The North American Post
Takami Page 4
[Editor’s Note]: All names are rendered in the English First, Middle, Last name order.
The Drunken Reporter
I continue my interview of the Hibiyas, who dedicated their lives to the Japanese-language newspaper before and after the war.
“$40 a month is an unbelievably low salary, but were you still getting paid $40 even after you married Yoshi?”
“We were married in 1935, but I was still earning the same $40 a month. My wife was also working and I didn’t drink, so our expenses were manageable. In those days, there was a weekly paper in Seattle called Work (Rōdō). Kazue Miyata, who was Issei and senior to me, was putting the paper out by himself. There were very few copies printed, and even though there weren’t many advertising sponsors he drank all day. I wonder where he got the money to buy liquor… there was a space for eulogizing and defaming individuals in the paper, so I guess the funds for liquor came from that. Even decent reporters were having a hard time living on decent work, so I didn’t think it was possible to earn enough to get drunk everyday.”
“It was the nearby restaurant Ten Yoshi where you had lunch, right? A man from Tokyo named Tōkichi Uehara was managing it.”
“Yes, The North American Times didn’t take care of lunch and dinner for the employees, so I went out to lunch at Ten Yoshi almost exclusively. The restaurant served a delicious tempura bowl, and the grilled fish and stew were also good. We reporters ate there on credit, but there were times when other expenses cropped up and we couldn’t pay at the end of the month. There was another cheap restaurant nearby called Katō Meshi Ya, but we paid in cash every time we ate.”
“So you could say it was an honest, albeit poor living…”
“Because the president Sumikiyo Arima was once a minister, The North American Times maintained a serious atmosphere. The general public was obliging and treated us very well. But to be honest, I wonder sometimes whether those people were afraid of what we’d write about them… My co-worker, Terumitsu Kanō, was in a similar position as me; his wife Masu was also working. She was a teacher at a Buddhist kindergarten. We had a rough time of it.”
“According to Mr. Kanō, in 1931 there were two clubs for Nisei. One was the Reimei Club where about ten Nisei published the literary magazine Reimei. I guess it was a self-published magazine. I heard they didn’t have a single penny to cover the publishing cost, so they went to the Tōyō Club gambling house to ask for money and got $100. I heard that a Nisei baseball team and the Ginza Club got together to form the Japanese-American Association.”
“Oh yes, it was 1932. The first chairman was Tatsuo Miyamoto, who worked for Nissan Motors and later went to Mexico.”
“The one who became CEO of Nissan Auto Sales Tokyo, right?”
“Yes, him. Then I became the second chairman and Terumitsu Kanō was the third. The Nisei who knew nothing of Japan and us Kibei didn’t really understand each other, so we tended not to spend time together.”
“When the Japanese-American Association held a performance event to commemorate its foundation in the Japan Pavilion hall everyone was thrilled. They said the association started out with about 50 members.”
My interview with Mr. Hibiya, or rather our chat, continued for a long time.
even from rock bottom
there’s a sky to look upon