Discover Nikkei Logo

Chapter 20 (Part 2)—The Japanese Association, a Support for Japanese American Community

Read Part 1 >>

Abolition of the distribution of the certification guarantee fee

The funding source of the Japanese Association (Nihonjinkai) consisted of membership fees and the distribution of the fee of certification guarantee from the consulate. The North American Japanese Association (Hokubei Nihonjinkai) was established inside the Seattle consulate in 1913 to oversee the distribution of funds to each individual Japanese association. However, the system disbanded in 1918, and the Communication Committee of North American Japanese (Hokubei Renraku Nikkai, hereafter Renraku Nikkai) came to receive the entire guarantee fee from the consulate.

“The Renraku Nikkai Executive Committee” (January 13, 1918 issue1)

The resubmission of the petition to the Consulate on December 15 requesting the full amount of the proof fee.

“Opinion piece: Renraku Nikkai meeting expected” (February 8, 1918 issue)

The Renraku Nikkai is set to have its meeting in Seattle the day after tomorrow, on the 10th. The abolishment of the distribution of the certificate guarantee fee decided at the Renraku Nikkai meeting in Spokane resulted in various opinions and compliants. In particular, the Seattle Japanese Association (Shiatoru Nihonjinkai) voted to protest such arbitrary decision and to cut the tie with Renraku Nikkai if they continue to act in such fashion. The Nikkai council selected a few committee member to negotiate with Renraku Nikkai executive committee.

However, the parties could not reach an amicable resolution, and the negotiation stalled. Some proposal or urgent motion will probably be the topic of discussion at the current Renraku Nikkai meeting. Since some delegates of Nikkai vehemently oppose the suspension of the fee distribution, there will be numerous debates on this topic.

A number of local Japanese Associations participated in the Renraku Nikkai meeting, including the Seattle North America Japanese Association, as well as those from Tacoma, Bellingham, Tamasu, Yakima, Shirakawa, Fife, Bellevue, Auburn, Spokane, south Park, and Green Lake.

Renraku Nikkai Council” (February 11, 1918 issue)

Although there was much debate, the Executive Committee ultimately granted approval for the retrospective request for the abolishment of the distribution of certification fee, previously approved by the council, effective January 1.

North American News, June 14, 1918

The Nikkei vehemently opposed the abolition of the fee distribution, but they were ultimately overruled. The consulate confirmed to the Renraku Nikkai that they will receive the full fee remittance.

“Full remittance of the Consulate guarantees fees to the Renraku Nikkai (June 14, 1918 issue)

On June 10, consul Matunaga approved the request for the full remittance to Renraku Nikkai President Matsumi, even though Renraku Nikkai traditionally received only 50% of the certificate fee.

Budgetary expense results of the Japanese Association

The Nikkai and the Seattle Japanese Chamber of Commerce merged in 1931 to form Hokubei Nihonjinkai Shogyo Kaigisho (Nissho).

Nissho’s Finance” (February 17, 1940 issue)

A glance inside the Nishho’s finance in the 18th issue of Kaiho, Nissho’s bulletin, reveals the following. The budgeted income of 1914 fiscal year was $3,050, versus the actual income of $3,11.50. With facility rental fee and other miscellaneous incomes, it totaled $4,543.15. Adding the carry-over fund of $633.04 from the previous year, the total actual income was $5,116,19. The actual expense for the year was $4,040.29, resulting in the carry-over fund of $1,128,90 for the fiscal year 1915.

The total income of $5,116 was worth around 20,000 yen at the time, and worth approximately 20,000,000 yen today.

Nissho Activities (Since 1931)

Nissho established various specialized departments, including a social department, education department, commerce and industry department, and finance department. In 1934, they decided to establish the youth department with the expectation of active participation from the second-generation Japanese. They also added the current affairs measure committee at the onset of Sino-Japanese War in 1937.

Nissho General meeting, Establishment of the Youth Department” (August 28, 1934 issue)

The Youth Department will be established in February 1935. It will be composed of youth members of the Association. The officers of the Youth Department will include one department head, one deputy department head and two secretaries. One Board of Directors Representative shall attend and report during Association Board of Director meetings. The Youth Department will elect two Councilors for the Association Council meetings.

“Composition of the Nissho, Current Situation Measures Committee” (November 23, 1937 issue)

Mr. Kunizo Maeno was appointed as committee chairman, and the appointments of the Vice Chairman, Directors, and Treasurer were decided at the first meeting. The Fundraising Department, Lecture Department, Social Department, and Information Departments were established and managers for each were selected. Mr. Sumiyoshi Arima became a member of the Information Department.

