Michiyo Jean Maeda, interviewed by Elena Kusaka, 23 April 2015

Michiyo Jean Maeda, interviewed by Elena Kusaka, 23 April 2015

Abstract
In this interview, Jean discusses a book she co-authored with Nobuko Nakayama, Japanese Canadian Stories from Japan, about Japanese who were expatriated from Canada following WWII. There is some discussion of her own life growing up in Canada. Jean recounts how she grew up in Winnipeg among rich presentations of Japanese traditional arts, including theatre and music. Through a connection of Winnipeg’s sister city, Setagaya, she met Nobuko. Jean describes the process of compiling the book with Nobuko. In 2008, they both travelled to Japan and conducted interviews in both Japanese and English; sometimes a combination thereof. Jean lived with her husband in Japan for many decades and recently moved to Canada following the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster in March 2011. The last ten minutes of the recording includes excerpts of these interviews as she plays the recorder. These portions have been transcribed and included in this interview.
00:00:00.000
Elena Kusaka (EK)
All right, so it's April twenty-third, and uh, 2015. And my name is Elena Kusaka. And I'm here with Jean Maeda at the National Nikkei uh Museum Centre. And we're going to talk a little bit about the book that she compiled with Nobuko Nakayama called “Japanese Canadian Stories from Japan.” And um, great. So just to give a little bit of context to um, how you came to write this book, could you tell me a little bit about uh your childhood, where you grew up?
Jean Maeda (JM)
Um, my childhood growing up was in Winnipeg, so it's not really related to this book except that, that's how I met-the Winnipeg connection is how I met Nobuko.
EK
Ah, okay.
JM
Because Nobuko's husband um, let's see Yasu-sighs Yasuhiro Nakayama?
EK
Uh-hm.
JM
Or Yasuharu, I'm not sure. Um, is the person who used to um, be in charge of the Winnipeg-Setagaya Sister City relationship. He started it in 1970, and so he and she always in Winnipeg you know, with groups from Setagaya. clears throat And they would also, um, welcome groups from Winnipeg to Setagaya and make all the arrangements you know, for the groups to do, do their cultural exchanges and things like that. And since my sisters uh, also live in Winnipeg, and they work in the Japanese Canadian community, uh they knew the Nakayamas as well. So I met Nobuko through that connection in Winnipeg-Setagaya connection.
EK
Okay.
JM
And she is one of those people who um, you know um, I was really surprised to find out that she was a Nisei laughs.
EK
Really?
JM
Oh no actually, she's a Sansei.
EK
A Sansei.
JM
Because her father is a Nisei. Her father was one of the pitchers in the Asahi Baseball Team. Roy Nishide. So he was a Nisei, so she was a Sansei. Yeah. And she was, thirteen I believe when she went back to Japan in 1946. And so I was really surprised when I met her and she said, you know, that she's Japanese Canadian. laughs And she's lived all her life, almost all her life in Japan. Yeah, so that's how it started.
EK
Mm-hm. But she saw, she said, she introduced herself as Japanese Canadian.
JM
Yeah. Yeah, yeah. And she doesn't even have a Japanese passport, because when she was working, she had to have a passport to go to Hong Kong. And she had to have a Canadian passport, so she applied for a Canadian passport and once you, in, in Japanese law you cannot have dual citizenship. So once you get a Canadian passport you, you lose your Japanese citizenship. So all these years, you know, she's lived in Japan since 1946. She has had a Canadian passport. So she said she's never voted, and never in Japan and never in Canada. laughs
EK
Oh my gosh. So, so she's bilingual, and she has a Canadian passport and she comes to Canada sometimes? I guess?
JM
She used to come every summer.
EK
Really.
JM
For the last eight to ten years. She didn't come this past summer because her husband is ill right now. But yeah, she has. And she said, you know, that she couldn't stand the Japanese summers. And so she decided she'd spend it in Canada.
EK
Yeah.
