Mary and Suzy Kimoto, interviewed by Josh Labove, 27 July 2015

Mary and Suzy Kimoto, interviewed by Josh Labove, 27 July 2015

Abstract
Mary and Suzy (Shizuyo) begin the interview describing their earliest childhood memories and upbringing. They talk about how they returned to Ucluelet after being evacuated from BC and the various jobs they had in Toronto during and after the war. Both interviewees reflect on the precious items their family took with them when leaving the province. Mary explains what the Japanese Canadian community in Ucluelet was like when they first arrived there after the war’s end. She also shows the interviewer various pre-war photos and highlights their significance. Mary also thinks about why her family decided to come back to Vancouver and what they missed about it. Near the end of the interview Mary expresses her thoughts and feelings about the redress movement and the government’s apology.
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Labove Joshua (LJ)
It is July 27th, 2015. My name is Josh Labove, I'm in Ucluelet British Columbia with Mary and Suzy Kimoto. So we begin. Mary, can you tell me a little bit about your childhood and upbringing?
Mary Kimoto (MK)
Well, I was born in Vancouver on the first of October, 1922 and my parents had a confectionary store on Powell Street. What else can I say? Yeah. I went to school in MacDonald on Hastings and Victoria but when my father passed away we all had to leave the school. I was fourteen when he passed away. We left school and we all went to work, whatever we can do.
LJ
What did you end up doing?
MK
Oh, first of all, we helped mother. We would go around to the Japanese families with a sheet of paper and they'd write what orders and we'd bring it home and my mother would fill it up and then my brother will deliver it by foot because we had no bike or anything in those days. I remember that laughs . We went to Japanese school in Alexander but we had to walk. It's quite a ways to walk because we're on 1900 block and Japanese school was on ... What was it? I forget. Near Powell Street Grounds, yeah, somewhere around there. So when I was fourteen they were recruiting girls to work at Nootka Cannery in those days. I think that was 1937 and I wasn't of age to be hired but my mother lied about my age and sent me up there so I was fourteen. I was the youngest but everybody was good to me because I was the youngest. I remember going up on the Maquinna. Five of us girls didn't get seasick but the rest were all sick but we were not. We sat on a deck all the way up to Nootka but this is all something new for me. I really enjoyed the trip after. I wouldn't enjoy it now.
LJ
No?
MK
No laughs
LJ
Were you making lots of these trips or just one?
MK
It was in April and it was seasonal. In October we came back home, yeah.
LJ
Oh, okay, yeah.
MK
So we went into herring and just before we were finished they started, the first time they started canning tuna. So what else is there?
LJ
Um, well, maybe you can just tell me what you might have done for fun growing up. I guess, Suzy, if you want to reflect on that, too, um, then we'll just sort of go back and forth but, um, you know, thinking about, you know, um, the Powell Street neighbourhood and things you might have done for fun, or people that you hung around with, places you went to ...
MK
I think in those days we didn't have fun. I don't remember. We didn't have kids in the neighbourhood to play with and we went to English school in the day time and after school we went to Japanese school so there was no time for, you know, not in those days anyways.
LJ
Yeah. Suzy, how about you? Maybe we can go back and you can just tell me a little bit about your childhood and yeah?
Suzy Kimoto (SK)
I don't remember too much I have to say.
LJ
Yeah?
SK
Yeah. I don't know the age I went to Japan or something like that but I'd go to school right away so maybe five or something.
LJ
So you grew up in Japan?
SK
Yeah, after I went to Japan from six to twenty-six.
LJ
Six to twenty-six, okay.
SK
Yeah, twenty years.
LJ
And came back to Vancouver or to the island after that?
SK
Here.
LJ
You came back to Ucluelet?
SK
Yeah.
LJ
So when did you come to Ucluelet then?
SK
Well, we had to ... My husband was in Lemon Creek where they had to, you know, they were evacuated there. So when it came time to ... Well, our marriage was sort of arranged so we couldn't stay in BC. We had to go back east so we decided to go back to Ontario and his sister was in Toronto already so that's where we ended up. Of course, we couldn't find work and we didn't have a place to stay so they, I don't know what you call the office that looked after us, they assigned us into going into domestic. That way we could stay in the house and do domestic work.
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SK
Anyway, that's where we ended up. I went as a house maid and my husband went as a butler. He hated that job because he was a fisherman. Can you imagine a fisherman doing a butler's work? But, anyways, I didn't know the first thing about cooking. I didn't even know how to boil an egg because all I did was go to work in fish plants but I learned it and, by then, our first son arrived so we came back to Toronto. That was in '49. The ban was lifted so my husband decided he wanted to come back to the coast to fish so that's how we got back here. We weren't allowed to vote but after '49 we were allowed to vote so before we left he said “let's go and vote.” I said, “well, who do we vote for? I don't know.” He said “it doesn't matter. Just vote!” I remember that, going in the snow and going to this corner store to vote, yeah.
LJ
Were you voting ,at that time, in Ucluelet or ...
MK
In Toronto.
LJ
In Toronto, okay.
MK
Yeah.
LJ
Do you remember coming back to BC, Suzy? You were twenty-six when you came back to BC.
SK
Yeah, in 1960.
LJ
In 1960.
SK
Yeah.
LJ
What was it like then?
MK
Well, she came ...
SK
Different.
MK
She came here. She got married so there was nothing here.
LJ
Yeah. What was it like out here?
SK
No house.
MK
Did we have electricity?
SK
No water. In Japan we would think about those kind of, you know, you'd go anywhere but they had lights and everything in there. It was quite different, yeah.
LJ
Yeah.
SK
Mary was with me there and everybody helped me to ...
LJ
To kind of get settled?
SK
Yeah.
LJ
Yeah. What was your first job when you came back to BC?
MK
Fish plant, I guess.
SK
Fish plant processing herring.
LJ
Herring?
SK
Yeah, processing herring in Tofino.
LJ
In Tofino?
SK
Yeah.
MK
And then you did herring roe, Suzy.
SK
Yeah, in the next year I came over to the Ucluelet plant and worked in the fish plant. I was twenty-six working in the fish plant cutting fish and all the stuff. Yeah, she worked, too.
LJ
You were at the fish plant as well?
MK
At the fish plant, too, yeah.
LJ
Yeah, for quite a while?
MK
Yeah.
SK
Yeah.
LJ
So you said that you learned to cook as a domestic in Toronto. Did you come back to BC with a new found love of cooking?
MK
No, we ... The ban was lifted so my husband wanted to come back fishing because he was subscribing to Western Mariner in those days and there was a boat being built in Brentwood Bay and he was interested in that so he was anxious to get back here and find financing for it. We came back and he got the financing from BC Packers and that was okay but when we got here, goodness, there was no water, no electricity. I don't know, it changed my whole lifestyle. And then I worked in a coop store for, I don't know how long, and then a butcher shop, and then the fish plant opened. What year was that?
SK
1974
MK
'74, that's when we all went to work in the fish plant.
LJ
Oh, okay. You both experienced the war very differently.
MK
Yeah, it's very different.
LJ
So I'm wondering if you can reflect on any ... were you aware of any racism in your upbringing during the war? Any difficulty or tensions that you found here and, Suzy, in your case, maybe something very different?
SK
Different, yeah. So that time my family, only me and my sister and half-brother, lived with my grandparents. Everybody lived in Canada. Yeah, mom and dad and two brothers and a sister. Yeah.
LJ
And you were here and you were in Canada during the war. I'm wondering if you were aware of racism locally in the community.
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MK
We lived in the east end of Vancouver city. My mother had a confection store and she didn't speak perfect English but she was able to communicate with some of the customers. So we didn't feel anything like that but my husband's mother and my mother were good friends and my husband was on the west coast and they had to leave. They were given, what, fourty-eight hours' notice to pull out. My husband's mother was living in Vancouver and she told my mother that this is what's happening, that we're all going to have to move and, of course, my mother she really got frantic. She decided that we better leave before we're going to be all separated because my brother was of age and so she hired two friends that had a truck. One in Pitt Meadows and one in Whonnock. They came over and hauled all the groceries from the store and we pulled out at about 2 A.M. in the morning and we headed for Kelowna not knowing anything about ... Of course, that was in January so we hit snow and it was a scary trip.
