CIS 720 Seminar-A Forgotten Island Paradise of Japanese Books: Early Japanese American’s Reading in Prewar Honolulu

Dear all! Please join us Monday Feb 25, 4:30-5:30 in Hamilton 3F, for a talk by LIS Associate Professor and Associate Chair Noriko Asato.  All are welcome to attend.
A Forgotten Island Paradise of Japanese Books: Early Japanese American’s Reading in Prewar Honolulu

Hawaiʻi in 1940 was home of one of the largest Japanese ethnic communities outside of Japan. Japanese Americans made up 37 percent of the Territory’s population, with 157,905 Issei (first generation/ Japanese immigrants) and Nisei (second generation Japanese Americans). This Japanese American community created and consumed a vibrant print culture in both English and Japanese, and was served by over 40 stores selling Japanese language books and magazines in Honolulu alone between 1896 and 1942. Today, only one bookshop remains. We know so little about the lives and thoughts of the Issei in prewar Hawaii beyond the great narratives of the plantation strikes. This presentation seeks to expand our awareness of one of the Japanese Americans’ daily activities that has received little attention – their reading. Using the recently released Hoover Institution’s Hoji Shinbun Digital Collection database and other sources, this talk creates a picture of different types of Japanese American readers in the Territory. It begins with how books arrived to early plantation readers; getting issues of ezoshi (picture book) or kodanbon (story book) from traveling merchants to the establishment of specialized Japanese language bookstores for different types of readers. The story also includes how Japanese Americans created their own identity through literary works such as dodoitsu (Japanese popular love songs) and narrated their own histories and coffee table photo-books to send to family in the motherland. The talk also explores questions of reading acts through lenses of class and gender.  It will also include an introduction to print culture research.

Noriko Asato ( is Associate Professor and Associate Chair of the Library and Information Science Program at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa. She is the author of several monographs, including Teaching Mikadoism: The Attack on Japanese Language Schools in Hawaii, California, and Washington, 1919-1927 (University of Hawaiʻi Press). Her research focuses on Asian Studies Librarianship, history, print culture, digital libraries, and the Asian American experience. Some recent articles include “The Origins of the Freedom to Read Foundation: Public Librarians’ Campaign to Establish a Legal Defense Against Library Censorship.” (Public Library Quarterly) and “Librarians’ Free Speech: The Challenge of Librarians’ Own Intellectual Freedom to the American Library Association 1946-2007” (Library Trends). She was a JSPS fellow and visiting researcher at Kyoto University in Japan.