Isao and Ina Kuramoto with Kyoko Niwatsukino, interviewed by Kyla Fitzgerald, 04 May 2016

Isao and Ina Kuramoto with Kyoko Niwatsukino, interviewed by Kyla Fitzgerald, 04 May 2016

Abstract
In this interview Kyla sits down with Isao and Ina Kuramoto, two Sanseis, and Isao’s aunt Kyoko Niwatsukino, a Nisei. In the first tape, Kyoko shares her family history, growing up in Steveston before the war, being uprooted to Coalhurst at eleven, working on sugar beet farms, moving to Iron Springs and pursuing education after the war. Ina and Kyoko also talk about the fishing community and culture in Steveston before and after the war. Finally we finish the first tape with Kyoko about her life and family after the war and reflecting on her life experiences. In the second tape, Isao and Ina shares their family history. Isao and Ina were both newborns when their families were uprooted; however they share their memories growing up on sugar beet farms, and returning to Steveston as young children. Furthermore, Ina and Isao describe Steveston post war: where they grew up, what their parents did, daily life, school, encountering racism, their careers and family. Isao also talks about the history of the Steveston Judo Club and his personal connection to judo. Finally, Isao and Ina reflect on the Redress settlement, how Steveston has changed overtime, the effects of the interment, the future identity of young Japanese Canadians and intermarriage.
00:00:00.000
Kyla Fitzgerald (KF)
All right today is May 4th, 2016 and I am sitting with Isao, Ina, and Kyoko Kuramoto. Kyoko is your last name Kuramoto?
Tokichi Niwatsukino (TN)
No it's Niwatsukino.
KF
Niwatsukino.
TN
Yeah.
KF
And we are sitting here at the Isao and Ina residence to talk about their experiences and life histories for the Landscapes of Injustice Project. So thank you everybody, really appreciate it.
TN
If we are of any help.
KF
Of course! No you will be, you will be. I think you will. So yeah Kyoko, you were just starting to say.
TN
My dad came to Canada in 1900. He must've been, I don't know how old he was then, I could figure it out, but anyway he worked as a fisherman and I guess borrowed the boat first and all that from BC Packers. In 1935, that's thirty-five years later, he went home to Japan to see his mother for the first time. And I guess I was five. And I apparently cried and cried. I wanted to go with him or something. So they gave me five pennies, “Oh go buy yourself ice-cream at Hongoyo (?) ,” you know?
TN
But I guess I was so upset, I just threw the pennies on the –
KF
Oh really?
TN
Yeah or so they tell me. Anyway, he worked, he came back and he worked and raised six kids. And had his own boat and he finally had enough money, I guess, to build a house at the London Farm up by the – have you been there? Lilac Farms (?) at – lonely place it used to be. No houses around there, so they used to call it one lonely house or something like that. Anyway him and my sister-in-law's father, Izakis, they built a house with one Dépanneur It's gone now, it's all been demolished, but... And then of course, we left. We had to go to – if you wanted to keep the family together you either chose Alberta or Manitoba to go to. Otherwise the fathers would be sent to interment camps and the families will have to shift over themselves. And of course, your dad was kind of young too, eh? The world war started in '41, so we were evacuated in '42. So I was getting on to being – I was eleven and I was going to be twelve in June. So your dad is fifteen years older than me. So twelve and fifteen, he was – fifteen and...
Ina Kuramoto (IK)
Twenty-six.
TN
Twelve, eleven. Yeah twenty-six. He was twenty-six. He was only nine months old when he was evacuated.
KF
Oh yeah.
IK
So I don't know too much laughs
KF
No, that's okay! Laughs
TN
So we went in April or something like that. Just my dad and mom and dad's two brothers. Uncle Tom and Harry. And myself,
IK
And you
TN
because Auntie Kimi had just had appendix operation and she couldn't move,
IK
She couldn't go.
TN
So your dad and your mom stayed with her. They allowed that to happen. So they stayed because her appendix operation didn't heal so well. So they let her stay and I think you guys came around June, later on. But when we first went there, you know, Alberta, of course coming from here, nothing but flat land, and we were wondering where we were going to be taken to. And finally after all the miles, we were taken to a little shack in Coalhurst.
IK
Oh you guys went to Coalhurst.
TN
No, was it Coalhurst? Anyway it was a small place. Small kitchen and then the bedroom and then there was a bed here, and bed here. Well and of course we put this box there. So my mom and dad slept on this side. And Uncle Harry and Uncle Tom slept on that side. I slept on the box. Laughs And I was sort of higher up and I would look down. Everyone laughs But that place was too small when they came so we moved. So I think we moved to Shaughnessy then. It's a little place in – further down, quite a ways down. And we lived there for a while when your family came.
00:05:00.000
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TN
And of course I had to go to school and then Uncle Harry, he didn't want to go back to school. Well lots of my age people they didn't go back to school, that's why they regret it now. It's a wonder though that the Government even allowed them to not to go back to school. Anyway girls around my age went to housework. Do housework.
KF
I see.
TN
In all these little homes. And then Uncle Harry used to walk down to Shaughnessy and this guy at the garage –
IK
Garage gave him, yeah.
TN
Saw him all the time so he said, “Come here I'll give you a job.” And he had to undo all these bolts and nuts and bolts on the garage, you know, the cars that weren't being used anymore? And he liked it and he did it. And then after awhile he gave him a chance to go to Winnipeg to go to this mechanics school to learn more about it.
IK
So how old was he then?
TN
He's four years older than me.
IK
Yeah so he must ...
TN
So he was, well, sixteen.
IK
Fifteen, sixteen
TN
Yeah seventeen.
IK
Sixteen, wow. That's pretty good.
TN
So that was a lucky chance for him.
IK
Yeah.
TN
Yeah and then we worked there for about maybe three or four years. I can't remember exactly, but we had to move again. This sugar beet work was really tough.
KF
Was it?
TN
Like they were just fishermen so we had to go down all this long, long acreage of farms and you had to thin – make it thin one at a time. The sugar beets.
KF
What do you mean by make it thin?
TN
Like one each, so they don't grow –
IK
Thin out the plant, the seedlings...
KF
Oh I see.
TN
Yeah, the thinning.
KF
I see.
TN
And we had to do that and then later on we had to take all the weeds out. You know? It's really hard work for all these fishermen. They're not used to this farm work. And then later on they do the weeding and so on. And in the fall, was it September? October? Anyway you had to go and dig them out and they're about so big. Sugar beets. They're big. You dig them up and put them on the ground and then you get a knife. There was this big knife with a little hook in the thing and you just pick them up and –
KF
Chop it off.
TN
Chop it. Chop it. And all the farmers came and picked up all the sugar beets and put it in the truck and they'd take it to the factory to make sugar. So that was really hard work.
KF
So that's what your family did?
TN
All these Japanese people who went to – they had to do it! There was nothing else to do. And then in the wintertime, like his dad would go to sawmill or lumber mill in the –
IK
Yeah in the mountains there.
TN
Yeah, in where was it? Rosemispace or somewhere around there? It's a lumber company anyway.
IK
I'm not sure where they –
TN
Anyway it was really hard work. But then I don't know why, but we moved after you guys left in Irish Springs? You had a house there right?
IK
Yeah on the hill.
TN
For Frank Labarre or something.
IK
Yeah.
TN
I don't know why you guys left. But anyway we went into that house. And we lived there for a while and I went to school in –
IK
Iron Springs.
TN
Iron Springs.
IK
Yeah because that's where I went to school.
TN
And then after a while we left there and we went to Bar Hill. Yeah that's a little bit further down –
IK
Further south, yeah.
TN
Yeah, more lonely place. There were only five grade twelve graduates when I graduated at that school.
KF
Only five.
TN
Five. But the principal was a woman and she expected us to wear this white dresses, you know?
IK
Yeah, yeah.
TN
And it was quite nice. But can you imagine just five? And we didn't have all of these fancy –
IK
Was that in Lethbridge?
TN
No Bar Hill.
IK
Oh in Bar Hill.
TN
But I was quite fortunate because at that time when I graduated, Alberta was so short of schoolteachers. If the students had a high grade and made the thing. They offered bursaries, two hundred dollars to go to university in Edmonton and take education and the only stipulation was that you teach for two years in Alberta. So a lot of people took advantage of that.
00:10:00.000
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TN
And I'm sure glad that I did. So but while I was there, your dad and them came back to BC. They were allowed back to BC in 1949.
KF
So by that time you had pursued education.
TN
Yes, I –
KF
And then Isao's family, the rest of them, went back to BC.
TN
Yeah.
KF
I see.
TN
Yeah and my dad was oh so happy to come back of course.
KF
Was he?
TN
Yeah my mother passed away there in Alberta in 1948. So she never went back to Japan or anything. It's such a sad thing for them. But at least my dad came back and lived there for three years or so. 1951 he passed away so.
IK
Was it '51?
TN
Yeah. It was winter of '51.
IK
When was Carole born?
TN
She was –
IK
1950.
TN
She babysat Carole for a full year.
IK
Yeah.
TN
The women folks worked hard too. They worked at the cannery; they went to farm potatoes ands strawberries and so on. They really worked hard because they had to start from scratch. But then Japanese people are very hard workers. They really managed and say, what? Twenty years or so later, they own their own boats. They had the family, went to school, had a good education, like university and so on and so forth. So they all seem to manage, and by the time they retired they have good income and so on and so forth. But Japanese do work hard, I must say.
KF
Yeah.
IK
And they were lucky because the fishing was still good.
TN
That was good.
KF
When they came back?
IK
Yeah.
TN
And the Japanese women went to BC Packers and they worked and they worked hard. And BC Packers really made money then because they were such good workers. But later on, I shouldn't say this, but some other races were brought in and they didn't work. And that's really sad. They took their times in there. You know breaks and so on and so forth.
IK
And even in her dad's report, they said the Japanese were –
TN
Oh did he say that?
KF
Yeah. I'm sure yeah.
IK
The fishermen were the hardest working.
TN
Yeah, see there you go, yeah, yeah.
KF
But Isao you were saying that fishing was still good. So the canneries welcomed them back with open arms?
TN
Yes.
IK
They wanted them back.
TN
Yes they did.
IK
They worked for the canneries like there were different canneries that everybody worked for so they want good fishermen to come to their camp.
TN
Yes, that's right.
KF
Oh. So do you know how that would work? Would they seek out the fishermen?
TN
I guess the fishermen would just apply to the canneries to for loans and so on.
IK
Yeah.
IK
And like at Great West, a lot of them went there because we could get housing. Remember they built the cannery houses for the Japanese fishermen. So a lot of them went there. Because they knew we could get a house if you fished for them.
KF
Which I would imagine would be quite important at that time.
IK
Well because we had nothing. When we first came back we lived on Trites Road. I mean that house had holes in the wall. It was just as bad as the ones in Alberta laughs
TN
Yeah.
IK
But knowing that if they fished for the company we knew eventually there would be cannery houses built then.
TN
So that was a good idea though. And they were lucky to be able to do that.
IK
Yeah. That's right so we all lived in cannery homes.
TN
Yup, oh yeah.
KF
What were those cannery homes like? Do you remember what they looked like?
