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Hokubei Mainichi: Re-connecting the Japanese-American Community

NCM Profile

NCM, Julie Johnson Posted: May 30, 2003

Celebrating its 55th anniversary this year, the Hokubei Mainichi (North America Daily) was one of the first few Japanese-English daily newspapers in the Bay Area.

Atsuyo Hiramoto, Editor-in-Chief of Hokubei Mainichi
During World War II, many Japanese-American communities were dismantled when members were relocated to internment camps. After Japan surrendered to the U.S. in 1945, those interned were released. However, the damage caused by their dislocation was amplified not only by the loss of their homes and property, but also by the loss of the communities they created in the internment camps.

“After the camps, the Japanese American people were very close to each other,” current Hokubei Editor-in-Chief Atsuyo Hiramoto said. “They wanted to know what each other were doing.”

Members of the San Francisco Buddhist Churches sought a way to keep people connected as they returned to their old neighborhoods or sought to create new ones in a society that had become alien and hostile.

Although San Francisco already had the daily Nichibei Times, members of the Church wanted an alternative to what was, at the time, a Christian publication. Through donations, they came up with the $30,000 in capital necessary to found a new Buddhist newspaper, the Hokubei Mainichi, located in San Francisco's Nihonmachi (Japantown).

From its first issue in 1948, the Hokubei has been a bilingual paper. Both language sections, Japanese and English, serve pivotal roles in the paper. The more expansive Japanese section covers international, national, and community news to provide a comprehensive news source for community members who do not read English. The English section is largely comprised of community-specific news, because most English-speakers can get national and international news from other English sources.

Hiramoto emphasizes how important it is to cover news about Japanese Americans. “Big newspapers don’t carry anything about the Japanese community, except maybe big things like the Sakura-matsuri (Cherry blossom festival).”
Hiramoto has been working at Hokubei for 22 years. When she joined the editorial staff, they were still typesetting the text, a time-consuming process, especially with Japanese characters, that was used until about 12 years ago when they switched to computers.

Though it has a staff of only 20 people, the Hokubei prides itself on its original reporting. In addition, the newspaper acquires articles from Japanese news services, including the Mainichi Shinbun and the Kyodo News Service.

The Hokubei relies greatly on its interns. Its internship program gives high school students an opportunity to contribute to article translations. It has also published smaller supplemental publications to promote business, such as directories of local Japanese and Japan-related businesses, including the Hokubei Mainichi Nenkan and Adoa.

The Hokubei’s long history providing news has made it a pillar of the Bay Area’s Japanese-American community. Today, the Hokubei is a non-religious paper with branches in 15 locations throughout Northern California, and is in the process of developing a web version at www.hokubei.com.

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