of which were written by Hugh Lytle and other newsmen who sometimes used the pejorative word "Jap." The articles were translated into Japanese by staff members and then read by army or FBI language experts. The English version was usually printed a day ahead of the Japanese version. These two papers' assigned roles were not just to provide essential information, but to exhort the Japanese community to American patriotism. Thus, throughout the war, the Nippu Jiji promoted American values and loyalty, attesting that it felt a "deep responsibility" toward its constituency "to live and work on American soil that warrants their loyalty as much as though they had received citizenship." It assured the Territory that the trust given to the paper was "rightly placed."
During the war, the influence of the Nippu Jiji and other newspapers like it was significant. Their combined circulation in 1942 topped 20,000. According to newspaper scholar Helen Geracimos Chapin, "they were very much in the tradition of the immigrant press in America in expressing pride in its roots yet simultaneously helping to Americanize its ethnic group." Even under extreme wartime duress, the Japanese-language papers like the Nippu Jiji showed strong survival powers and became "unique symbols in American journalism." The Nippu Jiji continued to be published for decades after the war, revealing its resilience and importance in Hawai'i's Japanese community.
When the Nippu Jiji closed in 1985, nearly 30,000 photographs from the newspaper were left behind in boxes. Dr. Dennis Ogawa, Professor of American Studies in the Department of American Studies at the University of Hawai'i at Mānoa obtained the collection and he created the Hawaii Times Photo Archives Foundation. This entity oversees the development of a database that would allow people access to the Nippu Jiji images and their invaluable captions in Japanese and English.
For More Information
Asato, Noriko. Teaching Mikadoism: The Attack on Japanese Language Schools in Hawaii, California, and Washington, 1919-1927. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 2005.
Burlingame, Burl. "Holholo Honolulu: Nippu Jiji Bldg." Honolulu Star-Bulletin, November 30, 2003. http://archives.starbulletin.com/2003/11/30/travel/index2.html.
Chapin, Helen Geracimos. Shaping History: the Role of Newspapers in Hawai'i. Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press, 1996.
"Editorial: A Deep Responsibility." Nippu Jiji, January 8, 1942, 1, 2.
"Nippu Jiji Photograph Collection." University of Hawai'i Virtual Museum. http://www.museum.hawaii.edu/collections/nippu_jiji.php.
Sakamaki, Shunzo. "A History of the Japanese Press in Hawaii." Master's thesis, University of Hawai'i at Mānoa, 1928.
Soga, Yasutaro. "The Japanese Press of Hawaii," Pan-Pacific 1:2 (April-June1937): 14.
Storm, Birch. "Japanese Language Papers Here Unique," Honolulu Advertiser, November 29, 1959, B-8.
Wakukawa, Ernest. A History of the Japanese People in Hawaii. Honolulu: The Toyo Shoin, 1938.
- Research for this article was supported by a grant from the Hawai‘i Council for the Humanities.
- Ernest Wakukawa, A History of the Japanese People in Hawaii (Honolulu, The Toyo Shoin, 1938), 327.
- Yasutaro Soga, "The Japanese Press of Hawaii," Pan-Pacific 1:2 (April–June 1937): 14.
- Soga, "The Japanese Press of Hawaii," 14.
- Wakukawa, 329.
- Ibid., 330.
- Ibid., 331.
- "Editorial: A Deep Responsibility," Nippu Jiji, January 8, 1942, 1, 2.
- Helen Geracimos Chapin, Shaping History: the Role of Newspapers in Hawai'i (Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press, 1996), 183.
- Birch Storm, "Japanese Language Papers Here Unique," Honolulu Advertiser, 29 November 1959, B-8.