Sometaro Sheba (originally Shiba) was born on the island of Shikoku, Japan, in 1870 and was educated at Aoyama Gakuin, an American Methodist college in Tokyo, where he excelled in the English language.
Adventurous, ambitious and impulsive, Sheba sailed for Hawai‘i in 1891 and turned his bilingual talent to profit as a sales clerk at the Lihue Plantation Store. When a branch store opened in Hanama‘ulu, he was selected to manage it.
After 10 years with the plantation, Sheba moved on to work as an interpreter and translator at the courthouse in Lihu‘e and establish two newspapers: the Kauai Shuho for Japanese readers, and The Garden Island.
The following year, 1902, saw the first edition of the weekly The Garden Island printed in January in Kapaia, using a press Sheba acquired from the Malumalu Industrial School that had closed in 1898. Subscription cost was $1 per annum, payable in advance.
A year later, Sheba sold his newfound newspapers to a corporation formed on Kaua‘i, yet carried on as publisher and editor.
Determined to continue his success, Sheba obtained a loan in 1907 from merchant C. H. Bishop and left Kaua‘i for Honolulu to buy the Hawaii Shimpo, a daily Japanese-language newspaper.
By this time, word of his publishing acumen — three papers in five years — earned him local notoriety as the “Hearst of Hawai’i.”
But a tour of Japan with Honolulu businessmen in 1917 — his first visit there since he’d emigrated 26 years earlier — left him homesick for the country of his birth and he returned home to Japan with his wife and six children that same year.
At first, he worked as a journalist. Later, Sheba sold Hawaii Shimpo and bought the Japan Times, an English-language daily.
Sometaro Sheba retired in 1932 and died in Japan in 1946.