LJ
Yeah.
MK
Anyways the owner of our store, my mother explained to me what was happening, he said to my mother “you people go.” If it wasn't for him we'd be stuck in Vancouver and would be put into camps all over. My mother thought that we were teenagers and we can go to work in the orchards. That was her plan. So exactly that's what ... We were old enough to support ourselves so we didn't feel like some other family with a lot of children. We didn't feel that.
LJ
So did you make it to Kelowna?
MK
Yes, we did. When we got to Kelowna the Japanese people there were not very nice to us.
LJ
Oh, wow.
MK
They didn't understand what was going on. There was a lot of friction there but eventually they found out and we more or less moved into the community and joined things and, you know, sort of tried to fit in. Eventually, they understood what was going on. So that wasn't too bad. After a couple of years I got married and we landed in Toronto. So that's my story.
LJ
Were you happy to head to Toronto or was it ...
MK
Well, no, in a way I wasn't because I'm going a distance away from my mother, my brother, and my sister. Yeah, but it's, I think, in those days I think it was ... I don't know, I guess Ellen could explain it better. What's Sho Ga Nai mean in English. I don't know.
SK
Yeah you have to ...
MK
It can't be helped. It's something we have to, you know, anyways.
LJ
What were you hearing about? About all this going on in Canada when you were back in Japan?
MK
Speaking in Japanese to Suzy
SK
No, before I think.
MK
Before you went there.
SK
Yeah. I don't know nothing. Speaks Japanese to Mary
LJ
Were you hearing anything about what was going on in Canada?
SK
No. No. I don't know. I didn't talk to mom and dad. I don't remember.
MK
My parents didn't want to talk about things like that that much. They always kept it to themselves and tried to survive.
LJ
Yeah.
SK
I don't know anything. So, that, I can't ...
LJ
Yeah. When you came back to Canada in 1960, though, did it feel ...
SK
Okay. Yeah. Yeah.
LJ
But different?
SK
Different but okay. Yeah. Yeah.
LJ
I'm wondering if you, you know, you talked about your mom's confectionery shop. I'm wondering as well when you came back from Japan if you brought things back with you, or remember taking things out to Kelowna with you, or if there were objects that were particularly significant to you, things that you held onto, mementos that you really appreciated.
SK
I don't understand any English so that's a problem, yeah. So I will talk in Japanese to her and about mom. So she'll help me. Yeah, that's all.
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LJ
Yeah. Was there anything that you remember bringing with you to Kelowna? Taking with you, like, a memento or ...
MK
No, we packed up our truck with all the groceries from the store; two trucks. So we had enough groceries to last us for quite a while. I remember that, yeah.
LJ
Your home in Vancouver, can you describe it a little bit before you left?
MK
Yes, we came back a few years ago. A friend took us to look at the store that we lived in. It's still there. It's a small store. I didn't realize it was that small but it's still there. It's still sitting there.
LJ
Do you remember where it was or the address?
MK
Yes, yeah.
LJ
Where was it?
MK
It's at Powell and Victoria.
LJ
Powell and Victoria, okay.
MK
Yeah.
LJ
What was your room or your dining room table ... are there things that you remember distinctly about your house?
MK
No, we lived in the back of the store. It was half of a house and the store in front. So we didn't have anything fancy like a dining room or stuff like that. No. Those days.
LJ
When you came back from Toronto you settled in Ucluelet first or ...
MK
Yes.
LJ
Here, on this property? Or ...
MK
Yes.
LJ
And you have quite a collection of cultural artifacts and photographs. Where did you gather all these from?
MK
I think Ellen's parents did pack some stuff with them wherever they went. I have no stuff like that but we did belong to the historical society and we'd, sort of, pick up things. A lot of these pictures are from the museum in Port Alberni. I've been getting them, yeah.
LJ
Let's see. I'm just thinking. So, you mentioned the orchard in Kelowna a little bit. Can you tell me more about what the work was like? You probably saw some snow.
MK
Yes, we did.
LJ
Was that the first time you had dealt with much snow?
MK
No. Well, we never worked in the orchard at all. When we went to the orchard to work my mother would climb up the high part. My sister and I were just picking up apples on the ground. We didn't know what to do. We were scared of ladders but I don't know. I guess we just seemed to manage. It didn't bother us. It was something that we felt that we had to do. That was our way of life.
LJ
So was it an everyday sort of thing? You'd go out and ...
MK
Yeah, in the orchards and then we first landed at a greenhouse. English people owned the greenhouse and they were retiring. They were looking for workers so we were lucky that we were to get it. So off seasons from the ... It was a tomato greenhouse. So when they're not busy we would work in the orchards. We were kept busy all around. Yeah, but the winter was cold.
LJ
Yeah. Tell me more about that. What was that like? Did you have the right clothes? How did you stay warm?
MK
I can't remember. I can't remember. We just did it. I can't remember. When you're young you don't think of things like that.
LJ
Yeah, I suppose so. Tell me a little bit about where we are. We're in Ucluelet, British Columbia. It's a fairly small community. What is the Japanese Canadian community like in Ucluelet?
MK
When we came here? Okay, when we came here there was a little bit of static in Ucluelet, too. So that's how we landed here but my husband said to Ellen's mother, Isabel, she's passed away but she said to us “you know, you two will have to get off your butt and join the community, join everything, and sort of fit into the community.” We did exactly that.
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MK
Our kids were still young, just started school so the first thing we did was join the PTA. So we didn't feel any ... we didn't have any problems. Yet, other people had problems in other areas but not here. We managed to fit in, too. I took part in the PTA. I took part in the swimming club and the recreation and then the last was the historical society. I've been in it since '89. They're trying to get a museum going but it's a long time.
LJ
A museum in Ucluelet?
MK
Right here, yeah. We have a lease lined up at the coast guard but there's no funding around right now with the government. So we're working, sort of, backwards. We have archival stuff collected and all that sort of stuff but we need big money for the building. Yeah.
LJ
You mentioned the PTA. So you raised children here in Ucluelet?
MK
Yes, our kids had to walk. There was no road here. They had to walk the trail and yeah.
LJ
How many children did you raise here?
MK
I think with the few other families that lived here. So I think about fifteen. Ellen would probably know exactly.
LJ
But you had how many kids yourself?
MK
I had two boys. Yeah.
LJ
You had two boys, okay. Where are they now?
MK
The eldest has passed away and the second one is a commercial fisherman.
LJ
In Ucluelet?
MK
Yeah, in Ucluelet.
LJ
Okay. What is Ucluelet like today as a Japanese Canadian community and as a place to live?
MK
She would know how many families there were in Ucluelet. At that time there was lots but now it's just Kimotos and Oyes. There's not many left. They've all moved out or passed away. The kids grew up so they moved to Vancouver to further their education and all that sort of stuff.
LJ
Mhm. You came to Ucluelet from the city. So did you have any, sort of, difficulties kind of finding your way at first coming from the big city to the small town?
MK
Well, this is what I don't understand. I seem to have adjusted to it. I had no problem. I think a little bit stupid, I don't know but my sister, Ellen's mother and I, we both didn't have any problem. We managed to raise the kids the way ... things were inconvenient but we managed and then they grew up and left school and are doing fine and all this sort of thing. We were lucky, I think, that we came to Spring Cove but when we first came here, the first few years, I think people thought we were a little bit weird living out here, out in the sticks here. It didn't bother us. We just managed and carried on.
LJ
It was the fishing industry that really drew you out here?
MK
Yes, we had quite a fleet here in Spring Cove here. The pictures will show that, yeah.
LJ
So what is it about the fishing industry that you gravitated toward, that you really loved?
MK
What did we like about fishing? I don't know. The men did.
