Jim Kojima, interviewed by Kyla Fitzgerald, 22 August 2015

Jim Kojima, interviewed by Kyla Fitzgerald, 22 August 2015

Abstract
Jim begins the interview describing his earliest childhood memories. He explains why his family moved back to in 1951. He describes the discrimination Japanese Canadians faced in the area before and after the war. Jim reflects on the significance of judo in his life, his involvement with the International Judo Federation, and his various roles at a number of Olympic judo events. He also talks about the origins of the Martial Arts Center and Steveston Community Center, and how Japanese and non-Japanese Canadians worked together toward its development. Near the end of the interview, Jim reflects on his current views regarding the internment and dispossession of Japanese Canadians. He also explains the history of BC’s canneries and the process of canning various types of fish.
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Kyla Fitzgerald (KF)
Alright today is Saturday August 22nd. My name is Kyla Fitzgerald and I am sitting down with Mr. Jim Kojima and we are currently at the Gulf of Georgia Cannery boardroom in Steveston BC. So thank you so much for taking the time to sit down with me.
Jim Kojima (JK)
You're welcome.
KF
Sharing your life story... Can we start with your childhood or maybe, perhaps, your life story of what you remember.
JK
Okay, I was born on March 23rd, 1938 in the Steveston Japanese Hospital on Number One Road in Chatham. When I was four years old we were evacuated to Alberta in April of 1942. All I can remember on the train was, as we were passing through the Rockies, was, my mother would say “Oh, I think there's another tunnel coming along.” Naturally, as a four year old I was quite excited to go through a tunnel. Our first place we stopped, and this was more from my mother's side, was that we stopped in Calgary, Alberta. My mother's comment to me in later years was, “Calgary looked like a nice place.” She said, “I was quite excited about it.” But, she said, “Within two hours we were put on another train, a smaller train going from Calgary to Lethbridge, Alberta.” In Lethbridge, Alberta when the train arrived it was a number of farmers waiting for the train to arrive. When the train arrived, we all got out. The farmers that were there would call out a name. Let's say, “Kojima family.” That was a farm you went to, or, “Kimura family” or whoever was on the train. The farmers all knew that they would be getting workers, Japanese workers, for their farms. It was sugar beet farming in Southern Alberta. We went to a farm called, Henry and Cora Blair was their name, and they had four boys: Bob, Ken, Archie, and Jimmy. Archie, the third brother, and I were the same age and Jimmy was one year younger. They were very poor farmers but Japanese people, one of their, probably, shortcomings are is they didn't like to complain. So we stayed on that farm for five years before my parents finally said, “We're going to move.” When we arrived at the farm, we were putting a chicken coup, it was a chicken coup, and, uh, there were my mother, father, grandmother, grandfather, and then on the father's side, grandfather, and then myself. So there should have been six of us, seven of us. Let's see, my mother, my father, grandmother, myself. There was seven of us in this chicken coup and it was a ten by twelve chicken coup. There was a stove in it. They had put a stove in it. The chicken coup's eaves wasn't closed off. So the first winter we were there, naturally, the snow would come in through the eaves.
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JK
So we were able to fill it up with material that Mr. Blair gave us and also even with clothes that we weren't using and stopped the snow and cold from coming in. They were, to me ... I guess I didn't realize the hardship so much because I was small and four boys, we played in the barns, played with the pigs and the cows and the horses. Two years later I went to school with the Blair kids. On the school bus we went to Picture Butte, Alberta. That was where the school was and the winters were harsh. There was no doubt about it and my mother had, 1943, she had ... I have six brothers and sisters from there and five were born in Alberta and one was born in Grand Forks, BC. The one child that was born, she was born in the wintertime and there was a blizzard and my father was able to go to a nearby farmer. In Alberta the farms are ... When you say nearby, they're not nearby. They're two or three miles away. Anyway, because of the blizzard he had to follow a fence, barbwire fence, to the next farmer and they had a jeep. They came with the jeep and took my mother to Lethbridge General Hospital. That's where we had to go. She made it just in time. I think the baby was, from what I gather, was just about born in the car when they arrived, but she made it there. In 1945, my mother's side father had stomach cancer and he passed away in Lethbridge General Hospital but some of the things I remember was, he was very, very staunch Japanese. He was like many Japanese. If you watch different movies about the Japanese history like, uh, love, I don't know if you know the movie 'Love ninety-nine years' it's produced in the states but he was like that, Mr. Hiramatsu. He figured the Japanese would never lose and my grandfather would say, “When the Japanese ...” this is in the hospital bed now, I was seven years old, “When the Japanese win and we're able to move, I'll take you back to Japan.” That was what I remember about him, but, you know, times are really tough. The funeral was held in Picture Butte, Alberta. Mr. Karamuta was the priest there, Buddhist priest, and cremation, they had to do the cremation in Calgary. So they went by train and, as I say, I don't know how they did it because money was scarce. They were able to do it because you ... Basically, the farm you lived on you got a portion of the net proceeds. You got a percentage of it. So the better farm you were on you made more money. Henry and Cora Blair were, you know, they were such friendly, friendly, people that, you know, if they had killed a pig they would give you meat or a cow. They would try to do everything they could for you, but, I guess we became very, very good friends. Even today when I have an opportunity to go back to Southern Alberta, Lethbridge, uh, Ken and Bob, the two oldest sons live in Lethbridge and the two younger brothers they live in Picture Butte. So I do go visit them when I do go to Alberta. When they'd been out here to Vancouver they've come to visit us also, here, in Richmond.
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KF
These are, just to clarify, the sons that you grew up with when you were a young boy, the people that you're still visiting now, the ones you grew up with?
JK
Right, the Blair family, yeah.
KF
Wow.
JK
After five years, finally my father said to Henry and Cora Blair that we're going to be moving to another farm. The farm was, I don't know the exact names, but the last name was Foster. It was like halfway between the Blair farm and Picture Butte, Alberta. It was closer to Picture Butte. We went to that farm for only one year and the following year we moved to Barnwell, Alberta which is between Lethbridge and Taylor. Once again, we only spent one year on that farm but they were all sugar beet farming. A lot of the ... Some of the things I remember about being in Alberta was, um, a lot of Japanese cultural things happened. Families got together, there was Obon festival, there was New Years, going to the Buddhist temple in Picture Butte, the funerals were just like as close to Japan as you could get, there was parties from the funerals. I remember, I guess most of what I remember was summer, June. So when he passed away, uh, eating the watermelon and lots of good food. Then in 1949, my uncle, which is my mother's uncle, lived in Grand Forks and they kept saying “Come to Grand Forks. Come to Grand Forks.” So we, in 1949, moved to Grand Forks near my uncle. There was quite a few Japanese families living in Grand Forks: Kondo, Sumaras, Shojis. There was a number of Japanese families living in Greenwood, Grand Forks, Christina Lake area. All that area had a lot of Japanese. My father ... In 1949 it was the first year that the Japanese ex-fishermen could go back to Steveston, here. So, he came back in the summertime and fished salmon. They couldn't bring their families out so he came back to Grand Forks and he worked in a sawmill in the wintertime. In '50, once again, he came back to fishing here in '50. In '51, we as a family moved to Steveston. My father fished for Nelson Brothers Fisheries and Nelson Brothers Fisheries had houses along the Fraser River near Nelson Brothers Cannery here, between Trikes Road and Number Two Road. Now there's a big pond there with boats in it but we lived there from '51 to 1957 when he had enough money to buy a house on Third Avenue and Broadway, here in Steveston. When we first moved out here in 1951, my grandmother ended up in, um, she had tuberculosis so she went to New Denver for two years from '51 to '53.
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JK
When we moved out here in '51, I went to Lord Byng Elementary School and in the early days, yes, there was a number of fights when we were called Japs or something like that but my recollection was, I was thirteen years old, and my recollection was we did have some fights but the fights didn't last a long time. We went to school in September and, I would say, by November, you know, these things didn't happen. Periodically, if you're playing ball or playing or doing something, they might have called you a Jap or something like that but I remember we didn't have a lot of discrimination in Steveston here. In 1953, in the early '50s, when you could move back here, there wasn't a lot of sports, organized sports, being played here. So a lot of us would get together and make a baseball team, softball team, or soccer. Not so much soccer. Hockey was out of our range at the time and there wasn't a lot of organized hockey. In 1953, ten fishermen got together. No, I should say nine fishermen and one diesel mechanic got together and said “We're going to start a judo club.” In those days, in the early '50s, you know, you had a lot of respect for your mom and dad. You did whatever your mom and dad said. So, they said “judo club is starting up.” My father was a fisherman, so, “You go to judo.” So in the early days, um, in 1953, September, we went to judo for the first time and it was eighty kids. They were all Japanese. Not one Caucasian. They were all Japanese because in those days, as I said, we listened to whatever mom and dad said. We didn't question it or talk back. And so, what do we wear as a judo outfit? Our mothers, in those days, they used to buy 100 pound rice sacks. Out of the rice sacks they made our pants, our mothers. The top was made out of canvas. They bought canvas and made the top. We had homemade belts, too. We started judo, eighty judo kids, Japanese kids, started. There was no other Japanese sport. Kendo didn't start until later, until the mid '50s, well, around '57. The first building that we had was behind the theatre. Steves Theatre, it was called in the '50s. Before the war, 1932, this building was built. It was called the ... It was the first Steveston Buddhist Church Temple here. Then, during the war, it was taken over and confiscated. They converted it into a theatre. The back of the theatre, there was a room. That was our ... The fishermen negotiated and we rented this room. Once again, in the early days, there was no tatamis. So the Japanese sensei were able to get sawdust and over the sawdust put canvas and tie it down. That was our first dojo. As I mentioned, our judo outfits were made out of homemade also. After a couple years, Mr. Yunekazu-Sakai and Mr. Doi, they went to Seattle and they were able to buy some used judo mats.
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JK
That was the first time we had judo mats. By that time we went from the back of the Steves Theatre to, there was a building next to the Steveston Post Office on Monkton Street, that was our number two building. Then we went to the Red Cross hall, it was called the Red Cross hall, it used to be a courthouse way, way back in the early 1900s. It was next to the volunteer fire department on Third Avenue here. In 1955, we moved to the Steveston Buddhist Temple that was on Chatham near Number One Road, it was the second house or building next to Number One Road. So, we would have to set up our mats every day and then take them down because the temple was being used for other activities during the week. So we did judo there, basically, four days a week. Sometimes it would be cut down to three depending on what was happening at the temple. Then, in 1957 ... I'll just mention some of the things in the Red Cross hall. Some of us in the wintertime would go early, an hour early, and we'd start a fire in there because there was no heat in there. So we would start a fire to warm the building up a little bit, but a lot of times we just, we did what we call mat work, Newaza, and warmed ourselves up. When we'd go in the cold winters, sometimes there would be, uh, you could see, kind of, the ice on top of the tatami but, I don't know, we were young so it didn't bother us. In 1955, there was, it started out that the Japanese approached BC Packers, which was the biggest fishing company in the west coast here, and Ken Fraser, who was a manager, he had recruited Japanese people to come back fishing here. From what I gather, you know, Ken Fraser was, in the early years, chastised for doing that, inviting the fishermen to come back here. The interesting story is that Japanese were always the best fishermen. No matter how you talked about the natives or the Caucasians, they were the best fishermen. So other, like Gulf of Georgia Cannery, another is Phoenix Cannery, others that had canneries on the river here, started going across Canada and recruiting fishermen to come back. Ken was always a very good friend of the Japanese. Ken was also, at the time, on the board of directors of the Steveston Community Society. The Japanese fishermen approached Mr. Ken Fraser to donate a piece of property to build the Japanese Community Center. Mr. Fraser said, “Okay, I'll give you a piece of property.” At the same time, the Steveston Community Society and the Caucasian group wanted to build a community center. So they asked the Japanese to appoint a couple of people to come to the meeting. Two of the people that went in the early days was Rin Taruhayashi, who was a prominent citizen from pre-war and during the war. His family was quite, I think, influential because Mr. Hayashi, Rin Taruhayashi, was born in Steveston and then went to Miyamura to get educated. He came back here as a thirteen year old. In 2010, when he came back, and from 207 to 1922, Japanese kids in Richmond could not go to school unless you owned a piece of property.
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JK
Mr. Hayashi's father owned a piece of property because Mr. Hayashi went to public school and he went to Japanese school. There was another gentleman called Mr. Otsu. They were the ones that, prewar, controlled the money of the Japanese Benevolent Association. They had about $16,000 in the bank from prewar. So when their first meeting happened, the Japanese, these two gentlemen said “Yes, we will recommend to our Japanese people to build a community center together.” I guess, for me, these people were real leaders and they had the vision that, you know, the war is over and that, you know, we have to work together. So they said, “We will join the Steveston Community Society in building a community center. We'll put $15,000 into the center under two conditions. One is that the judo club have a permanent room designated for judo. Two is when the center's built, the kendo club can use the gymnasium.” That was the only two conditions that they put on the society, at the time. People that lived in what we call the Steveston area, which was bounded by Francis Road to Gilbert and inside to the west and south, that was called the Steveston area, they paid taxes, extra taxes, to pay for this building for twenty years. So 1957, when it was built, and 1977 we had a mortgage burning ceremony. So the Steveston people paid for the building of the original Steveston Community Center, but I think that was one of the ... With what happened to the Japanese, I think that was one of the first healing processes between the Japanese and the Caucasians. I admire, very much, Mr. Hayashi and the Japanese for having the foresight to work as a community. In the early '50s, I guess judo was, for me, I was really involved in judo going five, six days a week to judo, going to tournaments, I remember going to tournaments by train to Kamloops, for instance, going by bus to Kelowna, and Vancouver Island. I guess our fishermen would start fishing in April, in those days they started fishing in April and would come back in October. When we became black belts in the 1950s, there were a half-a-dozen of us by '57 were black belts. So we basically ran the club all year long except the summertime. So we, kind of, took over the running of the club. The Japanese fishermen ... There used to be what we called a Coin Kai, and the Coin Kai was basically like a parent-teacher group.