TN
It was very, very frugal.
IK
Laughs Yeah.
TN
I mean it's not much of fancy things. It's just a roof over our head, that sort of thing. But they had this reunion –
IK
Yeah just a couple of weeks ago. There was a Pacific Coast camp where these guys lived. They just had a reunion. A get-together. And their homes were um – well you guys' wasn't one of the newly built ones.
00:15:02.000
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TN
No it was really old.
IK
The dyke used to go around here. Like there. And if this was Pacific Coast camp here, there was a house here and then you guys lived in this one. And then they built the houses along here. They built a house here, a house here, a house here. Along this boardwalk and its on stilts, eh?
KF
Yeah.
IK
See because even though this is the dyke, the other dyke was there.
IK
Yeah I remember that.
IK
And then they had built all these – and they were just boarded houses. It came this way too didn't it? There were houses here?
TN
Yeah.
IK
Houses there...
IK
Yeah, they had a map there, I should've brought one.
TN
Isao and them lived there. And Shinjini and thing were there –
IK
Yeah those other Kuramotos lived there.
TN
Uncle Tom was there.
IK
Yeah Uncle Tom and them lived on this far end one, eh? And yeah they have a map. And they said, Akunes lived there, Tokais lived there, you know Harada's. And then they built another set of things here.
TN
You guys were at a better place!
IK
Oh yeah we had a mansion compared to that house! Kyoko and Kyla laughs And then there were another ones and then there was a Native family who lives there, and then Japanese people lived here. And there were all on board walks between the river and the thing. And then this wonderful Hongo General Store was here.
KF
Hongo?
KF
Hongo.
IK
Yeah H-O-N-G-O-W-O. And the kids went to work in that store. And then there were more housing here. Remember Kuma guys and them lived along there. Then there were Chinese bunkhouses were here where they worked.
TN
Yeah a lot of Chinese guys worked in the cannery too.
IK
And then after that was Nelson Brothers and then Great West. And we lived on Trites and they built cannery houses along here and along Trites Road here. If this was Trites they built. So we had – there were four houses here and then there was a whole bunch here.
TN
Oh those were rather nice houses.
IK
Oh these are nice. They were painted!
TN
Yeah, yeah.
KF
They were painted?
IK
White with, you know –
TN
How many bedrooms did it have? A couple? Two?
IK
Uh one bedroom downstairs and two upstairs.
TN
Oh upstairs.
KF
So these were two storey houses, then?
IK
Two storey...yeah and they were very narrow homes. The living room and then the bedroom and kitchen.
TN
So since they worked for the cannery or the fished for the cannery they didn't have to pay rent.
IK
Yeah or we paid very minimal. Oh.
KF
So this Pacific West? Is that what it's called?
IK
Pacific Coast Camp.
KF
Pacific Coast Camp.
TN
Wasn't it Pacific Coast Camp?
IK
Yeah.
KF
For those who aren't familiar with Steveston or this area where is that located in the general neighbourhood here?
TN
Gee that would be around...
IK
It is – okay do you know where Britannia Shipyard –
KF
Britannia Shipyards, yeah.
IK
Phoenix Road is about here.
KF
Okay.
IK
This is Moncton Street up here.
KF
Right, running along.
IK
Yeah and this is Phoenix and it would be over there, eh?
TN
Yeah, around there.
IK
Yeah, by Britannia.
KF
By Britannia, okay.
IK
Yeah Britannia. Britannia would be around here somewhere.
IK
Yeah.
IK
Can't remember.
TN
Yeah it was way further down. This Hongowo is –
IK
Hongowo is right here.
TN
Yeah. Yeah.
IK
And it's gone.
TN
We used to when we were small, we used to go to there. And when they opened the ice cream thing. Oh that vanilla smelled so laughs.
IK
Laughs Yeah.
KF
So Hongowo was owned by who?
IK
Hongowo Store?
KF
Hongowo Store.
IK
Lum.
IK
The Lum Family.
KF
The Lum Family.
IK
George Lum and Jesse Lum.
TN
Oh they were there for years.
IK
Yeah, yeah.
TN
They were there for years.
IK
And they were very good to the Japanese. They used to have a tally of how much you owed, right? So that you didn't have to always pay them right –
TN
Oh I didn't know that.
IK
Oh yeah.
KF
It's almost like a tab system.
IK
Yeah.
IK
Yeah. And yeah because Patsy used to work there.
TN
Oh did she?
IK
Yeah.
TN
And they had everything.
IK
Oh they had everything from fishermen's gumboots to candy. Laughs
KF
Ice cream. Everyone laughs
IK
So this Pacific Coast Camp just had a reunion.
KF
Oh wow.
IK
Yeah it's too bad you weren't here for that.
TN
They had it at the shopping – not the shop, but the –
IK
Japanese Cultural Centre, behind Steveston Community.
TN
Behind that martial arts building.
KF
Oh nice.
IK
Yeah so there were several camps. There was Phoenix cannery, and Pacific Coast Camp and Nelson Brothers and Great West –
TN
Imperial. Yeah.
IK
Imperial Cannery was –
TN
And BC Packers.
IK
BC Packers.
TN
BC Packers was the big one.
IK
Yeah. So all the women – there was a cannery at Great West – or Nelson Brothers?
IK
Nelson Brothers.
IK
Yeah. So a lot of women worked there. But a lot of these people went to the big plant at BC Packers and worked there.
KF
BC Packers.
TN
Oh boy there were lots of Japanese ladies working there.
00:20:00.000
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IK
Oh yeah.
TN
Your mom worked there too didn't she?
IK
Yeah.
TN
Yeah.
IK
They all get their twenty-five year pins and they were so happy.
KF
There were pins, really?
IK
Laughs Yeah they got certificates for being there for a long time.
KF
So what would the women do?
TN
They would can the fish.
IK
Wash, wash or pack.
KF
Wash or pack.
TN
Yeah.
TN
They used to do that before. Before the war they used to do it by hand. Your mom and my sister, they used to compete to see who could be the fastest. Laughs
IK
And a lot of our generation, like, we all worked in the cannery as well.
TN
Yeah we did.
IK
When we went to school.
KF
While you went to school
IK
Yeah while we were going to school because it was the best summer job. It sure beat picking strawberries.
KF
The sun.
TN
Oh gosh, but everyone went though. Strawberry picking, potato picking.
IK
Everybody went strawberry picking. Yeah. Because when we came back, we were poor.
TN
You guys were about the first ones to come back, isn't it?
IK
Yeah we came back in 1949.
TN
Oh did you?
IK
Yeah. But every summer, strawberry picking and then –
TN
It was a good money making thing.
IK
Yeah. I was lucky. I got work in the warehouse at the cannery.
TN
Oh yeah.
IK
I washed fish one day and I thought, “I'm not doing that for a job!” Laughs So then I got to work in the warehouse packing the cans that were already done.
TN
Yeah but these young people they sure love to work on weekends because time and a half.
IK
Oh because of double time.
IK
Yeah.
IK
Even our son went to work in the cannery for how many days? He was so happy they made so much money in those days.
KF
Really?
IK
Because now we're talking 1980's and you know the wages were way more than when we went.
KF
And the canneries were still doing okay.
IK
Yeah.
IK
Yes canneries were still okay. And there was usually only a really a two week window where you can go and work and there was lots of work and they worked three shifts because there was so much fish.
TN
Oh yeah BC Packers did okay at that time. Yeah.
IK
Yeah.
KF
Let's go back a little bit with what you were saying. What was Steveston like before the war?
TN
It was mostly like a Japanese country.
KF
Like a Japanese country?
TN
Like my mother and them, they never learned English because we could manage with Japanese. And even when we went to school we were talking Japanese.
KF
Did you go to Japanese language school or?
TN
They used to have an English school and then one hour after everyday we had Japanese lessons. So course I was eleven so I only went up to book three or something. Yes your dad he could read and write Japanese so well. You wouldn't think he was a Nissei, you know? He could do that eh?
IK
Yeah he was pretty good.
KF
Excelled at it really well?
TN
He was, of course, he must've gone through all that, eh?
IK
Yeah.
TN
Because it's amazing. Her dad came from Japan so he would know it.
IK
Well he was born here, went back to Japan for his schooling and –
TN
That's what a lot of people did.
IK
Yeah and then when he was – they graduated at sixteen in Japan. And then he came back here. And we didn't live in Steveston; these guys all lived in Steveston. So then he went to West Amalysiland School to learn English. And here they are, my dad was fifteen and Uncle Roy was sixteen. And he's with the grade seven and eight year olds learning Japanese. I mean learning English!
TN
And in those days there were lots of Japanese stores too in Steveston. Like Nakagama, Nakagawa, Mai and there were other stores. But my started his store after the war in Steveston. It was like a Japanese town.
KF
Really. And so you really didn't need to learn English to –
TN
Well we didn't know 'til later on.
KF
Yeah. And the school itself, not the Japanese school, that you did for an hour everyday –
TN
It's a Lord Byng School, we went to.
KF
You went to Lord Byng?
TN
Yeah. Lord Byng School.
KF
So were you with other students as well? Non-Japanese students?
TN
Oh yeah there was a class full of Japanese kids going to Japanese school.
KF
And did you get along?
00:25:00.000
00:25:00.000
TN
And they had these strong boys for judo and there was one strong group for kendo. And there were lots of Japanese boys in those days before the war that it. Lots and lots, and of course in those days they didn't have football or anything else to do as they do now.
IK
Yeah.
TN
But they had these clubs and that money that they had. I don't know how they had it stored, that's why they started that martial arts. They got that money for martial arts from the Japanese people of that clubs sort of thing. And they used to have a Japanese hospital there too. I was born there.
KF
So you were born in the Japanese Hospital.
TN
Yeah, in Steveston.
KF
Yeah.
IK
I was too.
KF
You were too?
TN
You were? Oh yeah you were born here. And you know Tad Izaki? He was about six months younger than me, but he was born there. And I still remember – we must've been about seven, we had our tonsils taken out together. And we got the popsicle –
IK
To soothe it.
TN
I still remember that, I must've been happy Laughs. Now Tad is short of hearing, but he's doing well.
IK
Yeah he looks good too.
TN
Yeah he does.
KF
So the students, did you guys all get along? The different kids with all the different backgrounds?
TN
Oh yeah.
KF
Yeah.
TN
There weren't very many different background kids. It was either Japanese and English.
IK
Caucasians, yeah.
TN
And we even had grade one teacher, Ms. Hyodo. She passed away, but she was Japanese and sometimes when we didn't understand she would say it in Japanese.
IK
Laughs Oh is that right?
KF
To help you out? Oh that's nice.
TN
Yeah, grade one teacher.
KF
And so your house before you left, what was that like?
TN
It was a very nice house for that age. Like you know, nice steps in the front, parlor, and kitchen, and two bedrooms –
IK
I've got a picture. Where is that picture?
TN
And then next door, our neighbour was the same sort of thing.
IK
They were identical homes.
KF
Were they really?
IK
And it was probably three storey's?
TN
I don't know. It's a sad state of affairs for the fathers. Like my father after all those years he struggled and you know and then had that nice and they had to be shipped out to Alberta and then well he came back, but nothing. So he had to start all over again. His dad did. He was looking after dad too.