LJ
Yeah, but you were involved in the fishing industry yourself for a long time.
MK
Yeah, that was the only work that was available here so we went to work, yeah. I don't know if our answers are good enough for you.
LJ
No, of course. We're really just interested in learning about your story and how you came to be where you are and capturing those memories so it's all good.
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MK
When there were quite a few families living here there was what we would call a day, you know. The Japanese families had a booth and all the ladies got together and we made sushi and all that stuff. We did very well but then as years went by some got elderly so they left. No booth now. People keep talking about our booth. They miss our booth.
LJ
Mhm.
MK
So we enjoyed that. We fit into community events and we always took part in whatever came around. Yeah.
LJ
Yeah, tell me more about that sushi. What kind of sushi would you make?
MK
We did traditional Japanese sushi.
SK
Oni futomaki.
LJ
Yeah.
SK
Inari sushi, and chow mein and sunomono.
MK
Yeah, we had chow mein and chicken teriyaki and kamaboku. It's a fish cake.
SK
Octopus.
MK
Octopus salad, yeah, that's right. It was fun when the family all got together and we ... Also we had a fishermen's ball that started in the '60s. That was just between Tofino and Ucluelet and it was all seafood. It was a big event usually in February when there's no fishing. It was a big event and we all took part in that.
LJ
What happens at the fishermen's ball?
MK
What happened to it?
LJ
What happens? It sounds like a very fun kind of ...
MK
It was fun but one of the negatives is all the fishermen they, you know, they aged and some retired. There's nobody around. It's just the younger doing commissions. Not enough to, you know, do like that. I think we made enough things for maybe 265 but lots of times there would be a little more people attending but that was all just fishermen and their families. It was fun. All the seafood you could think of.
SK
You would have a little party at your house.
MK
Oh, yeah. Every new year they had a little ... This place was an army place, air force and army, yeah. So those big huge building where you came from that's where we settled. There were no houses then. My husband and I we lived in what you called the recreation hall. It's a big hall. So we just used a portion of that building. So every new year all the Japanese families from Ucluelet, we all got together at our place and we had a big new year fest. Lots and lots of fun.
LJ
So tell me more about this rec hall that you first came to. Where was this?
MK
It's at the sea plane base.
LJ
The sea plane base.
MK
That's where the Yuki day event was this year but next year it's not going to be there.
LJ
The rec hall, it's not still there is it?
MK
It's still there, yeah.
LJ
It's still there, okay. You had a little corner of it? Can you describe the space that you had there?
MK
Well, no, it's quite a large hall. I don't know how big but we had the whole one end of the hall. It was all food, yeah.
LJ
Yeah. This is where you first lived when you moved to Ucluelet?
MK
No, we lived here. There was a recreational hall here for the army, air force, yeah.
LJ
Oh, okay. I see. So this is where you had ...
MK
We moved in there, yeah.
LJ
Yeah, okay. Now I'm really hungry listening to all this. All these delicious things that you were cooking up. What do you remember eating when you were in Kelowna? The food must have been different?
MK
Oh, yes. Not much meat. It's mostly veggies. Yeah.
LJ
Was it good? Did you miss food from ...
MK
No, it's something that we just managed to put up with. We didn't complain to mother. It was always just something we ...
LJ
She wouldn't have tolerated colaining?
MK
No, I guess not.
LJ
Yeah. What was the food like in Toronto? That must have been different, too.
MK
It was different, yes.
LJ
What did you find out there?
MK
Well, even in Toronto we missed sea food so my sister-in-law, we would go down to Eaton's first thing in the morning to look for fish. We did that every morning; look for fish. It was cheap in those days. Fish was not like it is now. I can't remember eating too much meat in Toronto either.
LJ
In Japan, Suzy would have been eating all kinds of fish I'd suppose, right? Yeah.
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SK
I have to say, my father is a fisherman in Japan. Everyday he'd bring me a different kind of fish but I don't like fish. When I came over here the first time with my mother and brother they served me a salmon. It was very, very tasty. Yeah, very, very oishi katta.
LJ
Yeah, so it was salmon in BC that made you like fish?
MK
Yeah, the BC salmon.
SK
After that I liked fish. Any fish I can eat.
LJ
You like them all now. Yeah.
SK
Yeah.
LJ
Let's see. I have so many questions to ask. So you said that you were involved with the historical society. Maybe you can just tell me a little bit about some of the work that you did with them.
MK
Oh, I was asked to join the historical society so that I could, more or less ... the history of the Japanese.
LJ
Yeah.
MK
There's quite a few other members on the board but I was, more or less, into the Japanese side of it. So I managed to collect a lot of pictures. We had a relative in Toronto. He's a commercial photographer and the Japanese community in Toronto, most of his photos are there now. He's passed away but he's turned all his photos to them but he was sending me anything pertaining to the west coast that he had collected. I would get it here. So that's why I have all this collection. I was lucky.
LJ
And all preserved. You kept it all.
MK
I've got the album. That's the album. I don't know if it's going to be worth it but I thought I'll bring it just in case.
LJ
Sure. Can I bring it over?
MK
Oh, yes.
LJ
Okay.
MK
Do you want us to go to the table?
LJ
I'll come ... Sure, yeah, we can come to the table. I'll grab the ...
MK
Would that be better?
LJ
Sure, that might be better.
SK
Yeah.
MK
Okay. I didn't know if it would be any use but I should get it, yeah.
LJ
Have a seat. Okay.
SK
It's okay.
MK
Have you been to Toronto or are you going to be there?
LJ
Yeah, I've been to Toronto a few times.
MK
They have a tremendous collection of ...
LJ
They do, yeah. Several folks who are working on this project are based out of Toronto.
MK
Oh, okay.
LJ
I'll let you show me whatever you want to start with there. There's so much. Why don't you have a seat.
MK
These are not pictures of after we came back here. These are from pre ...
LJ
Sure, that would be great.
MK
I don't know you'll have to look at it yourself. I'm not from the coast so I can't give you too much.
LJ
Right, of course, this would be before you were here. Right.
MK
Yeah.
LJ
These are fishing boats?
MK
Mostly it's all fishing. Yeah.
LJ
Right. Lots of Japanese Canadian fishing boats.
MK
Oh, yes.
LJ
Yeah. Do you know what happened to those boats or where they ...
MK
They were confiscated. I don't think ... most of them they were just, the government seized it, and then they sold it cheaply to others. I don't think they even got it paid for what, you know.
LJ
This is a great photo.
MK
Yeah, it is but these are way before we came to the west coast. These are ...
LJ
1938.
MK
Yeah.
LJ
Yeah. Wow. This would have been downtown Port Alberni.
MK
Yeah.
LJ
Wow, it looks very different. This is an amazing collection.
MK
We had albums in the booth yesterday at Yuki day so I was able to ask.
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LJ
What do you think when you look at some of these photos? So, you know, we have photos here and folks are out on Green Cove relaxing.
MK
Well, you know, with the evacuation they lost, what, eight years, nine years of their lifestyle. So it's, yeah.
LJ
I mean, you know, we see photos here of, I think, wakeboarding is that what that is?
MK
Yeah. See these are Kildonan canneries. Cannery in Kildonan. There's no cannery there now but those are those days.
LJ
What was the Kildonan cannery? What were they canning out there?
MK
I think they were canning salmon. I don't know. Yeah, it's way before our times.
LJ
Yeah. Big cannery?
MK
I think so. There are some pictures of the building.
LJ
Yeah, is that it?
MK
No, that's Bamfield.
LJ
Oh, that's Bamfield, okay.
MK
Yeah, it might be in some other book.
LJ
Okay.
MK
That's here, Spring Cove. Not that picture but this is here.
LJ
This is here, yeah. And who is this?
MK
I don't know. You know the people who lived here before we came here?
LJ
Right, okay.
MK
See that's here. That's Spring Cove, yeah.
LJ
Wow.
MK
There used to be a lifeboat station here.
LJ
Mhm. It's pretty busy.
