Akiko Chau and Faculty Mentor: Joel Campbell, Communications
A Japanese newspaper called Utah Nippo which headquartered in Salt Lake City became an integral part of the establishment of Japanese American community in Utah in the 20th century. Founded in 1914, Utah Nippo was one of the four newspapers in the U.S. that were allowed to continue its publications throughout World War II years under strict surveillance. During the wartime, Issei, the first generation Japanese Americans, was informed of the war progress and news from the relocation camps through the paper. Utah Nippo also announced local activities and happenings important for Nisei, the second generation Japanese Americans, which continued after the war. The project investigated the effect this newspaper had on the readers during the war by answering the following research questions:
1. How did reading Utah Nippo play a role in forming identity for Nisei?
2. How did Utah Nippo play a role in building social cohesion among Japanese Americans?
3. How did the change of message tone in Utah Nippo change Japanese American’s view of their national identity?
While many studies regarding the content of the newspaper has been conducted, there are very few oral histories recorded by professionals. Many Nisei are in their 80s today, and some has already passed on. There is an urgency to collect and preserve historical accounts by the means of interviewing and transcribing. Nine Nisei and two Sansei, third generation Japanese Americans, living in greater Salt Lake City area were interviewed about their memories of the Utah Nippo and how they think it had influenced their lives. The interview questions were carefully formed to refer the above research questions.
I visited Matsumoto City Central Library in Nagano, Japan that keeps all the volumes of Utah Nippo and obtained copies of the original to analyze the content of the newspaper. I got in touch with the Utah Nippo study group which meets monthly and attended their meeting which discussed the August 8, 1945 volume featuring the bombing of Nagasaki. Because the newspaper is written in old Japanese, I received volumes of booklets published by the Utah Nippo study group that listed the types of articles represented on the newspapers. I compared the content of the newspaper with the interview results and attempted to answer the research questions.
Many of the chosen Nisei remembered their parents subscribing to the Utah Nippo, but did not consider themselves personally being influenced. For this reason, I interviewed more subjects than the original plan to get a better perspective.
As a daughter of Kuniko Terasawa who was the chief editor of Utah Nippo between 1939-1991, she did not know how the newspaper helped shape the identity of Nisei, but said it made necessary information about the war available to the Japanese. She had heard
Nisei and Sansei say that they relied on the newspaper for community events because
other local newspapers did not write about news happening within the Japanese
Raymond and Yoshiko Uno
Raymond is the current president of Japanese American Citizens League Salt Lake
Chapter and remembered JACL announcements and events covered on the Utah Nippo.
He also mentioned attending a picnic organized by Salt Lake Buddhist Temple, which
was featured on the Utah Nippo.
Ron and Natsue Nishijima
Natsue remembered her parents subscribing to the newspaper and receiving it once a
week in the mail. She did not read the newspaper herself. Ron has attended a dance event
that was written on the newspaper and remembered articles about a queen bee contest and
Jane said that the Obon festival hosted by the Salt Lake Buddhist Temple brought many
Japanese Americans living in the area together. The Japanese Church of Christ and the
Salt Lake Buddhist Temple supported and intermingled with one another. She mentioned
that the presence of Japan town which was disintegrated in the 1960s strengthened the
community and was the physical location of gathering.
Curtis lived with his grandparents as a child, and remembered his grandparents reading
the newspaper. As Sansei, he himself did not have an experience with Utah Nippo, but
mentioned that when the U.S. declared war against Japan, the parents (Issei) encouraged
their children to be loyal to their adopted parents (U.S.) than biological parents (Japan).
Three others had little to no memories regarding Utah Nippo. From the booklets published by the
Utah Nippo study group, the content of the newspaper focused on the war activities and local
news which was translated in Japanese. The newspaper covered community events such as
baseball and basketball games and tournaments, bowling competitions, JACL activities, and
other social and religious activities.
Utah Nippo created a platform to advertise and share local events and activities that was held by
the Japanese Americans in Utah in the 20th century. This accelerated social cohesion among
Japanese Americans along with the presence of Japan town and the two religious sites which still
exist today. Utah Nippo may not necessarily had promoted certain ideology for the Nisei, but
they may have learned and shaped their national identity through their parents’. The newspaper
mostly affected Issei, which generation is no longer living, so measuring its influence was
limited. Interviewing a larger audience would be an improvement to this study, as well as
spotlighting the right sample to answer the research questions.
The research found that the newspaper may not necessarily have shaped behavior and ideology
of audiences but demonstrated the significance of mass media in building an ethnic community
in Utah. The Japanese Americans intermingled through attending events that were advertised
through the paper. Mass media is an essential tool in building communities of shared values and
interests, and strengthening people-to-people interactions.