By Shige Higashi, Editor and Publisher
Cultural News is a monthly English language newspaper featuring news and information about Japanese art exhibitions and traditional Japanese cultural events in Southern California. An 8-page tabloid-size newspaper was founded by Shige Higashi in 1998 in Los Angeles.
Currently Cultural News has 5,000 circulations and is distributed to Japanese cultural centers in Southern California and to paid subscribers at a rate of $30 per year for 12 issues.
Beside monthly newspaper, the services of Cultural News include “Email Update” and the website of www.culturalnews.com The contents of the monthly newspaper are more featured stories, and the website and “Email Update” deliver announcements and schedules of the events. All news services are edited by Shige Higashi.
Cultural News is the brainchild of Shige Higashi. It was the 1990’s when he convinced himself 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. And today, unlike Korean and Chinese immigration, only a small number of new immigrants from Japan continue to arrive at the U.S.
These new waves of Japanese immigration since World War II have spread into a much wider segment of geographical, social and economic areas. In order to reach these scattered population of Japanese-speaking, Higashi thought that an English-language newspaper was suitable and readable for them because most of newcomers from Japan had already learned the English-language in their native country and many of them went to universities and graduate schools in the U.S.
In the late 1990’s when he was a Los Angeles business manager of Japan’s national news agency Kyodo, he noticed that numerous news releases were sent to newsrooms by institutions, corporations, and government offices. He foresaw that he could start a newspaper by only collecting these news releases. A chance to start publishing an English language periodical was waiting in a few years.
Through trial and error in 1998 and early 1999, information about Japanese art exhibitions and traditional Japanese cultural events became the main theme of Cultural News. And Higashi realized that Cultural News could be reached to the original target of Japanese-speaking population and at the same time the monthly paper could be attractive as paid publications for enthusiasts of Japanese art and culture.
For Japan-born Shige Higashi, traditional Japanese culture was the last thing he would have thought to be of value from his native county. Like most people in Japan today, Higashi overlooked Japanese art and traditional Japanese culture. Discovering enthusiasts about Japanese art and traditional Japanese culture in Los Angeles was his eye-opening experience.
In March 11, 2011, a great earthquake hit the northeastern part of Japan, and the aftermath shook the world. After March 11, Cultural News started to receive many inquiries about victims of the disaster. The April 2011 issues delivered the firsthand stores by people in disaster regions including Fukushima’s radiation contaminated areas. Topics of the disaster theme included a cultural aspect of Japanese food in emergency situations.
Higashi made his fact-finding trip to the Tohoku in April 2011. And since then he visited Tohoku cities for two or three times a year with people from Los Angeles to learn about the March 11 earthquake and tsunami.
Prior to his working experiences with Kyodo News in Los Angeles, he was a Japanese-language reporter for the Kashu Mainichi daily newspaper in Los Angeles from April 1981 through May 1982, and for the Nichi Bei Times in San Francisco from June 1982 through March 1983. He worked with the Asahi Shimbun (newspaper) as an assistant to the Los Angeles correspondent from 1983 through 1986. In Japan, Higashi worked with several trade newspapers in the Kyoto and Osaka areas from 1978 to 1980, and through on-the-job trainings he earned skills of news gathering and understood the world of the newspaper business.
(Originally written April, 30, 2011, updated April 30, 2015)
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