Japanese newspapers in Hawaii

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Japanese-language newspapers played a key role in circulating news and information, both about local affairs in Hawaii, and events in Japan, among members of the Japanese community in Hawaii in its early decades. Some continued to circulate today.

Within a few decades of the 1885 arrival of the first official Japanese contract laborers in the islands, there were dozens of Japanese-language newspapers being published in the islands, including the Hawai Timuzu ("Hawaii Times"), Hawai Mainichi, Hawai Asahi, Taiyô ("The Sun"), Kazan or Kwazan ("Volcano"), Hawai Shokumin Shinbun ("Hawaii Workers Newspaper"), and Kona Hankyô ("Kona Echo"), many of them employing the now-archaic kanji for Hawaii, 布哇, rather than the katakana spelling more typical today (ハワイ). These papers played a key role in informing members of the Japanese community, especially those who did not speak English or Hawaiian, about local events and affairs, as well as events and affairs taking place in the United States, Japan, and elsewhere, covering, as most newspapers do, not only major political events, but also including calendars of local events such as plays, exhibitions, and festivals, advertisements for local businesses, and poetry & short stories contributed by members of the community. Since news had to travel by ship initially, news was often weeks out of date, but Hawaii became connected to the mainland United States by cable in 1903, and by wireless service in 1914.

While many of these newspapers overlapped, of course, in their coverage, as they proliferated, they also specialized, with many Japanese-language newspapers coming to represent particular political positions, interests, and/or portions of society. In their reporting on political issues of particular import to the Japanese community, such as immigration, labor policies, voting rights, and language schools, newspapers played a prominent role in both shaping and reflecting, as well as circulating or distributing, rhetoric and discourses on multiple sides of each issue, often playing a role too in motivating political participation or activism.

The First Newspapers

The first was the Nippon Shûhô ("Japan Weekly News"), which was begun as a weekly by Onome Bunichirô, with the first issue coming out June 3, 1892. Onome was a former storeowner and coffee farmer who first came to Hawaii as one of the interpreters officially appointed by the Hawaiian Bureau of Immigration to serve the Japanese community in 1886, in accordance with the Convention of Japanese Immigration drafted that year. The paper cost, initially, ten cents an issue, or 35 cents a month, and put a particular emphasis on criticism of the Bureau of Immigration for its arrogant officials and support or condoning of poor treatment of Japanese workers.

The Hawaii Shinbun ("Hawaii Newspaper") came soon afterwards, started by physician Uchida Jûkichi, head of the Japanese League, an organization started in 1893 with the aim of pushing for the restoration of Japanese suffrage in Hawaii, lost in the Bayonet Constitution of 1887.

Where these earliest newspapers were mimeographed, the first newspaper printed with movable type came out in 1894. This was the Hawaii Shinpô ("Hawaii News"), started by storeowner Shiozawa Chûzaburô. This paper was one of the chief ones whose attacks on Japanese immigration companies, which greedily imposed great fees on poor immigrants purely in the pursuit of profit, led to the private sector being banned from involvement in such immigration matters in 1905. Shiba Sometarô, who succeeded Shiozawa as head of the Hawaii Shinpô, opposed the major plantation workers' strike in 1909 and was physically attacked as a result.

The Nippu Jiji ("Japan-Hawaii Affairs"), another major Hawaiian Japanese-language newspaper, started as Yamato in 1895, changing its name to Yamato Shinbun the following year. Though originally a mouthpiece for the immigration companies and their supporters, and including some pieces by prominent Japanese Meiji intellectuals, the paper became a powerful supporter of the workers' strikes and labor unions following the 1909 strike, after being taken over by Sôga Yasutarô, a former staffer of the Hawaii Shinpô. Sôga took over the paper in 1905, changing its name the following year from Yamato Shinbun to Nippu Jiji, and in 1909, with a circulation of around 1,000, began to publish pieces by the leaders of the workers' movement. The Hawaii Shinpô and Hawaii Nichinichi ("Hawaii Daily"), with circulations around 1,200 each, meanwhile, opposed the strike. These latter papers were later found out to have been bribed by the plantation owners, however, earning increased community support for the Nippu Jiji. Though it took a conservative stand on the issue of language schools in the 1920s, opposing court appeals to loosen restrictions on the schools, the Nippu Jiji (later, the Hawaii Times) remained a prominent paper in the community all the way until 1985, when it ceased publication.

The Hawaii Nichinichi Shinbun was started by Kimura Yoshigorô in 1899 as the Honolulu Shinbun ("Honolulu Newspaper"). It was taken over shortly afterwards by Okumura Takie, a prominent figure in the origins of the Japanese Christian community in Hawaii, and Mitamura Toshiyuki, and then taken over again in 1903 by Tsurushima Hanzô, who established the name Hawaii Nichinichi Shinbun. It was also popularly referred to as the aka shinbun ("red newspaper"), as it was printed on pink paper. The Hawaii Nichinichi and Hawaii Shinpô voiced strong criticism of the immigration companies in 1905, but then turned against the workers' movement in 1909, and lost popular backing, shuttering in 1916.

The Hawaii Hôchi, which remains in active circulation today, was founded in 1912 by Makino Kinzaburô, and was a prominent paper in criticizing the policies of the Territory of Hawaii government towards Japanese language schools in the Territory.

Smaller papers were also started by the Japanese communities on the neighbor islands. The Big Island had the Kona Hankyô (pub. 1897-1940), the Hilo Shinbun (est. 1898), the Kau Shûhô, Ookala Shûhô, Hilo Shinpô, Kazan, and Jiyû Shinbun, while Maui had the Maui Shinshi (est. by Tanaka Giichi in 1901), Maui Shûkan Shinbun, Maui Shinbun, Maui Hôchi, and Maui Record, Kauai had the Kauai Shinpô, started by Shiba Sometarô in 1904 prior to his getting stabbed for his opposition to the 1909 workers' strike.


  • Franklin Odo and Kazuko Sinoto, A Pictorial History of the Japanese in Hawaii 1885-1924, Bishop Museum (1985), 145-147.
  • A fuller list of Japanese-language newspapers in the islands can be found on Odo and Sinoto, p148.