KF
So you had a nice house then, very comfortable.
TN
Yeah.
IK
Very nice house.
TN
All that is gone. But there was this Hakujin family, it's called London Farms now, but I don't know if they asked them to look after the house or not, I don't know. Probably not. So as you see, when you're looking into all this land thing, like who bought it and all that. It might be interesting to find out, if they can go into that.
IK
Because that house, when was it demolished?
IK
Yeah it was still there when we came back.
TN
Yeah.
IK
Oh for years.
TN
Yeah, it was there.
KF
Oh it was still there?
IK
It's only when they started developing that whole area and it's all townhouses now. It's called London Landing or Princess Lane. They're beautiful townhouses there, but their house was still here for a long time after we got back. Because there was no development except in the last twenty years?
IK
Yeah.
TN
And then they were planning to build some Japanese houses on the back there Doisan and all that you know? Sakamotos built it on that No. 2 Road and I can't remember who else, but they were planning to do that, then the war started so of course they didn't do it.
KF
Do you remember Pearl Harbor?
TN
Well I've heard of it yes. 1941 yes so.
KF
But do you remember being a kid because you were –
TN
I was eleven then.
KF
You were eleven then.
00:30:00.000
00:30:00.000
TN
I was in grade four or six?
IK
So did the Hakujin people say anything to you about –
TN
Well at that time I didn't even know what prejudice was or anything like that. When we were being shipped to Alberta, I didn't know what was going on.
IK
No you don't really realize.
TN
But you know these people from island and Nanaimo and all that sort of places, Victoria. They were brought to Vancouver in the this Exhibition Park, have you heard that?
KF
Yeah, Hastings Park.
TN
And all these beds. Oh you know. Oh it was a barn or something, wasn't it?
IK
Yeah it was a barn.
TN
I do remember going there one time because some relatives were there.
IK
Oh yeah.
TN
And we went there and all these beds, you know? It must've been shocking because I remember it.
IK
Yeah because we never had to do that because we were here and we just boarded the train.
KF
Right.
IK
And I always remember them saying, “You can only take with you x amount of pounds or what you could carry,” right? And I remember them saying to – because we were babies, they had to carry us. And so they couldn't take any more belongings because we were unfortunately a belonging.
TN
When you guys came on that train, you were nine months or something and everybody liked so they carried you and all that sort of thing, that's what I remember.
IK
Laughs Yeah.
TN
And then Tsutomu was born there when we were in Bar Hill, I think, I'm not quite sure, I can't remember.
IK
He must've been born in Lethbridge though?
TN
Yeah he was born in Lethbridge but it was such a cold, cold day and I think – didn't you get your ears frozen?
IK
Yeah, yeah.
KF
Laughs Oh god!
IK
That's why his ears stick up. Everybody laughs
KF
So I mean, I'll ask you too Ina, what type of things did your families bring wit them to the camps, if you were only allowed to pack so much. Do you remember what –
TN
Maybe one or two suitcases, eh? Full of clothes.
IK
Well I remember those straw chests because I still have them.
TN
Oh do you?!
IK
Yeah.
TN
Oh My!
IK
So I'm sure it was mostly – I know they didn't take good china because –
TN
Because they thought they would be coming back soon.
IK
Yeah. And because we still have these couple of cups and saucers of them. Because my mom and dad were just married at like a year and a half ago, right?
TN
Is that right? Oh my.
IK
Or before I was born. I know they didn't take all their good dishes. They just took ochawan and then I'm sure they must of taken all the bedding and stuff like that. Nobody could take cameras, right? Or radios, remember so they always say there's no pictures.
TN
You know to think of it now, how could they do that to the Japanese people when you know they can't do anything to help out the Canadian, you know? To think of it now –
IK
No they thought we were going to help the Japanese.
TN
I know that's why we were shipped out.
IK
That's why we were sent yeah.
TN
But how can they expect – to think that they could do that.
IK
Well it was war.
TN
And then there was this – lots of this prejudice –
IK
Oh yeah.
TN
Racial prejudice against the Japanese. That's why I think they took that chance to do it, I'm sure
KF
What kind of prejudice did you...did you ever hear of the types of prejudice?
TN
Racial?
KF
Yeah.
TN
Well I can't comment myself, but then....
IK
Well I know that when we came back to BC there was lots of prejudice against the Japanese.
KF
Was there?
IK
We went to school and I remember people saying, “Oh if you Japs weren't here, we could get good marks,” and you know, “we would be getting the scholarships, not you guys!” And stuff like that.
TN
Really?
IK
Oh yeah. Right through school, I remember it distinctly. And so we're brought up to do your best. We don't want to do our best because we didn't want them saying that to us. So we didn't want to do well in school, but then if you didn't do well you got heck at home laughs So it's a vicious circle, right? But that I remember really.
TN
I never did come across one thing, but you know one time, this was in my new house right where –
IK
Yeah, yeah, yeah.
TN
The next door was empty or something or other and then these Hakujin people came and they threw some stuff in the lot because it was empty. And I said, “You're not supposed to put that there.” And then she looked at me and she said, “Oh you Japs!” That's the first time I ever felt that.
00:35:06.000
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IK
And that wasn't that long ago.
TN
I know.
IK
That would be forty something years ago.
TN
If they're so stupid enough to throw those things they would say those kind of things too maybe. But other than that there wasn't much of a prejudice stuff that I came across.
KF
That you had come across.
TN
No, mhm.
KF
What was it like to ride the train over to Alberta?
TN
It was fun!
KF
Was it?
TN
Going through the Rockies and all that. Of course I didn't know what was going on, really? Why sort of thing.
KF
Yeah you hear that a lot.
TN
That's why you now, you should have started this earlier when there's older people.
KF
Yeah, yeah.
IK
Laughs We're still alive. But you know what though, they could of started it earlier, but did your parents ever talk about it? Did they ever tell you? My mum and dad, they never tell –
TN
No they wanted to forget it.
IK
Their comment was, “It was war,” they can't do anything about it. So I don't how much they open to even to talking about it.
TN
I think it was too painful for them.
KF
Was it?
IK
Yeah I think so.
TN
Yeah.
IK
So yeah even if you started it twenty years ago, do you think they would of said anything?
TN
Doubt it very much.
IK
Hard to say.
IK
Maybe the smarter people that went to school more.
IK
They might have. You could tell the Japanese roots were still there though. For them family and what people thought of them and things like that were important to them. Because I remember when Grant was born and when my dad wrote the history he was so happy that there was finally a Takasaki boy. Because we had boys, but they're not Takasaki, right? I knew my dad was old-fashioned, but I thought he was more Canadian than that. That he would worry about Takasaki being born, you know? But when he wrote the history, I remember thinking, “Oh my god!” Laughs
KF
So what part of Japan did your father come from?
IK
We were southern Japan. These guys were Wakayama.
KF
Wakayama?
IK
We're Kagoshima.
TN
There's lots of Wakayama people here.
KF
There are.
TN
Because they were fishermen. So they'd come out here to fish too.
KF
Well you here Wakayama a lot.
IK
Yeah.
TN
You do, eh?
KF
Yeah, well that. A lot of people I've interviewed come from Wakayama. And then when I went back to Japan last year, I made a stop in Yokohama to see the Migration Museum. It's really small, but it talks about all the Japanese who have left Japan to different areas so South America, Canada, America and they have this really neat 3-D map, which is a map of Japan. And then they've got pieces of glass that move out forward so the more people that have left that specific region, the more pieces of glass would come out. So Wakayama was like out to here everybody laughs and the wall is back here. Lots from Wakayama.
TN
Yes, lots from Wakayama.
IK
And Wakayama, a lot of them re from that Mio region. These guys are from southern Wakayama.
KF
I see.
IK
So if Wakayama is shaped kind of like this, Mio is here. Osaka is up here, eh? These guys are from here.
KF
I see.
TN
Yeah, it's definitely different village.
IK
Yeah by Shingu. Do you know the Shingu, the whale capital of Japan?
KF
Yeah, yeah.
IK
They're quite close to Shingu. But it's all fishing along here too.
KF
Yeah.
TN
So we still might have little bit of relatives there. But we don't know them at all.
KF
Right.
IK
Your cousins are there.
TN
Cousins.
KF
So your parents, what did they do for work before the war? They were all fishermen? Were they all fishermen before?
TN
Mhm.
00:40:00.000
00:40:00.000
TN
No, none of them were lawyers or doctors or anything like that laughs. They wouldn't come here anyway laughs.
KF
So you did education in Alberta and then when did you come back to BC?
TN
So I taught in the – the stipulation was two years teaching so I taught three years and then I came to BC.
KF
Okay and then where did you stay in BC?
TN
I stayed with them and then for a while there I had a little flat in Vancouver. I went to UBC for a little while and Victoria summer school for a couple of years. That's about it and then I quit.
IK
You quit and got married laughs.
TN
That's right.
IK
That's what everybody did! Everybody laughs
TN
That's right, but you know in 19...when was it '71, it was the year when lots and lots of fish came.
IK
'71?
TN
Was it '71? This Japanese Company they used to – the men used to come to Hiro Store. My husband had a grocery store. Hiro's Grocery in Steveston. Anyway they used to come to the store and of course they talk and nod and this sort of thing. And everybody, all the women were working in BC Packers and there weren't very many extra ones so this guy used to come and say, “Are there any women workers? Are there any women workers?” Because they got this fish eggs from Matsuo's, they had lots of fish so they couldn't handle it, Mastuo. So they gave it to this Japanese firm. Anyway, I was thinking of coming to – going to Alberta with my three kids to go to Toshis's wedding, my sister had asked me to come to the wedding and the girls could be flower girls and this and that. And I was thinking, “Oh I should be earning some plane fare, because with three kids and all that”. And just at that time this guy came and asking for if there any women so I said, “I'll come.” So I went and I started when I was 41 I think. I had this chance to earn some money so I said to him, “I want to go to Alberta this fall so maybe I'll go in and start working for you.” And then he says, “Oh you'll be making enough to go to Hawaii.” Anyway I started and I've never done this kind of job before but then I started and then I worked from eight o'clock in the morning 'til twelve at night for three days in a row. But I sure did make lots of money. Laughs So that was just going to be one summer, I was going to work. But then this company got bigger and bigger and bigger, you know how Japanese dog eat dog sort of thing, they raised the right prices to – So finally the Matsuo's moved out eh? And I worked there for twenty-five years, I had that chance. So that's how it is.
KF
Twenty-five years. Well a few days to twenty-five years.
IK
Yeah laughs to go to Japan to go all around the world.
TN
I've never been to Japan.
KF
Never been?
TN
No.
KF
Yeah.
TN
I don't care to.
KF
You don't care to.
TN
But I love the songs. Japanese songs. Even if I go I wouldn't want to go relatives, but then see the shows.
IK
Go to karaoke bars.
TN
Laughs Anyway that's how it is.
KF
So your parents didn't talk about their experiences.
TN
No my mother passed away in '48 in Alberta. And my dad... no he didn't say much.
KF
Did you and your siblings ever talk about it between yourselves?
TN
Not really.
KF
Not really.