JM
And she's got a really funny theory Laughs. she says. She thinks, where you are born determines the number of sweat pores that you have in your skin, skin. And she was born in Canada, and the Canadian, the Canadian climate and so you can't adjust to-can't adjust, sweat enough to live in the Japanese climate. Both laugh. And so she, she suffers a lot in the summers in Japan you know, she says she always passes out. You know, it's just so hot and humid and...
EK
Whereabouts does she live?
JM
In Tokyo.
EK
In Tokyo. Oh-Tokyo.
JM
In Setagaya, Tokyo.
EK
Oh wow.
JM
Yes. So. I met Nobuko through this Winnipeg-Setagaya connection. And then after I retired, she said, Oh, you know, there's a bunch of Japanese Canadians who have lunch you know, every once or twice a year. Do you want to join us? So I started joining this group of Japanese Canadians and they're all you know, in their seventies, I guess. And eighties. And they said to me, Oh, so, which camp do you belong to? Which camp did you come-you know, stay in? And I said, Well, I wasn't in any camp. Laughs.
EK
Wow.
JM
But that's their opening um, what's the word, their opening remark to anybody it seems, you know.
EK
Really?
JM
Because as Nobuko says, that's the um, the bond that keeps them all together. It's like they all belong to a certain camp. And so they all have that common background, of the internment.
00:05:23.000
00:05:23.000
EK
Hm-so, how big was this group? Could you describe kind of, what you guys would do?
JM
Oh, we'd just have lunch. And talk. Basically, but the group was not that huge. Um, I would say-um ten, fifteen, I have a picture of the group at the back. This, this is when we went to Chinatown? That's me, that's Nobuko.
EK
Chinatown, where was-
JM
Chinatown, Yokohama.
EK
Oh, Yokohama.
JM
Yeah, because one of the ladies lived in Yokohama. So, that's us. sound of taking photograph. Um, I'm looking for the Kobe group, I don't, we didn't, it wasn't that big. We also went to one of the lunches the Kobe group had. Uh because we interviewed some of the people that the Kobe group as well. This is quite a while ago, actually. sound of children It was a little bit smaller than this but, you know, it wasn't that huge, you know. Ten people, depending on the lunch and the place, and whatever. But I don't think they're doing it anymore. Because one lady who used to organized it said that she's getting too old to do this kind of thing and people can't come out because they have mobility issues now. And so Nobuko and I were saying that we did this at a really good time, because we got almost everybody and you know, then when they were mobile and they were willing to talk and you know. Things like that. And, since then, one of the Kobe ladies passed away right after we published this. So, I was glad we got it done. laughs
EK
Yeah, yeah.
JM
And she was in her eighties.
EK
Wow. Interesting. So, do you know when this group started, or how it started?
JM
She said it started, she says at the beginning there was a, this picture, very beginning here, the Redress movement in 1980
EK
Right, right.
JM
-I guess they started about eighty-seven, eighty-eight. EK coughs And Eighty-nine and they went to Japan. And they found Japanese Canadians and they had information sessions and they were telling them about Redress. And that's when a lot of those people first got together.
EK
Oh.
JM
Yeah.
EK
Okay, so it was like a Redress group from Canada going over to Japan and then like-
JM
Giving them information on how to apply for Redress and giving them information about it. And that's when some of the people first found out about, Oh, there's other people in Japan in the same boat as me. Because when they went to Japan, they, they had all gone in groups in boats, but once the boat got to um, where is it? Kurihama, or Uraga. They all sort of dispersed. You know, to, to their various uh, relatives, and um, relatives' places. Usually they all went to place where they had relatives, so they were like dispersed and they had no contact with each other. So this was in 1946 and so from 1946 until about 1988, they were all on their own.
EK
Hm. Uh-hm. Hm.
JM
And so then they started these, this Canadian club. And they had one in Tokyo, and I think they had one in Osaka or Kobe. Basically a social group. Yeah.