“Yesterday’s Nissho Current Situation Measures Committee Meeting” (December 15, 1937 issue)

The Nissho Current Situation Measures Committee convened yesterday at 2:00 PM and decided on the following matters after discussion: (1) Broadcasts regarding the incident will be suspended for the time being. (2) Current affairs lectures will be held on an ad-hoc basis, as before. (3) We hope to broadcast widely the high school and university English speech contest first and second-place winners at a later time. (4) Going forward, the Current Situation Measures Committee will meet every Tuesday.

“Last Night's Nissho General Meeting” (February 24, 1938 issue)

More than 200 participants and 30-40 observers attended a historic and lively meeting held in the Japan pavilion yesterday to conduct a free election of Nissho. Candidates for Chairman including Mr. Sumiyoshi Arima and three others, as well as candidates for Vice-Chairman, Treasurer, and Directors, were selected. The names of the elected council members were published.

Mr. Sumiyoshi Arima, the president of the North American Times, was elected Chairman. However, Mr. Sumiyoshi Arima resigned from the chairmanship in March 1938 and returned to Japan. He returned to Seattle in August of the following year, 1939. Around that time, there was an article in which Mr. Sumiyoshi Arima expressed his opinions about the Japanese Association in his column Hokubei Shunjyu by his penname Ichiro Hanazono.

“What is the Japanese Association?” (October 11, 1939 issue)

When I returned to the United States, I found out about the unnecessary conflicts that took place at the time of this year’s officers’ election that I did not imagine while in Japan. I therefore proposed an alternative plan, considering the inevitability of such conflicts. This way, we can eliminate unnecessary partisan sentiments and recommend qualified candidates who are considered suitable by the majority. (omitted)

Nikkai (Japanese Association) is a service organization, after all. We should approach the election of officials with the same service spirit. It is important not to exaggerate the importance of Nikkai and avoid the folly of considering the election as a political activity.

Activities to Support the Needy

Every year at the end of the year, the Social Department of Nissho visits those in need.

“Social Department Patient Outreach” (December 27, 1937 issue)

Okiyama and Tabusa from the Nissho Social Department visited 19 Japanese patients hospitalized at Georgetown Hospital and three other hospitals. Additionally, on December 24th, they provided financial assistance to 18 needy Japanese households and three unmarried individuals.

“Thanksgiving Gifts for Less Fortunate Families” (November 25, 1938 issue)

Nissho Social Department sends Thanksgiving biscuits every year to less fortunate fellow Japanese Americans. But this year there were contributions of vegetables, fruits, various canned goods, meat, eggs, and other items from the Lotus Youth Association, Olympiad Club, Ball Makers Club, and National School Club, among others. Additionally, donations were made as gift purchase funds, including $8.10 from the Fuyou Association and $5 from the Seattle Girls Club. The Social Department allocated these donations accordingly and distributed them to nine households and six elderly and sick individuals on the morning of the 24th.

“Christmas Outreach” (December 26, 1939 issue)

On both 21st and 22nd, the Nissho’s social department sent relief items to the Japanese American patients at Farland and Georgetown hospitals. We also visited other county and city hospitals and related locations to bring Christmas greetings. On 23rd and 24th, we distributed Christmas gifts to 11 disadvantaged Japanese American families and 10 elderly unmarried patients.

The 40th Anniversary of the Nissho

“Celebrating the 40th Anniversary of the Nissho (May 26, 1939 issue)

North American News, May 26, 1939

Nissho was established 40 years ago, and they held a grand commemorative ceremony on this occasion at Maneki-tei at 6pm last night. There were 85 attendees, with Vice Chairman Shiraiishi presiding. After Chairman Mihara's speech, there were congratulatory speeches from representatives of the Returning Japanese Citizens Association, Terumitsu Karino, President of the Citizens' Association, Takeo Nogaki, Committee Member of the Northwestern United States Japanese Association, Eihan Okiyama, Imperial Consul, Yoshiki Sato, and various others. Following this, Chairman Mihara presented commemorative gifts and certificates of commendation to honorary members Heiji Okuda and Chuzaburo Ito. [...]

Former chairmen Okiyama, Mihara, Maeno, and three council members who have been active for over 20 years, Nagasaku Hashiguchi, Jiro Iwamura, Yasutaro Miyazawa, (absent Seichi Okamura), Toyojiro Tsukuno, Yoneichi Ei, Matataro Hirashima, and others were presented with certificates of commendation. [...] The past chairmen of the Japanese Association are as follows: 5 deceased, 6 returned to Japan, and 1 residing in Los Angeles.