TN
Because my brother Harry went to Winnipeg and got that learning and he went to Creston to get a job. But everybody did suffer a lot, but not only here in Canada, but in Japan too. You hear lots of stories, no food to eat and so on and so forth. Yeah I have friends were in Japan in that time.
KF
Oh you had friends who were – were they the ones that were given the option to go back to Japan and that's what they did?
00:44:58.000
00:44:58.000
TN
No she in the olden days, people who came to Canada to work, they usually took their kids back to Japan to get education there. Let their parents look after. So some of them were really stranded there during the war. So they did suffer a lot too. It's sad too. This war was for everybody I think. But you guys don't know that. You're too young for that.
KF
Well I wasn't even born.
TN
Yeah! ███████
KF
So you have three kids in total?
TN
Yes I have two daughters and a son.
KF
Two daughters and a son. And what do they do?
TN
My son is retired now. He lives with me because he had a terrible time with his kidney things. He used to go for dialysis and all that. But luckily a year before – is it two years now?
IK
Um it's the same as Andrew.
TN
Yeah. Oh same as Andrew?!
IK
Three, three now.
TN
Three? Anyway he got a kidney transplant so was very lucky. But and then the other one is a hair dresser, this is the one where the daughter is going to go to –
KF
Toronto.
TN
And my other daughter works for Air Canada.
KF
Oh.
TN
And she goes back and forth from Toronto, here and there, all over.
KF
All over the world.
TN
Yeah she's got a good job there too.
KF
So did your kids ever ask you about your experiences?
TN
No they don't know. No, no, no, they don't know anything like that.
KF
No? And have you ever wanted to tell them? Or it just never came up.
TN
No, no.
KF
Yeah.
TN
I guess the same thing, it's all in the past and forget about it, I guess. It all came back when I was talking with you guys about this now.
KF
Yeah well...
TN
In a way it's sad because when I go, nobody there to tell them about this and that now anymore.
IK
Yeah you're the last.
TN
Yeah. I'm the only one left among the six siblings. Like his dad was first and then my other sister, she died, of course. All of them are dead now. And then Uncle Tom, and then Auntie Kimi, and Uncle Harry and me. Six.
KF
Your family passed away in '51, you said, 1951 you said?
IK
No, no, no, that's my grandfather.
KF
Oh your grandfather, yeah I was thinking, “Oh that's quite early.”
IK
Her dad.
TN
My dad.
KF
Oh your dad. Okay died in '51.
IK
Yeah my dad just died a couple of years ago now.
KF
Oh so he was –
TN
He was ninety-six.
IK
Yeah.
KF
Oh my gosh. That's a long life.
TN
I wouldn't wan it that long Laughs
IK
You can live that long if you're healthy.
TN
Still, you know. Well how old is your dad then?
00:50:03.000
00:50:03.000
KF
Both of my parents just turned 58 in January.
TN
Oh yeah, young. ███████
IK
No when she was talking about the sugar beet farms because I remember those.
IK
Yeah.
IK
Because I remember having to go out and after they were dug out, we would put them in the right way so they could pick them up and hack the tops off. And I remember thinking, “Oh god this is so dirty!” Kyla laughs You know we had to do it right? Because the more we helped the faster it went for our parents. And I remember taking those sugar beets, thinning them out, like she said. I never knew what we were doing. They just told us to keep it this much apart. Because they used to throw the seeds down the troughs.
KF
And you'd have to do the actual –
IK
Yeah and then we'd be – that's the only two things I remember about sugar beets. Do you remember that? I remember potatoes too, but...
IK
Yeah.
IK
You probably never had to work.
IK
No, no, no we were out there trying to hack those heads off.
IK
Oh you did the hacking? Oh we weren't a lot to do that. Laughs
IK
Yeah.
KF
There's a lot of power in those tools, hey?
IK
Yeah.
KF
Let's maybe start from the beginning of your family history a bit. So they were from Kagoshima, father was from Kagoshima. When did he come over to Canada?
IK
My dad was born here.
KF
Oh your dad was born here.
IK
My grandfather was fishing here and my great grandfather was fishing here. They had collector boat, is that what you call it? Collector boats? And they used to go around collecting the fish from everybody. But then my dad was a fisherman, but my dad was a carpenter as well. So he built fish boats and houses in the winter and fished in the summer. But he grew up here. Well he went back to Japan when he was five and went to school there, came back when he was fifteen and went to English school here to learn English. So when I asked about taking things out of context, I asked that because there was a picture in the Nikkei Museum, I guess, of my dad and my uncle and another friend and the caption was, under, it, “Japanese exchange students,”
00:55:22.000
00:55:22.000
KF
No!
IK
Laughs Or Something.
KF
Oh my god.
IK
And I remember looking at them. Hey! That's my dad. laughs
KF
Ha, definitely not an exchange student. Everybody laughs
IK
Well not in those days.
KF
No.
IK
They wouldn't even have exchange students! But I always remember that picture.
KF
That's some pretty poor captioning there.
IK
Anyway. But we lived in Ladner, in Canoe Pass. And so I wasn't born in Steveston. I was born at Vancouver General.
KF
Okay.
IK
One of the few, in fact, of all the girls that I'm talking about, the twelve of us. I think I was the only one that wasn't born, of those that were born in '41, '42. I think I was the only one that wasn't born in Steveston. Annie wasn't either because she was born in Manitoba. There were some that were born later on in the year and we were already evacuated. But those of us who were early 1942, or '41, most of them were born in Steveston, because most of the Japanese people lived here. There was a group of Kagoshima families that lived in Ladner in the Canoe Pass area and they fished for the cannery over there. So that's where I was. And then we went from here, we left in June and went to Alberta. Around the Lethbridge area. We went to Turin first and then Iron Springs. And I remember the first house was a nice house. We lived on this hill for a nice family. And the reason we went was there was my dad, and my uncle and they were both married. And then we had my other uncle another cousin and another my grandmother's brother. And they wanted to keep the five men together. So they wanted to work on a farm where they had – where we could be as a family unit. And it was quite easy because it was so many young guys. So one family, got all these workers because they were single men.
KF
Lots of manpower.
IK
So I think we moved to about three different farms because as they needed men and we could upgrade. So that's what we did, sugar beets and potatoes and whatever else. And then in the winter, my dad and two other usually worked as carpenters or did other labour. My dad was a carpenter, the others worked and they went couple of winters, they went to Ontario Hydro and worked on the camps all doing power whatever it is they used to do. But then came back every summer to do sugar beets again. Then the next thing I remember is us coming back on the train to Steveston laughs.
IK
I wonder how they recruited like that from Ontario to ...
IK
Yeah why my dad would go to Ontario. But Uncle Roy always stayed home because somebody had to look after the family. But yeah, I've got pictures of them working on the power lines in I think it was Ontario Hydro.
KF
Oh really.
IK
And my dad worked very hard. Hey don't you think he was a real hard worker?
IK
Oh yeah.
IK
He was a real hard worker. Because he always worked all year long. And even when we came back here he built a boat just about every winter. I could go through all my dad's boats. He would build and then next year he'd fish on it and then he'd sell it and make another one and then when the fishing became poor in the late, when would be? Seventies?
IK
Yeah.
IK
He built homes. They're all gone now, eh? All the Moncton Street homes. He built all those. He used to work with somebody else and then he started to do it on his own. Actually he did it with Auntie Kyoko's husband's father, for a while they were building home together. Mr. Niwatsukino and him. And then he retired early, my dad. And then he built himself a sailboat. Anything my dad saw that he liked, he would build it.
01:00:28.000
01:00:28.000
KF
Really?
IK
We would bring home things like this from craft fairs and say, “Oh dad we want these,” and he would make it for all of us.
KF
Oh really? That's a nice skill.
IK
Remember those poinsettia reindeers?
KF
Yeah.
IK
We'd buy one at the thrift shop, bring it home and he'd make them. He'd make trivets out of – we saw one with a tile. Put teak all the way around it and make trivets for everybody. He was good that way.
IK
He was pretty handy.
KF
Very handy.
IK
Handy man.
IK
Yeah, handy man. Didn't like things that were broken. When we were in Japan. We went to my aunt's place and the chair or something was loose. Oh yeah he's down on all fours tightening up the chairs. He couldn't stand things that were broken that could be fixed. But that's about it for me here.
KF
What about your parent's house before the war? What did they end up losing or leaving behind?
IK
Their house in Canoe Pass.
KF
In Canoe Pass.
IK
And their fish boat. And I remember my mum or dad saying that the neighbour said that they would keep some of my mum's dishes. Or look after it in the house. But they never – think it was probably still left in the house and then when it got taken, I don't think the neighbours could get much of it out. But I do have a cup and saucer that came from that set. So they must have been able to get some stuff out.
KF
A couple of items.
IK
But when we came back we never did go back to Ladner, we came to Steveston. And then they came back the year, early on in the year and negotiated with the canneries and they were able to rent a boat from the cannery the first year and fish for them. And that's when we moved into those. There were a few cannery homes, but they were shacks, eh? Laughs
IK
Which one are you talking about?
IK
The one on Trites Road, not 1252, but the one closer to the dyke that we lived in. They were, I guess, homes that the canneries had built like, way before the war. And they were dilapidated. But it was somewhere to stay and then they did build these cannery homes. Later on so...but the winters were way colder then to than they are now, right?
IK
Oh yeah.
IK
When we came back in '49, there was snow and ice all over Steveston, we don't get that anymore. That's why I remember the houses being not wind proof because there was so much draft.
KF
You could feel it.
IK
Yeah and I remember thinking, “God I wish we had warmer blankets,” I remember that kind of thing. You know, everybody was poor so we were all in the same situation so I don't think... we never had store bought clothes. Everything was always – our parents had to make everything because we couldn't afford to buy it. But then again, we all talk about that because we were all in the same situation. We all remember $1.49 day. Isao and Ina laugh
IK
Before her time.
KF
Way before my time.
IK
It was. Woodward's. The bog department store Woodward's that's no longer here now. But Woodward's, once a month had $1.49 day on Tuesdays. And things that probably costs three or four dollars, they sell it for a $1.49. And so we would get runners. I remember runners, running shoes.
01:05:00.000
01:05:00.000
KF
For a $1.49?!
IK
For a $1.49 laughs
KF
Oh my god and they charge like $200 now.
IK
Yeah, exactly, exactly. No but that was a big thing, eh?
IK
Yeah.
IK
$1.49 day. Everyone would go and the only Woodward's was the downtown. So you had to go by tram, but a lot of the families went because it was a day where you could get such good things. If you could get runners for a $1.49 – I can't even remember what else we used to get. But that used to be the big sale day. So...
KF
Must have been busy on those days.
IK
Oh yeah, yeah. So... So we had that. I don't remember anything else. I remember going to school, Lord Byng. And there weren't that many Japanese at that time because we were one of the first families to come back. But as they kept coming back, we'd say, “Oh gee, there's somebody else with black hair.” Because in Alberta where I went to school, there wasn't that many Japanese. If they were they were the farm workers. And they were so many little schools so in my school there might've been three of us.
KF
Oh that's small.