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JK
Whenever we needed money, like, when the sensei said we found tatami in Seattle, they would have to go and raise money through the Japanese families to pay for it. So a lot of things the Coin Kai did for us in the early years was the parents and the Japanese families here. The good thing about Steveston was we always supported each other, like, if it was a kendo tournament or a judo tournament, we supported each other in our activities and, I guess, maybe some of it was because one of the kids went to judo and other kids went to kendo and things like that. As I mentioned before, or did I? Steveston was basically Buddhist Church people or United Church people. There was no animosity between either one. The other thing I think I really admire is that the Japanese people tried to do, I think, what was good for Steveston and the community. That was an extreme plus. The councils of the day were very fortunate. Even the mayor supported the Japanese people in a lot of different endeavors after the war. They were very supportive. So in 1960s, mid '60s, a little bit later, about '68, Jim Murray, who had a father start a company on Campbell Avenue in Vancouver called Murray Fish Company, Jim ended up running the company and Jim Murray also became the first Caucasian black belt in Kendo, that we know of, in British Columbia. Jim was also an advocate of relationships between Japan and Canada. Jim went on many trips. He ended up joining Canadian Pacific Airlines and became involved in sister cities between Japan and Canada, various cultural and sports activities between Japan and Canada. Kendo was growing. Judo we had, at the time, around 200 members. The building was too small for us. So Jim came up with the idea of building a Martial Arts Center. He said, “like some of them Japanese architectural buildings in Japan.” So the Steveston Community Society presentation was made by Jim to the society and the society said “Yes, we will support a new building and a Martial Arts Center is something that would be good for Steveston.” So they brought it forward to council, but at the same time they also knew that the 1971 centennial of BC joining Canada, so they knew there was some monies available from there. Whether we could get it or not was a question mark. Jim Murray also became a councilor during this period of time. When the initial meeting started of the Richmond Centennial Committee, I happened to be a member of it, and the first meeting we had was how we're going to distribute this $155,000 that the provincial government was going to give us. It became a political thing and the track and field people brought a few hundred people to the meeting and it was decided that all the monies would go to track and field. There was one councilor that was in charge of parks and recreation, Bob McMath was his name. He said, “No, that's not right.” So he visited the Steveston Community Society why a Martial Arts Center is needed. He went to the Nature Parks Society and then he also talked to track and field people. So in an in-camera meeting council divided to give each organization $55,000 each. So the Martial Arts Center was going to get $55,000. They went out for tender. In those days, when you went out for tender you had to put $20,000 down if you were going to bid for the building.
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JK
So the first tenderer that came in, the guy came in at $155,000. So when council told him they were awarded the building, the company said “We can't do it.” So they had to forfeit $20,000. The next fellow that, contractor, was $175,000. So the $20,000 that was forfeited just went to the next person. The architect that was hired was a gentleman that had spent thirty-five years in Japan. His name was Arnold Petzo. His father was an architect in Japan. So they lived in Japan. Mr. Petzo became an architect and he knew Japanese buildings. He had done the Steveston Buddhist Temple already, in the '60s. He had done some buildings in Richmond but not Japanese architectural buildings. He knew the Japanese architecture so the community center hired him to come up with a design and it was accepted. So the building was officially opened in, although it was the '71 centennial, it was officially opened in April of 1972. I think that was the final healing process between the Japanese and Caucasians. One of the reasons I say this is that in 1970, when this building was discussed at the Steveston Community Society, there was three Japanese directors on this society and they voted against the Japanese architectural building design. I think that's just from prewar. They didn't want things to fester again, but the Caucasian people said “No, we're building a Japanese architecture.” So I think that was a final healing process between the Japanese and the Caucasians. We moved into that building in 19 ... Actually, we moved in in '71, but it officially opened in '72. We had people from Japan coming here, judo people from Japan here and also kendo people brought people from Japan for the official opening. Because Pierre Elliott Trudeau was a judoka, we tried to get him here. He couldn't come but he gave us a note and then the Prime Minister Sato, of Japan, also we have a calligraphy from him in the dojo. We had a nice ceremony with about 200 people from across Canada but also from the states. We had people from Washington and I think we had a couple from Portland also. We had a nice official opening and the building has been ... Right now it's in some repair in terms of they're fixing the windows. The building just looks like new. It's been well maintained. It's used. In 1973, prior to '73, once again, Jim Murray was involved in finding a sister city in Japan and because so many people here were from Wakayama Prefecture, he wanted ... Somehow Jim got fixated on trying to get Wakayama City as our official sister city. Wakayama City was a city of 460,000 people in 1971.
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JK
Richmond, at that time, was 60,000. So the Richmond mayor, Wakayama mayor was Ujita Shozo Ujita. He was a ninth degree in karate. He kept telling Jim Murray and there was Has Tomita and there was a Ken Kubanaya worked for Canadian Pacific in Osaka office and Has Tomita worked for CP Air and also worked as a travel agent. So every time Ken Kubanaya and Jim Murray were in Japan and went to Wakayama, the Wakayama mayor would say “Okay, go to Tanabe. Go to these other cities” that were more, population-wise, the same as Richmond at the time. Jim Murray kept coming back to Wakayama saying “I want Wakayama.” Finally, the mayor, Ujita, said “Okay.” In 1973, July, Mayor Ujita came with a delegation. It was all men only, from Japan, and signed the papers here in Richmond Council. Our mayor was Mayor Anderson in those days, Henry Anderson, and they signed the papers. Then, in September 1973, a delegation of twenty-two people, including the mayor, which I happened to be one of them, we all went with our wives to Japan. We signed in end of September in Wakayama City and officially became a sister city of Wakayama. I think one of the things, that was '73, in '76 the mayor of Wakayama came back to Richmond. I mention that because in '73 Mayor Ujita brought his wife and there was some other ladies that came. The Wakayama people were up in arms because, “Why are ladies going, paid for by the city?” Since that time, it broke the ice, and since that time there's always been men and ladies coming with their delegation. So that was one of the, I think, nice things that we were able to teach the Japanese people that we're not a society of men only, that, you know, we're a society of men and women. The sister city relationship, um, as I mentioned Mayor Ujita was a ninth degree in karate and he knew we had a Martial Arts Center and there was two delegations that came prior to Mayor Ujita agreeing to become a sister city to investigate our city. They found out we didn't have karate in our dojo. So, he wrote a letter to Mayor Anderson and said “We would appreciate if you could include karate into the Martial Arts Center.” I guess, it was hard to get people to accept them because what had happened was the community center and the judo and kendo, we had to raise $95,000. The community center had $48,000 so it meant we had to find another $47,000 and in judo and kendo we did a lot of different things, selling corn, washing cars, you name it, soliciting Japanese Businessmen's Association, net companies, all the companies in Steveston here. When the building was built, we had to pay the remainder of what was owing and so, in the end, there was $10,000 left. We had raiased $38,000. So judo and kendo went to the bank and we both borrowed $5,000 each and paid it off. So there was that kind of history and, you know, judo, kendo, within a year we paid it off but ...
00:45:00.000
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JK
So Mayor Henry Anderson called me and said, um, “I received a letter from Mayor Ujita and they'd like to see if we can get karate into the Martial Arts Center and that they would send an instructor.” So I approached the judo and the kendo, and judo we were not too bad off. We only had to supply one night, Friday, which we weren't doing judo anyway which is fine with us. We're just worried about the mats. Kendo side, they were doing kendo three days a week so there was four days they weren't doing kendo, but they were still a little upset that karate was coming into the Martial Arts Center, which we had done so much for. I convinced them that, you know, this is a sister city situation and that the mayor from Wakayama asked our mayor and our mayor agrees. We don't have much option. Our only options are what nights we want and what nights are open, that's all. So karate in 1973, prior to us becoming sister cities, like three months before we became sister cities, the Wakayama mayor sent an instructor called Takeshi Uchiage. Mr. Uchiage's father and Mr. Mayor Ujita, they were , they were same university and they went to university together. They're both ninth degree karate people. The highest in Japan at the time. So Takeshi came here in April and the first place he stayed at, he stayed at my house for six months. That was April. So we said in September, “When the clubs start again, we'll advertise him and we'll start a karate club.” That's how karate got into our Martial Arts Center. Mr. Uchiage has been here in Richmond, well, he spent some time in Edmonton starting Gojo Ryu Karate Association but he had one of his assistants running a club here and then he came back to Steveston and still lives here. He has four kids, two daughters and two sons. They're both national champions. The son is actually a national coach now. So he's done very well. The Richmond sister city, we became sister cities three years after that. The first school exchange started between junior high school and junior high school and it was London Junior High School here in Richmond and Joto Junior High in Wakayama. Then it was many others. That exchange has carried on since 1976, so not quite forty years. This year thirty-three high school kids went to Wakayama in May and next year thirty-something-odd will come to Richmond. That exchange has happened since 1976, '75, '76. So we're one of the most, from statistics that we have from the Canadian government and that is, we're one of the most active sister cities in all of Canada between ourselves and Japan. We've had two judo delegations go there. We've had a Canada delegation come here. We've had a choir come here from Wakayama. We've had musicians, bands come here. We've had soccer and all sorts of different things have happened over the forty years.
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JK
Mayor and council have gone there a number of times, but mostly trying to hit key events that are happening either in Richmond or Wakayama. Like in '76 we were one of the reasons that, I should say '79, one of the reasons that Richmond Council and members went to Wakayama was the opening of their city hall. Then, when opening our city hall happened here in the early 2000s, they came here. So, some key things that, events, that have happened the mayor and council but ... Also for their fortieth year, their thirty-fifth, thirtieth, you know, there's been delegations going back and forth. My personal feeling is that the most beneficial side is the school exchanges. Some of them have become school teachers and some of them have carried on friendships for, you know, thirty-five years or more. So, to me, that's the real benefit of the sister city exchange. The judo side, our club was always one of the strongest clubs in Canada. We're not so much anymore but in the '50s, '60s, '70s, we were one of the strongest clubs in Canada, on a national scale with competitors. You know, '72 Olympics, our president, President Alan Sakai was on the Olympic team in Munich in '72. There's been a lot of world championship competitors come through Steveston. On the refereeing side, I've been fortunate enough to become an international referee in '73 and refereed '76 and '84 Olympics and then I became a member of the International Referee Body for the '88, '92 Olympics, and then in '95 I went for an election of the International Judo Federation for referee director of the International Federation and I won the nomination in Makuhari, Japan. I retained that position for six years in '96 and 2000 as referee director and Mr. Francois Bison was a sport director. The president appointed us as technical delegates of judo. We were part of the Olympic family which meant we could go anywhere. Our accreditation let us into any building. We sat with the Olympics family, ate with the Olympic family. It was a real honor to be in that kind of situation. We had our own car and it was a fantastic experience. I met a lot of the Olympic ILC members that were French-speaking, a lot of African French-speaking people because Francois Bison, who was in charge of all the French-speaking country relations with France, he was in charge of them. So he knew all the French-speaking ILC members. I was able to meet a lot of them. A lot of the people, I was fortunate enough to meet, like Joe Baron who was a technical director of the ILC. He's from Paris, originally, and when we had some problems in Sidney, we were able to have a meeting. First of all, we had a phone call with him because they wanted to move judo from the first week to the second week and we ended up phoning him in Switzerland and saying “This is what they want to do to us.” So Joe Baron said, “When do you guys want it?” We said, “We want it the first week” because the first week in Europe, judo is the most watched sport in the Olympics in the first week.
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KF
Oh, okay.
JK
So we didn't want to fight with track and field in the second week.
KF
I see, strategic placement.
JK
So we said in the first week is the best. So Joe Baron said, “Fine. It's the first week then.” We had trouble in Sidney with a British athlete, a girl that missed her weight by 100 grams. After the weigh-in at seven in the morning, we went to visit Joe Baron and said “Okay, this is what we've done. This is the procedures we used. If there's any complaints from the British Olympic Committee, you know, you have all the information”. He said, “That's fine.” We never had any problems. We had another ... There were only two situations that judo had, maybe three. In '88 I think there was a drug problem with a British athlete but that one was ... He won a medal and his medal was taken away from him. I think it was in Seoul. Then we had another one where a Georgian fighter in Atlanta didn't show up for weigh-in. So they tried to say, “Well, we thought it was going to be held here.” It was held at the Olympic Village where the athletes are. We tried to make it convenient for them. So we told the ILC, “This is what's happened and this is what's done.” “Okay, that's fine. Don't worry about it. If they come to me I'll know what to do.” There's no doubt that my being part of six Olympic games was really not only a great honor, but I learned a lot from not only the caliber of athletes that are at Olympic games but also I think the humanity side of Paralympics and, you know, disabled bodied people can also compete at a, rather, high level but also be a part of a sport community. Let's see, what else can I say? I think in Richmond, as I say, there are many things that have happened in Richmond. The Japanese, I think, I call them, from the early days have been model citizens. I've been questioned on that by some other Japanese people. Young people, or a little bit younger than me, or my age say “No, no. There were some bad guys, too.” I say, “Yeah, but very few. Not many.” So whatever we have been managed to get whether, yeah, we raised a lot of money for the Martial Arts Center, yeah, the Japanese Cultural Center behind the Martial Arts Center is another building that the Richmond community basically put in around $500,000 into it. It's on their property. It belongs to them now but from the redress we were able to get $500,000 from redress. The Japanese community in the Richmond Lower Mainland, some got money outside of Richmond, raised $105,000, and the total building was $1.1 million. The building over there is mostly used by ... Japanese language school happens six days a week in there. There's a section for the older people. There's a karaoke set up in there for the older people.
01:00:00.000
01:00:00.000
JK
It's multi-use now. During the day it's used by yoga and other senior groups, Chinese senior group. That building, once again, it's called the Steveston Japanese Cultural Center. So, the support we've had from, I think, the citizens and the mayor and council in Richmond have always been very supportive. The judo club, kendo club, karate club, Japanese language school, we do not pay any rent. We don't have any expenses. Once again, we keep reminding the community center and council that we raised a lot of money, also, to get to that point. So we've got it registered not only with our society in Steveston but also with the mayor and council. It's in the archives now. So every once in a while we have to remind them. I think, you know, with the Buddhist Temple being right behind our community center, we do a lot of things together, Obon festival and things like that at the Buddhist Temple. We supply them with some tents and walks and other things for the Obon festival. July 1st is a big day here in Steveston where we have somewhere between 75 and 100,000 people come on July 1st. We call it the biggest Canada Day event, little small event in Canada. The thing that the judo, kendo, karate, and Japanese language school do is, we do chow mein. We sell chow mein on July 1st. So all the preparation, all the buying, everything, is done by these four organizations. All the volunteers are supplied by these four organizations. All the money that is raised, which is, net, about $7000, we give to the community center in lieu of rent. So every once in a while we have a ... Some people say ... The Japanese language school said to us one year, “Well, our group, we can't supply volunteers.” At the time, I just happened to be the president of the Steveston Community Center Society. I said, “Well, you're going to box me and the society in a corner because you're going to have to pay rent if you guys can't even find enough volunteers to cut vegetables, supply some cooks, and volunteers to bag all the stuff.” I said, “You're going to have to pay rent.” I guess, you know, it's the society at the time and this is ... Their culture doesn't seem to ... Maybe it's because they have money but ... No, I won't say it. I guess I better not say it laughs. I find that this group of young people that are coming up in Richmond, here, I find a lot of these young kids now are volunteering. So I think one generation from now there won't be this problem of 'why do we need to volunteer?' One of the strengths of Richmond has always been that we have, really, a lot of volunteers in not only sports organizations but organizations throughout Richmond here that ... And Richmond Council even recognizes how much money they're saving by all the volunteers they have. I think we're quite fortunate. I guess ... What else can I say?
