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Nisei Journalists and the Occupation of China: Buddy Uno and Bill Hosokawa Compared - Part 2 of 3

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Kumpei William Hosokawa was born in Seattle on January 30, 1915. Although he did not begin speaking English until he went to kindergarten, he developed an early interest in reading and sports. He excelled in basketball, and later helped found a local Nisei basketball league.  Like many young Nisei, he spent several summers in Alaska working in salmon canneries. 

In 1933, Hosokawa entered University of Washington to study journalism, although he was warned that no mainstream newspaper would ever hire a Japanese American (Hosokawa’s younger brother Robert, universally known as “Rube”, would follow him into journalism).1 Soon after, Hosokawa took a part-time job working for the Seattle Nisei newspaper Japanese American Courier , and became aquainted with other Nisei journalists. In fact, when Buddy Uno visited Seattle in 1936, he met Hosokawa, who befriended him, took him home for the night, and lent him pajamas.2

In 1937, after earning his B. A. degree, Hosokawa was hired by the Japanese consulate in Seattle as a secretary and speechwriter. A year later, he moved to the British colony of Singapore with his wife, Alice, and became editor of a new English-language newspaper, the Singapore Herald . A column written shortly before his departure reveals his state of mind. A convinced pacifist, Hosokawa called on his readers not to be “suckers” taken in by war propaganda, coming from many sides.

“The Japanese people are suffering, and the government is doing its best to keep up the war spirit with its National Spiritual Mobilization campaign. The Chinese people are suffering from marauding armies, exploiters, warlords, taxes and invaders. The Germans and Italians are suffering from rigidly controlled economies and regimentation. And the people of the so-called democratic nations, the United States, the British Commonwealth, and France, are suffering from acute and chronic cases of jitters brought on by the soaring imaginations of those who pull the strings to make you and me and two billion other guys dance.”

Hosokawa affirmed that ordinary citizens should resist being manipulated into a war spirit and recognize that those on the other side “are not bloodthirsty plunderers at all, but just like the rest of us who’ve been foxed.”3

In May 1940, Hosokawa’s wife returned to the United States, and he migrated to Japanese-occupied Shanghai. There he wrote for the English-language Shanghai Times , which operated under Japanese censorship and whose British editor E.V. Nottingham he later described as “quite tolerant of Japanese military excesses.”4 In early 1941, Hosokawa began writing for the Far Eastern Review , the same journal that had earlier featured Uno’s dispatches. These monthly pieces, written under censorship by the occupying power, united his existing pacifism with the “realistic” vision that many international correspondents held of China as a backward region requiring uplift by Japan. In the process, he tilted strongly toward the occupier.

For instance, in May 1941, in “The Future of a ‘Democracy,’” Hosokawa complained that Americans had been misled by pro-Chinese propaganda to view China as a democracy.  In fact, China had no history as a democracy and was not likely to develop one. Japan, in contrast, was the closest thing to an American-style democracy in Asia. Although Japan had been forced to suspend many constitutional rights, like any other country at war, and was now “in many respects totalitaran,” it had a solid record as a democracy on which it could build (implicitly under the incentive of a favorable policy).5

In the June 1941 article, entitled “Pacific Factors for Washington to Weigh,” Hosokawa explicitly called on the United States to work for friendship with Japan. He claimed that China was not an insoluble barrier, as there was room for negotation between American demands that Japan respect China’s territorial integrity and Japanese demands that America withdraw aid to the Chinese government. 

“Somewhere between the two points of view lies the compromise that must be reached if a solution by force of arms it to be avoided.” He concluded that if the United States and Great Britain could meet legitimate Japanese concerns, Japan could be induced to detach itself from the Axis and become an ally, or at least friendly neutral. This would enable the British and Americans to reduce their forces in the Pacific and concentrate their forces on the conflict with Germany.6

In July 1941 Hosokawa published “China and Her Foreign Masters.” In it, he drew a parallel between the Chungking government, which received aid from the United States, and the collaborationist Nanking government of Wang Ching-Wei, which was the beneficiary of “guidance and assistance” from Japan. In both cases, he added, technical advisers from “mentor governments” were performing the work of “guiding and counseling a less advanced administrative regime.”