MK
Yeah.
LJ
What do we have here?
MK
This is, I think, May Day or something. In Ucluelet the Japanese girls, they had a float and they did some dancing or something. This is way before. Not before I came.
LJ
Yeah.
MK
And these are when the boats were seized, yeah.
LJ
This is a Japanese passport?
MK
Yeah.
LJ
I can make out the surname. Is it Kimoto?
MK
Kimoto.
LJ
Yeah.
MK
Yeah, I see that. That's my grandpa.
LJ
That's your grandfather's?
MK
Yeah.
LJ
Yeah.
MK
Kimoto grandfather, yeah.
LJ
1914.
MK
Speaking in Japanese to SuzyThere he is.
LJ
This is your grandfather?
MK
Yeah. Kimoto grandfather and grandmother, yeah.
LJ
They're a good looking couple.
MK
Yeah. This is Clayoquot. The Kimoto family pioneered in Clayoquot but they couldn't go back there so they had to come here. Ellen told you the story.
LJ
So the Kimoto family first arrived in Clayoquot?
MK
Clayoquot, yeah. Stubs Island they called it in those days.
LJ
And this would have been 19 ...
MK
1922 or '23 I think. Something like that. Ellen could tell you more about that story.
LJ
This picture would have been taken in Clayoquot then?
MK
I don't think so. I don't know. Not Clayoquot, no. That would be Steveston or Vancouver. Maybe Steveston, I don't know. Yeah.
LJ
This might be Vancouver? Hard to tell.
MK
New Westminster. See, they moved the ... These are when they were seizing the boats and that, yeah.
LJ
Do you remember that? Do you remember those days?
MK
No, we left before that happened.
LJ
Do you remember hearing about it?
MK
Yeah, we heard about it.
LJ
I guess the radio? Or, how would you ...
MK
The word got around Vancouver. Word gets around pretty quick, yeah.
LJ
What was that like? How was the word getting around?
MK
Well, my mother said all of a sudden we have to go. We just had to go. We were young then. So ...
LJ
Did you know what you were going for?
MK
No, she said we just have to go; pack up. So we sure packed up quick and we left.
LJ
Yeah.
SK
And then went to Kelowna?
MK
Yeah, and then we hit snow in Hope and then I went “oh my gosh” but we got there.
LJ
Yeah.
MK
We thought we would get stopped on the way. We thought the RCMP will stop us but, no, we were lucky.
LJ
So you knew that you had to get away because of the war
MK
Yeah, we knew we had to.
00:40:10.000
00:40:10.000
LJ
But the RCMP didn't ...
MK
No, we were lucky because we traveled in the middle of the night.
LJ
Middle of the night, and it was quite snowy. So this would have been March or ...
MK
January, end of January.
LJ
Okay, yeah, right in the midst of the snow for sure.
SK
Yeah, a cold time.
LJ
Yeah. What did folks here in Kelowna ... were folks in Kelowna aware of what was going on?
MK
No, they weren't. We were more or less treated like enemies when we first got there. You know, Japanese among Japanese. They didn't know why but all of a sudden we were all coming into Okanagan and then they understood in the end.
LJ
After you came in, were there other families that ...
MK
Yeah, others followed suit yes.
LJ
Pretty quickly.
MK
Yeah.
LJ
Yeah. So when you say that they treated you like enemies do you remember, like, does something in particular stick out to you?
MK
Well, they could look at you and not be friendly. You know, they figured we don't belong there. What were we doing, you know. They knew that we left Vancouver, escaped from Vancouver. We didn't commit a crime or anything like that but, still, we felt that they weren't nice to us.
LJ
Yeah. How old were you when you were in Kelowna?
MK
I was twenty-two and I went to Kelowna in 1950. January '50 so I'd be twenty.
LJ
So you were very much done with school at that point and working full-time.
MK
Yes, yes, yes.
LJ
Did you come back and go to school or go to university.
MK
No, no, nothing like that.
LJ
And here are some more photos with ...
MK
Those are the ...
LJ
RCMP?
MK
Yup.
LJ
Suzy what do you think when you look at these photos because this was not your world. In Japan this was not going on.
SK
Oh, definitely. Yeah, yeah.
LJ
Is it strange to look at these photos and think about how it was like here?
SK
Yeah, I heard stories from them all the time. I was just over at that time, right. I don't know, anyway.
LJ
Yeah. In Japan it was ... Was there a sense that Canada was an enemy or ...
SK
I don't know. I'm too little so I don't know.
MK
She was too young.
LJ
Too young, yeah.
SK
Yeah.
MK
I think they might have felt ... got the same reception we got when we went to the Okanagan. You know, even in Japan for a little while. Yeah.
SK
After mom and dad came back home they never talked about those kind of stuff. So I don't know anything.
MK
They don't talk about it. Yeah.
LJ
Yeah. Here's the RCMP.
MK
They're seizing radios and all that sort of stuff.
LJ
Yeah. So when you look at these photos, you know, like you said you were very lucky, what sort of feelings does it bring up for you knowing what other folks may have gone through and things that were taken?
MK
I felt that we were lucky that my mother made a decision pretty quickly and we left Vancouver.
SK
Speaking in Japanese to Mary
MK
I always wanted to see the picture, yeah.
LJ
When you were in Kelowna is there anything that you really missed from Vancouver? Did you miss ...
MK
No. You know, like I said, everything was work, work, work. No time for pleasure. We were old enough to understand the circumstances that ... Mother talked to us so ...
00:45:00.000
00:45:00.000
LJ
Was there anything that you wished that you were able to access or, you know.
MK
I can't remember that back.
LJ
Yeah. The water, did you miss being on the water?
MK
Oh, I don't think I missed anything really. It just went by. Each day was, we just went by each day.
SK
Speaking Japanese to Mary
LJ
How long were you in Kelowna for?
MK
I think I was there for just a couple of years. Yeah.
LJ
Just. That's a long time.
MK
My mother and them stayed but I got married so I left Kelowna. I think about a couple of years.
LJ
And she stayed put in Kelowna?
MK
Yeah, she stayed put for a while and then moved out to Vancouver.
LJ
Yup. Where was your husband from?
MK
He's from Clayoquot. Tofino, yes, he was a fisherman and that's all they knew was fishing and always wanted to come back. So that's why we came back. We drove all the way from ... We sold the house and he bought a Pontiac and we drove all the way from Toronto. We hit Winnipeg snow, which he's not used to driving in, so we went down Montana way and came through and there was no snow. Yeah.
LJ
That's a long drive.
MK
It was a long drive. Like I said, it didn't seem to bother me. I had two boys and it didn't bother me at all. We just thought we had something we had to do and we ...
LJ
You had to come back.
MK
Come back, yeah. He wanted to come back so we came back.
LJ
He really missed the water.
MK
That's why, yeah. Don't mind my ... I'm not crying. I'm allergic to something. My tears are always running like this.
LJ
Well, there's no shortage of trees outside.
MK
Yeah, I think it is that. Yeah.
LJ
Yeah. So where did you meet your husband? How did you two meet?
MK
It was arranged. My mother's, her friends.
LJ
Okay.
MK
I think it's the same as Suzy.
SK
Me, too. Yeah.
MK
Most of those days it was arranged, arranged marriage.
LJ
When was your marriage? When did you get married, Suzy?
SK
In Japan.
LJ
And you came back together?
SK
Married and came back together to Canada, yeah. So I don't know where I'm going to.
MK
She didn't know that she was going to end up here. Yeah, it must have been a shock.
SK
At the time, along the highway, stuck in the entry and there was nothing, no right, nothing. Where am I going?
LJ
Where were you in Japan. What city were you in in Japan?
SK
I worked in Kainan city hall for seven years and then I came here. I didn't go to university but I finished high school and then worked for seven years. After I came here I missed my friends.
MK
Yeah, I guess so.
SK
Yeah. That's what I'm thinking but I don't know.
LJ
You've made friends here?
SK
Yeah. Everybody is so friendly and nice. I know everybody.