01:05:03.000
01:05:03.000
JK
I think I've been very fortunate over my years because if you look at the eighty kids that started judo in 1953 and out of those eighty kids there's five of us that have continued on for sixty-two years. So, it's ... And why? People say, “Why?” You know, in our early years our judo instructor used to say “When you're young, you take as much as you can from your senseis and others to become better,” but our senseis used to say “You have to give back some day. When the time comes, you have to give back.” So we've always, I guess our group anyway, have always felt that way that, as long as we're healthy, we need to keep giving back. We try to teach our younger people that also, is to give back, give back. That's why our club has been able to function as a non-profit group for all these years. I think that it's really important that, you know, you make this society what it is if you also contribute back and, also, I think, some of the main things that our judo teachers taught us is that not only respecting people, respecting things through the bow, but also having good manners. You know, judo etiquette has a lot of, you know, things in terms of manners about walking in front of people, walking behind senseis and people, respecting your elders, and things like that. The other thing that I really feel strongly about our sport of judo is that, you know, every year we have about twenty to thirty beginners come into our class. The parents and the kids, they all sit down and talk for a little while. I always say to the parents, you know, “Your kids may not stay with judo for a long, long period of time, but they're going to learn how to break fall. Whatever sports they play in the future or just skiing, having fun, hockey, you know whatever, soccer, they're going to learn how to fall properly.”
KF
It's useful, yeah.
JK
Right. They're not going to have serious injuries. I said this is one of the things that your children will learn. The other thing, I think, that is really important, especially we get a lot of, not a lot but some kids, the very shy kids. Through our belt structure, they'll learn to be more confident and that's why we have many parents come to us after even a half a year saying, you know, “My son or my daughter wouldn't have any friends at school or friends come over or, you know, go to friend's places. Well, now they're integrated into the community.” There was one girl we have in our class. She's not autistic but her parents were told, as a ten year old, she was eleven I guess, but this girl will never go to university. When she was about fourteen, fifteen, she couldn't go anywhere without her parents or, in the latter years, if her brother didn't go, she couldn't go. In the last three years, she's changed completely. She runs our kids' class. She now takes judo kids on trips and she's going to university.
01:10:00.000
01:10:00.000
JK
So her parents, they keep telling “We can't thank judo enough. We're really fortunate that, you know, our daughter's progressed so much.” So, anyway, as judo people it's always nice to hear these kinds of stories of how judo has helped because, you know, even if you look back at what Jigoro Kano wanted to teach in judo was not only to have a strong body and a strong mind but to become good world citizens in the world and in your community. So, okay, that's it.
KF
Laughs. That's it. Oh, that's pretty good. Well, how about we go back a little bit. Going back to your childhood, your parents, were they Issei? Were they the first to come over from Japan? You mentioned, also, grandparents, too.
JK
Yeah, my mother was Nisei and so was my father. I'm third generation, really.
KF
Your grandparents came from what area of Japan?
JK
Gobo, Wakayama.
KF
And what did they do before and then what did they do when they settled here in Canada?
JK
Um, my father or grandfather, he was a carpenter in Japan. When he came here he did some fishing but, also, he did some farming, also. So, Japanese, once again, Japanese were very flexible, I find, because, you know, in the early years, because of the Japanese working so hard and out fishing, everybody, um, the licenses soon started to disappear. So, like, by 1922 half the licenses had disappeared. They kept taking them away. So, in 1927, just prior to '27, there was an MP in Vancouver and one in Nanaimo, they had started various processes fifteen years earlier about having a white Canada and getting rid of all the Japanese on the west coast. So in 1927 they passed a law in their party within a ten year period of getting rid of all the Japanese on the west coast. So that's when the Japanese licenses became reduced, the Japanese started buying farmland here in Richmond. In 1927, the Chamber of Commerce in Richmond wrote a letter to the Minister of Fisheries and said “You have to stop this about reducing Japanese fishing licenses. They're starting to buy up farmland.” In 1927, there was twenty-three ... The Association of Japanese Farmers consisted of twenty-three members and in 1929 there was fifty-eight farmers, Japanese. They owned 440 acres and 200 was strawberry farms and the rest were vegetable farms. So this getting rid of all the Japanese within a ten year period, by that time, had stopped. So that's why the Japanese turned also to farming, turned to anything they could. They had to live, so ...
KF
So the purchases of the farmland were, sort of, a direct correlation of the reduction of fishing licenses that were handed out?
JK
Right.
KF
Oh, I see. So that's how it transitioned from fishing to farming a little bit.
JK
Yeah, because Wakayama has lots of farmland, too.
KF
Lots of farmland, mhm. Would you say those skills were passed from Japan over into Canada when the Japanese immigrated?
JK
Yeah, a little bit I would say. To me, it comes more down to Japanese were very proud to be Japanese. They could outwork anybody. They refused to lie down. That's, for me ... I admire the first, second generation Japanese for that.
01:15:19.000
01:15:19.000
KF
What about your parents? What did they do in Steveston?
JK
Well, my mother worked in a cannery. She worked at BC Packers and my father was a fisherman. My mother, like a lot of other Japanese mothers, because they worked in cold water, developed arthritis. My mother, she had rheumatoid arthritis. She had twenty-six operations. She was just skin and bones, and everything was plastic in her whole body. I took her, I guess about two three years before she finally passed away, to the hospital and she fell. After x-rays, they said to me “Mr. Kojima, your mother has so much plastic and nothing has broken. There's nothing broken. She's bruised her bone.” She had plastic hips, plastic knees, whole body, shoulders, arms, everything was plastic. A lot of Japanese fishermen mothers ended up with arthritis. A lot of them went to Taiwan and they went to other places where they said there's cures for it. My mother went, too, one year. As some of the stories go, in the early years, the ladies that came here as picture brides, for instance, in the early 1900s, thought they were coming here to have a easier and better life.
KF
It was pretty much the opposite.
JK
Yup, as soon as they got off the boat they were working in Caucasian houses or they were working in the cannery or they were cleaning somewhere. They were working. That's just the way it was, and, uh, so, their dreams of having an easy life here soon faded when they arrived here. You know the story of Mrs. Murakami, for instance?
KF
Mhm.
JK
Yeah, it's ... Did you ever see her video?
KF
Actually, my co-worker and I interviewed the Murakamis a couple weeks ago.
JK
Oh, did you?
KF
Yeah.
JK
Oh, wow.
KF
Yeah, it was really good. What about your childhood home? Do you remember where you lived and did you live in a house or an apartment?
JK
As I say, in Alberta we lived in a chicken coup. The chicken coup got bigger as we expanded as the number of kids were born.
KF
What about in Steveston, before the war happened? Do you remember?
JK
I don't remember too much about before the war. I know we lived on Number One and Steveston Highway. We lived in a house.
KF
A house?
JK
Yeah.
KF
Okay.
JK
And, as I mentioned, my grandfather was a farming, uh, property and also fishing. I know I used to visit a family, the Katayama family that lived a block and a half away. They had, like, nine kids.
KF
Oh, really?
JK
And a couple of them were around the same age as myself, but apparently, in the early days, I used to never go home and their father had passed away so they were very poor, too, you know, with nine kids. Yeah, and then after the war we moved back here. There was, um, let's see, my grandfather, my grandmother was in New Denver Hospital, and then there was, uh, one was born ... So there was six kids, my mother and father, and grandfather in a rickety old wooden house that the floors were tilted in different spots, you know?
01:20:09.000
01:20:09.000
KF
Oh, yeah.
JK
But it had electricity and, yeah, it was woodstove and stuff like that. I didn't feel so much of a hardship. I was thirteen when we moved here and then two years later a number of us, at fifteen, we got a rowboat and we got a short net and started commercial fishing. We would row out and started commercial fishing the following year. We would do this, like, we would go to school on the tram. In the early days, we went to school on the tram to a center of Richmond, to Richmond High School. Then we'd come home right after school and then we'd change our clothes and get in our gear and go out fishing. We'd fish until, about, ten o'clock at night from September to mid-October. In latter years, in summertime ... My real name is not Jim. When I was born my name is Yuzuru Kojima. Y-U-Z-U-R-U. When I started working at fifteen at the Imperial Cannery, there was ... Where the cans, all the can loft is. There's no picture of a can loft here, but where the cans came down from the upstairs, I worked up there. One lady said, one day she said, this is the summertime, I was working in the summertime, she wrote me a poem. She started off with “Jim is ...” No. Yeah, she started off with Jim. She started calling me “Jim is slim and he has vim” and she went on and on “I think he's full of baloney” and stuff like that. She said, “From today, you're Jim.” That's where my name Jim came from.
KF
Oh, really?
JK
Yeah, from a lady that was the leader upstairs in the can loft. So I worked in the cannery. I worked this, kind of, cutting fish heads and guts and the fresh fish. I worked downstairs. I never worked in the cooking but I worked a little bit in the freezer, and drove tow-motor a lot in the fish cannery. In the fall, when we went to school, I worked ... We had motorized boats by this time so we'd go out fishing with our motorized boats after school.
KF
Would you sell the salmon to the canneries?
JK
Yeah.
KF
You had entrepreneurial spirit at, like, thirteen laughs.
JK
Great West Fishing Company, we sold it to in those days.
KF
And how much did you sell it for at that time?
JK
Oh, I think, humpback or pink salmon we sold for fifty cents one salmon. I think sockeye salmon were still, in those days, the most expensive. I think a sockeye salmon would be, probably, about $2, not quite $2 even. I guess, you know, sometimes you think about when you're young. Like the rivers here, there was Todd's, there was Nelson Brothers, there was Phoenix, there was BC Packers, Gulf of Georgia. At least there was half a dozen canneries that were operating and there's an island across, Shady Island it's called, and it's expanded from the '50s but we used to swim in this muck. It's a wonder we never got sick, you know. It's a wonder we didn't die. We used to swim from the shore side to Shady Island. It was mucky. It was guts all over and this river was just terrible, but somehow we made it through.
01:25:29.000
01:25:29.000
KF
Can I ask, during the war when your family moved to Alberta, do you know what was left behind? Did you have farmland that was left behind because of your grandfather?
JK
That's a good question. I'm not sure.
KF
Okay.
JK
I know that it was like every other family. I know that all we took was what was allowed, forty pounds for adults and, you know, twenty pounds for kids. I think, you know, many families cleaned the house up and put everything neat. I think they though they're coming back in two, three months.
KF
Right.
JK
So I think it's too bad because when you're looking for a lot of artifacts, there isn't any. It's gone. Yeah, I've heard stories in Steveston here of, you know, some Caucasians that took a lot of stuff but what do you do?
KF
Would you describe your childhood as Japanese, like, very Japanese heavy or was it a mix of Canadian and Japanese. Did you ...
JK
Well, I think in Alberta I was more Caucasian than I was Japanese. Yeah, even when you came out to Steveston here, um, maybe I was half and half but as I got older, probably in my thirties or, early thirties, anyway, um, I got more interested in the Japanese history and, kind of ... I think it had a lot to do with judo, too, because I did a lot of travelling with judo and went to Japan a number of times, maybe because of that. As I got older I really wanted to preserve as much of the Japanese history as we could, you know. As the older Japanese were passing along, I thought “Wow, we're going to have some big holes here and there about their history.” I took my cousin to Japan a couple years ago and his family's from Wakayama near where my family is from. I shouldn't say my cousin, my brother in law. His father owned a piece of property in Wakayama near Gobo. So I asked the city hall to arrange with the municipality or the city that his father lived in, he wanted to research some of the history of his father and grandfather and stuff. So this girl that worked in the foreign affairs in Wakayama City, she used to work in properties and, so, she knew a lot of shortcomings. We went to Wakayama City and they rented a van and drove us out to Gobo and we went to visit this municipality. This municipality was ... She knew, she kept saying, “Yeah, you should do this. You should do that.” They were able to trace his history back 350 years.
KF
Oh, wow. That's a long time.
JK
Yeah, they had it all, you know.
KF
Laid out?
JK
Yeah.
KF
Those family registries in Japan are really detailed laughs.
JK
So that girl said, Yoko said “We don't even have this much in Wakayama City but in the smaller areas they're very thorough.”
KF
Did your parents speak to you in Japanese?
01:30:07.000
01:30:07.000
JK
Yeah. Well, no, I shouldn't say that. My mother came back from Japan because she went as a five year old and came back as a sixteen year old and then she did go to some school here. So she could read and write both languages. My grandparents were all Japanese. My father, he was born here, never went anywhere. His education was, maybe, grade three or four. He lived over here in Scotch Pond. He would speak what we called broken Steveston Japanese.
KF
For those who don't know what broken Steveston Japanese is, can you describe it a little bit?
JK
Well, I just think there's Steveston words like “gaina”. Do you know the word “gaina”?
KF
No.
JK
Which means, kind of, extreme and, like, you would say “gaina ana tawa ano” ... “No, gaina okina sakanato tana”, big, huge fish, you know. That's Steveston Japanese. What else is there? “Yomai yuna”. Don't complain. Yomai is Steveston but it's old, old Wakayama Japanese.
KF
Right.
JK
It's a lot of words. It's bastardized in the sense that it's half Japanese and half English. I think that's why when Japanese, especially when Tokyo people come here and talk to these people they say “Hey, what kind of language do you speak?” laughs.
KF
So the language really changed and adapted over time in Steveston, for those who spoke Japanese.
JK
Yeah, I guess as they were trying to learn a little bit of English, too. It ...
KF
It all, kind of, mixed together?