IK
Japanese the rest were... I remember the irrigation ditches in Alberta. And why I remember it because when we used to go to Sunday school, I remember Mary Lou and Cora had these bonnets when we used to have to wear a hat. And we were peering over the bridge and one fell. One of the hats fell, I can't remember whether it was Cora's or Mary-Lou's , but we couldn't get it and it floated down the irrigation ditches. And I remember my aunt picking it up, it floated all the way down to the farm and I remember them picking it up saying, “Gee that looks like one of the ”
IK
They thought you guys drowned.
IK
Laughs Probably. That I remember to that and then I remember the outhouses in Alberta because my brother fell in and there were no men and so my aunt and my mom had to knock over the outhouse so that they could get him out. What else do I remember? Oh I remember the cellars underground so they could store the vegetables. Bury them in the ground. Isao laughs What? You don't remember that?
IK
No I thought were saying some kind of a seller, you know, somebody selling stuff.
IK
Oh well cellars – oh well Watkins used to come around. Do you remember in the old movies where these cure alls, those people who were witch doctors -
KF
Yeah!
IK
And used to come along. Well we never had that, but we had Watkins, I remember they used to come from farm to farm, selling stuff. I don't know if we ever bought anything, but I remember that. Because I don't remember going into town when we were kids. We used to go to Lethbridge because Nakagamas had a store, it was a Japanese store and I remember going there. But that was a big trek to go from Iron Springs to Lethbridge. It's not that far, eh?
IK
Well not anymore, but it was then.
IK
Yeah. And I remember the Hutterites because if they were in town shopping because they all wore those – well what we would call funny clothes, and we'd always ask, who are they, what are they? I remember that.
IK
Dépanneur
IK
They're just snippets of things that you remember, right? And I remember going to school there because I remember in the winters how hard it was to get to school because the snow used to be piled so high and the buses used to come, but it was really hard. And I remember Akiko not wanting to go to school, so I'd go with here. She's three years older than I am.
KF
Was Akiko a sibling?
IK
My cousin.
KF
Oh cousin.
IK
Yeah she was the oldest and then I was next. And she didn't want to go to school so my uncle would take her, but she'd cry all the way so I used to have to go ride with her in the car in the truck and but...that's about it.
01:10:14.000
01:10:14.000
KF
What did your mom do for a living?
IK
In Alberta?
KF
Just in general.
IK
Oh here, she worked in the cannery.
KF
She worked in the cannery.
IK
And in Alberta I guess they all worked on the farm or was having kids, right? Laughs she used to be a nanny in Japan, but just for a few years because she got married when my mum was 19.
KF
Yeah you were saying that, your parents had just married right before everybody was moving.
IK
They must've gotten married in 1939 and I was born in '41 so –
IK
'42.
IK
Or '42 oh they must've gotten married in 1940. They must've gotten married in 1940 because they were only married a year before I was born. And she got married when she was 19.
IK
Married here?
IK
No, in Japan.
KF
So your father went back to Japan, got married, and then came back.
IK
Got married and came back, yeah. They used to go back and forth. I remember – I'd never met my grandfather until I went to Japan because he had gone back. My grandmother died, my grandmother, my dad's father died going home from here to Japan. And she was taking my dad and my uncle back to Japan for them to be educated and she died on the voyage home. So I remember my dad writing in his memoirs that when they got to Yokohama, they couldn't get off the ship because they had a dead, you know, mother, had passed away on the voyage so everything was quarantined and they had to get the thing. And then he went to school there and then came back and fished and went back to Japan, got married, and came back here and then the war broke out.
KF
But your grandfather kept a memoir? Or your father kept a memoir?
IK
My dad wrote a memoir after ... When did he write it? My dad died quite young. He was only 77, so he must've written when he was 75 around there.
IK
Yeah.
IK
And he only wrote it because – I remember asking, we would ask him questions because we could speak to my mother, I mean, my dad in English and so it was much easier – and I was much closer to my father than I was to my mother.
KF
Really?
IK
My mother because she spoke no English, it's harder to communicate. But my dad, we used to ask questions to my dad all the time. Why did you do this? Why did we go to Lethbridge? Why did we go? And then he could always tell us. And I guess he decided after my nephew was born, he was the first Takasaki, remember I was telling you that. I guess he wrote it about then because he was happy that Grant was born because it was a Takasaki to carry on his name and I remember thinking, “Hm dad you never told me that!” He was really good to our kids, but then they were the first grandchildren. So it never even occurred to me that he needed a Takasaki to carry on the name, eh? Did you even think about it?
IK
No.
IK
No, well you were close to my dad.
IK
Yeah.
IK
Yes. But my dad could talk to anybody. He could talk to the King and Queen or he could talk to the ditch digger, you know, he was always an easy man to talk to.
KF
So when you would ask him questions, what would he say about things like, “Well why did we go to Alberta?” Was he quite open about what happened?
IK
Oh yeah. But they never talked about what they lost or anything like that. We asked, “What happened to the house,” and they just said they didn't know.
01:15:03.000
01:15:03.000
IK
I'm sure they knew, but I don't think they ever would tell us about it. I know that their boats were confiscated; he said they just came by and took all the boats, but he never actually gave a real explanation, did he? I don't remember. I remember asking why they went to Ontario Hydro, but it was work. My dad would always get busy, like I said, and for him it was just the winter job. And I remember him saying that they really liked the Japanese workers because they were strong and able and so they would – I guess they must've recruited them somehow because they certainly didn't do the telephoning looking for a job type of thing. But again, I remember him saying because there were so many men, three single, two married, there was five able men and they were probably like Uncle Kenny couldn't have been that old. They were probably early twenties or even late teens, eh?
IK
Must've been in their teens. Must've been in their teens.
IK
So I remember them saying that the farmers were really happy to get that much laborers from one family. And I'm sure that the same with Ontario Hydro. I'm sure that they could get in one fell swoop three of them would go over there.
KF
So you had mentioned though no toys.
IK
I never had a doll. Yeah we always laughed because we have no pictures of me as a baby or as a kid because we had no camera. Though when Wayne came along whose three years younger, there's pictures of him with the Boys Day stuff and we, to this day, don't know where they got those Boys Day ornaments because surely they wouldn't have taken them. No, no they didn't have them. So they must've got them in Alberta at some point.
IK
It's kind of strange isn't it?
IK
Yeah. But we've got pictures of them sitting in front of the Boys Day. Must've been Uncle Roy. Because Teddy was the first born...
IK
I wonder at that time, were they communicating with Japan? Sending letters...
IK
They were communicating, but they wouldn't have been able to send stuff from Japan here, I wouldn't think. Oh mind you he was born in 1945 so the war was over, but still it was occupied, Japan was occupied so you wouldn't be... I don't know, but anyway.
KF
So what kind of items did you have then?
IK
Nothing. Laughs I don't remember having anything. As far as... I don't think I had any toys to tell you the honest truth. I remember my dad building a dollhouse for my younger sister who was born. But by then she's four years younger than I am so things were a little different. I'm sure they had to – we had to get something. But I don't know. I guess I just never missed it. We never had it, we never you know...
IK
Didn't know anything...
IK
I didn't even know what a doll was! I don't know laughs I remember my sister getting a doll, you know, that the eyes blinked, you know when you tipped it over the eyes blinked?
KF
Oh yeah.
IK
And I remember being really fascinated with that, but it never occurred to me that I never had one. I don't know. I guess... material things were never a big thing for me. If I didn't have it... but I remember as a teenager, going out and buying clothes that weren't made by my mother was a big thing.
01:20:26.000
01:20:26.000
KF
Yeah?
IK
But that was when we came back here. And I remember we could keep all our strawberry picking money. That was what we used to do when you're twelve, thirteen, fourteen, and you've got no other work. But I remember having that and going to buy skates because we used to have fields in front of our place used to freeze. So during the winter we could go out and skate and I remember saving money to buy skates but a part from that I don't know...I can't think of anything else
IK
We didn't do much.
IK
Laughs No! We probably didn't. We had an old bike. I remember we had an old bike and I remember Cora getting anew bike.
IK
A new bike?
IK
Yeah a brand new one because she rode it into the ditch. Because we used to have big ditches in Richmond. I remember that. I'm thinking, “How could you do that to a new bike?” But she did. But for me I was the oldest and I was looking after the others, I don't think... yeah I really don't remember that much about me being deprived of having anything. That never even...
KF
It was just the way of life.
IK
Yeah.
IK
Yeah I guess so. And I knew we couldn't afford it. Because even when I graduated from high school, I couldn't go to university. I did for the first year because I didn't know what I was going to do, but I remember I could've had a scholarship for four years, but when I came home and told my dad he said, no we couldn't do that because we couldn't afford to send me because I would have to go out and work. I remember that. And I always thought, okay maybe I'll go back, which I never ever did laughs. Once you're out of school, you don't even think about going back. But it was just always, I think, expected of me to go out and work and help support the family. I remember my first paycheque I bought a sewing machine for myself. And the second paycheque I went to buy a new fridge for the house. And that was just kind of expected of us because I finally had a job I was getting paid at. And my dad was still fishing and my mum was just working in the cannery so that was what everybody did, eh? Your mom, everybody worked in the cannery.
IK
Oh yeah.
IK
None of them, liked Auntie Kyoko said, none of them were well educated. And even if they were, gee they still worked in the cannery as far as they knew...
KF
So then going forward what did you end up doing?
IK
I was a lab technologist. I was worked as a medical technologist for 35 years.
KF
Wow, long time.
IK
I started from the bottom and went up and when I ended my working career, it was when the health boards were coming in. Bad, bad... It ruined healthcare actually. Having all these health boards. Because all it did was it consolidated but they hired too many administrators and that and they just kept cutting from the bottom. When I was working. When I first started working, I remember thinking, “Oh this is a great career!” And it was a great career. I'd say for the 33 of my 35 years, I'd say it was the best career and I moved up the ranks and I really enjoyed it. I didn't have to do shift work for very long because we ran 24 7, but I probably only did that for maybe three years because by then I was just moving up and didn't have to do the shifts. At the very beginning, we'd have to work midnight to eight shifts every other weekend because if you were married, you didn't have to do the midnight day shift. I mean, isn't that prejudice? Laughs
01:25:21.000
01:25:21.000
KF
Interesting.
IK
Yeah so if you were married, you didn't have work it. But we had a girl that would work Monday to Friday but every weekend had to be covered. And so there was two of us that were single so we had to work every other weekend. But anyway, that was the way it was. But in my mind, I thought I had a great career except for the last couple of years when the health boards came in. And when we amalgamated then, everything got shuffled and I could've had a job as a med tech, continued on, but I went into management because they asked me if I would do management and I thought about it. I didn't want to, but I felt that it was better for me to do that than to take a job and quit in that year and a half. Because I knew I was leaving after 35 years. Not because I was going to get a full pension anyways, I thought it's no use me working for a year and a half in apposition that's brand new, I'll just go into management and then I could just leave. And that's what I did. But I still, to this day, feel that those health boards were not a good thing for the Province. I think it ruined healthcare because I think patient care suffered because of it. And I was happy to leave, but Telephone rings in the background felt sorry for the profession itself. But I had a good career.
KF
Oh good.
IK
I was very lucky. Phone continues to ring Don't answer it.