LJ
You've certainly made friends here, along the years?
MK
Yeah, we did. Yes.
SK
Everybody knew the Kimotos.
MK
That's what we were told. We were supposed to fit into the community and change things. We sure did.
LJ
Fit into the community and change things?
MK
Yeah.
LJ
That's two different things.
MK
Yeah.
LJ
Yeah. So how do you ... You told me about how you fit into the community. How have you changed things?
MK
How did I change things? They got to know us. We're not as bad as they thought we were. I don't know.
LJ
Yeah, do you think people thought that you all were?
MK
Yeah and, you know, we were active in lots of things. We took part in lots of things because of the kids when they were young.
LJ
Were your husbands active in the community?
MK
Yes, he was active in his line of things. Yeah. Same as my son now. He's very active in the commercial fishing end of it.
LJ
Yeah.
MK
Environmental things and whatever. He's into that.
LJ
Yeah. I have it your husband was busy in Ucluelet?
MK
Yeah, he was a fisherman. Yeah, yeah. They all tried to fit in. The men did, too. That's the Kimoto men. I don't know if the other families did. Some men didn't. They didn't speak English so they found it difficult to join in but the Kimoto family the men all fit in to whatever. Even the kids did. Yeah.
00:50:12.000
00:50:12.000
LJ
And you raised two boys here. Did you raise any children here, Suzy?
SK
Yeah, two girls and one boy.
LJ
Two girls and one boy, wow. That's a full house.
SK
Yeah.
LJ
And what are they left to go do? What are your children doing these days?
MK
Danny's into fishing but he's a broker. Is that what it's called? Yeah, broker.
SK
And owns a company, too.
MK
Yeah and then her eldest, Caroline, is ... What was he ...
SK
Some kind of work in the college. Now she's living in Kimberley.
LJ
Oh, okay.
MK
Linda is in Victoria.
SK
Working in a doctor's office.
MK
She's working in a doctor's office.
SK
She used to be involved in basketball.
MK
Basketball, oh, that's right. She was managing the men's basketball. She takes part in the, what do you call that, the running? What do you call that?
SK
She finished the Ironman race. She made it fifteen and a half hours. She was biking and running. She just made it, finished quarter to eleven.
MK
Oh, wow.
LJ
Do your children have much of a sense of what life was like during the war? Do you think that they know?
MK
We talk once in a while. They have a little inkling, yeah. My grandsons are more interested than my kids are. They're interested in what happened to those days, yeah.
SK
I don't ... I cannot explain to them and come over here, you know, Auntie Mary. So they don't know.
MK
Yes, when they come over, the families, they come over to visit every summer or whatever. With Ellen, she'll talk about it so that's how they know. They're learning. I have a grandson. They're both artists. One just opened up a studio over a year and a half ago near Granville Island there. The second one is working for Microsoft. He's also an artist but thought there's more money working. They come over and they enjoy it because Ellen talks about it because Ellen is learning lots and she talks to them. So even our relatives from back in Toronto they come over and the young people sit and want to listen to her. So they're learning now. They didn't hear about it before. They didn't know nothing like that.
LJ
And you didn't hear about it in school.
MK
No, not in school.
LJ
Yeah. No, it's part of our history unfortunately.
MK
Well, what happened right after evacuation to a lot of the families, we shouldn't talk about the past. This is what they always had but, now, the past should be known. It should be exposed. This is why the young people are starting to find out. Before that they didn't know anything like that, no.
LJ
Yeah, no, I hear a lot of that for sure.
MK
You do?
LJ
Yeah. It's certainly important to talk about it and learn about it. Absolutely. Your mom, did she talk much about the war after?
MK
No, she didn't. No. I guess she didn't need to. We just fit right in and did what she wanted us to do and we seemed to manage. Suzy, I think she was satisfied. I don't know laughs
00:55:03.000
00:55:03.000
LJ
But even years later after the ban was lifted and ... Did she ever talk about those days or moving out to Kelowna?
MK
No, she didn't.
LJ
Yeah.
MK
Just carry on. That's what we did.
LJ
She sounds like a tough woman.
MK
Yeah, she was tough.
SK
Yeah.
LJ
And your dad?
MK
I lost my dad when I was fourteen.
LJ
That's quite young, yeah. So your mom had to manage all by herself.
MK
That's right, yeah.
LJ
Yeah. I just lost my train of thought for a second. The fishing boats, can you tell me more about what it was like and what the boats were like and just more about some of the life on the docks and on the boats?
MK
Gee, I couldn't tell you because I'm not from the coast here.
LJ
Yeah. When you came out here there was a boating and fishing life going on, no?
MK
Oh, yeah. Well, the reason why they were ... When we first came my husband was the first one to come back east. The year before there was other, I think three fishermen, they fished one year without their family here but when we came back my husband went to BC Packers and tried to get financing for this boat. He got it and he told me that, you know, “I can get you ten high liners if you can support them.” They had no money but, you know, so he arranged it. So the ten families and fishermen came back here and started. They were high liners anyways. If it wasn't for BC Packers, you know, they would have never made it.
LJ
What's a high liner?
MK
High liner means the ones who are catching lots of fish. Some boats do well, some boats don't do well. Yeah.
LJ
So he was doing well.
MK
Well, I think he BS the company a little bit but they all did come back, all the good liners. There are some that are not that well but he still talked to the companies, you know, he can do it. So he got a few of them back here.
LJ
He kind of wrangled a group back?
MK
Yeah.
LJ
That was ...
MK
That was my husband.
LJ
Yeah. So what were the boats like that he would have ...
MK
They're brand new boats. Brand new boats, yeah.
LJ
Made out here or made out ...
MK
Made in Port Alberni and Nanaimo I think, yeah. Some of them wanted to come back later. There was no time to have the boats built so they were buying secondhand boats but still it was the good boats. Yeah.
LJ
And they were going out and getting herring or ...
MK
Salmon, Salmon, yeah, yeah.
LJ
So what would a good catch be? What was like a good day?
MK
I don't know. I couldn't tell you.
LJ
I don't even know. High liners.
MK
Once they caught a lot of fish they were called high liners.
LJ
Yeah.
MK
But then, you know, it was the Japanese fishermen that introduced trawling, fishing trawling way. Yeah. So they're known to be good fishermen. They knew about fishing, I guess, from Japan. I don't know.
LJ
So your husband would have come back and kind of started up a small little fishing crew out here?
MK
Well, he talked to the company to help him start up a crew, yeah.
LJ
And then those ten that he brought out, was that the start of more?
MK
He brought more out, yes. Yes, I think he came out here and then the manager of the company went to Toronto and at the Royal York Hotel he had a meeting with the other ten that could possibly make it back and they all got back here. The manager flew to Toronto to, sort of, you know, find out everything. So that was the start of the Japanese coming back to the west coast.
LJ
Where would they all live when they got out here?
MK
Some lived in Port Alberni, some lived in Vancouver, some lived here, yeah. People had kids going to school. They wouldn't come out here because, you know, schooling is better in Vancouver. We had quite a family here, yeah.
01:00:00.000
01:00:00.000
LJ
So there was a little group here and then up in Port Alberni.
MK
Port Alberni, yup. There are a few families there and where else Suzy?
SK
Nanaimo.
MK
Oh, Nanaimo too, I guess. Those were the good old days laughs . Everybody came back and happy and get back into the waters to fish.
SK
Yeah.
LJ
Back and happy?
MK
Yup, back and happy.
LJ
Was business good?
MK
Yes, the price was good too, yeah.
LJ
And you could make a good living at it?
MK
Well, yeah.
LJ
Yeah, yeah. What were the hours like for your husband's working?
MK
The hours?
LJ
Yeah, the days, like ...
MK
Oh gosh. They'd get up at wee hours of the morning. They were out in the banks, come in at sundown, sunbreak, sundown.
SK
Day trips, yeah.
MK
Most of them did day trips. My husband did night trips. He would pack ice and stay out for a few days.