While Hosokawa did not state openly that Wang’s government was a puppet regime, he did admit the realities of the occupation: “Little can be said in praise of Japan’s military occupation of China except that the intentions expressed at various times have been good.” However, he claimed that with the stabilization of Wang’s regime, Japan’s positive plans to reconstruct China from the bottom up (which were more realistic than the efforts of the Americans to treat China as a modern nation) were becoming more visible.7  

In August 1941, Hosokawa followed with an article entitled “Tokyo in the Shadow of War,” which was perhaps his most overtly propagandistic in tone. In it, he praised the ability of the Japanese to withstand war-inspired hardship, as even under the increased stress of war they gave the picture of being more orderly and united than they had a year previously. He repeated his thesis that war turned all states totalitarian. “The Germans have proved to the world’s satsfaction that the totalitarian state, bereft of all democratic impediments, is the most efficiently streamlined body politic for the pursuit of a war. So, like many another nation at war or still on the brink of a precarious peace, Japan is at work building up what is called the most efficient national defense state.”8 In that sense, he insisted, Japan was no different from Britain or the United States, which had built up their own military forces.

As part of that “national defense” state, he noted, Tokyo created Neighborhood Councils to offer the people productive work. “Since speculation, either verbally or in the press, regarding government policy has been forbidden in Japan, [semiofficial] Neighborhood Groups serve as a convenient outlet for the natural anxiety and nervous energy of the people. The very fact that every individual can help with the national defense through these groups has given the patriotic and energetic Japanese much comfort.” 

Hosokawa concluded that while the Japanese people did not seek war with the Western powers, they would have no hesitation in taking it up if it were to come, and that they would be able to triumph through their will: “While officialdom may know Japan’s limitations, the people have the utmost faith in their ability to withstand further hardships and carry on for the Emperor. Material difficulties are of secondary importance to their way of thinking. This is not to imply any fanatical desire for conquest and glory; I merely wish to point out that to the Japanese mind the material factors retreat before the will and spirit to succeed.”9  

A month later, Hosokawa contributed another article, “The Fates at Work in Washington and Tokyo,” in which he expressed his hope that negotiations between Japan and the United States would lead to a fundmental settlement and a durable peace. Hosokawa reminded his readers of “the awful cost of a shooting war” and expressed cautious optimism as to the possibilities of settlement and the potential benefits.

“A settlement which will lead to the end of the Sino-Japanese War, and the solution and clarification of such long-pending issues as Manchukuo, the New Order, and Japan’s southward expansion policy cannot but open the way to an era of peace and mutual prosperity and progress so long overdue in the Far East.” 

However, despite his use of the phrase “Manchukuo” (rather than “Manchuria,” as in his earlier writings), here he drew less of an equivalence between the respective justice of Japan’s position and that of the United States than in his July piece: “It has long been obvious, despite Chungking’s [i.e. the Nationalist Chinese government]’s ill-disguised concern, that the United States is not going to abandon or compromise the principles of international morality she has risked thus far to uphold. Wishful thinkers in Tokyo may not realize this but the government would not be worthy of its name if it were similarly deluded.”10  

In October Hosokawa produced what would be his final article for Far Eastern Review , entitled “‘Good Old Days’ for the Foreigner in China—are Gone,” which presented the Chinese as barbaric and prone to looting. As he stated, with some exaggeration: “In both 1932 and 1937 when Sino-Japanese hostilities broke out, foreign troops [in Shanghai] were stripped for action, not against the danger of a Japanese invasion, but to defend the city against victory-drunk Chinese troops...Opinion as to the respective merits of the Chinese and Japanese cases was widely split even then [among Old China Hands], and those who supported Japan…were not few.”