IK
Are these pictures from Alberta?
IK
Yeah. They were the sugar beet one. But there's more somewhere, but I can't find them all.
KF
Yeah you guys have great photos.
IK
So that's my life story laughs.
KF
And were you involved – I see you guys both have very nice t-shirts on that advertise the Steveston –
IK
Steveston Judo Club yeah! Laughs
KF
Did you get involved with that before?
IK
Isao's dad was one of the co-founders of the judo club in 1953, right?
KF
I see.
IK
And he's been in it since. My kids were in it but not for long. But I figure I've been in it since we got married or before. Laughs I'm sure your mom must think the same thing about.
KF
Oh yeah. Well I grew up on those mats even though I didn't do anything, I was running around. So Isao your dad was a fishermen?
IK
Yeah.
KF
Here in Steveston. And your mother did what?
IK
The same in the canneries.
KF
Worked in the canneries?
IK
Yeah.
KF
And so originally from Wakayama, was it your father who came over?
IK
My grandfather, like Auntie Kyoko's dad.
KF
So Auntie Kyoko's dad. And then Kyoko said you were nine months old when you were moved.
IK
I was trying to come back, if we left in April, I would've been only eight months –
IK
No you guys didn't leave 'til June.
IK
Oh yeah right, June.
KF
'Til June? Oh.
IK
Yeah, yeah my aunt had an appendix or whatever.
KF
But it sounds like from Kyoko's story you guys didn't go to over to Alberta around the same time. It sounded like Kyoko's family first –
IK
No.
IK
Well she and her two brothers and grandfather went first because Auntie Tamura had appendicitis.
KF
Right.
IK
Auntie Kimi, wasn't it Auntie Kimi?
IK
I thought it was Auntie Tamura.
IK
Well it don't mater.
IK
Well one of the Aunts had... and so his dad had to stay here to look after them and that's why they didn't go until a couple of months later. Because a big shift – I don't know if April... did they all go to Alberta at that time?
01:30:00.000
01:30:00.000
IK
My dad told me that when they got off the train in Lethbridge, there were a whole bunch of farmers, the English farmers looking at all of the families saying, “Oh you come with us.” And I remember my dad saying okay you guys have all these young guys. But I think that's another reason that we did move from farm to farm, but then you guys moved from farm to farm too.
IK
Yeah.
IK
So I don't know what the cause was for such movement.
KF
Do you know why?
IK
Never know.
IK
That's something I wouldn't mind finding out. We'll have to ask some elderly person.
KF
Yeah. Did either of you, when you were working on the farms, connect with any of the non-Japanese Canadians farmers over there?
IK
No.
IK
In fact I don't even know the names of the people we went to work for. No, I don't even remember the sequence. My dad wrote it all down where we went first, second, third and your dad wrote it down too for you when we had to do the Redress, we had to write down where we went. But I don't remember, I mean to me one farm was like another. I remember one house was being a real, really bad one. This one in Iron Springs, remember quite close to Auntie Kimi's store. When we went back in 1971, my house that I lived in was still standing there or one of the houses.
IK
It was a shack.
IK
Yeah it was a shack.
KF
Yeah.
IK
And then when we went further on to Turin, we didn't ever see the house on the hill that I remember this house on the hill. Don't ask me why, but we never saw that. But then I don't think I would even where to look because I was so small then, so young then.
KF
What was it like to go back though?
IK
Hmm, it didn't mean that much to me.
IK
Yeah because we don't recall anything when you were young eh? I don't remember anything. Even if you saw the place I don't think it would bring back memories or anything.
KF
Right.
IK
Like even now you don't even see irrigation ditches. Because everybody has those things. Those water power things that shoot out water. But I really remember them because they were wide enough that we could jump over, there were bridges over them. And I guess because we used to walk around them all the time. And the gopher holes, I remember them.
KF
Gopher holes?
IK
There were so many gophers in Alberta and they used to pop up. Because they used to dig holes everywhere we used to pour water down the holes to see if – they would just dig another hole and come up. And as kids, I remember going, “Oh there's another one! There's another one!” We'd go chasing them but....
KF
So what's your earliest memory then Isao? Because you were quite young when everything happened.
IK
I think I remember when grandma passed away, it was lightening and raining.
KF
Was it?
IK
And I had to go tell my uncle that lived a little ways away and I remember running in the rain.
KF
In the rain?
IK
Yeah, in the thunder. There used to be a lot of thunder. I remember grandma always used to hang on to me, I guess I was scared.
IK
Yeah.
IK
That's about it.
IK
He was the spoiled one in his family.
IK
Yeah.
KF
Really?
IK
Yea I'm just telling you that right now because ... laughs
KF
IN the structure of your family, where did you sit, were you the youngest?
IK
No he was the oldest.
IK
The oldest.
KF
Oh you were the oldest, ohh.
IK
The spoiled one they say. Laughs
KF
The spoiled one...
IK
Yeah. Though we all swear his youngest sister is the spoiled one too, but that's the oldest and the youngest right?
KF
Yeah.
IK
Yeah. Don't remember too much about... I see a picture of you know, the class that you went. See a class, I don't know what happened to that old picture?
IK
Oh I have mine in my thing – oh it's all ripped, but laughs it was a ...
IK
Yeah I was just telling Kyla, I thought Auntie Kyoko taught here after coming back from Alberta.
IK
No she never taught here.
01:35:03.000
01:35:03.000
IK
Yeah.
IK
I don't think she had the license to even teach here.
IK
Maybe.
IK
Because I think the stipulation, I mean, they were short of teachers in Alberta and so that was the thing, you went to school and then you had to teach there for a couple of years.
IK
You'd think that the license would be ...
IK
I think it was probably a license for just Alberta. I would think, I don't know.
KF
So do you remember coming back to Steveston? You must've been ...
IK
Eight or nine I think.
KF
Eight or nine?
IK
Yeah. Not too much but ire member going to grade two I guess.
KF
Grade Two
IK
Grade two at Lord Byng. I don't remember too much.
KF
Was it a mixed class or?
IK
Yeah, yeah. Mostly white people, eh?
IK
Yeah.
KF
Mostly white people.
IK
I remember when we first came back though, like Rosemary Bealey and Lois Picra, we lived not in Stevston so we would walk home from school together and to this day we're still good friends and we know, but see Rosemary she was prejudice at all, well neither was Lois. They weren't the ones that – it was when we got to high school that you could tell that were bitter against. And I don't know what made them. You know like somebody like Irene Trishell, why would she say that to us? I don't know something in her family that caused her to think that the Japanese were against her. I don't know what made her prejudiced, whereas Rosemary. But then maybe, I don't know. But I've often wondered and to this day when I see her I think, grits teeth you know because I –
KF
You still see her?
IK
Yeah, well we were classmates right? So when we had high school reunion, she's there. But she probably doesn't even remember.
IK
No.
IK
I remember it, I remember thinking, “Oh make me get one wrong” or something because you don't want to stand out like that and yet...but anyway...bygones be bygones.
IK
I didn't have to worry about that laughs
KF
So you didn't hear like the comments that Ina was talking about, did you hear any of that at your school?
IK
No.
IK
We went to the same school though.
IK
Yeah.
IK
But maybe guys were... were they as ...
IK
What?
IK
I don't know...I remember being taken for a loop though when she said that I thought, “Oh my god!” but... But you were more sports though than I ever was. Maybe that's why.
IK
Yeah I wasn't too smart that's why.
IK
No, no.
IK
They were mad at you for being too smart laughs
IK
Yeah right.
KF
SO when did you start judo then? Ina said your father was doing judo.
IK
Yeah in 1953. When I was eleven or twelve. KY
KF
That's when you started?
IK
And there's still five of us that started in 1953.
KF
Five of you.
IK
We're the old guys.
IK
Yuzuru.
KF
Jim.
IK
I mean Mr. Kojima is one.
KF
Yeah.
IK
And he's the other. And then there's Art Nishi, Martin, his cousin and Simi.
IK
Hirata.
IK
Hirata. They're the five that are still left from 1953.
KF
From the original group.
IK
Yeah.
IK
There's the others that are left they're just not doing it anything more. But these guys are still doing it.
KF
I see. So you were doing it as a child then too? And then who taught you your father?
IK
Yeah and there was ten, higher and eventually, kind of have to take over and start teaching and help the club out and that's what we're still doing.
KF
So how often would you do that? Was that an after school activity?
IK
Yeah, after school, at night time.
KF
At nighttime. And where was that located the judo club?
IK
Oh I'll take you to the judo club.
01:40:04.000
01:40:04.000
KF
Sure.
IK
There's pictures of all the dojos that we had.
KF
Really?
IK
Yeah.
KF
Oh that's neat.
IK
Have you seen the book, The History of the Steveston Judo Club?
KF
I don't think so –
IK
Oh your dad must have a copy laughs
KF
Oh my dad must. God it would be embarrassing if he didn't have that. Everybody laughs
IK
Maybe he doesn't, you know, maybe we didn't give one to him.
KF
I'll check yeah.
IK
But that was done when we turned 50. Fifty years. The book.
KF
Oh okay I think I know the book.
IK
Yeah I'm sure.
KF
Because isn't there inside there's a timeline right? That goes and it highlights the different achievement of various members.
IK
I think so.
KF
Yeah, the banquets and stuff –
IK
All the instructors that came from Japan.
KF
Yeah, yeah. So did you start doing judo when you were in Alberta or did you start back when you were in Steveston?
IK
No, yeah in Steveston. My dad helped teach at the Picture Butte Judo Club. And I think in that Coyote Flats book, I think he was mentioned in that. I think he was wasn't he?
IK
Yeah if you do get a chance, I will look it up too, I should find a copy somewhere, but I could kick myself for not taking it but, you know, you don't like to take a family history because not that their family is very into tree, but just in case they are or one of their kids are, I didn't feel that I could take somebody else's book, but I must get one.
KF
So what was your father's name?
IK
Kunji.
KF
Kunji. And he was a fisherman for the rest of his life?
IK
Yeah, he retired when he was seventy.
KF
When he was seventy?
IK
Yeah, then he took up golf.
IK
And then he took up golf.
KF
Then he took up golf? Oh that's funny.
IK
He took it up because my mum and dad were golfing and then he golfed right until he was 90...what? 91-2? Or even later might have been.
IK
Might have been later.
KF
So what did you speak at home then?
IK
Half and half.
KF
Half and half?
IK
Yeah. Because our grandparents lived with us. That's how I –
KF
Oh so you had the whole family unit?
IK
Yeah. So we had to learn, speak Japanese anyway. Couldn't read it or write it, but went to Japanese school for a while but it was kind of...
KF
Did you enjoy that ?
IK
No. So I could speak it a little bit.
KF
And then what did you do? You worked in the labs, but what did you end up doing?
IK
Yeah. I ended working in the boat yard.
KF
In the boat yard.
IK
First we started off with wooden plank boats, then it went to fibre glass plywood, whatnot, and eventually doing mostly repairs. After the fishing died down we used to make gillnets. Then we went into pleasure boats. And the shop that I worked at, we had a Volvo dealership, motor. And he still has it, but that's what's keeping him alive right now.
KF
Are the repairs?