First: Arai, Tatsuya (1900)
Second: Yamaoka, Ototaka (1901)
Third: Sasaki, Tokujiro (1903)
Fourth: Hattori, Ayao (1904)
Fifth: Takahashi, Tetsuo (1905)
Sixth: Hattori, Ayao (1906)
Seventh: Takahashi, Tetsuo (1908)
Eight: Okajima, Kanaya (1919)
Ninth: Okuda, Heiji (1920)
Tenth: Ito, Chuzaburo (1921)
Eleventh: Kimura, Seiji (1924)
Twelvth: Okuda, Heiji (1925)
Thirteenth: Hirade, Kametaro (1926)
Fourteenth: Ito, Chuzaburo (1928)
Fifteenth: Sowa, Tokusaburo (1929)
Sixteenth: Okayama, Eihan (1930)
Seventeenth: Arima, Sumiyoshi (1932)
Eighteenth: Ito, Chuzaburo (1934)
Nineteenth: Mihara, Genji (1935)
Twentieth: Maeno, Kunizo (1937)
Twenty-first: Arima, Sumiyoshi (1938)
Twenty-second: Mirara, Genji (1938)

(Generation number and year of appointment is based on documentation)

As mentioned above, it can be observed that the Japanese American Association, actively supported by many individuals with exceptional leadership, contributed to the development of Japanese-American society.

In next chapter, I will talk about the community chest and Potlatch Festival.

*The excerpt from the article summarizes the original text.


1. All article excerpts are from The North American Times unless noted otherwise. 



The Committee of Japanese in America for Preserving Historical Events, ed., Zaibei Nihonjin Shi (History of Japanese in America), Zaibei Nihonjin-kai, 1940.
Kazuo Ito, Hokubei Hyakunen Zakura (100-Year Cherry Blossoms in North America), Nichibou Shuppan, 1969.
Mitsuhiro Sakaguchi, Nihonjin amerika iminshi (The History of Japanese Immigrants in America), Fuji Shuppan, 2001.


*The English version of this series is a collaboration between Discover Nikkei and The North American Post, Seattle’s bilingual community newspaper. This article was originally publishd in Japanese on November 30, 2022 in The North American Post.


© 2022 Ikuo Shinmasu

communities Japanese associations prewar Seattle United States Washington
About this series

This series explores the history of pre-war Seattle Nikkei immigrants by researching old articles from the online archives of The North American Times, a joint project between the Hokubei Hochi [North American Post] Foundation and the University of Washington (UW) Suzzallo Library.

*The English version of this series is a collaboration between Discover Nikkei and The North American Post, Seattle’s bilingual community newspaper.

Read from Chapter 1 >>

* * * * *

The North American Times

The newspaper was first printed in Seattle on September 1, 1902, by publisher Kiyoshi Kumamoto from Kagoshima, Kyushu. At its peak, it had correspondents in Portland, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Spokane, Vancouver, and Tokyo, with a daily circulation of about 9,000 copies. Following the start of World War II, Sumio Arima, the publisher at the time, was arrested by the FBI. The paper was discontinued on March 14, 1942, when the incarceration of Japanese American families began. After the war, the North American Times was revived as The North American Post.

Learn More
About the Author

Ikuo Shinmasu is from Kaminoseki, Yamaguchi Prefecture, Japan. In 1974, he started working at Teikoku Sanso Ltd (currently AIR LIQUIDE Japan GK) in Kobe and retired in 2015. Later, he studied history at Nihon University Distance Learning Division and researched his grandfather who migrated to Seattle. He shared a part of his thesis about his grandfather through the series, “Yoemon Shinmasu – My Grandfather’s Life in Seattle,” in the North American Post and Discover Nikkei in both English and Japanese. He presently lives in the city of Zushi, Kanagawa, with his wife and eldest son. 

Updated August 2021

Explore more stories! Learn more about Nikkei around the world by searching our vast archive. Explore the Journal
We’re looking for stories like yours! Submit your article, essay, fiction, or poetry to be included in our archive of global Nikkei stories. Learn More
Discover Nikkei brandmark New Site Design See exciting new changes to Discover Nikkei. Find out what’s new and what’s coming soon! Learn More

Discover Nikkei Updates

Nikkei Names 2: Grace, Graça, Graciela, Megumi?
What’s in a name? Share the story of your name with our community. Submissions now open!
Nikkei Uncovered IV: a poetry reading
Join us virtually and enjoy poetry by Matthew Mejia, Christine Kitano, and Mia Ayumi Malholtra.
See exciting new changes to Discover Nikkei. Find out what’s new and what’s coming soon!