The shaping of Utah culture through the lens of a small Japanese newspaper

Published: Saturday, April 27 2013 5:50 p.m. MDT

The Okinawa Kenjinkai Dance group performs at the Nihon Matsuri Festival in Salt Lake City on Saturday, April 27, 2013.

Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — A Japanese newspaper published by a Salt Lake family during much of the 1900's garnered attention as one of the featured exhibits Saturday at Nihon Matsuri, the annual Japan Festival, in Salt Lake.

The festival included artist demonstrations of calligraphy, doll making, martial arts, tea ceremony, dancing and singing performances and a Cosplay fashion show. The newspaper exhibit particularly provided participants with a lens into the Japanese culture.

“It’s neat to become familiar with these old newspapers. It helps me realize that such diversity is a part of where I come from,” said Salt Lake Resident Beth Ipson.

Not only does the newspaper bind the Japanese culture of Salt Lake City together through a shared history, but Kyle LaMalfa, Chairman of the Salt Lake Council, says it also shows those who are not of Japanese heritage that we can bond to our own history, whatever that is.

The four-page paper, founded by a handful of workers here in Salt Lake City in 1914, served the first wave of immigrants from Japan in the U.S. At its peak, during and after World War II, the paper served more than 10,000 subscribers around the country, for $7 a year.

Utah Nippo, which translated means “daily,” included contents typical for a paper: local and Japanese news, obituaries, ads and even contributors.

Haruko Moriyasu said her parents started the printing press because they felt there was a need for the Japanese community to be tied to local events and information. “As long as there were people who needed a Japanese paper, they ran it. They both died with the paper.”

Kazuko Terasawa, another daughter, said her mother saw the paper as a public service to the older non-english speaking Japanese community.

The paper printed both English and Japanese versions, though they were completely separate, content-wise. Kazuko covered the English section of the paper.

“It wasn't a set time kind of thing,” she said. “We were there until we were done with the work.”

Kazuko’s mother ran the paper until the day she died in 1991, at the age of 95.

The Japanese culture has played a key role in the heritage of Salt Lake County, said Salt Lake County Mayor, Ben McAdams. “Its so great to see us coming here together to celebrate the rich Japanese culture that permeated this area. It’s a reminder that our past helps us look forward to our future.”

The entire “Utah Nippo” collection is archived at the J. Willard Marriott Library at the University of Utah.

The archives are a true treasure here in Salt Lake, says Lorraine Crouse, a Marriott library archivist. “We have people from as far away as Japan coming to research our collections. It's my hope that locals take advantage of the opportunity to discover these themselves.”

Rachel Lowry is a reporter intern for the Deseret News. She is an English graduate from Brigham Young University. Contact her at rlowry@deseretnews.com.

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