#3: Japanese American newspaper offices

This building, 12 W. 17th Street, is the address where the Japanese Times (New York Shimpo) newspaper operated until World War Two.

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11 W 18th St., Manhattan

The publisher of the Japanese Times was Shozo Midzutani, a local businessman and art dealer who started the paper in 1911. Midzutani was extremely active in the community, helping create a credit union for Japanese New Yorkers after World War One and sponsoring a number of Japanese art exhibits in the city in the 1920s and 1930s. According to the censuses of 1920 and 1930, the Japanese-ancestry population of New York hovered around two thousand before World War Two. Regardless, the Japanese Times had two competitors: the Japanese American Commercial Weekly and the Japanese American News (New York Nichibei).

The building in the picture above isn’t the same one where Midzutani had his office, however. The current structure dates to the postwar era and was probably a modern replacement for an older tenement. By the time the lot’s owners erected the current building, the Japanese Times was long gone, having declared bankruptcy and ceased operations shortly after Pearl Harbor. In 1942, the US government imprisoned the entire Japanese American population of the West Coast in a politically motivated act of outright racism. US authorities detained Midzutani at Ellis Island as an enemy alien and likely placed in him in a Western internment camp because of his connections to the Japanese government press. Most people of Japanese ancestry outside the Pacific Coast escaped similar imprisonment, however.

The Japanese American News Corporation (JANC) occupied an office at 11 W 18th Street immediately after the war, although the current building at that address, like the one at 12 W 17th, also dates to the 1950s or 1960s.

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12 W 17th Street, Manhattan

The JANC began publishing the Hokubei Shinpo, the first newspaper to appear in Japanese in New York after the war, in November 1945. Essentially a continuation of the Japanese American News, the paper found a ready audience in the growing Japanese American population of the city. In 1943, the War Relocation Authority, which ran the Japanese American concentration camps, began a program in which it released certain inmates to areas outside the forbidden West Coast defense region. By 1944, thousands of Nisei (American-born citizens of Japanese ancestry) and some Issei (their Japanese-born alien parents, whom American law at the time did not allow to naturalize) had left the camps, resettling across the country. Despite the open hostility of Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia to Japanese Americans, about four thousand Nisei and Issei eventually resettled in New York.

Newly arrived Nisei resettlers on 5th Avenue. Image courtesy of the Bancroft Library, UC Berkeley. Photographer: Tom Parker, Oct. 18, 1943.


The Hokubei Shimpo initially served Issei readers and then, in 1947, began an English section to cater to the Nisei. The paper continued publishing until the mid-1980s.






Sources for this post include Greg Robinson, After Camp: Portraits in Midcentury Japanese American Life and Politics (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2012); the New York Times; and my previous work on resettlement.

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