JK
Yeah, mixed together.
KF
Oh, that's interesting.
JK
Yeah, but, you know, there's, like, in the early days my main judo teacher Mr. Frank Sakai, his father sent his two kids to Japan when they were six years old. They finished high school and then came back here. So, in the early days a lot of that went on. In the early, early days was even worse because the kids here couldn't even go to public school. So it was bad, but there was a lot of Japanese, like, my father was not educated in Japanese school or English school so his English and Japanese were bad. There was some that went to Japan and came back and could speak good Japanese. My father, his father was a heavy drinker, really heavy, and he had no teeth. Not one tooth since the time I've known him. And because he was a heavy drinker his wife, who was from Wakayama, took the two young kids back to Japan with her. My father, who was, I think he was five or something, five or six when she left. So he was, basically, on his own. He lived in the Scotch Cannery over here. I know the Nu Atsukino family used to look after him. When he was about ten years old, a fellow said to him “Kazuo, next week you're going to go to Vancouver.”
01:35:06.000
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JK
So he worked in a fish store for about three years. So he could really cut fish. So, in weddings and stuff like that, they used to ask him to cut sashimi up, you know, in the early '50s and '60s. Then, as a thirteen, I think he was thirteen and a half or fourteen, he came back to Steveston and then he started to fish with another Japanese fisherman and then he went on his own. He ended up to be a very good fisherman, but he had a rough childhood, yeah.
KF
You mentioned that you remember going on the train to Alberta. Can you describe that a little bit more? What was that like?
JK
Well, you know, there was seven of us, family members, on the train. I was four years old. I was running all over the place apparently laughing.
KF
Didn't stay still?
JK
Yeah. No, all I can really remember is looking out the window and falling asleep from time to time but looking out the window and, as we hit the mountains, my mother will always try to say there's a tunnel coming up. That's about all I can remember, yeah.
KF
The Blair family, can you tell me a bit more about that? What the ... You said you got along with them, or, the family got along with the Blair family quite well. What were the sons like? You said Archie was the same age?
JK
Yeah, yeah. Jimmy was two years younger than me. Ken was the next oldest one so Ken was, I think, three years older than I. Bob was five years older than I. So, you know, they weren't ... Me, Bobby, and Ken weren't that much older. Archie I remember because we went to school together and we played together. He wasn't, I wouldn't say ... Jimmy was a quiet kid.
KF
Was he?
JK
Yeah. Archie, when I went with my family, one year we went to Alberta to trace my roots in Picture Butte, Lethbridge, Barnwell, and we drove up to Calgary and then Archie was living in Calgary. So I met Archie in Calgary and I don't think we stayed at his house but, um, met his family and his wife. Two years later, no, maybe three years later his wife committed suicide. She hung herself in the house. Archie ended up to be an alcoholic. So when I went to Lethbridge, Picture Butte, about three years after that, there was a national championship in Lethbridge. I went to visit. Well, I went to try to see Archie but I was able to get a hold of Jimmy and Jimmy said, uh, “He's drunk all the time. I know where he is but you won't appreciate seeing him.” I said, “Well, what happened to his kids?” “They're in a foster home now.”
KF
Oh, no.
JK
So, it was kind of sad. Then, at that time, his mother Cora had passed away. I was living with Jimmy and Jimmy said, “No, no, you don't go back to Lethbridge.” I said, “Jimmy, it's twenty minutes from here to our hotel. I've got to do this judo tournament tomorrow so I've got to go back.” Anytime I've been to Lethbridge I haven't talked to Bob but I've talked to Ken in Lethbridge a number of times. Jimmy, as I say, every time I've gone I talk to him and I've tried to go to Picture Butte. Yeah, Jimmy, he never married. Bob and ken were married and had kids but they were a really, really nice, nice family.
01:40:23.000
01:40:23.000
KF
Really?
JK
Yeah.
KF
What kinds of things did you do as a child with them?
JK
Played with the horses and the cows and the pigs, mostly in the barn and stuff. They had an old, old lug tractor. It was really old. It'd get stuck once in a while. He had a model T Ford. That was his car. We'd be going by car to Picture Butte, which was about six, seven miles away. The car would stop and Henry would say, “It's out of water or something.” We'd get some water out of the ditch and put it in the radiator and he'd kick the tires because the car wouldn't start and stuff like that. They were such a nice family. Alberta people are generally very friendly, friendly people. One year I went to the nationals in Lethbridge and I was president of Judo Canada. So I spoke at the opening and I said “I really love coming back to Lethbridge in Southern Alberta here, you know, you're all such friendly people.” I said, “During the war was not pleasant times but the Caucasian people, I think, were very good to the Japanese.” So the next day, some guy came up to me and said “Oh, I have a book for you.” I never knew the guy. He said, “This is about all the farmers in Southern Alberta here.” He said, “I'm sure the farms that you stayed on are in the book” and, sure enough, they were. He gave me a book but, yeah, prairie people were generally, I think, very friendly people. I've never had a bad experience with anybody in the prairies.
KF
Can you describe ... Do you remember the farm that you worked on? What did the farm look like? Were there any, kind of, key ...
JK
No, it was pretty flat. There was a little bit of rolling. A little bit, not much. It was pretty flat, fences all around, um, maybe four or five miles away there was a big ditch with water in it. That used to help the farmers for irrigation and stuff but that was not close to the farm itself. Southern Alberta's pretty flat. It's just ... You know, you drive for miles. One time I went from Calgary to Lethbridge. I drove. I think there was one stretch that was, like, thirty kilometers. It was just as straight as a stretch could be, you know, flat. Yeah, no, it was just ... The soil was not good.
KF
Oh, it wasn't?
JK
That's why he was a poor farmer.
KF
Oh, I see.
JK
We all felt bad and, like I say, the Japanese people just couldn't say to nice people “Sorry, but we're going to move.” Not thinking of their livelihoods so much, you know, “I don't want to hurt their feelings.” Anyway.
KF
Is that why your family stayed on that farm for five years or so?
JK
Yeah. See, normally, if you were ... I would say they should have moved within two years. They should have moved.
KF
Right.
JK
But they just couldn't. They were so nice that they just couldn't say ... And they became very friendly. They would invite us to their house for a barbecue or they would open their house up anytime they had, because she had a sister living in Picture Butte and they would come out every once and a while.
01:45:07.000
01:45:07.000
JK
Actually, a sister living in Picture Butte, Cora's mother lived in Picture Butte also. Anytime they had their parents over, or sister, they would invite us. They were just very friendly people. Very, very friendly people.
KF
Would you say your childhood was pretty pleasant memories then growing up with the other sons in that family?
JK
Yeah, I would say that I didn't really experience any hardships or bad memories, you know, living with the Blairs. Living in Southern Alberta, I don't think I had any bad memories. Yeah, I mean, um, you know, in those days, because of the war, you would do the harvesting of the beets and, you know, they're like this and the beets would be taken to a sugar beet factory. It would be a huge pile. In the wintertime they would process them. The Japanese farmers in that area would go work at the sugar beet factory but they would take lunch with them, and this is the wintertime. They would take lunch with them. They couldn't go inside. They had to eat outside.
KF
In the winter?
JK
Yeah.
KF
Oh.
JK
So, you know, their lunch, whatever, my mother made, was frozen. They couldn't go inside so, you know, I think my parents and other parents had a tough time but, once again, they worked hard and, I guess as a child, which is ... They would sometimes get paid and then go play poker, gamble in somebody's house.
KF
Oh, interesting.
JK
Yeah. They'd come home with half their check or something like that. My mother and him would have a big fight.
KF
Actually, I was going to ask you, because you mentioned that the families would be able to get some of the net income that came from the farm, so your dad used it on gambling a little bit?
JK
No, this was in the wintertime working at the sugar beet.
KF
Oh, okay.
JK
Once the farmer gave us money, I mean, it went straight to my mom. The money dad received working in the wintertime, the guys would get together and “Come to my house.”
KF
Do you know what your mom used that money for? Did you guys buy food with it or clothing?
JK
Yeah, we bought mostly clothing and food. I remember, one time, going to Lethbridge and, you know, she bought me my first bicycle, for instance.
KF
Oh, really?
JK
Yeah, and we were in Lethbridge, or, we were in Picture Butte so I remember learning how to ride a bicycle in Alberta. You know, when you're small, distances were so far. Like, I thought, when we went from Picture Butte ... Actually, it was from Picture Butte, Shaughnessy. We lived closer to Shaughnessy. It was a one horse town. There was nothing there, and then to Lethbridge. Well, I used to think going to Lethbridge in this coulee dam was miles and miles. It took us hours. It was, like, twenty minutes from Picture Butte laughs. This coulee took us about five minutes to get from one, and yeah. It was, kind of, in some ways, discouraging because I remember this railway bridge, it was a huge railway bridge, it's still huge but I used to think it was miles. It's not miles.
01:50:03.000
01:50:03.000
KF
I feel like that with my elementary schools, when I was a little girl. You look at everything, it's just so big. I remember the library just being huge and then I went back, maybe two or three years ago, and I walk into this room and everything's like, you know, I grew up, so I'm looking like “God, this isn't as big as I thought it was going to be.”
JK
laughing. Yeah, I know. It's really ... Even in Grand Forks when we used to go to school, we used to live near the railway, the train used to go by, it was right by the railway tracks, a big house, and we ... Grand Forks was the first time we had our wood heated Japanese bath.
KF
Oh, nice.
JK
At Christina Lake, in 1950, my father built a boat in Christina Lake. It was Kishi Boat Works. The Kishis lived in Christina and so they built his boat there and then we found the time it was going to go by the house. So we stood outside waiting for the train and we saw the boat go by. In Christina Lake, or in Grand Forks most of my friends were Caucasians, most of my friends. Yeah, there was Bobby Horita and there was a few people that were Japanese that I chummed around with but most of ... I became involved in a church there in Grand Forks and most of them were Caucasian. Most of my memories, you know, of prewar or even until the '50s, I don't know of any real bad situations I had.
KF
Mhm. What about the school that you and Archie went to in Picture Butte. What was that like? Do you remember the name of the school?
JK
No, I don't.
KF
Was it a mixed class?
JK
I think there was two or three grades in there.
KF
Two or three grades?
JK
Yeah.
KF
Oh, so a small school.
JK
Yeah, but, no, I guess, you know, um, I think in some ways the places we ended up were quite pleasant farmers. So I didn't feel, kind of, harassed or, you know, I think we were very ... We were pretty well treated. Whether we made the money we should have, I can't say because, at the time, I wasn't involved in the finances or didn't know it. As long as ... And, you know, a lot of things were hard to get. I remember going to Lethbridge and going to some weddings. You know, Japanese weddings. My mother's friends, some of them got married in Lethbridge and it was always a Chinese restaurant that held the wedding. I remember that.
KF
Chinese restaurants? Really?
JK
Yeah. Even when we came back here in the '50s, near Pender and Main, in that area there was a couple of, two or three restaurants that the Japanese always used from Steveston, here. They're no longer in existence but I remember going to them and my father would always be asked to sing. I remember him singing Sake No Nomona laughs.
KF
That's a good song.
01:54:47.000
01:54:47.000
JK
And he never drank sake. One thing he couldn't drink was he couldn't drink sake. Although his father was a drunkard, he couldn't drink sake. Pause. I really think, you know, one of the things I remember, probably a good thing, is I remember after the war going to the docks and as the fishermen were mending their nets I'd say “Oi-san, let's talk about before the war and after the war.” They'd say, “Kojima-san, shikata ga nai.” They'd say, “What's happened has happened.” They'd say, “From now on, if we don't think of our children and our grandchildren, we're not doing what we're here for.” That was their ... I remember that distinctly and I thought “Man, you guys are pretty tough.” So they weren't interested in talking about bad times or hard times, and thinking more of concentrating on the future.
KF
Did your parents talk about it at all?
JK
No. Every once in a while they would say “Oh, I remember in Alberta, this happened and that happened” but, as I say, this is sometimes when they're talking to their friends that lived on a farm, a couple away or something. There was the Hashi family. I remember going to her house. I used to love to go to their house because they had homemade Okaki, you know, rice crackers. Even when they came back to here, I know Mrs. Hashi used to make it and I used to say “When you make it next time tell me because I'll come over and get some” laughs. Yeah, but I think, somehow, for me, anyway, I think somehow I grew up in a good generation of, kind of, in between. I think I was very fortunate because even in my judo situations, well, even in my work situations, you know, I graduated from Richmond High, I went to work in a ... took an accounting course and then I joined CGA course at UBC and worked at a number of places. I was phoned by a Japanese person who was a second generation, Nabe Yamamoto. He said, “Your taking CGA?” I said, “Yeah, I'm in third year now.” He said, “Well, we're looking for an accountant. So why don't you come for an interview?” So, this was at Tree Island. The company's name was Tree Island. I was, at that time, twenty-seven years old. So I went to see him and I met the boss, the owner, and he was a Jewish guy. I said to him, this is '67, I said to him “In September, I want to take a week off.” He said, “That's fine. What do you want to do?” I said, “There's a world championship in Salt Lake City.” I said, “There's a couple from our dojo that's going to be at the world championship.” “Oh, yeah, yeah. Go ahead.” So then he said to me, “Do you know Ishi Bashi? A teacher in Chicago.” I said, “No, I don't know him but I've heard the name.” He said, “I took judo” this owner, a Jewish guy. He said, “He was my sensei” and he said, “I became a ...” He said, “I never got a black belt but I went up to brown belt.”
