By Iku Kiriyama


Translation: Omigod! Do Not Pass On the Rafu!

The news hit the front page of The Rafu Shimpo: “Hokubei Main­ichi Announces Closure.”

After 61 years. Less than two months after the Nichi Bei Times announced their closure.

So what, you say? Northern California is left without a major Japanese American printed media source of community news. So what? So, this leaves the entire State of California with one major Japanese American paper–The Rafu Shimpo. And they have been teeter­ing with tenuous ad and subscrip­tion rates.

The major cause of low subscrip­tions? You all know the answer. Es­pecially those of you who Pass On the Rafu to friends and family, as if it’s a tradition to read news of our community two months late.

What happens if the Rafu closes its doors? Take a look:

1. Community organizations will no longer have a way to publicize their activities.

There are still a lot of us who don’t Tweet, read or set up blogs, go on Facebook, have iPhones or whatever else is out there that the majority (it seems) under the age of 60 seem so adept at.

Shoot – I use my cell phone only to call out. I still can’t manage to receive messages – I caution people never to call back on my cell just after I’ve left a message. My phone is off!!

I depend on the Rafu to put in press releases for the Japanese American Historical Society of Southern California events. As well as for my independent forums that I’ve put on for the past three years.

Do the mainstream papers carry ethnic community news? No way. Do they care? Must not – their “so­cial” pages are so without color.

How will we publicize our events? Sure, I use e-mail. But I have to be careful sending attach­ments. A lot of Nisei can only read and send e-mails. They can’t open or send attachments. That’s how far down the food chain we Nisei are with technology.

2. No more “Horse’s Mouth.”

I’ve read so many of you tell George that you’ll cancel your subscriptions if he quits writing. You say he’s the only reason you subscribe. Well, make him the reason you will stop POR (Passing On the Rafu)!!

3. Obituaries

One of the first pages Nisei look at is the Obituary. Over the decades, people have said they subscribe to the Rafu just for the obituaries so they can check to see whom they owe koden.

Without the Rafu, you’ll have to scan through the whole metro­politan page of your paper (that’s assuming the L.A. Times doesn’t go under!).

The question was asked at our last JAHSSC board meeting—how will people check the obituaries in Northern Cal? Good question.

4. How will we know what our JA and Asian American politicians are doing—both statewide and nationally?

5. When was the last time you saw in the Daily Breeze or L.A. Times a local, state or Congres­sional JA or Asian American poli­tician’s photo and story about something they had done for our community?

What’s even more important with the absence of articles of our ethnic politicians is we become more ignorant and uninformed of legislations, policies, and events that affect us. We become less in­formed voters.

(Note: I refer to these two papers because I live in the South Bay. Substitute your local papers in the same spots.)

6. Lastly, and NOT the end of the list, the Rafu has been the paper that unites us as a community because it has no geographic boundaries for news. We read about young people, middle-aged people, senior citizens in all communities, in all walks of life as they excel in sports, the arts, academia, their local organizations and communities, etc.

So, what am I asking? I’m ask­ing all of you, all of us to NOT be a POR. Be a DNPOR! Unless, your chains of people are experi­encing hard times with job losses or furlough days, ask them to take less money to gamble at Vegas, eat cheaper just once a week—whatever—Divide the cost of a subscription by 365 days and save that amount in a jar to pay for a subscription. Let me do it for you. For seniors, one year at $119 is 33 cents a day. For others, one year at $149 is 41 cents a day. Set aside pocket change in the amount daily and you’ll have a financially pain­less way to pay for the Rafu.

NOW, let me get to the point of the list I made above. After all, at least the PORs subscribe. How about those who reap the benefits of the Rafu but don’t give back?

The PORs who stop enabling their chains may do their part, but the Rafu needs a whole lot more new subscribers.

Going back to the list. #1 – board members of all the organizations and institutions who regularly send press releases should carry their own subscriptions. #2 – supporters of “Horse’s Mouth”—well, just be­come a DNPOR. #3 – Everyone who has placed an obituary or reads the Rafu for the obituaries should sub­scribe just because you don’t want to be late. #4 – Every politician in the state should make sure their of­fices carry subscriptions. Plus their own. #5 – Everyone who likes to read about him/herself should carry at least one subscription—maybe more to pass around? Oops, no POR. Just say, “I’m in the Rafu. Do you want to subscribe so you’ll never miss me?”

And one category not men­tioned: the business community. Corporate or management should subscribe just to know what’s going on in the community outside your front doors.

Let me end with this appropriate adage: “Don’t close the barn door after the horse is gone.”


Iku Kiriyama is hosting the Rafu Shimpo community forum on Sunday, Jan. 17, 2010, from 2 to 4 p.m. at the Gardena Japanese Community Institute, Veterans Hall to discuss the issues and the chal­lenges facing The Rafu. Everyone is welcome to participate. For more information, contact Kiriyama at (310) 326-0608 or [email protected]­global.net.



  1. Heh. My feelings are roughly the opposite of “Rafu fan”.

    If anything, Horse is the one thing keeping me from subscribing to the Rafu!

  2. There is another newspaper for Northern California’ JA community.
    NikkeiWest has been around 18 years and will try and fill the void left by the Hokubei and Nichi Bei.

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