The North American Post
Takami Page 3
[Editor’s Note]: All names are rendered in the English First, Middle, Last name order.
Japantown Tempura Bowl
The previous article included the elderly immigrant’s suicide report to clue-in the reader as to the daily activities of a Japanese-language newspaper reporter at the time. At any rate, because Mr. Hibiya wasn’t able to work his way up like a professional Japanese reporter, he likely polished his skills to this point through imitation. His efforts were admirable.
Of course, when I became acquainted with Mr. Hibiya, a considerable amount of time had passed since WWII. The North American Times (Hokubei Jiji) had ceased publication due to the Pacific War and changed its name to The North American Post (Hokubei Hōchi). However, the editorial department and factory survived; they were just as they had been before the war, at 215 Fifth Avenue in a corner of Japantown. To put it in a very Japanese way, the scent of the Meiji era hung in the air of the old, two-story, red brick building. Standard printing facilities were in place, but it was a tiny, tiny newspaper company.
Later, The North American Post moved to Main St. and Jackson St. However, I met Mr. Hibiya for the first time in Seattle on a certain day in September of 1965 (Shōwa 41). Genji Mihara (of Shimane prefecture), the chairman of the Seattle Japanese American organization of the day; Henry Takemitsu Kubota (of Ehime prefecture), the president of The North American Post; and many others held a welcome party for me at the Japanese restaurant Maneki. At the time, the host of the party was The North American Post editor-in-chief, Takami Hibiya.
In February of 1993, hearing of Mr. Hibiya’s death, I called forth my memories of him once again.
A lot had happened, but in short, he had lived an “unambitious” life, and that it was a life of acute poverty stood out in sharp relief. Before the war it must have been a considerably difficult existence to work as a newspaper reporter for a measly $65 a month. He and his wife Yoshi both worked, on top of which he was also a teacher at the Seattle Japanese Language School. That he never amounted to anything more than a newspaper reporter and school teacher could be called “unambitious.” I recalled this conversation we once had:
“Mr. Hibiya, your monthly salary of $65 wasn’t much. What did you do for lunch?”
“Ah, lunch? I used to go out to eat at the tempura restaurant Ten Yoshi on Main Street. The tempura bowl was cheap and really good. But the restaurant went out of business because of the war.”
Based on his nostalgic air, I wondered if Ten Yoshi’s tempura bowl was akin to a feast for him. After his death, I found an interview manuscript of the Japanese-language newspaper reporter’s life amongst my “immigrant file” that Mr. Hibiya had dictated to me. I tried to write it down in an easy-to-understand question-and-answer format.
“When did you start working at The North American Times?”
“In 1932 (Shōwa 7). The economy had bottomed out, so I was only getting paid $40 a month. It was only enough for one person to live on. Terumitsu Kanō was working for the same newspaper company. In those days The North American Times was an upscale newspaper, so to speak, and it was known as a high-quality paper. Our competitor, The Great Northern Daily News (Taihoku Nippō), was a less sophisticated daily paper. The president, Kōjirō Takeuchi, was notorious as a heavy drinker. On the other hand, The North American Times president Sumikiyo Arima used to be a minster and he didn’t drink or smoke. The North American Times was putting out between six and seven thousand copies and was read and enjoyed by Japanese people living West of the Rockies, as well as farmers and miners in Colorado and Utah. The Great Northern Daily News was only putting out about half the number of copies as The North American Times.”
depending on their news
from a Japanese newspaper