02:00:04.000
02:00:04.000
JK
Then I joined Tree Island and I started out as an accountant and then I went into the production-operation side and then my last seven years I was human resources manager for about 800 employees, 400 here and then we had about 400 in Southern Los Angeles. All these years I would take off for world championships, or Olympics. One year, in LA in '84, I said “Mr. Saksa, I'm not going to go to the Olympics this year because I don't want to spend all my holidays time.” He said, “No, no, no, no. You go. Go visit this company that was selling steel” something Brothers. Anyway, so he said “You go. Go visit our plant in Pasadena and do some work. So don't count it as holidays.” So those kind of situations. I worked there for thirty years. I was lucky in joining them and I kind of grew up with them because in '67, when I joined them, they were only about three years in existence. They were just starting out and they had a close relationship with Mado Benita, Vancouver here. We were buying, in the early years, all our steel from Nippon Steel. So, on my judo trips to Japan I would go visit Nippon Steel and Nippon Steel had a lot of strong ex-judo world championships and champions and All Japan Champions and stuff. Mr. Kaminaga, Mr. Sony, and that group, every time I went to Japan I'd go meet them and we'd also talk a little bit of business with them, with many people, too. All those things, I think I was very fortunate that I joined a good company that was just starting out and the relationship with the Japanese because I got really involved with the president in terms of buying steel and that. So all the people that were managers here in Mado Benita, I got to know very well. One of them became in charge of Mado Benita operations in North America and he was stationed in New York. Mr. Nakamura was, really, a fantastic guy. I think what really saved us was Mado Benita, the Japanese. Around 1980 we had spent a lot of money and we built a plant in Pasadena, not Pasadena, we already had a plant there, in Long Beach California. Dumping of nails was our biggest business but there was dumping by a company from Asia and, so, when we were $50 million in debt the Mado Benita manager said “Okay, you put Mr. Keeler in charge of all the operations and we'll support the $50 million and we'll consider all the debt.” They took everybody's shares and they held it, you know. In three years, first year, Mr. Keeler, he was in Vancouver and then became general manager in LA. The business was starting to turn around, but anyway, Mado Benita said “You bring Jack Keeler back here and we'll assume all the debts.” So, Jack came back and he became the general manager. The first year after that, we broke even. The following year we made $10 million. The following year after that, we made $20 million and by the fourth year we got rid of all the debt.
02:05:06.000
02:05:06.000
JK
All the shareholders ... The biggest shareholder was the Block Brothers, Henry and Arthur Block, in the begging but then Henry held 50% in the end. They all became multi-millionaires again, but Mado Benita really saved the company's butt. In judo, the same thing, I just got in at the right time. I started to grow up not only in the refereeing side but the administration side I was quite strong. From '71 to '84 I was vice president for Judo Canada, or in '87, I guess. Then in '88 I became president of Judo Canada until '94, and then I became referee in '73, and then in '87 I became Pan American representative on the International Judo Federation Referee Committee. Then in '95 I became the referee director. So my judo career and my business career, I always say my timing was good in life, I think anyway. As a Japanese, I thought. I met a lot of nice people and learned a lot from a lot of people.
KF
What does judo mean to you?
JK
It's my life laughs. It means a lot of good things. A lot of nice things. There's always some pain, but very little. A lot more positive things than negative things.
KF
Mhm. Is that how you got involved with all the community work as well? You were mentioning the Richmond Council and the Steveston community council. Did those all, kind of, ... Are they connected and flow together?
JK
Yeah, all flowed from my involvement in judo and the community here because, you know, in '84, '83, I received the Order of Canada. My name was put up by the Richmond Council in 1980. So I think it was, as I say, timing but I think it was the work I was doing in the community, I think anyway. That's what they tell me. Timing is so important.
KF
Mhm. When you came back from Alberta into Steveston, where did you guys end up living? You said in an older house. You mentioned the floors. Did you stay in that house for an extended period of time or did you move around?
JK
Yeah, '51 to '57. In '57 we bought a house over here at Stow. My brother in law lives there now.
KF
Oh, the house is still there?
JK
Yeah.
KF
Oh, wow.
JK
It was built in, I think, 1935 or something like that. It's a three story building. In those days, you know, the Japanese ... By the 1955, 6, 7, 8 most of the Japanese that came here around 1950 by that time, if you didn't have the money the fishing companies gave you the money and they would subtract it every year off your fishing cot. It comes, once again, the trust and the respect that the companies had for the Japanese. They knew they were going to get their money back.
KF
So how many families came back to Steveston because ...
JK
Oh.
KF
Well, I mean, not a specific number but, you know, if you look at the history a lot of families chose to, just, stay in Alberta or move eastward and not come back to BC. So, what was the community like after the war? If you remember.
02:10:07.000
02:10:07.000
JK
Well, for me, just generally, I would say two-thirds of the families that went to Alberta or the prairies came back to the west coast.
KF
Really?
JK
Oh, yeah.
KF
Wow.
JK
Because they were all fishermen. They weren't farmers. The hard winters there and, things like that, you know, most of them, by that time, they were in their early fifties or sixties. So, they didn't like the harsh winters. They knew Steveston and Richmond. The ones that went more back east to Toronto and Montreal, I think, maybe the opposite might have happened. Like, a third might have come back because, by then, their kids were going to university and they were more well established there. They weren't farming there. They were involved in some kind of working. Hamilton people, a lot of them worked at the steel mill there. I think that it depends where you were, where the numbers were quite different. Greenwood, I'm sure fifty percent of them came back here, at least, maybe more. You talked to a lot of the ones that are still living. Most of them came from Greenwood.
KF
The fishermen that came back, their properties weren't there anymore or they were sold off to other people, where did they go, where did they rebuild their homes?
JK
That came back here?
KF
Yeah, the ones that came back here.
JK
They all stayed in cannery housing.
KF
Cannery housing?
JK
Yeah.
KF
Oh, okay.
JK
All this used to be Gulf of Georgia cannery housing, here.
KF
Wow.
JK
BC Packers used to be close to where the plant ... Nelson Brothers was close to the plant. Phoenix Cannery was close to the plant. Great West was a block and a half away from their plant. They had cannery housing, buildings. As I say, most of them, within a five, six year period moved out of the cannery housing. That's why everything was torn down here and made into warehousing and stuff like that. Yeah, a lot of the BC Packer property in front of the community center was all cannery housing in there.
KF
And families would live there, too?
JK
Yeah.
KF
Wow.
JK
From, about, the 19, I think it was 1922 or something like that, all the cannery houses in Steveston had electricity, you know? Up until then they used coal lamps but electricity was put in. In the early years, as I say, we had wood stoves but that lasted the early '50s I would say. After they moved into their own house things changed, central heating and everything else, you know.
KF
But your family didn't move into a cannery house, they ...
JK
Yup, we did.
KF
Oh, you did?
JK
Yup, Nelson Brother cannery house.
KF
The Nelson Brother cannery house.
JK
Yeah, that's where the floors were.
KF
Oh, okay. So that's the uneven floors?
JK
Yeah.
KF
And did you share it with anyone else?
JK
No. We were in one house at the end there. The Koboyashis lived next to us, the Yotogawas lived next to us, the Murakamis lived next to us. I forget who lived in the next two houses. They were all Nelson Brother for sure. There were other Nelson Brother fishing houses, also. Right along the dike there was six or seven, right along the dike.
KF
So the canneries, in some ways, helped the fishermen reestablish themselves.
JK
Oh, yeah. Well, you know, it's like I was mentioning Ken Fraser going out to recruit the fishermen. If they didn't have family housing it would have been very difficult for them to come back here. They had these houses and so ... Yeah, they did some fixing up before the families came back but we were pretty well able to move straight in.
02:15:14.000
02:15:14.000
KF
Your siblings. I haven't asked you about your siblings yet. By the time you came back you said you had six brothers and sisters. What are their names?
JK
My oldest sister is married to a Katai. My sister's name was Terukokei. My brother, George, is married and has two daughters. He's divorced now. He's seventy years old now. My sister's seventy-four, I guess. No, seventy-three. She has three kids. Ed was an engineer and he worked in Manitoba, Dominion Steelworks, and then he went to Seattle and got landed immigrant status, then he worked at a steel mill there, and then moved to Jacksonville, Florida and worked at a steel mill there. Then he retired about five years ago, now, and he moved back to Steveston. He lives on Second Avenue here. My brother lives on Number One Road, about a block away from my sister. The third one, sister, lives in Coquitlam, Yoko, Dorothy Yoko, married to Doctor Ken Miki. They have a boy and a girl. Then there's Janey, Janey Sligh. She married a Richmond fireman and they have two kids. They're both married. No, one's divorced now. That's Janey, and then there's Evelyn Haudder, married a Caucasian. She has two girls and one of them lives in Bamfield and the other one lives here in Richmond. He's the one that's building that ...
KF
Mhm.
JK
His father, he worked most of his life. His father owned Huadder Tugs. They used to haul logs along the west coast, here. He sold that to a private company. He wanted an agreement, after he sold it he had to work there for four years, which he did. So he's done okay. They just sold their house a month and a half ago. No, a month ago. They built it in Terra Nova, which is the nicest area in Richmond, here. He bought the property there for $300,000 and built a house for $500,000. Twelve years later, he sold it for $2.83 million.
KF
Wow.
JK
Bob's probably the richest of all my sisters and brothers because I know his share in his dad's business was $12 million. So bob's done okay, but he's a good guy. So I think that's all of them, isn't it?
KF
They were all born in ...
JK
Teruko was born in Lethbridge. George Hajime, was born in Lethbridge. Yoko, Dorothy was born in Lethbridge. Janey, Miyuki was born in Lethbridge. Janey, no, who am I missing? Dorothy, Janey, and Evelyn. Oh, Rosa, I'm missing Rosa. Rosa is the fifth one. She was born in Grand Forks. Evelyn was born at Grace Hospital, here in Vancouver.
02:20:04.000
02:20:04.000
KF
But the rest were all born in Lethbridge?
JK
Yeah.
KF
In the camps?
JK
Not in the camp. They were born in ...
KF
Oh, on the farms. Sorry, yeah.
JK
The farms and Lethbridge Hospital.
KF
Wow.
JK
I went there last year. Two years ago, I went back there visiting Mr. Senda. I wonder if anybody's interviewing Mrs. Senda. She's ninety.
KF
We have someone going out into Alberta this coming month and they're going to be there for, I think, at least a month.
JK
Mrs. Senda, her and her husband came from Mission, BC. She runs a judo club in Lethbridge, or he did. He's been a judoka but he passed away three years ago now. She still has all her marbles but she's in Lethbridge and, yeah, they've ... Her son lives in Vancouver now, but her other son lives in Lethbridge. They have a daughter somewhere, too, but he's been a judo person all his life. Flo Senda, that's her name.
KF
Flo Senda, okay. Yeah, we'll check that out.
JK
Yeah, because she's a, as I say, she's ninety years now. She's got all her marbles.
KF
Yeah. So most of your siblings have come back to Steveston or have remained in Steveston.
JK
Yup.
KF
Wow.
JK
They've all come back except one in Port Coquitlam.
KF
You've stayed in Steveston ever since ...
JK
Pretty well ...
KF
Pretty well since the '50s?
JK
Yeah.
KF
What is it about Steveston that people, you know, seem to see?
JK
When you're born here and when you live here, Steveston is a great community.
KF
Yeah. You can tell.
JK
It's really good. It's along the river and there's still a lot of, like, Steveston proper, here, which is Number One Road this way, we're trying to keep Steveston as it was. No high-rises along Moncton Street, only two stories maximum. We're trying to keep it down here. On the other side, we're not so concerned about going five, six because Mines Manor was seven stories high. So we're not so concerned about that but we'd like to keep Steveston, not necessarily a fishing village, but a small town village. You know, once upon a time is ... You see the film once upon a time?
KF
Mhm.
JK
A lot of it is done in Steveston. They rent the facilities from Gulf of Georgia and other people in Steveston, here. It's a fight all the time with the developers. We're fighting all the time with developers and the council saying “No.” The other, as I was mentioning earlier, Harold Steves is a strong component of keeping Steveston as Steveston.
KF
Really?
JK
And he's still councilor. He's seventy-eight, I think. He's still councilor for forty some odd years.
KF
Is the rest of the Japanese Canadian population within Steveston and the community here, are they quite adamant about maintaining the community as well?
JK
Yeah, they are. Most of the ... Even the Caucasians that have lived here a long time are very adamant about keeping ... That's why I say it's the developers that we have to fight all the time because, yes, you know, like, my brother in law his ... He lives on ... The oldest sister, their house, her parent's house, was 66 feet wide by 110 feet deep. In Steveston, you can divide it into 33 feet lots. So he divided them, two 33 foot lots. He built a house, his own house on one lot. It's 2100 square feet and the next lot is the same, 2100 square feet. He sold it. A house in Steveston right now is $1 million, 2100 square feet. I said to my brother, I said to Eddie, I said “Eddie, 1950 your dad could have bought all of Steveston and have money left over. You could barely buy a house now.”
02:25:12.000
02:25:12.000
JK
I don't know. It's just, it's a nice community. As I say, whether you're Buddhist Church Temple people or Christian people, everybody seems to get along well together. Right now, we had a meeting the week before with city people in building a new community center. It's somewhere between $50 and $75 million, the new community center. What they're doing right is consulting the community because, you know, we always fight with the city. I shouldn't say we're fighting all the time but we fight with the city in terms of not listening to the community. You should be addressing the needs of the community, not what you think. They tried to push on us a few years, about twenty years ago, about building a community center that fits all. Well, each area has its own idiosyncrasies. They said, “No, no, no. We just want to build.” “No, you're not going to do that in Steveston because these are some of our needs in Steveston.” We have the Maple Senior Center. We have the Rigby Senior Manor. We have the army and navy vets. We've got some senior complexes here. So, as a community center, what should we be doing to, um, good programs with these people that live in these senior centers, or how do we get our young people interacting with the seniors? All the seniors are not out of it yet. Some of the seniors can, like, we've read some books on some senior complexes in New York, for instance, where they built a six story building and one story, the middle floor, is for young people to come in there and learn from the seniors and things like that. We were talking about the same thing. How do we, in our new community center, incorporate working with the seniors in our area and working with the Buddhist Church and their senior complex? How do we incorporate some of that? So, anyway, it's interesting in the sense that, I guess, you know, like, if I have to go to these complexes then, you know, I don't want to be a vegetable. I'd like to do something. So what can I do?
KF
Yeah.
JK
We have a very active, what should I say? We call it the twenty-twenty group but we have all the main players in Steveston in this twenty-twenty group. We started this seven years ago now because what happened was, at one time, all the different groups in Steveston, the Historical Society, the Gulf of Georgia Cannery, the Harvest Board, all these were an offshoot of the Steveston Community Society. Some people got cheesed off that the society formed another group and we weren't working together. So, about seven years ago, we got everybody together and said “Okay, this group here, we're only going to talk about Steveston, what's good for Steveston, that's all. Nothing else.” It took us two or three years to get everybody thinking the same. So now city council says “Okay, this is what we want to do in Steveston” and they consult the group first.
KF
Quite a strong community it sounds like. Very cohesive.
JK
Yeah. We're very ... Oh, I mean, if you go against this community you've got a big fight, I'm telling you laughs. Some developers say “I'm never going to buck you guys.”