LJ
A few days? So where would he go to?
MK
All over the coast.
LJ
Yeah.
MK
But most of them did day trips.
LJ
They'd come back really, really late?
MK
Leave at sunbreak and come back at sundown. Oh, yeah. If there's no fish then they'll be in early but most of them stayed out most of the day.
LJ
So it was bad if you saw them come in early.
MK
Well, yeah, sort of. You know they didn't get fish.
LJ
And you would be working, canning?
MK
Yeah, in the fish plant. Not canning. What did we do then?
SK
Stuffing herring.
MK
We started on herring yeah, that's right, yeah.
LJ
What was your day like?
MK
We worked, what, eight hours?
SK
Yeah.
LJ
Come home?
MK
Come home, yeah.
LJ
Make dinner?
MK
Make dinner.
LJ
So what would that be like? Sometimes your husbands would be there, sometimes they wouldn't right?
MK
Oh, yeah.
LJ
And then you had your kids coming back from school.
MK
Yeah, well, we'd come home and we've got to prepare dinner and prepare his lunch for the next day to go fishing. My husband and I, I would prepare a few days meal so he would stay out for a few days but most of them had the day trip and they were busy. They've got to make ... feed their family and make lunch for the men. Yeah.
LJ
Did he have any special requests if he was going on long trips that you would pack for him or special things that he liked?
MK
Well, we'd figure what would be good for the few days. Yeah.
LJ
Those are, sort of, grueling schedules, long days. Not a lot of time ...
MK
But I think with even both of them, wives or the men, you know, it was something they had to deal with and they didn't bother. They did it.
LJ
When did things, sort of, wind down at the fish plants?
MK
Oh, in the fall. When it slowed down.
SK
Before it was only seasonal.
MK
It was seasonal, yeah.
SK
Yeah.
MK
Now it's different, I think.
SK
Yeah, different kind of fish.
LJ
What's it like now?
MK
Well, they have maybe double shifts or all day shifts going on.
LJ
Oh, wow.
MK
Yeah, depending on the fishing.
LJ
Yeah.
MK
The fish has to be processed pretty quick so there's no delays in processing. They'll just keep carrying on the shift and get it done, I think.
LJ
Would that have been something that you would have done, processing the fish?
MK
When we would work there, yeah.
LJ
So can you just tell me what that would be like, what the work was like, maybe just some of the steps?
MK
Well, we did herring. We did herring roe. You heard about herring roe.
LJ
Yeah, a little bit.
MK
And then we did fileting. What else?
LJ
Suzy's laughing.
SK
Caviar.
01:05:04.000
01:05:04.000
MK
Oh, yes, we'd make with the salmon roe we made caviar. That's right. Different things at the fish plant or whatever.
LJ
Yeah. So the herring would come in and you'd make herring roe.
MK
Yeah, get herring roe or freeze the herring.
SK
Pack and yeah.
MK
They had to have a technician in from Japan to do the herring roe.
LJ
Oh, really?
MK
They'd bring in ... Yeah.
LJ
Did you have a favourite fish to work on versus a favourite fish to eat?
MK
Favourite fish to eat would be salmon, I guess, but I don't know, in the end I didn't even want to work on any fish.
SK
Yeah.
LJ
So when you came home to cook dinner you didn't want to cook fish?
MK
No, no. My son wouldn't eat fish on the boat. He'll eat fish at home but he would never cook a fish on the boat.
LJ
Why's that?
MK
I don't know he's catching fish. That's a fisherman.
LJ
Yeah.
MK
Yeah.
LJ
But he'll eat it at home?
MK
Yup, eat it at home.
LJ
Yup. So, um, I think ...
MK
You want to take pictures of ...
LJ
Well, I, possibly, yeah, but I was thinking you have some amazing stuff here.
MK
She has, yeah, she'll have to come up and bring it out.
LJ
Yeah, she will.
MK
Her mother has nice stuff there.
LJ
Yeah.
MK
Yeah.
LJ
We'll have to find out about that stuff because that looks like ... What am I looking at there? Is that a tea set down there?
MK
Tea set down there, yeah.
LJ
Yeah.
MK
Yeah, that's ...
LJ
Did your family have one before the war?
MK
Oh, I think we had it but I don't think we brought it with ... when we packed we just left stuff like that behind. I got a few things of my mother's but it was mostly groceries from the store that we had loaded onto the truck. Anything else we just left it behind.
LJ
What other things would have been left behind, like, in the back of the store or in the house that you were in in Vancouver?
MK
Furniture and, you know, bedding. In the store there would be lots of stuff. We just took the food and she managed to take all the rice so we had rice lasting for quite a while.
LJ
Wow. Like a big sack of rice?
MK
Well, she got two truckloads so you can imagine having two truckloads.
LJ
Yeah. That's a lot of rice. So she would have left things like a tea set or ...
MK
Some stuff she would have left, yeah.
LJ
Do you remember anything distinctly her taking with her?
MK
I've got a big platter that we brought with us.
LJ
Yeah.
MK
I'm saving it for the museum. It's a huge platter but I didn't bring too much stuff.
LJ
What do you remember about the platter? Did you remember using it?
MK
Yes, for New Year's. It's like a lazy sue. The big one, yeah.
LJ
So you would use it on New Year's and what would you put on the platter?
MK
Oh, she had everything on it. Sushi and whatever. Traditional stuff she cooked.
LJ
What was in her repertoire? Did she have things that she really commonly cooked?
MK
For New Year's it's not that. New Year's it's something special, isn't it?
SK
Yeah, something different from every day stuff.
MK
Yeah, something different.
LJ
Can you tell me more about the platter? You don't have it here right?
MK
No, I've got it at home but no.
LJ
Yeah. It's about ...
MK
It's quite big. It's quite big, yeah. We used it at the fishermen's ball to put crab on it. That's what it was because the first fishermen's ball was only about a few people. I forget how many but anyways, less than a hundred I think. As the years went by it got bigger and bigger so the platter was not big enough so they ended up getting trays from the fish bath for the crab. So this platter was used just for prawns, I remember that.
LJ
Wow, that's a lot of prawns.
MK
A lot of prawns, yeah.
LJ
You really only remember the platter coming out for New Year's? It was a special occasion kind of thing?
MK
It's a special occasion, yeah.
LJ
But she saved it and brought it with her.
01:10:01.000
01:10:01.000
MK
Yeah.
LJ
A lot of groceries, yeah, and the platter. Was there anything else that you distinctly remember your mom saving?
MK
No, she didn't save not much stuff.
LJ
Yeah.
MK
No, yeah.
LJ
Yeah.
MK
Because you can only take so much, you know.
LJ
Right.
MK
And then we had to unload it. When we got to Kelowna we got into little shacks.
LJ
So, yeah, what time did you get into Kelowna?
MK
It was in January.
LJ
Did you get in in the early morning or the ... When did you have to unload all that stuff?
MK
I think it was early morning when we got to Kelowna. Yeah.
LJ
And you had these two trucks full of stuff?
MK
Two trucks full of stuff and the truck drivers had to leave in a hurry because we heard after they returned back to where they came from they had to move.
LJ
Oh.
SK
Oh, the truck.
MK
Yeah, so it was good timing for us but we don't know how they made out. We were worried they might get stopped on the way back but they didn't get stopped. We heard that they had to get ready to move themselves.
LJ
Mhm.
MK
Yup.
SK
Speaking Japanese to Mary
MK
Yeah, she'll have to come up. Her story is not finished yet. She'll have lots of stories. Yeah, she will yeah. She's been into everything.
LJ
So Ellen's got lots of stories?
MK
Yeah, she's the key of the Kimoto family right now. Yeah, she's into everything.
LJ
What is she into?
MK
Everything, yeah.
LJ
She's busy and active in all kinds of stuff?
MK
In certain things, yes. She's involved in lots of stuff, yeah.
LJ
This is a clock on the wall here.
MK
This is the fishermen's ball, yes. A few of us were on the committee for so many years and I have one, too.
