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The Japanese Press in Peru - Part 1

The need to obtain information about what was happening in Japan and, at the same time, the will to share it with the Japanese immigrants, were the motives for the founding of the Japanese press in Peru.

In 1909, ten years after the official start of Japanese immigration to Peru, the Japanese knew very little or nothing about events that had happened in their home country. The few bits of news that arrived in letters always came late; sometimes news arrived via radio when there was short-wave available and no atmospheric interference.

At the time the Japanese settlement in Peru was small when one considers that, in general, its population grew to 6290, the majority of whom worked on sugar plantations. Some finished their four-year contracts, while others had simply run away to Lima, the Peruvian capital. Many opened their own businesses there. By 1909, there were some fifty Japanese hair salons and only thirty-five owned by Peruvian nationals.

Among those who lived in Lima there were those who stood out for their intellectual prowess and assumed positions of leadership within the Japanese community, while others achieved financial success due to their economic activities. It was those folks, in particular, who decided to call upon the print media, albeit modest and very limited, as a way to achieve their ends.

A print medium was a necessary step for the burgeoning Japanese community to take, especially as some Japanese began to open their own businesses and wanted to establish relationships with local authorities. In general, it not only served to keep the community informed of events in Japan but also as a means to keep abreast of local events, publicize municipal ordinances, as well as laws that applied to all of Peru, not to mention the dissemination of information regarding individuals and businesses in the Japanese community. Without doubt, the most important significance was that the print medium served as the primary mechanism to inform the Japanese community of possible attacks due to the general atmosphere of discrimination against them at the time.

Copy of Jiritsu, a handwritten and printed on mimeograph paper, published as a homage to Emperor Meiji who died in July 1912.

In 1909, therefore, Nipponjin (The Japanese) was founded, a handwritten newspaper edited by someone with the surname Seki, who was a graduate of the University of Waseda, and who, as a free immigrant, worked at the Cerro de Pasco Corporation in La Oroya. The newspaper appeared about four times. It was written on sulfite paper or “office paper,” which was similar to the wrapping paper used in small businesses. The edition consisted of only one copy of thirty to forty pages that was held together by a string that served as a fastener of sorts. Seki brought his newspaper to the Japanese hair salons and then to several other businesses. As such, passing from hand to hand, the Japanese were informed of the latest news.

Since the publication of that first newspaper until now, the Japanese-Peruvian community has had eleven newspapers, of which two continue to circulate today: Peru Shimpo (Latest News from Peru) and Prensa Nikkei (The Nikkei Press). The community also published numerous magazines, of which only the institutional ones remain. There also were two radio programs for the Japanese community.

Between 1910 and 1913, when 2473 Japanese arrived in Peru, there appeared another handwritten newspaper that was printed and distributed on mimeograph paper: Jiritsu (The Independent), whose format was 18x23 centimeters with each edition averaging some seventy-two pages, which also were fastened together with a string. Its printing on mimeograph made it possible for greater distribution than its predecessor. It ended in 1913, the same year that the emperor Taisho, grandfather of the current Japanese emperor, celebrated one year on the throne.

The newspaper Andes Jiho was published for almost sixteen years.

Nevertheless, some years later, criticisms flared up that accused the newspaper of defending the interests of only those who had attained a good economic position in the community, while marginalizing the majority of immigrants. Therefore, in June 1921, Nippi Shimpo (Japanese-Peruvian News) appeared on the scene and was published by Jutaro Tanaka, Teisuke Okubo, Noboru Kitahara, Kohei Mitsumori and Chijiwa, as the newspaper in opposition to Andes Jiho and defender of those who had yet attained favorable economic conditions.

Part 2 >>

* This article is published under an agreement between the San Marcos Foundation for the Development of Science and Culture at the National University of San Marcos and the Japanese-American National Museum and its Discover Nikkei project.

© 2010 Alejandro Sakuda

Andes Jiho Jiritsu journalism newspaper NikkeiMedia Nippi Shimpo Nipponjin peru shimpo Prensa Nikkei