KF
That's the same, like, my boyfriend's from Salt Spring and Salt Spring is very adamant about keeping the community, you know, preserving the community, whatever that is, which means, for them, a lot of the times is not allowing big box stores or massive chains to come in. They're really adamant about maintaining the local artisans and business owners.
02:30:05.000
02:30:05.000
JK
So you'll see, like, I don't know, some big chain come in, they'll pop up for a few months and then the government council there will eventually run them out, or the residents refuse to shop there and the company will end up having to move because they're not being able to sustain themselves. It's pretty amazing watching small communities like that. You definitely get that vibe in Steveston.
JK
We're still very adamant about certain things in Steveston. You know, one of the things in Steveston that we're going for now is being declared a world heritage from Scotch Pond to London Farms. That process has started. About two years ago we brought this up. Then, when we heard that Skeena River, it's a place up in Prince Rupert that, now, has been declared a world heritage center up there, a cannery, so we started to, got it passed council so far, anyway. They've got staff working on it.
KF
Was there ever any discrimination in Steveston against the Japanese or was there any riffs between ...
JK
No, I would say not with the Japanese, more with the Chinese.
KF
More with the Chinese right now?
JK
Mhm. There's a lot of ... I wouldn't say just in Steveston. I would say in Richmond as a whole. More of them are moving to Steveston because it's become a desirable place to live. Oh, I'm still talking. I better ...
KF
No, that's okay.
JK
No, it's just like I was mentioning about the volunteering. They didn't want to volunteer. They said, “How much more money should we pay?” I said, “It's not about the money.” So, I think, you know, they're buying up farmland. They're buying farms and they're not farming it. They're building monstrosity houses on it. There's a little backlash happening in Richmond right now, but, you know, like, a lot of people say “Okay, building a monstrosity house is not the problem. It's the farmland that should be farmed. So, why don't they rent out the farm?” Things like that. There's other people in the community here saying that “Some of them own three, four houses or condos or whatever and not living. It's just a matter of making money. Is that what we want?” That's more in Richmond, you know? Sixty-two percent of Richmond is Asian. Forty-eight percent is from Hong Kong.
KF
Oh, wow.
JK
And then there's mainland China, Japanese, Filipinos, Indonesians, Taiwanese, you know. So, Asian-wise we're a huge population. As a community, even the last election talked about signage in Richmond because signage in Canada is supposed to be English and French, right? In Richmond here, if you go to ...
KF
There's a number of signs in Chinese.
JK
Just Chinese, and so the question of the politicians running was: should we be enforcing that? How do you enforce it? What does it cost you to do that? Are we really going to gain anything? In Richmond, here, so far our Richmond mayor is Caucasian. Malcolm Brodie is Caucasian. Chinese councilors, we have two councilors out of eight. The rest are Caucasian.
02:35:00.000
02:35:00.000
JK
I'm sure when Malcolm retires, which may be three years from now, probably, we might have a Chinese mayor. Once again, it depends on what ... The person, you know? What do you believe in? A city for all the citizens or interest groups? But, yeah, once you come to Steveston you don't want to leave Steveston, or you come back.
KF
Yeah, I get that feeling for sure. It's always a pleasant place to visit. Just to, maybe, wrap up a little bit do you have children Mr. Kojima? Do you ever tell them about your experiences as a young child or do they ever ask you about that time period?
JK
Oh, yeah. My two boys asked me a lot about Alberta. I've taken them there.
KF
Have you?
JK
Yeah.
KF
Wow.
JK
To Grand Forks and, kind of, trace my steps, you know. One's forty-seven, I guess, now. The other is forty-three. So, when they were young we used to, I guess a couple times, we went to Alberta and Grand Forks and, kind of, retraced some of my steps. Yeah, my oldest son is probably ... He's interested in a lot of historical things about the family. Yeah. So he's ... See, my first marriage, I was married to a Caucasian.
KF
Okay.
JK
And we had two boys. My youngest son, Trevor, he was married to a Caucasian and she was part Italian and part Brit, I would say. One day when the two kids, now they're fourteen and eleven, or fifteen and twelve, and my oldest son, Randy, said “Jordan, what are you?” Jordan says, “I'm Japanese.” “What do you mean you're Japanese? You're only a quarter, an eighth Japanese.” “No. Uncle, I'm Japanese.” “Riley, what are you?” He said, “I'm Japanese, too, uncle. I'm Japanese.” So it's funny how kids are laughs. So, my oldest son is married to a Chinese. Her grandfather was from mainland China and then her father is from Taiwan, or born in Taiwan, and, I guess, many years ago when Japanese invaded China, her great, great grandmother, or something, had a child with a Japanese. So she's one-eighth Japanese.
KF
Oh, really? Oh, interesting.
JK
So, I said “That's why I like you.” laughs. My second wife is from Osaka, from Japan. She was widowed and she has two girls that are the same age as my two sons and one son, that's older, two years older than my oldest son. They all get along really well together. Her son lives in Osaka and he has three kids. For nine years they lived in Atlanta. He worked for a company his uncle runs and he was running the new plant in Atlanta. They make parts for Kubota Tractors.
KF
Oh, okay.
02:39:57.000
02:39:57.000
JK
Two of them, now, started this year ... Well, no, started last year. The oldest daughter graduated from high school in Atlanta. So she went back to Japan and applied to universities and she got accepted into Osaka University. The oldest son just graduated in June and so he's gone back to Japan and starting university in Kyoto. I forget the name of the university now. It used to be strong in karate. There's a judo guy there, too. Anyway, he's going. The youngest daughter, she's moving back in February and she's starting high school in Japan, also in Kyoto. Her daughter, oldest daughter, lives in Thailand, in Bangkok and her husband works for the United Nations. The youngest daughter, Chika, she lives just over here on Seventh Avenue and they have two kids, a girl and a boy. So we have ten grandchildren wandering around somewhere.
KF
Oh, my god. Big family. So your sons, then, try and maintain some sort of cultural ties to Japan?
JK
My son, oldest son more than my youngest son.
KF
More than your youngest?
JK
Yeah, yeah.
KF
Okay.
JK
My oldest son, maybe it's because of me. I've always said “You should try to understand where you've come from.” So he's been to Japan three times now. He's been to China. He travels quite a ... He's involved in your eyes. The over ... What do you call it? Your eyeball?
KF
Yeah.
JK
Anyway, he's become a specialist in that. So he goes all over the world and he's lecturing and he's selling a product that was developed by three doctors in Australia. You put this contact in at night, especially with kids if your eye isn't too bad, and then within, they say, two weeks to a month your eye becomes twenty-twenty.
KF
What? Where was this when I was younger?
JK
Yeah, and so, they've been doing this selling for about, I guess with these three doctors, God, it must be seven or eight years now. Two years ago they bought this company out because the three doctors said we want to sell the company. So they bought this company out. I called him a failure because he went to university three years and he quit.
KF
Oh, I see.
JK
And I said, “You're nothing.” So, anyway, he started working for contacts. No, first he was just working for Pearl Vision and then this one guy recruited him and said, “Randy, come work for me.” He had this company called Precision Optical. So he started working for Bob and then he started to branch out in terms of the eye itself and how contacts and other things influence it and then he got involved with a university in Portland, what's it called, Pacific something. Anyway, this doctor said to him “Randy, you do a scientific paper on this eyeball over ...” I forget what it's called now. “And present it to the American optometrist group.” So, about five years ago, maybe a little bit more, he went to Miami to do HEM and appeared before a panel of five and they went over his papers and stuff.
02:45:08.000
02:45:08.000
JK
They said, “We accept you.” So he said “Dad, I passed.” He phoned me. He said, “You know, only five percent of the optometrists in North America has this designation.” So then a lot of things started to happen. He got recruited from a Boston company and this Boston company said to him “Randy, we want to hire you but you've got to relocate to Boston. It's an international company and you have a fair amount of travelling.” He said “What do you think dad?” I said, “Depends on how much money you get paid but the other thing is how much freedom do you have?” I said, “You're part owner of this company here at Precision Optical and I said it depends on where you guys want to go in the future.” So, finally, he said, because this guy said to him “Randy, there's only three people in North America that have your qualifications.” He said, “You've really become a specialist.” So anyway, he said “No.” They have a contact lens producing company in Vancouver here and they just bought another one in Toronto. I don't know. He seems to be doing okay. My younger son works for the same company, which I really didn't like in the beginning. Anyway, he's doing okay. He's now a sales manager for Canada. So I guess he's doing okay.
KF
Alright, two last questions to finish up. The first being, when you look back on what happened during the war and all the Japanese Canadians being moved across Canada, what are your thoughts and feelings on that now, looking back?
JK
Well, there's a couple of things I feel, okay? One of them is that, with what happened, I don't agree with the way it happened. I don't, maybe, appreciate the hardships our fathers and grandparents went through and don't agree with the injustice that happened, but sometimes there's positive things from bad things that have happened. To me, just looking at it today is, the positives that happened is the Japanese kids became professionals maybe one or two generations earlier than they would have if they lived on the west coast here in their, I shouldn't say ghettos, but in their lodging along the west coast here. That's what I feel the positive was, that they became professionals. They became doctors. They became accountants. They became lawyers. You know, I just find, education-wise, that might've sped up one or two generations earlier. So I think that was a positive of that.
KF
And then the second question, to conclude the interview, for those that'll listen to this interview further on, years to come, do you have any message for future Canadians who might listen to this interview or are interested in this particular time period?
JK
Well, I think it's really, especially as you get older, I think, maybe, when you're young you don't want to hear a lot of the, maybe, bad things or the hardships that people went through, but history is history. You should, as a Japanese Canadian or as a, maybe, fourth generation, maybe you're only one-quarter Japanese or one-eighth Japanese, I think it's important that you know a little bit about your own roots.
02:50:00.000
02:50:00.000
JK
And why the Japanese are where they're at today is because, for me, I look back on my years and it's because of the first and second generation Japanese did what they did and endured all the things they endured that we have a better life today and we should be thankful for that. Also, I guess, I always say that, you know, whatever you are you should be proud of whatever you are. Whether you're Japanese, Chinese, whatever, it doesn't matter. You should be proud of what you are. You may be a mixture of a lot, but that should make you proud of what you are. I hope that the young people, you will look at where your roots came from and learn a little bit from that. Just at least know something about your roots.
KF
Great, thank you.
JK
You're welcome. Tape paused to move locations.
KF
Tape resumes after moving locations. There is more background noise now. So we're now in the Gulf of Georgia Cannery.
JK
This is the early 1900s where you see some Japanese, the natives, Caucasians that all worked in this cannery. You see the fishing boats in the early days that had what we called Easthope, one cylinder motors. There's fishing nets, where they're mending their nets. What else do we see here? The various canneries that lined the Fraser River, here. In the early 1900s, they say there was twenty canneries mining in the Steveston area.
KF
Twenty canneries? Oh, my god. These nets were made out of what, usually?
JK
These days it was rayon. So it was very heavy and then it became nylon. Rayon, the fish, if the river wasn't dirty the fish could see the rayon nets so they didn't catch as many fish, but then they became nylon nets, lighter and very much thinner and hard to see by the fish. That's when the fishermen started catching lots of fish, too much. That scene, it says 1913. That scene along the riverfront here.
KF
Yeah. Jim speaks to a friend. 02:53:06 – 02:53:33
JK
Now we're in the fishing cannery itself. This is, in the early days, there was no motors. People didn't have motors on boats. This is a twenty-five foot, what we call a skiff or a rowboat. There would be one man rowing the boat and one, what they called a fisherman, at the back putting in the nets and taking up the nets. In the early days, to be a fisherman you had to be a landed immigrant.
KF
Oh, okay.
JK
And then, in later years, they called these people, that were rowers, pullers. In the 1920s you had to be also a landed immigrant. The reason was they tried to, once again, reduce the number of Japanese out in the fishing industry.
KF
Mhm, and so this is what you were ... Well, you did something similar, right? You'd row out and then catch fish.
02:54:55.000
02:54:55.000
JK
Yes, that's right. In my days, the boat was only from here to the end there. So it was a lot lighter to row out there. In the early 1900s, when the motor started to come into being, then ... I shouldn't say early ... Around 1920 there were one cylinder Easthope motors that were produced here in Steveston, started to become prevalent. You didn't need pullers out anymore, or rowers, you just needed fishermen at the back because he operated by himself. Once again, there was some situations in the north in Prince Rupert, for instance. In 1927, Japanese could not use motorized boats.
KF
They weren't allowed to. Wow.
JK
They weren't allowed to use motorized boats. Although they were allowed to on the Fraser River, but in Skeena they weren't. There was a man named, fishermen named Kizawa. He was a Waseda University graduate in law. He said, you know, as they were fishing in the summertime he said to the Japanese fishermen “Let's take it to court. Let's go to court.”
KF
Okay.
JK
The Japanese had lost many different cases in court so the Japanese fishermen said “No” to him. So he said, “I've got to find a way of getting to court without costing any money.” So he said, “I'm single, I don't care if I go to jail. It's fine.” So he came to Steveston and he met with Mr. Rin Taruhayashi and he met with a Takahashi. He said, “This is my situation in Skeena.” They were friends of Mr. Kizawa. So Mr. Hayashi said “Okay, we'll give you your $500 to buy a boat and we'll give you a bunch of material to take up with you.” So Mr. Kizawa went to court and he ... No, he bought a boat right away, went out fishing, and sure enough the fisheries officers came along and confiscated his boat. He appeared before the judge the next morning after being in jail overnight. He said “Your honor, I'm not here to plead for innocence.” He said “I know I'm guilty. I did wrong according to the law today, but do you think this is fair?” He said “The natives and the Caucasians can go fishing in motorized boats and the Japanese cannot. Do you think this is fair?” He said “All I'm here is to plead for justice. If there's justice in the world, there's justice in Canada. Your honor, that's all I'm pleading for is justice.” So that was it. So he was put back in jail and the next morning he appeared before the court again. The judge said “We've heard your case. From this point forward the Japanese can use motorized boats.”
KF
Oh, so he was successful.
JK
Yup.
KF
Wow.
JK
In the olden days, I talked about rayon nets. These are these heavy rayon nets.
KF
Right.
JK
So, they used to have to put this in bluestone tank. In the 1950s when I came back, my father would be mending the nets and then we'd put them in this bluestone tank. They would stop it from decaying. It was rotting. From the bluestone tank we would put it straight onto the back of the boat. These are the kind of drums that the nets would go on.
