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Cultural News: An attempt to reach newcomers from Japan was turned into discovering Japanese culture enthusiasts in America

Cultural News is a monthly English language newspaper featuring traditional Japanese culture events in Southern California. The 8-page tabloid has printed 6,000 copies since July 1998 in Los Angeles by Japan-born Shige Higashi. It is distributed to Japanese American community centers in Southern California and directly mailed to subscribers for $25 a year with 12 issues.

Currently Cultural News is also recognized as a daily email newsletter, edited by Higashi. The same contents of the monthly newspaper and daily email are also available to read at the website www.culturalnews.com.

Cultural News was a brainchild of Shige Higashi in 1990’s because he was convinced that a new format of news media was needed in the Japanese-speaking community of the greater Los Angeles area.

The earliest Japanese immigration started more than 100 years ago in Southern California. Unlike Korean and Chinese immigrations, a subtle numbers of new immigrants from Japan are constantly continuing until today.

These new waves of Japanese immigration since World War II have spread into much wider segments of geographical, social and economical levels. In reaching this scattered Japanese-speaking population, Higashi thought that an English-language newspaper was suitable for them because most already had learned English in Japan or they were quick to learn English in the U.S.

A real chance for Higashi to start publishing an English language periodical came in the late 1990’s when he was a Los Angeles business manager of Japan’s national news agency Kyodo, and noticed that numerous news releases were sent to newsrooms by institutions, corporations, and government offices. He foresaw that he could start a newspaper by collecting these news releases.

Through trial and error in 1989 to early 1999, event schedules of traditional Japanese culture in Southern California were emerging as the core segment of Cultural News, and Higashi realized that Cultural News was not only being delivered to the original target, the Japanese-speaking population, but at the same time the tabloid monthly was being subscribed by Japanese culture enthusiasts in the main stream society of America.

For Japan-born Higashi, publishing Cultural News allowed him to rediscover the value of his native county. For the most people in Japan currently, traditional Japanese culture seems to have no attraction in their highly industrialized lives.

To discover Americans’ enthusiasm about traditional Japanese culture was not only Higashi’s eye opening experience but he feels it also delivers a very positive message from America to Japan.

As of the end of April 2011, Americans are most interested in the aftermath of the March 11 earthquake and tsunami including consequences of the Fukushima nuclear-power plant incident. The April 2011 issue features the firsthand experiences from the disaster areas in Japan, and the cultural aspect of Japanese food in emergency. Higashi made his own personal fact-finding tour of the Tohoku disaster area from April 15 through 20.

Prior to his experiences with Kyodo News in Los Angeles, he was a Japanese-language reporter with Kashu Mainichi daily newspaper in Los Angeles from April 1981 through May 1982, and with Nichi Bei Times in San Francisco from June 1982 through March 1983. He worked with the Asahi Shimbun (newspaper) as an assistant for Los Angeles correspondent from 1983 through 1986. In Japan, Higashi worked with several trade newspapers in Kyoto and Osaka areas from 1978 to 1980, and through these on-the-job trainings he earned newsgathering skills and learned the whole process of the newspaper business.

© 2011 Shigeharu Higashi

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