EK
So, by the time that you went there, did you hear stories about how the group had changed over the years, or if it was originally a different size, or smaller or larger or anything like that?
JM
So, it was larger. It was larger. I mean if you see this picture it's much larger. They had, they had you know, sort of like parties at the Canadian Embassy and things like that. Uh-hm.
EK
So how did you decide how...what was it, so there was I guess, uh, uh that people would say that they were deported instead of repatriated, is that..
JM
Some people would use that term, yeah, yeah. I think you know, yeah. Well, you can't be repatriated to a place you've never been before. laugh If you're looking at it semantically, you know laugh “repatriated” means going back to your own country. But they were born and raised in Canada.
EK
Uh-hm, uh-hm.
JM
And, they went back to Japan, they went to Japan as children because their parents wanted to go back. So their parents were mainly Issei, first generation. And they, the might've been born and raised in Japan even. But their kids were born and raised here. In Vancouver and you know, the West Coast, the West Coast, so. Yeah.
00:10:04.000
00:10:04.000
EK
So-this group-
JM
Uh-hm. And they had, there's also wives and things too I think. Every, almost everybody married Japanese. And that's one of the reasons they stayed in Japan. They didn't come back.
EK
Oh, okay. Uh-hm. One of the things that I found really interesting about the book is um, clears throat. I'll just wait until these kids go by. laughs pause Sound of children playing.
EK
laughs Is um, Nobuko's um, write-up in this.
JM
Yeah.
EK
She kind of mentioned how uh, she kind of didn't really quite fit in to uh, Japanese society and maybe even Canadian society.
JM
Right, right, she said that.
EK
That seems to be like, pretty common to some of the others, except in terms of language. I think one of the, one, one uh-uh person was saying that uh, they only had up to like age nine English, so they felt that their English didn't progress and so they were kind of in-between languages as well.
JM
Right, right.
EK
Is that something that you noticed?
JM
So, I think it depends on how old you were when you went to Japan. So people like Nobuko, and Mr. Sumiya and uh, Miho, they were um. I think about twelve or thirteen and that was the worst-laughs Sound of children playing.
JM
The worst stage to go.
EK
Yeah.
JM
If they had, they had younger sisters and brothers who if they were like six or something, they could easily just go into the Japanese school system from grade one. And just learn Japanese, you know, so there's no problem. And older brothers and sisters if they're like eighteen or nineteen and they've finished high school in Canada, they knew English really well. So they could get jobs when they went to, to Japan, working for the American Army. In the occupation forces. And they could do translation and everything and they could get money. But people who were like twelve or thirteen, so they finished maybe grade six, seven? So they have some English, but it's not perfect. And they don't have much Japanese, but so they're, they're put into like grade three or something like that.
EK
Yeah.
JM
You know, so they're put back in school with younger kids.
EK
Yeah.
JM
They don't understand any Japanese at all.
EK
Hm.
JM
And you know, their English is not one hundred per cent either, so, you know, they were the ones caught in the middle. And who had the worst time, I think. And they're the ones that felt you know, neither one or the other.
EK
Uh-hm. Hm. Did you find any other kinds of themes that came up during all these interviews?
JM
sighs Well, the main theme I guess was, they didn't want to go laughs to Japan, from the beginning. Some of them said, you know, they thought it was ridiculous. Why would we want to go to a country which you know, lost the War, and you know. sound of child talking One woman says, you know, Even when I was twelve, I thought my parents were really, dumb, you know, to make this decision of going back. laughs And you know, one guy said you know, he hated it, there and he always said to his father, Why did we come back here you know, why can't we go back to Canada and. Nobuko says the same thing, she says, I just really wanted to go back to Canada but I had no way of doing it. I had no idea how to do it. And some people did go back to Canada, I mean their relatives sponsored them, but some people had no idea. How to even start, to do that. So I think that, that EK coughs was really sad, that they always wanted to go back, and they could never go back.
