|Born||Ichikawa, Chiba Prefecture, Japan|
|Notable credit(s)||The New York Times, The Detroit Free Press|
Onishi was born in Ichikawa, Chiba Prefecture, Japan. When he was four years old, Onishi and his family immigrated to Montreal, Quebec, Canada. He attended Princeton University and served as the chief editor of the student newspaper.
Onishi was a reporter for The Detroit Free Press from 1992 until 1993. In December 1993, he joined The New York Times where he began as police reporter from January to July 1994 and city weekly reporter from July 1994 to March 1995. He went on to become the Queens bureau chief from March 1995 to September 1997 and later the West Africa bureau chief until October 1998.
Onishi became the Tokyo bureau chief for the Times in August 2003. In 2008, he was transferred to head the Southeast Asia bureau in Jakarta; Martin Fackler succeeded him as chief of the Tokyo bureau.
Some critics, especially conservatives in Japan such as Kohyu Nishimura and Yoshihisa Komori, accuse Onishi's leftist perspective of having a strong "anti-Japan" bias, which, they suggest, helps foster a vilified image of Japan abroad.
In his New York Times article, "Letter from Asia; Japan and China: National Character Writ Large," Onishi compared the Japanese method of transliteration to that of the Chinese, noting that Japanese has a special character set called katakana to express foreign words and names and to label them clearly as foreign, while in Chinese, non-Chinese names are depicted entirely in standard Chinese characters. Speculating on the origins of the different writing approaches, he suggested that the origin lay in the historical identities of the cultures, namely the inward-looking island nation of Japan in contrast to the historical Chinese cultural explanation of themselves as 'the center of the world,' as expressed in the country's name, the "Center Kingdom". Onishi criticized the practice of using katakana when writing the names of naturalized citizens of Japanese descendants, although their names could be written in the Japanese-style Chinese characters kanji. This established custom marks people as "not truly Japanese." The article has been criticized because of the difficulty of identifying kanji to associate with the name of someone coming from a linguistic background which uses Roman letters and katakana are also used in a number of other situations to mark something as special, rather like italics and scare quotes are used in English.
Another article, "Letter from Asia: Why Japan Seems Content to Be Run by One Party" provoked an official objection statement from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan for being "an incorrect article." In it, Norimitsu referred to Japan's democracy as an "illusion" and immature, comparing its government to that of North Korea and China.
His article on December 17, 2006, "Japan Rightists Fan Fury Over North Korea Abductions," was also criticized by Kyoko Nakayama, Tokyo Special adviser to the Japanese Prime Minister on Abduction. Thomas H. Snitch, a former professor of American University and the president of Little Falls Associates, Inc. also mentioned that Onishi's coverage on Japan's effort to deal with the issue of the North Korean abductions of Japanese is based on his political bias. Some Japanese conservatives claim that Onishi is a naturalized Japanese citizen of Korean descent.
- "ひと 日系人ではじめてのニューヨーク・タイムズ誌東京支局長 ノリミツ・オオニシ さん (34)", Asahi Shimbun, September 21, 2003. (Japanese)
- Nishimura, Kohyu (2006-05-10). "反日スプリンクラーとして世界に歪曲・偏向記事を垂れ流すＮＹＴ東京支局長". SAPIO. pp. 76–78.(Japanese)
- Komori, Yoshihisa (2006-12-01). "世界の「反日レッド・ペーパー」研究 〜日本悪玉論を喧伝する国際偏向報道に反撃を〜". Seiron magazine. pp. 54–58.(Japanese)
- Norimitsu Onishi, "Letter from Asia; Japan and China: National Character Writ Large" The New York Times, March 17, 2004. (mirrored here)
- "Kanji for Persons of Japanese Descent", j-log: Everyday Japan, March 18, 2004.
- Bill Poser, "National Character Writ Large?", Language Log, March 20, 2004.
- Onishi, Norimitsu (2005-09-07). "Letter from Asia: Why Japan Seems Content to Be Run by One Party". New York Times. Retrieved 2007-01-03.
- "自民党「支配」中朝と同一視 米紙ＮＹタイムズ報道 外務省、不公正と"抗議". Sankei Shimbun. 2005-09-03. Retrieved 2007-01-03.[dead link](Japanese)
- Onishi, Norimitsu (2005-09-07). "Why Japan Seems Content to Be Run by One Party". The New York Times.
- Onishi, Norimitsu (2006-12-17). "Japan Rightists Fan Fury Over North Korea Abductions". The New York Times. Retrieved 2007-01-03.
- Nakayama, Kyoko (2006-12-25). "Abductions in Japan". International Herald Tribune. Retrieved 2007-01-03.
- "ＮＹタイムズ拉致「扇動」記事 政府が反論文投稿". Sankei Shimbun/Yahoo! News. 2006-12-29. Retrieved 2007-01-03.[dead link](Japanese)
- (Japanese) Snitch, Thomas H. (2006-12-28). "ＮＹタイムズ 拉致問題「右翼扇動」記事 政治的偏見による日本批判". Sankei Shimbun.
- Takayama, Masayuki (July 13, 2006). "変幻自在 207: 似非日本人". Shukan Shincho: 146.(Japanese)
- "「NYタイムズ」東京支局長は「反日記事」がお好き". Shukan Shincho. March 2003. p. 58.(Japanese)