LJ
This is the twenty-fifth anniversary of the fishermen's ball.
MK
Yeah, and that's mom and dad. They were involved in the committee.
LJ
That's your mom and dad?
MK
Yeah.
LJ
And that's her ...
MK
Yeah, that's Bob. That's her dad. The one in the green is my son; commercial fisherman.
LJ
That's your son?
MK
Yeah. He's still fishing.
LJ
Doug?
SK
Yeah.
MK
Yeah.
LJ
The fishermen's ball is no more, you said?
MK
No more, no, no.
LJ
How many more years did it go on for after?
MK
Is that the twenty-fifth year?
LJ
That's the twenty-fifth, 1986.
MK
Yeah, it went on for quite a while. I can't remember how many years but, yeah. People still talk about having another fishermen's ball but most of the fishermen are gone. They're all gone, most of them, yeah.
LJ
So a few years after that fishermen's ball would have been the redress movement.
MK
Yeah, yeah.
LJ
Were you active, at all, in that?
MK
The redress movement?
LJ
Yeah.
MK
No, we had friends that were involved in Ottawa.
LJ
What was your ... Did you have thoughts or opinions about it at all at the time?
MK
I don't think in BC there was that. I think in Victoria there was a group that was really involved in the redress. We had friends in Toronto that were involved in it. Other than that, no, I don't think the coast was that. Victoria was, though. I don't know if you know of Dick Nakamura. Have you heard of him?
LJ
Yeah.
MK
He was involved in it. He was the one that helped us organize part of the museum to be. In fact, the Burnaby Museum we had applied for funding and we didn't qualify because we had the land but we didn't have the building started. So we were granted 50,000 from the, I forgot what you call it, the foundation of the Japanese organization. So Dick was involved in that for us and he's not well now. So he's passed it on to John Shimizu. I don't know if you met him.
LJ
I haven't met him personally.
01:14:51.000
01:14:51.000
MK
Dick told him that when Ucluelet decides to get their ... when they get their building he wanted John to sit in on our committee for this money that's supposed to come back to Ucluelet. So they used our 50,000, Burnaby used our 50,000, for their end and in return they were going to do a traveling museum and get donations, go all over, and give us the donations but that never happened. They never had a traveling museum so it's in the works that someday we should be getting that 50,000. So this foundation, I forgot what they call that, anyways, steal lots of money and they're out here and collecting lots of interest.
LJ
Yeah. When the redress movement, sort of, came to an end and there was an apology do you remember what that felt like? Do you remember reading about that and hearing about a handshake between the prime minister and ...
MK
Yeah, that was good but Tofino here hasn't done it. Tofino owes us an apology but they haven't come through with it.
LJ
Oh.
MK
Because they banned the Japanese from coming back to Tofino. The Japanese, some of them, had property in Tofino and they lost it. Yeah, we weren't allowed to go back there. So they haven't apologized but even the province of BC have apologized but not Tofino.
LJ
Do you think that they ever will or ...
MK
I don't think they will. Not at this stage. I think the new mayor there, I don't think she feels it's up to her to do it. We know her but I don't think so. I don't think it will happen now.
LJ
So, then, you know, if Japanese Canadians were barred from owning property in Tofino that must have made Ucluelet a hot sport for Japanese Canadian fishermen and Japanese Canadians in general.
MK
That's why we all landed here.
LJ
Yeah. Would you go into Tofino?
MK
Well, if my husband says so I guess I have no choice.
LJ
Yeah, but was there a general sense among Japanese ...
MK
Well, he grew up in Clayoquot. So I knew his wish was to go back there.
LJ
But in terms of just getting around the area, you know, was there a sense that you weren't welcome in Tofino when you came back?
MK
Yup.
LJ
And stores? Do you remember feeling that in the shopping place?
MK
Not so much in the shopping, no, no.
LJ
But just living?
MK
Living, yeah.
LJ
And so as a result people settled down here?
MK
Yeah. I think there's just ... Well, Ellen's nephew lives in Tofino. He's got a sports business there. I think there's another family. There's two families in Tofino, isn't there? Or did you not know?
LJ
I don't know, not many.
MK
There's one at Chesterman's, yeah.
LJ
Okay.
SK
He's still living there?
MK
Kinoshta.
SK
Oh, a different one.
MK
Different one, yeah.
LJ
When would they have arrived in Tofino? Do you know?
MK
Oh, I think they arrived in Tofino after the evacuation, yeah. They bought property and yeah.
LJ
Oh, so they did buy property?
MK
No, it's been, the ban has been lifted.
LJ
Right, yeah.
MK
There's one fellow. He was an architect. He bought property at Chesterman's and he was refused. He had bought it but they told him he couldn't so he took it to wherever and they had to and that lifted the ban in Tofino but then none of us would go back there because, you know, the way things were. So that's, yeah.
LJ
And never an apology.
MK
No.
LJ
And before the war, certainly, there would have been lots going on, too.
MK
Oh, yeah. Lot's going on, yeah.
LJ
Can you tell me about the house and the land that we're sitting in now? This is Ellen's house?
MK
This is Mom's house, yeah.
LJ
This is Ellen's Mom's house?
MK
Yeah.
LJ
Okay.
MK
When we first came here there were all army huts here. Army and air force and there was a house in front of here. It's gone now. It was a first aid building for the air force and they lived in that. When they built this house they tore the other old one down. Yeah.
01:20:14.000
01:20:14.000
LJ
And they moved over here?
MK
Yeah.
LJ
When would they have moved over here?
MK
I think it was '83. Was it '83? She would tell you.
SK
I think one year before. '82 or something.
MK
'82. Yeah, something like that.
LJ
Yeah.
MK
We had the recreation hall and Suzy lived down below, you know, the house that's there it's a little bit there.
SK
The beach side.
MK
That was the officer's house.
LJ
Yeah. Suzy, you lived just across the street here then basically?
MK
Down below the beach.
SK
A long time ago, yeah.
LJ
Ellen would have been raised here then?
MK
Pardon?
LJ
Ellen's mom and dad would have been living here and then left this house to her?
MK
Yeah, Yeah.
LJ
But she wasn't raised in this house?
MK
No, she ...
LJ
Yeah, she would have been much older.
MK
Yeah, well, they built this house in '82, Ellen was born in '41.
LJ
Right, so she would have been in her '40s.
MK
She was living in the Riesling, this other house, the old house. Yeah, but in this spot though.
LJ
In this spot?
MK
Yeah.
LJ
This is a pretty spectacular spot, though.
MK
Yeah.
LJ
Yeah, so, you know, for the benefit of anyone in the future who's listening to this and not seeing what we're seeing, where are we sitting right now? What is out our window here? This is, um, what do you call this out here in front? You said that, before, is Fraser Island?
MK
George Fraser Island, yeah.
LJ
And this is, not the sea, this is just the ocean right here?
MK
It's the sea, yeah.
LJ
Yeah. It's a pretty wonderful ...
MK
Well, in the winter it's different. You get all the storms and it's a different picture. Even the ocean is different.
LJ
What's it like in the winter?
MK
Oh, you get the waves. Oh, it's different. People like to see, come to watch storm watchers. A lot of them come. You get that here.
LJ
Yeah. You must have seen the area change a lot.
MK
Oh, yeah.
LJ
What have you noticed in the last ...
MK
You mean all the houses, buildings, and that?
LJ
Yeah.
MK
More people, tourists.
LJ
Yeah.
MK
Yeah.
MK
We're sort of isolated. We get ... Also you get the beautiful sunset here, the sunrise. Oh, boy, yeah.
LJ
Because we're looking ... That's to the south, right?
MK
Yeah.
LJ
Okay. So, north, west. Okay, yeah. Sun rises in the east. Okay. Yeah.
MK
You get everything here.
LJ
Yeah. What's your favourite part of living here?
MK
I like the fall.
LJ
The fall?
MK
The fall, end of summer. It's coming up to that, yeah.
LJ
You get long days.
MK
Long days, yeah.