EK
How did they kind of talk about Canada. pause Because it was like, it was a...
JM
Well, the Canada that they knew, it's like, pre-War Canada, too. And one fellow said, you know, it was really interesting, he said, George Nakano said, you know, when he lived in Vancouver, Japanese goods were inferior. And Japanese were sort of an inferior class you know, and so, when he lived in Canada it wasn't, it wasn't the most pleasant situation. You know, there were, there were games that um, the white kids could go to, baseball games that were free but the Japanese were excluded. And things like that you know, little things of discrimination. And he said, Well now the Japanese have a good image in Canada. But in those days, they didn't so, you know. When they lived in Canada, even though you know, they, they knew English and, they had a more comfortable life. But they still suffered a lot of prejudice and discrimination, I think. I remember one, Sumiya-san and one other guy said, And the toilets, you know, he said, they looked at the toilets and you didn't even know how to use them even. You know, the Japanese toilets were like, uh you know those, those no-flush toilets. It was like, like an outhouse almost you'd imagine, you know. laughs
EK
Oh, yeah. A hole in the ground. laughs
JM
Yeah, yeah.
00:15:23.000
00:15:23.000
JM
So you know, things like that. So it was a big shock for them to go to Japan. Because the standard of living was really, really low compared to here. Because here you know they were used to city life, and flush toilets and hot water probably and you know. And, and Japan had lost the War so they had nothing. I'm not sure if this is true or not, that some Japanese Canadians had gone back to Japan and had literally starved to death. Because they, they couldn't depend on their relatives, or their relatives refused to help them. Or they didn't have any relatives. And nobody would help them. Because they were considered to be the enemy.
EK
Oh really?
JM
Right? Because they were, they had lived in Canada. And they didn't speak Japanese, they spoke English. laughs EK coughs So, I don't know.
EK
How did that um, story come up?
JM
Um. I can't remember. I had heard, you know, just that, a story, you know, that people probably had, had really suffered, you know, going back to Japan.
EK
Uh-hm. I remember uh, one of the, uh interviews in here, um, they were talking about how when they were on the, the boat, going across the Pacific, um, they were pretty well-fed by the U.S.
JM
Yeah, yeah.
EK
And then um. One of the soldiers offered them like a can of wieners and they said, No.
JM
Biscuits, biscuits.
EK
Biscuits. Okay, and.
JM
So they were broken so they said, Hm, we don't want those. laughs And then later on they realized, they didn't know the situation in Japan I guess. And they had no food at all. People were starving, literally starving in Japan, after the war. You know, somebody was saying, I don't know if we put it in or not, that they actually dreamed about those biscuits. laughs
EK
Oh my gosh, really. laughs Oh gee.
JM
And what was really sad, I think it was Yoshiko? They, they had so little food, that they used to draw pictures of food and pretend to eat them. That's so sad. Draw pictures of cake and whatever you know.
EK
Hm. Oh my gosh.
JM
Yeah. It's so sad.
EK
So, um, I'm wondering if we can go back a little bit, more to um the connection between your own history and this project.
JM
Uh-hm.
EK
Um. So you're, you were born in Winnipeg and your family grew up in, was originally from Vancouver, or?
JM
Okay. Um, my mother was born and raised in Vancouver. Yeah, in the Fairview area.
EK
And what was your mother's name?
JM
Last name was Hamakawa. EK coughs
EK
Okay.
JM
And my father was a Japanese immigrant. He immigrated in about, what was it, 1930, 1937? Something like that.
EK
Okay. What was his name?
JM
Uh, Yamashita.
EK
Yamashita.
JM
Yamashita Takeijiro. So he was born in 1914, and so he was bout thirteen when he immigrated, 1937.
EK
Hm. Uh-hm. So he immigrated to Canada and then he met your mom?
JM
Um, so he spent the war, because he was Issei, first generation. He spent the war in one of these road camps in BC. Building roads and things like that. But um, he never talked about it. You know what he said, is I made a lot of good friends when I worked in the road camp. That was it. And so they married in, I think in Winnipeg right after the war.