IK
The repairs and the Volvo selling, parts.
IK
Yeah you can't just go to a hardware store to buy a Volvo part. You got to go to a –
KF
You have to go specific, I see.
IK
Yeah, that's how they control the...
KF
Well can we touch on Redress again? What you were saying Ina was really interesting about how you felt about Redress and receiving money. Were you guys a part of it at all or were keeping tabs on it?
IK
No.
01:44:55.000
01:44:55.000
IK
No. I am almost felt embarrassed to get it to tell you the honest truth. Because we didn't need the money, I mean, everybody needs money, don't get me wrong, but I didn't feel that our generation lost, I could say I had no toys, but big deal. Nobody had. So it wasn't like we lost property or anything like that. And I feel that, like I said, I felt that I was caught in the middle. I mean there were people much younger than I that got Redress that probably deserved even less than we did. But why didn't these people above us that truly lost they lost their occupation, they lost their boats, you know, yet and I can see the dilemma they were in but you couldn't do a sliding scale because how would you do it? I don't know if embarrassed is the word.
IK
You didn't think you deserved it.
IK
Yeah I didn't. But I have to tell you I'm a realist. I'm not pessimistic and I'm not an optimist, I think I'm a realist. And I think that everything, I mean, people deserve what they work to get and I guess gifts in life do come along, but I've always felt that people should earn what they get. And that's why for me, Redress was – yes an apology, but were we truly deserving of it? I don't know. Yes my parents, our parents all suffered, but do you think you suffered?
IK
Well I didn't know any better. That's the way we lived.
IK
And what would have been if we didn't get evacuated and stayed here? We might still be living in the same – well you guys had a nice here compared to what we lived in. But then see his grandparents were here, my grandparents were in Japan so we were sending money home to Japan all the time too. So I don't know.
IK
Yea, but that –
IK
You can't tell, I mean you don't know what it's like, but that was my feeling. And we gave parts of our money, or my money to my two younger brother and sister who never got it but to me they were in the same situation as we were.
KF
So your brother and sister didn't receive a Redress settlement fund?
IK
No because they were younger. They were born past that 1950 whatever window.
IK
Yeah my youngest sister didn't get it either.
IK
Yeah his youngest sister didn't get any of it.
KF
Oh and how many siblings are in your family?
IK
Five.
KF
Five.
IK
And I had six. So the two youngest didn't so we just gave them – and they probably needed it more because we were working, they were just starting off that kind of thing. But I don't know that's just my personal feeling. Its very difficult and I'm thankful for people like Roy Miki who worked so hard and probably that guy that you're talking about the lawyer, you know they worked so hard for the benefit of all Japanese Canadians, but...
KF
Would you say the internment had an effect on you and your family?
IK
I guess it did. In that they went from a comfortable life here to having nothing and then – but you know they're so resilient because when you think of say nineteen like twenty years after we came back 1970, most Japanese that were interned had their own homes by then because I remember my dad building homes for a lot of them. So you can't – though where would they have been if they didn't have the internment? I don't know, it's very hard to say. Did it have an effect on me? I don't know.
01:50:04.000
01:50:04.000
IK
You don't know, how could you tell?
IK
Its hard to say one way or another... I don't know. Can't answer that.
KF
Well perhaps to frame the question in a different way then, when you look at it from a historical point of view overtime and what had happened, how do you feel about the interment and the uprooting and everything being liquidated? Not so much from your own personal experience but what had happened, how do you feel about that?
IK
Oh I think it was wrong.
KF
Was it?
IK
I don't think any race should have to go through that. Looking back at the head tax, is that any more wrong for them to come to Canada to have to pay? Now I think it's far different from losing everything and made to leave your place and go that far, I think they're not comparable. And I think that having the Japanese Canadians leave that far and lose everything, I think that was wrong, but it was war. And they didn't know that one Japanese wasn't going to help Japan versus another Japanese that enlisted in the Canadian army. So who was to tell the difference? So I guess that's why it happened, much as you can say it was wrong, I don't know what they could have done.
KF
What did you think of it Isao?
IK
Yeah pretty much the same, but once they took all the Japanese all of here, they spread them out.
KF
Right.
IK
So that kind of broke up the –
KF
The collective.
IK
The Japanese network.
IK
Yeah. So I don't know if that's good or bad, but it did for the better. Kind of spread them out and got into more of the community. And if we were stuck here, maybe you're still be in a kind of a laughs kind of a...you know...
IK
Yeah that's true.
IK
But I think after the war I think all the – eventually they all got accepted into the community because everybody worked so hard to be a good Canadian, I guess.
IK
They tried really hard to get back in. I don't know...
IK
But it's hard to say what if.
IK
Yeah. It's....
IK
Could of.
IK
Yeah. It happened, it happened.
IK
Yeah.
IK
And I think maybe that's my point of view but then maybe that was because it was my dad's point of view too. They just said, “It happened, it happened,” you had to make the best of it. And I think most of the Japanese Canadians did. So they all worked hard and even your dad said in his paper that the Japanese fishermen were – they always strived to be the high boat. Mind you who are comparing yourself with though the Native Indians and the, I guess, some of the Europeans that came over, but they didn't have the same network as the Japanese Canadians did. So maybe there's some good things that came out of the internment.
IK
Yeah.
IK
Hard to say.
KF
I have a question about Steveston since you guys have been here for so long. How has Steveston changed overtime since you guys came back to what it is now?
IK
Well it used to be a rough town.
KF
Was it?
IK
Really tough.
KF
How so?
IK
There used to be gang fights with the Marpole people.
KF
Oh really?
IK
But we weren't involved, it was the –
IK
It wasn't the Japanese.
IK
It was the white kids. White kids.
KF
White kids.
IK
Yeah. It really was a rough town. But eventually it mellowed and now it's a tourist town.
01:55:00.000
01:55:00.000
KF
Now it's very much a tourist town.
IK
After the fishing, I guess.
IK
Yeah it's not the Steveston of old.
IK
No, no.
IK
Where Isao is talking it was when we first got back, but I'd say that was probably in the fifties and sixties.
IK
Yeah.
IK
But by the time, after we graduated that was in sixties, it was way better then.
IK
It was still a good fishing ... cannery.
IK
Yeah it was a real fishing town. It was a real fishing town. I don't know I like Steveston, I thought – we were a close-knit group though, don't you think?
IK
Yeah.
IK
Steveston. You know there were the pockets, there was the Steveston group and the people that lived right in Steveston and there were those that were outsiders, then there was the Vancouver group, but...
KF
And Vancouver group being Powell Street area?
IK
Oh I don't know where they came from! Kyla laughs Whether they were Strathcona or I remember Strathcona –
KF
But Vancouver group. Laughs
IK
Yeah laughs. We used to have when we were growing up there used to be a young Buddhist Group called YBA and then there used to be a Young Peoples Group that were those that went to the United Church because that's all there was here. There were Catholics, but there wasn't a big Catholic when we were growing up. And we used to have dances, you know, because Friday night or Saturday night we'd have dances. And I remember the Vancouver Japanese guys used to drink and that was – it wasn't – not too many drank here hey in those days?
IK
Well you were in a different class. Everybody laughs
IK
Yeah laughs Well –
IK
You were in the goody goody class.
IK
Laughs Yeah right. No but do you think they drank?
IK
Oh yeah.
KF
Laughs Oh yeah.
IK
Yeah John Inouye and all they used to.
IK
Oh yeah.
IK
Yeah I guess, I don't know. I just remember thinking “Ah! These guys are drinking!”
IK
You were in the goody goody group that's why laughs.
KF
But did you sense the same roughness that Isao was just mentioning? Did you ever pick up on that?
IK
Well no we used to hear of those. Yeah, but because we were never involved and of course we had to be home by midnight or whatever, right? So no I wouldn't say for me it wasn't a big thing. We used to hear of them, oh yeah.
KF
And the layout of Steveston, has it changed quite a bit?
IK
Hmm.
IK
It used to be just Moncton Street really, eh?
IK
Yeah.
IK
As for the shops, we never had this Bayview and all this touristy things we do now... It's changed because we don't have a fishing industry anymore. So we don't have a BC Packers, we don't have Scotch Cannery where all the guys they tie up their boats there, like Gary Point. There is no Phoeneix. The canneries are all gone. So the housing is all – well they're bringing it back but in the form of townhouses and stuff like that.
KF
Different housing.
IK
And they're not Steveston-nites that are buying that. So people are coming to Steveston that didn't grow up here. So for us, yes, it's really changed. Wouldn't you say?
IK
Oh yeah it's really changed.
IK
It's not –
IK
I guess people like the well they've got the surrounding areas and whatnot.
IK
We used to be, I think, Steveston used to be a close-knit community and the next one was Brighouse, which is now what we called Richmond Centre.
KF
Right.
IK
And so there was only that and then there was the sea island and east Richmond and Marpole was kind of blocked off like that. So Steveston was fairly –
IK
Isolated, very isolated.
IK
Yeah. We used to think that going to Brighouse was a big deal because they were so much bigger and they had so many more stores than we ever did. Yeah it's changed. We used to have our own post office called Steveston. We don't have that anymore. And everybody knew everybody. We used to never lock our doors at night. But I think that's all over.
02:00:18.000
02:00:18.000
IK
Yeah.
IK
Yeah. I don't think it's just Steveston.
KF
Yeah you don't hear about a lot of people leaving their doors unlocked.
IK
Yeah, not anymore. Yes for me Steveston has really changed. And yet we've lived here all our lives. I wouldn't move anywhere else.
KF
No?
IK
No. But our families are all here. It's tough to move. I mean this place is too big for us, but where would we go? I can't find anything under a million dollars laughs in Richmond. So it is difficult.
KF
What about the Japanese Canadian community, has that changed a lot? Or is there still the old timers that stick together? You were saying how your friends still, the girls –
IK
Yeah most of us live here, still.
KF
Most of you still live here? Yeah.
IK
Most of us. But we're old and we're... yeah. They all live here except – well some might live in Ladner now or... but the core group of us, I'd say, eight, ten of the dozen of us all live in Steveston here. Or within the Richmond vicinity, close enough. But I think we're quite traditional, eh?
IK
Yeah you guys.
IK
But then like I said, out of them there's three of them that went back to Japan so they're very Japanese in our mind. They can read and write and they speak it really well. They probably think of us country bumpkins, but you know laughs, but we always stayed in Richmond, whereas they left and – except for the internment where we were all interned. But then they went back to Japan when the war ended, remember you had a choice. You could go back to Japan or you could stay and they chose to go back. Now two of them say going back to Japan was the worst thing. Because they weren't accepted in Japan either. Because they weren't Japanese, they were Canadians. So they were different. So I think they found it difficult and that's why they came back. But I don't know, that's what they say.
KF
Does the judo club keep things a little central or do you find that that glues the community together? What's the community like at the judo club here?
IK
With the Japanese?
KF
Yeah.
IK
There's not too many Japanese in there.
KF
Really?
IK
Yeah well there is, but they're –
IK
Mixed marriage.
IK
Yeah. They're all mixed.
KF
Mixed hmm.
IK
There's very few Japanese marrying Japanese. Hey? Do you think?