LJ
How about you, Suzy? It's been a while. You've been here for a while now. What do you like best about out here?
SK
Sunshine. I hate rain laughs
LJ
Yeah. You get a lot of sun over here?
SK
This year.
MK
This year lots of sun, yeah.
LJ
Yeah. What was the land like or the environment like in Japan? I know this is very different than Vancouver but what do you remember of ... certainly, outside your window didn't look like this.
SK
No. Japan has four seasons. In the spring and summertime it's very hot. I hate it. I hate that.
LJ
You don't like the summer?
SK
I don't like summer.
LJ
No.
SK
Yeah, yeah. Here, you can wear the same clothes all year round. In Japan, the summer and winter everything is different.
MK
Different seasons, okay.
SK
Different seasons, four seasons, different seasons.
LJ
Yeah. Well, as we sort of wrap up ... You said that, before we got started, that you told your story and talked about stuff a lot. How many times have you been interviewed?
01:25:15.000
01:25:15.000
MK
Oh, gosh, I don't know. Many times. People want to write a book, do this and that, I don't know.
LJ
Yeah, so what do you think is important for people to know about the war, about things that you saw, and experienced? Do you want to share?
MK
On Yuki day, we had this once a year, we had a booth and all these albums are put out. Lots of tourists never knew that this happened so it's good that it's exposed to the public. They don't know. In fact, my son had a radar and he had to get it fixed but he had some, I don't know, some sort of a laptop attached to it. So this fellow went to fix his, not the radar, it's something on the boat. I forget what it was. So he came across and saw all this tape on this thing. It's all about this evacuation. He said he never even knew that happened. He was telling my son. He phoned back and said “I never knew that had happened.” So it's nice that you have exposure, you know? I don't know if it's good or bad but I think it's good.
LJ
Yeah, it's probably good.
MK
People know anyways and then they understand and then you get along better.
LJ
That's the hope, right?
MK
We have no problems here. We've never had problems with, you know, people acting that way towards us.
LJ
Do you ever ...
MK
No discrimination, no.
LJ
Do you ever hear stories from other parts of the island or things about people not getting along so well?
MK
Yeah. I've heard some places where people blocked the people's driveways so they can't get out. We didn't have that here. They never blocked the boats from leaving the wharf or anything like that. No. I guess you get all kinds of stories. Yup.
LJ
Yeah, you do. I think you do. You get, you know, folks who were all different ages. For sure. Different experiences, went to different places.
MK
Even the kids, I know an incident here where a couple of boys got bullied because they were Japanese. Things like that, you know.
LJ
But your sons, they never had any problems?
MK
No, they never mentioned that but I've heard other Japanese boys got bullied at school and things like that.
LJ
Yeah. All different sorts of stories, right? And everyone's stories are their own and unique.
SK
Speaks in low tone to Mary
MK
Mhm. I don't know what ...
LJ
What's that?
MK
I mean downstairs. What's going on.
LJ
Oh, Ellen. Is Ellen a keen storyteller? Does she have lots of stories?
MK
Yeah, she's interested in stuff like this.
LJ
You were saying she tells your grandkids stories?
MK
Yeah, she ... Yup, they come here. A lot of them spend the summer here. You know, weekends and we have a big feast and that. They'll ask her a question and she's there to ...
LJ
And they're kind of spread out all over?
MK
Yup. “Oh, we never knew that. My mom and dad never said nothing like that.” Some parents don't want to talk about it. They don't tell their kids. Yup, they're adults and they learn it and that's good.
LJ
Did you talk about it with your kids a little bit?
MK
Oh, my boys? They know, yeah.
LJ
Yeah.
MK
Gradually they're picking up what it's all about.
LJ
Yeah.
MK
Well, Ellen's the oldest in the Kimotos, over here anyways. It's good she's there to talk to them and all that, yeah.
LJ
Yeah, and has a particular experience of being over here before.
MK
Yeah.
LJ
But you were in Vancouver which would have been ...
MK
Well, the other was born, she was born in, what ... Pearl Habour?
SK
Speaking in Japanese to Mary
MK
No, she was born here in Tofino but she didn't stay here very long. She was just a baby when they left.
LJ
Okay.
MK
There's a story about our mother, the historical society had it in Victoria, Ellen's a baby there. That's going around so it's nice.
LJ
Ellen's mom?
MK
Yeah.
LJ
What's the story about Ellen's mom?
MK
Oh, it's a story about her migration. It's quite a story.
LJ
Well, I think I've seen some of it but maybe you can just share it a little bit more with me so that we can preserve it.
MK
Let's get it from Ellen.
LJ
Yeah.
MK
When we did this historical thing with her mom they had cut out a lot of it because it had to be so many words and so many space. So a lot of it is taken out which is a shame because every little bit was, kind of, important to be told, the story. I think we still have it at the center, I don't know. At the community center, I think they have it there. I don't know how to find out. How long are you going to be here in Ucluelet?
LJ
We're here, really, until tomorrow.
MK
I see.
LJ
Yeah. So Ellen's mom, her story was chronicled in a panel?
MK
Yeah, she's from Tofino. So they only had, what, three days to move out? So it's a lot different from my case. We just decided to just go. Pack and go.
LJ
Mhm. Do you remember Pearl Harbour, where you were when that happened?
MK
Yeah, yeah.
LJ
Would you have already been in Kelowna at that point?
MK
Uh, no. We were still in Vancouver because we left in January.
LJ
Okay. So what was that like? What was the mood like in Vancouver?
MK
I really didn't know. I really can't tell you. It happened. I said “why?” and that was all.
LJ
Yeah.
MK
That was ... I didn't follow the news with Japan and the States so I don't know. I think my mother and them knew, yeah.
LJ
They weren't saying anything?
MK
They weren't saying anything, no.
LJ
Yeah.
MK
I don't know about in Japan.
SK
Speaking in Japanese to Mary
MK
Yeah.
LJ
Yeah, it was, um, do you remember Pearl Harbour in Japan? Was that something that people talked about?
SK
No, I only heard the news. They never talked about it. I don't hear any stories. That time I was in school, so I don't know.
LJ
Mhm. Okay, well I'm just going to take a break here.
01:33:49.000

Metadata

Title

Mary and Suzy Kimoto, interviewed by Josh Labove, 27 July 2015

Abstract

Mary and Suzy (Shizuyo) begin the interview describing their earliest childhood memories and upbringing. They talk about how they returned to Ucluelet after being evacuated from BC and the various jobs they had in Toronto during and after the war. Both interviewees reflect on the precious items their family took with them when leaving the province. Mary explains what the Japanese Canadian community in Ucluelet was like when they first arrived there after the war’s end. She also shows the interviewer various pre-war photos and highlights their significance. Mary also thinks about why her family decided to come back to Vancouver and what they missed about it. Near the end of the interview Mary expresses her thoughts and feelings about the redress movement and the government’s apology.

Credits

Interviewer: Josh Labove
Interviewee: Mary Kimoto
XML Encoder: Stewart Arneil
Publication Information: See Terms of Use for publication and licensing information.
Setting: Ucluelet, BC
Keywords: Powell Street ; Vancouver ; MacDonald Elementary School; Hastings; Cannery; Nootka; Maquinna; Lemon Creek ; Toronto ; Ontario ; Maid; Butler; Fishing; Tofino ; BC Packers; Brentwood Bay; Racism; Pitt Meadows; Whonnock ; Kelowna ; Victoria ; Confectionery Store; Mementos; Port Alberni ; Green Cove; Kildonan; Okanagan ; Trawling; Tea Set; Redress ; Burnaby Museum; 1920s – 1980s

Terminology

Readers of these historical materials will encounter derogatory references to Japanese Canadians and euphemisms used to obscure the intent and impacts of the internment and dispossession. While these are important realities of the history, the Landscapes of Injustice Research Collective urges users to carefully consider their own terminological choices in writing and speaking about this topic today as we confront past injustice. See our statement on terminology, and related sources here.