KF
Okay.
JK
And then, as I mentioned, these are nylon nets. Look at how much thinner they are compared to those nets. You see?
KF
Right.
JK
So the fish can hardly see the nets in the water. That's a trolling girder, as they call it. So this is gillnet fishing. It's one type of fishing.
KF
Can I ask, how do these things never get tangled up when they roll them in and put them up?
JK
Sometimes they do. It just depends if the fishermen ... Normally the guy standing at the back will adjust the net to go from this side to that side to that side and then back again, but if he just lets it roll on one side and then it will flip over and it gets tangled up.
KF
Ah, okay.
JK
Fishermen are smart enough not to let that happen.
KF
Okay.
JK
So when I talked about the Easthope motors, 1897.
KF
Oh, okay.
JK
This is two cylinders but there's also ... The early ones had a one cylinder Easthope motor. Makes engine noises. You'd have to start this by hand. It wasn't electric. You had to turn this drum. Makes engine noises.
KF
Yeah laughs.
JK
Apparently Easthope ... Motorized boats, I think, were invented in the United States in Oregon I think was the first boat engine that came to BC here.
KF
Oh, okay.
JK
So, those are corks.
KF
Oh, yeah, we've got lots of these at my parents' house.
JK
This linen net. See how heavy these are compared to this nylon net?
KF
Yeah, it's significantly lighter. Yeah, wow.
JK
So, one of the things ... See, this is fairly bigger. I think it's bigger than this one. It should be. See how ...
KF
Yeah, it looks smaller. Mhm.
JK
It depends on what you're fishing for, okay? If this is a sockeye salmon or any kind of fish, the fish head has to come through here and it's caught by the gills. That's why they call it gillnet fishing.
KF
Oh, I didn't know that.
JK
Yeah. This is, probably, spring salmon or king salmon fishing. This is quite big. See how big that is?
KF
Oh, so the size of the net depends on the type of salmon that you want to catch.
JK
That's right, yeah. So sockeye salmon is smaller. Coho is a little bit bigger. Dog salmon is bigger. My father, when he was fishing, would say “Oh ...” You'd make a net in the wintertime, for instance, or buy a net in the spring and you'd go out fishing and he'd say “This year's sockeye seems to be smaller. I need to buy another net.” So he would change the size of his net depending even the fish of the season.
KF
Oh, wow.
JK
Those are trolling nets. So this is the different type of fishing. This is trolling where you'd have lines out and these ... Where they've got these lines strung up. If a fish got caught they would ring makes bell noises. You would know it was that line the fish is on.
KF
Which one is more efficient for catching salmon? Is it the trolling or is it more the gillnets?
JK
Oh, gillnets.
KF
Gillnets, yeah.
JK
Because you only have so many lines out here. So there's gillnet, you know, like, one time my father was able to catch 2000 pink salmon in one set. This is what you call seine net. They put the line in and then they keep pulling up from the bottom so all the fish get caught in the middle.
KF
Okay.
JK
And then they put a big net in to scoop all the fish out.
KF
So, prewar, when the Japanese fishermen were in Steveston, what methods did they usually use?
JK
Gillnet.
KF
Gillnet, okay.
JK
This is crab and prawn fishermen. They have ...
KF
Yeah, the cases. Pause while they walk the cannery floor.
03:05:03.000
03:05:03.000
JK
So this is this year's exhibit in here. Every year this exhibit changes. I'll show you later, but this is about the river, uh, things that happened on the river here and the different ... Hooligan fishing is the small fish that in April there's hooligan fishing but the fish are quite small. They're quite tasty. Would you say I take that over salmon? No. The industry along the river ... So every year we change this area. I forget what next year is going to be now. Two years, no, three years ago was on the Japanese fishing, their houses, their boats, the type of gear they used, how they knitted their underwear for fishing, and stuff like that.
KF
Oh, really?
JK
Yeah, so every year we change this area up because it's like anything, if you have it every year, the same thing, people say, like, my wife “I don't want to come. It's the same thing.” So every year we change this area.
KF
Does the board get to decide what the special exhibit is or ...
JK
No, we have ... Well, I should say, we can decide but we have a person that's responsible for exhibits. So she's already working on next year's exhibit. I forget what it is now. I think it was something to do with the natives, I think, native fishing. So what used to happen here, now it's an exhibit area, that's a canning line on the other side. There used to be two canning lines here. We took one out.
KF
Two canning lines, okay.
JK
So we took one out and now this one line is strictly for exhibits. New exhibits every year.
KF
So this ... Go ahead.
JK
Yeah.
KF
I was just going to say, this portion of the building, are there different names for the portions of the building or is it just all ...
JK
Well, this is a canning line. It was a canning line it was called in the early days.
KF
Canning line, okay.
JK
So, uh, this area is a different area. It's called a herring reduction plant. It used to make fertilizer. It used to be ... That's why people didn't want to live in Steveston in the early days.
KF
Because it smelled from the fertilizer?
JK
Because it smelled. Wintertime, when the herring reduction plant was working, the smell in Steveston, the ladies couldn't put their clothes out. It was just terrible. So people used to say “Don't live in Steveston. The smell will get you.” So what happens here is this is the fish dock here. “Do not open. Paint remover.” So the dock is right here.
KF
Oh, okay.
JK
So the boats used to come right here and offload their fish, okay? They used to offload it into a conveyer, like this, and then this is where the fish is separated into different species, sockeye, coho, pink salmon, and then, when they started processing it they would say that “Okay, uh, the next batch of salmon I would like is sockeye.” So it would be in one of these bins and then that'd go up that conveyer there. There's a big salmon there.
KF
Yeah, no kidding.
JK
So in the early years ... BC salmon prices, 1952. Once again, depending on the species, pink salmon was seven and a half cents a pound, coho was thirteen cents, sockeye was twenty-five cents a pound. So depending on your species and the weight, that's what you paid or that's the money the fisherman got.
03:10:31.000
03:10:31.000
KF
Do you know what the prices are now for fishermen?
JK
No, I don't. Sorry.
KF
That's okay, because I know they've changed quite a bit.
JK
Oh, yeah. Sockeye is, um, oh, gosh, um, fisherman getting sockeye. Oh, I think it's about a buck fifty, I think.
KF
Okay.
JK
Yeah, it's about six times. So this is gazetted in Ottawa as a iron chink. It's gazetted as that, okay? It's called a butchering line now.
KF
Little bit of a different name.
JK
So the fish come down in here and they're lined up. This iron chink, when the person that developed this machine, it replaced sixteen Chinese butchers along the line.
KF
Hence the name, iron chink.
JK
Hence, the name became the iron chink.
KF
Okay.
JK
So, once again, the fish come out of the container, they're lined up by a worker who is standing right there, and put in this machine. Once the machine ... The first thing that happens is the head is cut off. Right here there's a cutter. The heads cut off and it's lined up like that. So by the time it comes out, the tail is off, all the fins are off, the belly is split open, and the guts and everything else is out of it.
KF
With this one machine?
JK
One machine. So, as I say, it replaced sixteen workers.
KF
Do you know how many salmon would be processed in a minute just with this macine?
JK
Um, just a minute, no, I'll find that out. I think it was about one every five seconds or something like that.
KF
Because if you're replacing sixteen Chinese with one machine ...
JK
I know, but one has to cut the head off, one has to ...
KF
I know. So I'm thinking, like, the number must have been a lot better, too.
JK
Oh, yeah.
KF
Faster, right?
JK
Yeah. So, in the early days this is how Japanese women worked along this line, or natives, with their kids strapped to their back.
KF
Oh, god. Yeah, that's a good photo right there.
JK
Yeah, and so, you know, my mother and them worked on this line.
KF
So a fish cleaning line.
JK
Fish cleaning. So, cleaning the inside the belly before it's going to be cut and put into cans. The fish would come along here and then when it was clean it would be put in there and then go down that conveyer there.
KF
Now, fish cleaning and tails, what exactly? Being rinsed? I see these hoses here, so they were rinsed. Anything else?
JK
No, that's all.
KF
That's it?
JK
Yeah, you just open it up here and then clean the belly out and any blood that's on, clean it off. So that's how the women would be fish cleaning.
KF
This was predominantly done by Japanese women?
JK
Yeah.
KF
Okay.
JK
There was Caucasians, too, but mostly Japanese fishermen's wives. As it's shown there, you know, in the early days they'd strap their kids to their back and cleaning fish while they're looking after their children.
03:15:00.000
03:15:00.000
KF
Mhm, that's a great photo. All the babies lined up in the back.
JK
So after the fish was cleaned they'd walk this line here and put it on this line, once again, in this holding tank. This holding tank, they would open it up and they'd put the fish in here. These are where the cuts are from the knives. It'd be cut by these and made into, basically, tin-size fish. All the fish would go in there.
KF
So this is for cutting, this one.
JK
Yeah.
KF
Okay.
JK
Then the pieces would come out there. They would come down here, right?
KF
Yup.
JK
The cans are coming down here.
KF
This machine then fills the cans? It'd take it down and fill it?
JK
Yup.
KF
Okay.
JK
These are half pound.
KF
Half pound, okay.
JK
This can line runs around two o'clock. They run it for about twenty minutes.
KF
Do they really?
JK
Yeah.
KF
Oh, cool.
JK
So the canning line comes through here. You put a little oil inside of it. There's cans like this that have too much fish, cans that have not enough, so there's always a person along here that looks at it and, there's no scale here today, but there's a scale also that they weigh it if they're not quite sure.
KF
Oh, to ensure they're all the same.
JK
Yeah, so the weights are the same. So they add and subtract. If there's not enough fish they add into it. If there's too much they take some out.
KF
Who would usually do this job? Was it a mix or ...
JK
Japanese, mostly Japanese.
KF
Japanese mostly? Okay.
JK
Yeah. The Japanese are fairly good with their hands. This is where the lids go on.
KF
So this is called the clincher?
JK
Yup. Try to get the air out of the cans.
KF
Right.
JK
So once that happened the cans are sealed and there used to be solution in here just to clean the cans.
KF
Oh, I see.
JK
And then the cans would go up a conveyer and down into these trays.
KF
Oh, okay.
JK
How much is there? Counts cans. So there's 110 cans on a tray.
KF
Wow.
JK
And counts trays 11 trays would go on one ...
KF
Almost like a pallet.
JK
It's not a pallet, but what did they call it before? It's on a conveyer anyway. There used to be, this cooker has been shortened, but there used to be ten of these going in one cook.
KF
Oh, wow. So that's meant to cook the fish inside.
JK
Right.
KF
Oh, so they cook them, like, sealed within the can.
JK
Yeah.
KF
Oh, okay.
JK
So you see, steam cooked in the can.
KF
Oh, steam cooked.
JK
Introduced in 1877, this retort was a key invention for canning. It ensured fish was properly cooked to kill the microorganisms that spoil food.
KF
Wow. Yeah, and it does a ton all at once.
JK
It's like a pressure cooker. They have to make sure it's airtight.
KF
242 degrees Fahrenheit, holy. Yeah, that's hot.
JK
Pretty hot.
KF
Yeah. Wow.
03:20:00.000
03:20:00.000
JK
I think it was only about an hour and twenty minutes or something like that it was cooked for.
KF
And the amount of cans that you can do in one go, right?
JK
Yeah, because it used to be ... So, ten, there used to be ten of these at, uh, let's see, there's 110 times ten is, say, 1000. So there used to be 10,000 cans in one cooking.
KF
Wow. Yeah, that's amazing.
JK
So, see how the can loft is up there, all cans. I used to, when I was fifteen years old, I used to work up there.
KF
Oh, okay.
JK
They used to come down the conveyer down at the end there.
KF
Oh.
JK
There'd be different size cans. There would be quarter pound cans, half pound cans, and one pound cans, thousands of them.
KF
No kidding, look at the wall. It's all cans.
JK
This is different. Well, let's just come over here. This is the different types of labels over the years that have been used by Canadian fishing companies, for instance. You'll see some that say “Victory.” It was during the war. Salmon and fish were shipped to Europe and that. “The Great Chief.” This is an old one, too.
KF
Oh, that's really interesting. I never really thought about that, that the labels would reflect, sort of, the current time period and things like that.
JK
Yeah, so, anyway, this is, you know, after it cooled down and everything it comes on here. This is the labeler, right here. In the olden days they were put into wooden boxes because wood was cheap. Now there's no wooden boxes. There's a 1936 truck there with a load of canned salmon. There was also other ways that fish was preserved, salted fish for instance. Want me to carry that?
KF
Oh, no, no, no. It's fine.
JK
Salted fish. See, smoke drying.
KF
Yeah, smoked fish is good.
JK
See, the Japanese used to dry a lot of ... My father used to dry a lot of fish, too.
KF
So drying, do you just use the sun?
JK
It's hanging outside.
KF
You just hang it? Okay.
JK
We used to hang it up by the tail, like this, for days. This was salted herring, west coast, around 1830, early west coast herring but the Japanese started selling herring to Japan and then they went to China. What happens, once again, the Japanese fishing companies are making money so then the government came along and put so much cents a pound on herring so then it drove them out of business. So, you know, the Japanese were very industrious. This is freezing. Even in 1861, it was frozen artificially. Fresh fish ... Today, Canfisco sells a lot of fish like white spring king salmon. Dan Omura, who was one of Kione Omura's cousins, he's the president of the Canadian Fishing Company.
KF
Oh, really?
JK
He sells Alaska white salmon to New York as 'silver' salmon. He gets more for the price of the white salmon than he does the red salmon. So it's just a marketing ploy, you know. It's good because, in August, I like white spring salmon more than the red spring salmon because the oil has gone through the salmon much better.
03:25:00.000
03:25:00.000
KF
For those who don't know, the difference between white salmon and red salmon, what's the difference?
JK
It's just the colour.
KF
Just the colour, right?
JK
Yeah, the colour of the fish, or, not the fish but the inside.
KF
Right, the flesh.
JK
The flesh. So, as I say, they were put in wooden boxes and, maybe, we'll just come over here.
KF
Okay. Oh, yeah, that's a big sockeye there.
JK
Okay, see, there's different names. They call this king salmon, Chinook. We used to call it spring salmon, Chinook or king salmon. This is spring salmon, we call it spring salmon. This is the one that they go out to Queen Charlotte's for fishing or Vancouver Island, what do you call it? Up by Gold River, not Gold River there, what's ... Campbell River.
KF
Right.
