Photo/IllutrationThe final edition of the Sao Paulo Shimbun, middle, features a photo of the paper’s inaugural edition, published in 1946. In a print version dated Dec. 20, right, the publisher explains the decision to discontinue the daily. (Gen Okada)

  • Photo/Illustraion

SAO PAULO--After 72 years of providing invaluable service to an immigrant community here, the oldest existing Japanese-language newspaper in Brazil has ceased publication, falling victim to generational change and lack of funding.

The Sao Paulo Shimbun joins the growing ranks of newspapers around the world that have gone out of business as the print media struggles to find a financial footing.

“The Sao Paulo Shimbun shared the same destiny with the Japanese community built around ‘issei’ (first-generation immigrants),” said Masao Suzuki, a managing editor of the daily.

Brazil has the largest “nikkei-jin” (people of Japanese descent) community outside of Japan, totaling about 2 million.

The majority of the paper’s subscribers were first- and second-generation immigrants, or nisei, whose average age is over 80.

As a generational change occurs, the presence of third- and fourth-generation immigrants who don’t speak Japanese has increased in the community.

The paper reached its peak circulation in the 1960s at 80,000. However, it had lost readers at a 20 percent rate each year over the past five or so years. The real circulation figure hovered around 10,000 recently.

“The paper had been in severe financial difficulties over the past two decades or so. I think it has held up well until now,” reflected Suzuki, 68.

The Sao Paulo Shimbun was first published in 1946, shortly after the end of World War II, with a mission of disseminating accurate information in Japanese.

During the war, Brazil regarded Japan as an enemy country and prohibited publication of newspapers and education in the Japanese language.

After the war, the lack of accurate information caused internal rifts within the Japanese-Brazilian community, dividing it into two camps, “kachigumi” (the winners) and “makegumi” (the losers).

The former refused to accept the fact that Japan had lost the war and surrendered. The latter accepted the motherland’s defeat. More than 20 people were killed over ideological conflicts.

The paper committed itself not only to providing information for Japanese immigrants, but also to having exchanges between the immigrant community and the motherland.

For example, it devoted pages to locate a person who went missing after emigrating from Japan.

As a news organization, it has kept close tabs on Japanese-Brazilian organizations to prevent them from becoming too extreme. As an opinion leader, the paper never stopped asking about what it meant to be a nikkei community.

In 1977, the paper and its founder were awarded the prestigious Kikuchi Kan prize for its coverage of Japanese immigrants in Brazil and activities for building community awareness.

For the past 40 years, the paper was published five days a week. The last edition, dated Jan. 1, 2019, went to press on Dec. 22. It was the paper’s 16,538th issue.

The publisher hopes to create a presence on the Internet to disseminate information in the future, but there is no concrete plan yet.

Without the Sao Paulo Shimbun, the Nikkey Shimbun is the only remaining Japanese-language newspaper published in Brazil.