IK
Yeah. Like we had a annual banquet and we're just looking back and looking at the over two hundred people there, we're saying, “Geez I wonder how many different types of nationalities there are in here.” They're black and half black –
KF
It's quite a mixture now.
IK
And how many Japanese, Japanese are there? I bet you there's – I bet you you could count them on your hand.
IK
Yeah. Not too many. And they're –
IK
Ario.
IK
Yeah. There's a lot of – there's one interesting couple, I think he's from the Philippines and –
IK
Mendozas?
IK
Huh?
IK
Mendozas?
IK
Yeah. And he's a really big guy. There's –
IK
And she's Japanese. The mother is Japanese.
IK
Yeah, real Japanese.
IK
From Japan. How did they meet?
IK
I don't know.
IK
We'll have to ask her one day. Well its interesting how they – because Mendoza... is that Filipino, could be Filipino?
02:04:52.000
02:04:52.000
IK
I don't know. And what's this other one? Flips through some pages on the table It's hard to tell when their last names not Japanese.
IK
Yeah.
KF
Laughs Easy to pick out when it's Japanese.
IK
Yeah. Like even in this one there's one, two, three ... oh here's one Ryu Tamiyose. He's a –
IK
Japanese, Japanese?
IK
Well both the parents are Japanese.
IK
Both parents are Japanese. See that's unusual and Ario –
IK
Yeah.
IK
Both parents are Japanese.
IK
How do you pronounce this name? Dala –
IK
Oh Kyle Delacuata. I don't know.
IK
I don't know.
IK
Cuesta?
KF
Can I see?
IK
Sure, it's hard to read. They photocopied it, the toners too high.
IK
There's a Nathan Kuramoto, but he's –
IK
He's half. Laughs
IK
He's half.
IK
Well I was thinking Jason and Ryan's friends, I mean, there's not one that's Japanese, Japanese, except Ryan. And all their friends are intermarried. There's none except for our son and he's the only one that's Japanese, Japanese. The other one is married to a Caucasian. And all their friends, even Sean Kumikai, they're all married to non-Japanese. And so if you think that's that generation, which is your generation, there's so few Japanese, Japanese left.
KF
Yeah.
IK
So how did you feel? Did you feel that that you weren't Japanese or you weren't Canadian?
KF
Pauses
IK
Laughs
IK
I'm just curious because I remember being surprised.
KF
No, well... well my background I feel like is a little bit different in the sense that my family wasn't interned. My mother is a permanent resident here. She was an immigrant, right?
IK
Right.
KF
So her family history is so different than what happened here in BC.
IK
Right, right.
KF
So I can't really empathize on those experiences –
IK
Right.
KF
Because my grandfather was with the Imperial Army. Everybody laughs It's a little bit different
IK
Laughs Right, right.
KF
Like my family was with Japan in that sense.
IK
Yeah.
KF
And he has his own stories and his own experiences –
IK
Sure.
KF
Which are so different than what was experienced here. So when I was growing up, like I said, my mother was really adamant – or I don't know who was adamant about it, but bringing me back to Japan every summer for at least a month.
IK
Oh yeah.
KF
And stay with the grandparents and... it wasn't even really sightseeing, it was just living at home, just in another country. So it was just almost like two different lives.
IK
Right.
KF
Just at different times of the year.
IK
That's right.
KF
So as for when people ask me my background, because I don't look 100% Japanese, it's pretty easy for me to say, “Oh I'm Japanese Canadian,” because I carried dual citizenship it really is a literal translation of fifty-fifty.
IK
Right, right.
KF
And my dad being Irish, it's a pretty even across, down the board.
IK
Yeah.
KF
I think having that immigrant history, it complicates things on a whole another level about something that's not even related to the project, but when it comes to the Japanese Canadian children who have this long history of being here, being uprooted, coming back and having these questions of citizenship and loyalty and nationality. I never had to experience it in that sense.
02:10:00.000
02:10:00.000
IK
Mhm. Well I think for me why I was surprised was they were not – they were like my kid's age that were up there speaking because they would be in their twenties, if not more. And for them to say that, I thought, “Well you're born here. Your parents were born here. Why would you not think of yourself as being a Canadian with a Japanese ethnic background?” And I think what surprised me. Because, like I said, my son, the youngest one had to ask me what he was. Because his friends – well he had East Indian friends, he had Hakujin friends, you know everything. And so when I told him, “You're a Canadian,” and I said “so is Paul. Karshall he's East Indian, but he's a Canadian. He was born here.” And then he turned right around and he said, “Well what's Jennifer and Julie?” who are my nieces, my brother's kids. And I said, “Well they are half and half.” And it must've really struck him that, oh, because I think he though the he was white laughs I don't know. So for him not even think he was Japanese and for his peers to get up there and say that, “I don't know what I am,” I thought, “You're a Canadian! Get with it!” I guess not having been in those shoes, I don't understand that.
KF
Mhm yeah.
IK
That's why listening to you, yeah because my uncle fought in the Japanese army too, you know?
KF
Yeah well and the other thing is – I kind of process it as my childhood was fundamentally split between two countries.
IK
Yes, between two countries.
KF
Quite often so really I have some aspects of Japanese life and upbringing and then some aspects of Canadian life and upbringing and I go between them accordingly depending on what the situation is. For my mind it's very easy to split the two, but I think there are some, and like I said, I've heard stories where it's a lot more grey with trying to settle and then being moved again and establish yourself. I think there are some who still grapple with their background and their history. Although I do talk to people who, like you say Ina, who are so that for them it's no problem.
IK
Yeah.
KF
And they can say, “This I what I am,” but I think for some it's more difficult than others.
IK
It must be because I remember thinking, “I don't understand this, I don't understand the issue at all.” But anyway...
KF
Well to wrap because it's almost been almost two hours, not just this session, but collectively. Like I said before these interviews that we're capturing are going to be housed in an archive that one day people will be able to listen to and hear peoples experiences. Isao's like, “Oh god!” Laughs And there will be future students and future Canadians and maybe the public will hear some of them so is there a message or anything else you want to say to maybe to people who will listen down the road?
IK
Something wise?
IK
Laughs Something wise.
KF
It can be anything you like.
IK
Well I don't think this kind of thing will ever happen again. I don't think anybody would let it with all these do gooders and whatnot?
IK
Well let's hope it never happens again, but you know, I used to think that life – I always thought that if you had a good family core and you learned to respect people and learn all the please and thank you and I always thought that that's family at it – family values, the world would be so great. But unfortunately now, family units are very hard to come by. There are so many single parents and so I don't know whose going to teach all these people. I always felt that it was the parent's job to make sure your kids grew up respecting and all these other things. Now I'm not sure where that's supposed to all come from.
02:15:10.000
02:15:10.000
IK
Yeah, that's how I feel about teaching the judo kids. I think the parents bring them to get a little more discipline, that's the parents' job.
IK
Yeah they bring them there.
IK
Yeah. So they want us to give them the –
KF
Impart some wisdom, some of those values...
IK
Laughs Manners and discipline.
IK
So everybody's got to live life. And hopefully if you do live life, you know the golden rule: do unto others, what you would have them to do unto you. I think that if everybody lived like that. We'd have a good world to live in. but unfortunately that's not always the case right now and it is difficult. So let's just hope that this kind of thing never happens again. Though how it impacted us is not the same as how it impacted the other generations and that's about it.
IK
Yeah.
KF
Great. Thank you so much.
IK
Well thank you for laughs.
IK
I think we're lucky.
KF
Yeah? Lucky in what way?
IK
That after everything happened that we're still be able to function, I guess, you know?
IK
And not only function, but I think that, well you and I, I think we have been lucky because we've got lots of siblings, we had our parents. You even had your grandparents, I went back to see mine. But I think we grew up where respect, I mean, if you passed a Japanese down the street, you always had to say hello. That was just something you did. It was a natural instinct, you'd go and say hello. And I hope that my kids do the same thing, you know? And they're pretty good that way, but now you got to teach their children and if anything should happen and the family do split, you want o make sure that they have the core values, you know. And to me, if we could do that then we've done our job laughs. So... And I'm sure your mom and dad think the same way, you know?
KF
Oh yeah, I got the discipline from my mom for sure. Everybody laughs Mm great memories of those times. Laughs
IK
Laughs Yeah. Yup, that's right.
KF
Yeah, oh that's the Japanese side for sure I can tell you that.
IK
Yeah.
IK
Yeah that's right.
KF
Oh yeah. Well great thank you so much.
IK
Oh no thank you.
IK
You're welcome.
IK
Well I hope you get something out of it! Laughs
KF
No there's plenty! There's plenty! No thank you, all right I'll turn this off.
02:18:10.000

Metadata

Title

Isao and Ina Kuramoto with Kyoko Niwatsukino, interviewed by Kyla Fitzgerald, 04 May 2016

Abstract

In this interview Kyla sits down with Isao and Ina Kuramoto, two Sanseis, and Isao’s aunt Kyoko Niwatsukino, a Nisei. In the first tape, Kyoko shares her family history, growing up in Steveston before the war, being uprooted to Coalhurst at eleven, working on sugar beet farms, moving to Iron Springs and pursuing education after the war. Ina and Kyoko also talk about the fishing community and culture in Steveston before and after the war. Finally we finish the first tape with Kyoko about her life and family after the war and reflecting on her life experiences. In the second tape, Isao and Ina shares their family history. Isao and Ina were both newborns when their families were uprooted; however they share their memories growing up on sugar beet farms, and returning to Steveston as young children. Furthermore, Ina and Isao describe Steveston post war: where they grew up, what their parents did, daily life, school, encountering racism, their careers and family. Isao also talks about the history of the Steveston Judo Club and his personal connection to judo. Finally, Isao and Ina reflect on the Redress settlement, how Steveston has changed overtime, the effects of the interment, the future identity of young Japanese Canadians and intermarriage.

Credits

Interviewer: Kyla Fitzgerald
Interviewee: Isao Kuramoto
Interviewee: Ina Kuramoto
Interviewee: Kyoko Niwatsukino
XML Encoder: Stewart Arneil
Publication Information: See Terms of Use for publication and licensing information.
Setting: Kuramoto family residence, Richmond, BC
Keywords: Steveston ; Hongowo Store; Lila Farms; Coalhurst ; Alberta ; sugar beet; fishermen; Iron Springs; Bar Hill; education; teachers; Japan ; BC Packers ; Great West; cannery; Trites Road; cannery housing; Pacific Coast; Nelson Brothers; Britannia Shipyard ; Phoenix; Steveston Japanese Canadian Cultural Centre ; Steveston Judo Club; Imperial Cannery; strawberry farms; potatoes farms; Wakayama ; Lord Byng School; Japanese Hospital; Exhibition Park; Hastings Park ; Lethbridge ; prejudice; racism; Kagoshima ; Hiro’s Grocery Store; fishing; Ladner; Vancouver General; Ontario ; Moncton Street; Richmond ; identity; Picture Butte ; Redress ; Buddhist; Y.B.A.; Young Peoples Group; United Church; Woodward’s; nationality; inter-marriage; Pre-World War One (1900), Interwar Years World Two, Post-war (1948 onwards), Redress Settlement (1980’s), Present

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.