JK
For spring salmon. Spring salmon, and, like, my dad used to go out in April, May for spring salmon fishing. You wouldn't catch a lot but, for me, this is the best tasting salmon there is. Whether you're going to make sashimi out of it, or you're going to barbeque or fry it with a little bit of salt, or make sukiyaki, instead of sukiyaki you use salmon meat.
KF
Mhm, that sounds good.
JK
So that's the first one. The next brand that comes along, this is an adult sockeye salmon. This is what it looks like when it hits the Fraser River. The sockeye salmon is normally July, August is sockeye salmon season. That's the most plentiful fish. It's the best tasting one you make canned salmon out of. It's the best and the most expensive. Sashimi, there's Atlantic salmon. They call it Atlantic salmon. It's like sockeye salmon but the Atlantic salmon, as sashimi, is more tasty because it has more oil in it than our salmon here on the west coast. So, this is July, August. The next group is the coho salmon. No, no, just a minute. It's pink salmon right here. Pink salmon is normally August, a little bit of September. Pink salmon only hits the river once, excuse me, every other year, every two years.
KF
Oh, okay.
JK
This is August, early September. September to mid-October, coho salmon. This is another salmon that I like as sashimi or I like as a ... Much like this king salmon here, very tasty salmon but there isn't much coho like there was in the '50s and '60s today. If you can get a coho salmon at a restaurant, I would take that salmon over sockeye salmon. Pink salmon is the cheapest salmon you can get.
KF
Yeah, I've noticed that.
JK
And my mother and her friends, out of pink salmon, made kamaboko.
KF
Oh, yeah. Oh, I love that stuff.
JK
Deep fried kamaboko is quite tasty. So that's a nice looking sockeye up there, too. Chum salmon, the Japanese like this best for suzuko, for the eggs. It has the biggest eggs of all the salmon. A lot of their eggs are sold to Japan. The other thing that my parents used to do in the '50s, we never had freezers, so my dad would get a big bin or box and he'd put salt, dog salmon. Although this is called chum, we called it dog salmon.
03:30:10.000
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KF
Okay.
JK
He'd put salt, dog salmon, salt, dog salmon, salt, dog salmon, salt and we'd eat it all winter.
KF
So that preserved ... All that salt would preserve it, right?
JK
Yeah, all winter long.
KF
Oh.
JK
So that's the five species of salmon, okay. It's seasonal. People say, well, catch this. They don't catch it all year long. It's seasonal because they go up river to spawn.
KF
My mom cured some eggs last year. We had some eggs last year. She put a little bit of sake and salt and shoyu. Oh, my god. It was so good.
JK
Wow, good for her. It's not easy to do that.
KF
No, and it tasted ... She had these little jars and she was pacing herself. She didn't want to eat it all at once laughs. So she would just sneak it out and my dad would be like “What are you eating?” And she would be like “Oh, nothing. It's fine.” She would eat it herself laughs.
JK
This is halibut. You know halibut?
KF
Yeah.
JK
I used to, when I worked at the cannery, a couple of years, I used to fillet at this cannery. You cut the meat down this one side, like this, and then you cut this side down, take it off, and then do the other side, take it off, flip it over, and do the other side. Some of them used to be 400 to 700 pounds, some of these, huge halibut.
KF
God.
JK
These are rock fish and this is sole. The best fish and chips is halibut. The second best, if you can ever get this, is lingcod. It's a very good ... Firm, the meat is firm, too.
KF
My uncle brings this lingcod every once in a while.
JK
Does he?
KF
Yeah.
JK
So pacific cod is, probably, the most you can get here and then sable or black cod. This is good. You ever have black cod marinated in miso?
KF
It's good.
JK
Yeah.
KF
Yeah.
JK
That's Tuna. This is the hooligan.
KF
Oh, that you're talking about, yeah.
JK
This is the big sturgeon that was caught. Let's have a look when it was caught. I think it was about 8 or 900 pounds.
KF
Oh, my god. That was on the Fraser River?
JK
1999, yeah. There's a couple of pools up here where you can catch them. Now they can catch these big, big ones. They caught one the other day, a big one, and they let it go. Even in our day, in the '50s, '60s if one of these wasn't three feet long you couldn't take it home. Japanese used to eat this as sashimi, also.
KF
I was going to say, I don't think I've eaten sturgeon before.
JK
It's very seldom you can see sturgeon in a restaurant, today. It's got sharp things all along here. If you catch it in a fishing net it ruins the net.
KF
Oh, really?
JK
Just cuts the net.
KF
So then how do you ... Is it just, like, if you catch it in a net then you just ...
JK
Say, “Oh, I don't want it.”
KF
Oh, you don't want it?
JK
The fishermen say “I don't want it. No, please.” laughs. So, you see, all along the side there. They're really sharp. It cuts the net to pieces. So the fishermen all hope they don't catch one. They don't very often. There's various pools in the river where they know the sturgeons are. So sport fishermen will go up there and try to catch a sturgeon, but it's more catch and release today. This is where a lot of these sturgeons, in Russia they're caught for the black caviar and that's where the money is.
KF
Oh, okay. God I wouldn't want that swimming beside me.
JK
So come and visit our cannery.
03:35:00.000
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KF
Yeah, it's nice. So, besides the Japanese who worked in the canneries, who else worked in the canneries? I mean, we know there's First Nations, Chinese ...
JK
Well, there was Caucasians. Caucasians were more the bosses of the various workers in the cannery.
KF
Okay.
JK
They were the administrators and the ... They were the brains of the fishing company, yeah.
KF
Oh, okay. Any fond memories of working in canneries that you'd like to share?
JK
Well, I think every new adventure is a learning experience. What did I learn from working in the cannery? I'd never want to work here all my life. It's too dirty and slimy. It's too labor intensive.
KF
Yeah, my dad says he'll never forget the smell.
JK
laughs. Yeah, you come home or you go to a restaurant, even, to eat and people say “Don't sit by me.” laughs.
KF
Yeah. It's a nice gift shop, too.
JK
Yeah, we did this gift shop. It was loosing $10 to $12,000 a year. It was draining us. I don't know when this is redone, now. I think it's about six, seven years ago. We brought in a consultant and said “How do we redo the gift shop to make it more attractive?” From losing $12,000 a year we're making over $12,000 a year. So it was a great turnaround. We changed a lot of the things we're selling here now. We will probably be changing more in the future of trying to bring in more fish products, more, you know, what we're about.
KF
Yeah, we almost bought that pillow salmon as a joke for dad. My dad goes “What am I supposed to do with that?” laughing.
JK
Where's that? I guess it's on the other side. See, this is Moe Owai.
KF
Oh, yeah. He has this, yeah.
JK
I'll give you a copy of this book. I think I gave your dad one, too. See, this is where we did judo. We did judo in the Red Cross Hall, too.
KF
Haperetus, he's still around isn't he?
JK
Yeah, yeah.
KF
Yeah, yeah.
JK
Hap is, uh, he took some of these photos.
KF
I saw his photo on a newspaper, yeah.
JK
This is the Buddhist Temple where we did judo. We did judo in here, too.
KF
Mhm.
JK
See, in the early days Steveston was built above ground because it would flood every July and December.
KF
Okay.
JK
Once they put the dikes in then it was ... This is Mio Mura. This is Mio right here. It's a small little village.
KF
Right.
JK
There's me and the torch.
KF
Oh.
JK
This is me and the shift commission of 2010 in Japan. This is Hashimoto. This is the emperor when he came to, that's Victoria. I'll give you a copy of this from my car.
KF
Sure.
JK
Anyway, this is just about Steveston.
03:40:02.000
03:40:02.000
KF
Community history.
JK
Yeah.
KF
Oh, it sounds like ... Yeah, well he's done a bunch.
JK
Yeah.
KF
Great, yeah, no, that was a great tour. I like this book a lot, too.
JK
Which one?
KF
The spirit of the Nikkei fleet.
JK
Oh, did you get one?
KF
Yeah, I have a copy with my ... Well, my dad collects all those books, right.
JK
Did I give your dad one or he bought one? I forget what it was. Yeah, Masako Okawa and the husband's family did that book.
KF
It's a great one.
JK
That's a very good one. The first one was not so good. I wouldn't say not so good. All it did was list all the fishermen. It wasn't any stories of stuff.
KF
Yeah, this one has more stories.
JK
This one, we're in this one. This is , father.
KF
Oh, wow.
JK
He passed away now, but he lived to be ninety-eight, I think it was.
KF
Photos of his grandchildren. Oh, wow.
JK
This is about Skeena. I think they're both gone now. I think they're both gone. I think this was New Denver or something. No, Angkor. Most of these guys are alive, Ken Takashi, they're all Steveston people. That's how they stand at the back.
KF
Oh, okay.
JK
And the nets come up. This guy Jack is gone now. This is interesting when I went fishing, too. During a tide, because a tide is changing, nothing was happening out in the river. There'd be no fish caught. So, three or four boats would get together and somebody would cook rice and somebody did the salmon and we'd eat right on the boat.
KF
Oh, nice. That looks really good.
JK
That was really interesting. Lots of times good, good food. This is Rin Taruhayashi. He's the one that wanted to ... And, um, that was his father.
KF
Wow.
JK
Here's us. This is our sensei Yonekazu Sakai. You see, he's eighth-dan. That's Art Nishi. That's Sakamoto.
KF
Mhm.
JK
Yup, that's the cultural center before we built it. Can you imagine, after sixty-three years of marriage ... Um, '55. This is Dan Namura president of the Canadian .
KF
Oh, okay.
JK
This guy's still alive, Terry Sakai.
KF
Mhm. I feel like somebody interviewed him already.
JK
Is that right?
KF
Yeah.
JK
He's still pretty sharp. Terry Sakai and his brother Mitt Sakai, that's also another interesting guy. Here's another Namura. Ken Takahashi. Lady fishermen. Anyway, that's ... Yeah, this is a good book, Masako and them did a great job.
03:45:20.000
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KF
Mhm, yeah, alright. Tape is paused as they move outside.
KF
Tape resumes outside. Seagulls in background. So, Munster cannery?
JK
Munster cannery, yeah.
KF
Okay.
JK
This statue ... We wanted to put something up here. This one fellow that graduated from Steveston High School, he does a lot of bronze stuff and he also has some bronze statues in Abbotsford. So the Steveston High School alumni, they wanted to do something but ... They wanted to do this and Norm Williams, the fellow that graduated from Steveston High, he said “I can draw it up and I can have it made, etcetera.” So they asked myself and my brother in law to get involved. We got involved but we had to do everything and we ended up raising $500,000 for this. We were able to do it with the BC government's help and donations from companies and stuff. So this is, kind of, an old fishermen telling a fishing story. Okay?
KF
Yup.
JK
And this young cannery worker here, he's a young man. He'll believe anything. So he's telling one of these fish that was this big, this big, and was telling a story. This young lady here, cannery worker, has got a smile on her face, laughing, and saying “Oh, this old man is telling another one of his fishing stories.” This was one that we wanted to get to look like a Japanese.
KF
Oh, okay, yeah.
JK
So it was the cheek bone that we had adjusted to look like a Japanese. Actually, it looks like my sister, the one my brother in law married laughs.
KF
Oh, good looking statue.
JK
Oh, so, anyway, there's a little bit about that on there. We're very proud of this because it took a lot of work to get to these points. This thing has lasted, even this needle hasn't broken off. You know, nothing. People sit on here and they ...
KF
Climb on it, yeah.
JK
Nothing's really happened to it so we're pretty lucky.
KF
Yeah, these are great.
JK
These are exactly ... Their glove's in their back pocket, you know, and coffee time, thick gum boots. This is called Fishermen's Park. It's too bad it's all like it is but ... In the early 1900s, the name Fishermen's Park came about because fishermen would go to this beer parlor here and they'd get drunk and they'd sleep in the park at night laughs.
KF
Nice history there laughs. Oh, it's bustling right now though. It's got lots of people out and about.
JK
Oh, it's always bustling, this place because there's a lot of restaurants along the water here. So you see, you could see the mountains from here. My brother in law is building that. She wants the seven siblings to live there. She keeps pushing us “We'll all live together and look after each other. We're getting old.” Yeah, but we might fight and then what do we do? laughs.
KF
Right. Oh, god.
JK
I might fight with your husband and then we'll really be in bad shape.
KF
No, I think it's so great to have something like this because, you know, what, there's only two left right now. This one and Britannia Shipyards, right? In the photo you showed me, before there was twenty.
JK
Yeah. Apparently, I don't know how big it was but, apparently, from historical books I've read, there's up to twenty-five canneries in 1895.
KF
See, I can't imagine that because then you just have canneries, just stacked.
JK
Yeah, and that's what they were but can you imagine in 1890s there was so much fish here that the fishermen bring their fish in and they'd just throw them back in the river because the canneries couldn't take any more.
KF
It's not like that anymore.
JK
Nope, not anymore. It's over.
03:50:43.000

Metadata

Title

Jim Kojima, interviewed by Kyla Fitzgerald, 22 August 2015

Abstract

Jim begins the interview describing his earliest childhood memories. He explains why his family moved back to in 1951. He describes the discrimination Japanese Canadians faced in the area before and after the war. Jim reflects on the significance of judo in his life, his involvement with the International Judo Federation, and his various roles at a number of Olympic judo events. He also talks about the origins of the Martial Arts Center and Steveston Community Center, and how Japanese and non-Japanese Canadians worked together toward its development. Near the end of the interview, Jim reflects on his current views regarding the internment and dispossession of Japanese Canadians. He also explains the history of BC’s canneries and the process of canning various types of fish.

Credits

Interviewer: Kyla Fitzgerald
Interviewee: Jim Kojima
XML Encoder: Stewart Arneil
Publication Information: See Terms of Use for publication and licensing information.
Setting: Gulf of Georgia Cannery, Steveston, BC.
Keywords: Steveston Japanese Hospital; Alberta ; Calgary ; Lethbridge ; Evacuated; Picture Butte ; Grand Forks ; Fights; Lord Byng Elementary School; Steveston Buddhist Church Temple; Steves Theatre; Confiscated; Judo; Kendo; Karate; BC Packers ; Ken Fraser ; Phoenix Cannery ; Steveston Community Society ; Steveston Community Center ; Japanese Benevolent Association; Bob McMath; Richmond Centennial Committee; Wakayama ; Henry Anderson; Olympics; Redress ; Greenwood ; 1900s – 1990s

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.