CROSSROADS TO SOMEWHERE: Bill Hosokawa’s Belated Commentary

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By W.T. WIMPY HIROTO

William Kumpai Hosokawa was the dean of Japanese American journalists. There is no runner-up or time qualification. Editorial page editor at time of retirement after 38 years with The Denver Post, he was also a prolific author. As a champion of Niseidom, he was recipient of Civil Rights Award from the Anti-Defamation League in 2007. He also wrote a column, “Out of the Frying Pan,” for The Pacific Citizen, official house organ of the national Japanese American Citizens League. In an undated writing, circa 1971, Hosokawa comments on the demise of a Li’l Tokio all-English tabloid newspaper and its editor.

R.I.P. – It was with characteristic flair that editor William Hiroto announced the impending death of his Los Angeles Nisei weekly newspaper Crossroads. The entire front page of the July 30 issue was devoted to a black-bordered box containing the large block letters “R.I.P.” under which in more modest type were instructions to see Page 2. There he announced that Crossroads, 23 years and three months old, will die Wednesday, Aug. 25, 1971, with funeral services to be held Friday, Aug. 27, publication date of the final issue. There was no other explanation although Hiroto requested that flowers be omitted.

Still, it would not be fitting to permit a publication like Crossroads to vanish from the scene without a eulogy of sorts even though its death may be noticed by few, mourned by even fewer.

It was typical of Crossroads’ casual and charming approach to matters at hand that even while Hiroto was announcing suspension on Page 2, he should also print a subscription form on Page 5 inviting one and all to send $5 and get the newspaper for a year.

The news contained in Crossroads was minimal, and in this sense was hardly a newspaper at all. Page 6 of the eight-page tabloid largely was given to hints for the home handyman and questions and answers for women worried about bad skin, brittle fingernails, acne scars, falling hair and other misfortunes.

Page 8 was generally a bulletin board for various Nisei golf clubs, and perhaps one reason for the publication’s demise is that golfers either don’t read or there simply weren’t enough of them to maintain the circulation.

Much of the rest of the paper was turned over lately to some dreadfully earnest columnists who loved to pontificate about almost anything, some chronically indignant letter-writers who would have been dismissed as crackpots by an editor less hard up for material with which to plug the columns, and a Bay Area essayist, one of whose avocations seemed to be issuing press releases about his own activities.

All this notwithstanding, Crossroads was a delightfully entertaining paper reflecting many aspects of Nisei community life usually ignored by other publications. Perhaps the best part was Hiroto’s own column, made up largely of chatty, irreverent observations about the foibles of the mortals about him. Hiroto’s columnists could work up a sweat scolding eloquently for hundreds of words; Hiroto could puncture egos in a paragraph, wink knowingly and slyly in a sentence, set tongues to wagging with a dropped hint. He was fun to read and I hope some Los Angeles editor has the perspicacity to sign him up to continue his observations. (Note: After a stint with Gardena Valley News and Tozai, an ill-fated JA monthly, Rafu Shimpo displayed said perspicacity by adding Hiroto to its stable of writers – 39 years later.)

Perhaps there was little “value” in Hiroto’s form of journalism or else it would have survived the economic demons that do in newspapers. Yet Crossroads did serve a function and the tiny, structured world of Nisei journalism will be the poorer for its passing. There were, I’m afraid, too many readers like me who enjoyed the paper from afar and failed to support it. For years Hiroto had me on his mailing list. He never bothered to send me a bill or if he did I managed to ignore it, and still the paper arrived regularly each week. And if this is a sample of the way the business was run, it was inevitable that malnutrition should take over.

The least I can do, then, is to make note of Crossroads’ untimely and foreordained death. Rest in Peace.

Inexplicably, CR2S never met or ever spoke to Hosokawa. He graciously included mention of Crossroads in his seminal work, “Nisei: The Quiet Americans,” but our paths never crossed. What prompts his re-introduction herewith in lieu of our regular weekly column, an explanation is in order:  I “escaped” from KRH for a couple of days plus the July 4th holiday further disrupted the regular routine.  And not knowing when I would ever have an excuse to reprint the above explains the substitution.—WTH

W.T. Wimpy Hiroto can be reached at [email protected] Opinions expressed in this column are not necessarily those of The Rafu Shimpo.

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