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Nikkei Newspapers Digital Archive

The Libraries is celebrating the culmination of a four-year collaborative effort to digitize newspapers from the Japanese American community (“Nikkei newspapers”). Published in Japanese, these newspapers form a portrait of Japanese American life from as early as 1902. Now the Libraries needs the public’s help to complete this vital historical archive. Learn more.

Hokubei Jiji, or North American Times, was published in 1902 from the basement of the K. Hirade Company, at 5th and Main in Seattle. This evening daily newspaper covering news and events of concern to the Japanese community introduced an English page in the mid-1930s, as the second generation of Japanese—children born in the U.S. and fluent in English—gained more influence.

On March 12, 1942, it was closed by the federal government and its staff incarcerated for the duration of World War II. It resumed publication in 1946 as The North American Post, or Hokubei Hochi, and publishes under that name to this day.

Glenda Pearson, head of government publications, maps, microform and newspaper collections at UW Libraries, shepherded the project to digitize the Nikkei newspapers, guiding a partnership with the Hokubei Hochi Foundation, numerous student interns, editorial specialists, translators and volunteers from both organizations. Anne Graham of the Libraries coordinated the scanning and organizing of hundreds of front pages of the Japanese-language North American Post and North American Times.

The scans were made from the UW Libraries’ microfilm holdings—a very incomplete record.

After initial testing using OCR (optical character recognition) software in both English and Japanese the team found that because of the complexity of Japanese text, the use of both phonetic and idiographic (Kanji) characters and the lack of clarity of the typography, scanning entire pages was a better option. So while ‘keyword searches’ are not possible, the pages are accessible and can be read by Japanese language readers, either by browsing or searching by date.

To increase access for English readers, the team has manually created English translations of a sampling of front pages of the early issues of these historic newspapers, providing a concise overview of the most significant stories.

The team continues to look for issues from the first two decades and much of the second and third decades (1902-1917; 1920-1937). Do you know the whereabouts of any missing issues? Find out how you can help.