Hosokawa described Japan as a virtuous imperialist nation condemned by Western countries only becuse she threatened their own imperialistic interests, and praised Japanese transformation of the Far East into a sphere of influence: “Under the ideas embodied for the still-undefined ‘Co-Prosperity Sphere’ it is to be presumed that here will be a happy hunting ground of commercial enterprise with resultant uplifting of the masses.”11

In October 1941, Hosokawa returned to Seattle, where he was rehired by the Japanese American Courier . After the onset of war, he assisted with the dissemination of Courier editor James Sakamoto’s abortive plans for formation of Nisei agricultural colonies.

After being sent to Puyallup (i.e. Camp Harmony), Hosokawa was separated from the mass of inmates headed for Minidoka—authorities feared him as a potential troublemaker!—and he was sent on instead to confinement at Heart Mountain.12 There he was named editor of the camp newspaper Heart Mountan Sentinel , where he defended enlistment of Nisei in the military.

After the war, Hosokawa became an esteemed journalist and editor for the Denver Post . Within the Japanese community, he established a reputation as an American patriot and JACL stalwart. In his longrunning Pacific Citizen column, “Out of the Frying Pan” and in books such as Nisei: The Quiet Americans (1969) and JACL in Quest of Justice (1982), Hosokawa praised the Americanism of the Nisei and the glories of U.S. democracy. He continued to write a column for the Rocky Jiho until nearly the end of his long life, and published his last book, Colorado’s Japanese Americans (2005), at the age of 90, two years before his death.

Mr. and Mrs. Bill Hosokawa of Denver Colorado at Kawafuku restaurant in Little Tokyo, Los Angeles, California, January 16, 1970. Japanese man in dark suit and eyeglasses sits beside woman in dress with brooch on floor at low table in front of a paper lamp and doll in case. Hosokawa rests his hand on book, "Nisei". (Photograph by Toyo Miyatake Studio, Gift of the Alan Miyatake Family, Japanese American National museum [96.267.1118])

Part 3 >>


1. Bill Hosokawa, Out of the Frying Pan : Reflections of a Japanese American, Boulder, CO, University Press of Colorado, 1998, pp. 1-10 ; Bill Hosokawa, interview with author, January 8, 2005, Denver, CO.
2. Buddy Uno, “Jim Sakamoto and Bill Hosokawa are ‘Big-Shots’ of the Northwest,” New World Sun , July 25, 1936; Buddy Uno, “First Night in Seattle,” New World Sun , July 26, 1936.
3. Bill Hosokawa, “This is Propaganda,” New World Sun , February 28, 1938.
4. Bill Hosokawa, Out of the Frying Pan , p. 19.
5. William Hosokawa, “The Future of ‘Democracy,’” Far Eastern Review , May 1941, pp. 152-3.
6. William Hosokawa, “Pacific Factors for Washington to Weigh,” Far Eastern Review , June 1941, pp. 158-9.
7. William Hosokawa, “China and her Foreign Advisers,’” Far Eastern Review , July 1941, pp. 226, 229.
8. William Hosokawa, “Tokyo in the Shadow of War,’” Far Eastern Review , August 1941, p. 262.
9. William Hosokawa, “Tokyo in the Shadow of War,’” Far Eastern Review , August 1941, p. 263.
10. William Hosokawa, “The Fates at Work in Washington and Tokyo,” Far Eastern Review , September 1941, pp. 15-17.
11.   William Hosokawa, “‘Good Old Days’ for the Foreigner in China—are Gone,” Far Eastern Review , October 1941, pp. 15-16, 36.
12. Bill Hosokawa, interview with author, Janaury 8, 2005, Denver, CO.

© 2012 Greg Robinson

bill hosokawa Buddy Uno identity Japan journalists media nisei World War II