EK
Okay.
JM
Yeah.
EK
So, how did they meet?
JM
I think it was a, somebody knew somebody else. That, so they got introduced. Because they were both from the same area of Japan, Shiga-ken, near Hikone.
EK
Uh-hm, uh-hm.
JM
Yeah.
EK
So, he was in a road camp and she was, she was..
JM
And she was interned. Yeah.
EK
And do you know which camps she was in?
JM
I'm not sure, she spoke of Slocan and Popoff, both. But they're both right beside each other, it seems. Aren't they?
EK
I don't know. Yeah, well maybe, there are some stories of like people who were in one camp and worked, did like summer work somewhere else.
JM
Yeah.
EK
And went back. But uh. So how old would she have been?
JM
She was, well she was born in nineteen, 1918. So she was in her twenties.
EK
Okay.
JM
Uh-hm. Yeah.
EK
And she was there by herself? Or did she have family?
JM
She was there, she had a mother, I'm not sure about the father, and three brothers. And, I'm not sure, if they were all there or not. You know, we never heard about the evacuation from my parents. Never.
EK
Uh-hm.
JM
So it's, I'm not sure. laughs EK coughs I'm not sure at all. So even things like, my mother once said to us, you know, We used to have some really nice furniture when we lived in Vancouver. And I always thought, Well that's stupid, why didn't you just bring it to Winnipeg, you know? It's like, I had no idea. You know, that they were evacuated and that they couldn't take anything, you know? She just, she just mentioned that and then that was it. And then I never asked her. laughs
EK
Oh wow.
JM
So. We had no idea, she never mentioned it.
00:20:57.000
00:20:57.000
EK
Did she have any um, or like are there any family uh, objects or heirlooms that have been kept in the family from that time, do you think?
JM
Not that I know of.
EK
Yeah.
JM
Not that I know of. Yeah.
EK
So she kind of just mentioned furniture in passing and, and changed the subject?
JM
Yeah, yeah. Yeah, yeah, that was it. We had a lot of nice furniture when we lived in Vancouver, she says. both laugh They never mentioned it, they never said anything about it, really. So, and then she died um, quite early. She died in 1974, I think it was. So, much before you know Redress or anything. Yeah.
EK
Uh-hm. Uh-hm. Hm. So when you were a child and you were hearing these kinds of things, did you ever ask them like what happened, or maybe your father? What happened during that time? Or?
JM
No. I never did. laughs
EK
Yeah. Hm. pause Yeah, it can be a little tricky I guess, bringing that up.
JM
But we had no idea, anything had happened. laughs So, you, you couldn't ask, anything, you know. And when you're a child, you don't, you don't ask about your parents' history, really, do you? You know, like what, what happened, where were you born or, you know, you know like we sort of knew that he was born in Japan, and he came to Canada as a young man. He worked in Vancouver and then he came to Winnipeg. That's it, you know, we never knew any of the details. Yeah. Yeah.
EK
Were there um, like uh, traditional kind of Japanese things that you guys would do? Or your family would do in Winnipeg.
JM
Yeah, yeah. I sort of mentioned that in the other book, but for New Years we always had all the New Years things. You know, kamaboko and stuff like that. One year my father even tried to make his own kamaboko. I remember that. both laugh And we used to have an open house, New Year's Day. And you'd invite all your friends to come, you know. So, it was really interesting in those days, Japanese food was not “in.” So you'd have these people come in and say, Ooh what's that black stuff? You know? Seaweed, ew! Seaweed, you can't eat seaweed, ew. What is that? You can't eat octopus, ew. And then you know, the shrimp with the head on it, ew, shrimp with heads on it? Ew, their eyes are looking at it. Ew. laughs Nobody would eat it. I remember that. But my mother would make all this stuff from scratch, you know? She would make all the inari sushi and the nori maki, everything, you know, futomaki, everything. And even the, um, not the kamaboko but you know the yo-kan and the kan-ten, and you know, they'd make everything from scratch. And anko even. I think they'd boil the beans and they'd make it, you know. Everything.
