What Nichi Bei Meant to Me, Kimi Takemura in the Nichi Bei Times Weekly

Published in the Nichi Bei Times Weekly Sept. 10-16, 2009

By KIMI TAKEMURA

When I came to California in 1979, I was surprised to see many Asian faces wherever I went, and some of them were Japanese! In Eugene, Oregon, where I spent years studying and working, not one Japanese family lived there as far as I knew. I was further surprised to learn that there were two bilingual newspapers in a thriving Japanese community in San Francisco.

Soon I began to work as a reporter at the Nichi Bei Times’ Japanese section sitting at the old desk that formerly belonged to one of the founders of the paper, Shichinosuke Asano. Actually, the venerable Mr. Asano visited the crowded newsroom several times and greeted us with utmost grace and sincerity, “Yoroshiku tanomi masuyo.” Roughly translated as “Carry on. I’m leaving it in your hands.” No one took it lightly. Especially I, almost an outsider, was moved each time to pledge renewed effort to learn as much as I could about the Nikkei community and be a part of its connecting tissue.

Working for the Nichi Bei Times gave me many opportunities to meet people of different generations, from varied backgrounds, and with unique experiences. I learned that most of the second generation Japanese Americans greet each other by asking, “Which camp were you in?” The third generation Japanese Americans tends to identify themselves as Asian American. Their children consider the issue of identity on an individual basis rather than race or nationality. And all of them remember and honor with much tenderness and pride the first generation that built the foundation of today’s vibrant community.

The Issei knew the power of the press and used it to empower the ever-dispersing population. Mutual support was their motto.

The Nichi Bei Times may be no longer, but the heroic attempt to carry on its founders’ work continues through the newly-formed Nichi Bei Foundation. Mr. Asano’s gentle voice, “Yoroshiku tanomi masuyo” will remain loud and clear in our hearts.

Kimi Takemura is the former Nichi Bei Times Berkeley Branch chief.

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