Hosokawa, William (1915–2007)

Born in Seattle on January 30, 1915, to Japanese migrants, William “Bill” Kumpai Hosokawa was a journalist and author. He attended the University of Washington School of Journalism where an advisor told him he would never get a job at a newspaper because he was Japanese. His advisor's words proved to be true and, with no other options after graduation, he moved to Singapore in 1938 with his new wife Alice Miyake to start an English-language newspaper.

Hosokawa returned to the United States in 1941a, few weeks before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. With Japanese American leaders being rounded up by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), James Sakamoto, publisher of the Japanese American Courier and member of the Japanese American Citizens League (JACL), suggested creating an Emergency Defense Council to serve as a liaison between the Japanese American community and the U.S. government. Hosokawa became the council's executive secretary. In that role, Hosokawa wrote a report to emphasize Japanese American patriotism and assimilation for the Tolan Committee hearing, a Congressional investigation held in early 1942. Reflecting on the hearings, Hosokawa wrote, “In Seattle, the strategy we adopted was to point out that Japanese Americans were loyal citizens and upstanding, productive members of the community who posed no security risk” (Hosokawa, 1998, 30). However, his efforts did not change anti-Japanese opinions. Instead, when the government began the forced removal and confinement of Japanese Americans in 1942, the council cooperated with the government's program and endorsed the military plans for eviction.

Hosokawa soon became one of the victims of EO 9066 when he was forcibly removed with his wife and young son Michael on May 15, 1942, and sent to Camp Harmony in Puyallup, Washington. Describing the journey to Puyallup, Hosokawa wrote, “The caravan, escorted by military vehicles, made its way into the fairgrounds through a gate in a high barbed wire fence. In an instant we were transformed from free American citizens to prisoners in our own country” (Hosokawa, 1998, 34). This “assembly center” was located an hour outside of Seattle on state fairgrounds that had been converted, like many other fairgrounds, into a holding camp while permanent facilities were being built. Hosokawa described his accommodations as a mere shed unfurnished except for a steel cot and a single light. To address the issues that arose in the camp, Sakamoto with Hosokawa as his assistant agreed to help the camp administrators.

During this time, Hosokawa began writing a weekly column called “From the Frying Pan” in the Pacific Citizen, the newspaper of the JACL. In his column, Hosokawa discussed the discrimination facing Japanese Americans. However, he continued to support the U.S. government's war efforts and asserted Japanese American patriotism and the importance of cooperation with the government. On July 2, 1942, Hosokawa, still detained, opened his column with: “A hundred thousand Americans of Japanese blood and their parents are living unobtrusively behind barbed wire today as their part toward American victory in a fight to the finish against the Axis” (Hosokawa, 1978, 6).

Sakamoto and Hosokawa stressed cooperation and loyalty and believed that Japanese Americans should make the best out of the situation. However, conflict arose when a group argued that the JACL was a tool of the U.S. government and the camp administration was undemocratic. The failure to fight EO 9066 was denounced as a failure of the JACL to fulfill their duties to the Japanese American community. Nevertheless, the majority of Japanese Americans voted to retain the JACL and assembly center administration. Hosokawa, who had been erroneously linked with the upstart group, was marked as a subversive. Because of that error, when the Puyallup detainees were moved to the permanent Minidoka concentration camp in Idaho in August 1942, Hosokawa and his family were separated and confined at Heart Mountain concentration camp in Wyoming.

While at Heart Mountain, Hosokawa helped found the camp newspaper The Heart Mountain Sentinel with Vaughn Mechau, head of the Reports Department for the War Relocation Authority (WRA). Hosokawa created a popular newspaper that dealt with topics of Japanese American interest such as the activities of the WRA, Congressional decisions, and national news. Of achieving a middle ground between criticizing government activities yet maintaining a relationship with the WRA, Hosokawa wrote, “It [The Heart Mountain Sentinel] had to give voice to its readers' anger, supporting their demands for justice and providing articulate leadership, but it also had to be cautious about fueling the anger of citizens unjustly imprisoned” (Hosokawa, 1998, 52).

As the course of the war changed, the WRA began to encourage internees to find jobs in nearby Midwestern cities. Hosokawa was offered a job as a copyeditor at The Des Moines Register. In October 1943, nearly a year and a half after being forcibly removed and confined, Hosokawa and his family were allowed to leave Heart Mountain to start a new life in Des Moines, Iowa. After three years there, Hosokawa pursued a position as copyeditor at the Denver Post. With Alice, Mike, and new daughter Susan, Hosokawa moved to Denver to start work at the paper in the summer of 1946, beginning a 38-year career with the Denver Post.

Hosokawa would go on to publish 10 books, including Nisei: The Quiet Americans, intended to create an “understanding and appreciation of the Japanese American minority” (Hosokawa, 1969, x). In 1990, Hosokawa was awarded an honorary doctorate from the University of Denver, and he received a lifetime achievement award from the Asian American Journalists Association in 2003. Hosokawa died on November 9, 2007, at the age of 92.


Jasmine Little

Broom, Jack. “Newsman Bill Hosokawa defeated bias, his own anger.” The Seattle Times, November 14, 2007. http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/localnews/2004012907_hosokawaobit14m.html .

Gallo, Bill. “Champion of Japanese Culture—and Dignity.” Rocky Mountain New s, February 15, 2008. http://m.rockymountainnews.com/news/2008/feb/15/champion-of-japanese-culture—-and-dignity/.

Haislip, Anna. “Tribute to Hosokawa's Humility.” Denver Post, February 17, 2007. http://www.denverpost.com/news/ci_8284582 .

Hosokawa, Bill. Nisei: The Quiet Americans. New York: William Morrow, 1969.

Hosokawa, Bill. Out of the Frying Pan: Reflections of a Japanese American. Boulder: University Press of Colorado, 1998.

Hosokawa, Bill. Thirty-Five Years in the Frying Pan. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1978.

Temple, John. “Temple: Dreams, Dignity fill Hosokawa's tale.” Rocky Mountain News, February 10, 2007. http://m.rockymountainnews.com/news/2007/feb/10/btempleb-drea ms-dignity-fill-hosokawas-tale/