EK
Just by herself?
JM
Oh yeah, everybody would do that. Yeah. Everybody would, so we'd always do that for New Years, and since we went to the uh, Buddhist Temple, we'd have all the services and you know. EK clears throat And we'd go to Sunday School, which I thought was normal. laughs Except when I went to Japan and I found out, you know, in Japan they don't have Sunday school. Did you know that?
EK
They don't have any like, Christian churches or?
JM
No, I mean they don't have Buddhist Temple Sunday Schools. It's a Christian.
EK
Oh yeah, that's actually kind of...
JM
It's a Christian, a Christian custom. That's been, you know, taken over by the Buddhist Temple. And they used to be called the Buddhist Churches of America. I remember that too.
EK
Oh really?
JM
So um, they ran it like a Christian church, so they had Sunday school and we always used to go and we'd take the lessons and we'd learn all these things about Buddhism, and then when I went to Japan I found out you know, the temples there, EK laughs they just have services when you ask for it, just memorial services or weddings or whatever. And most Japanese don't know anything about Buddhism, because they don't. They've never gone to Sunday school. both laugh
EK
Okay.
JM
It's really interesting. And we used to sing song, I mean, hymns, I guess. And none of the Japanese know any of these hymns.
EK
Really?
JM
No, because they don't sing.
EK
Yeah, yeah.
JM
The service was just like a Christian service. B
EK
Hm.
JM
But with Buddhist words in it. Like, you know instead of saying Jesus loves you, it's like Buddha loves you. You know like. laughs It's sort of, it's sort of like that, you know, it seems. Yeah. So that was interesting.
00:25:41.000
00:25:41.000
EK
I wonder like where that came from.
JM
I don't know. It was really interesting at that time. Anyway we went to the Buddhist church, and they had all that um, the customs you know, and so I knew more about Buddhism than the Japanese did in Japan. You know? laughs And we used to have um, concerts and we used to have you know, performances, performances, and you know people would do dances and sing and Japanese community in Winnipeg was really small but they really tried to keep the Japanese culture alive. So they would have concerts. I remember the concerts in the 1950's and 60s in Winnipeg, big, big concerts of singing and dancing and plays. And the plays, the plays they made all of the costumes, I mean, the wigs, everything.
EK
Who made them?
JM
People, my mother made a wig, a Japanese wig you know, out of black like yarn you know. She made like you know a men's kutsura you know? She used blue cloth here and she, she sewed all this here and made a chonyonme and everything. And she made things like that. They made all these costumes. It was good, amazing, that clears throat they could do it. clears throat And there was a lady who played the shamisen. clears throat And she knew all of these songs, and so we did one of these really tragic, tragic songs, songs and plays because I was in the play and I remember that because I was one of the stars of the play. And I had no idea it was a sad play. Because I just did my role, I didn't even know what I was saying, but I remember certain things like the lady was a little bit strange because she'd make these strange sounds when she was playing the shamisen. She would go, “Yo, yo, yo,” And I thought, She's so strange, she makes these strange sounds, and I realized she was born in Japan, and that's what you're supposed to do. That's the uh, you know, the uh, I don't know what you call it, it, it's like when you're saying, Yipee-yi-yay or Oh, oh, oh, whatever, it's what you have to do when you're playing the shamisen. Yeah, but uh, all these things, so when I first went to Japan and I saw kabuki for the first time. I wasn't impressed, I said, Oh, that's just like what they did in Winnipeg. laughs Except the costumes were nicer but, it was really funny but you know, they really had a strong um, sense of trying to keep the Japanese culture in Winnipeg. Because it was a small community, it was.
EK
Uh-hm.
JM
And we were very cohesive, so more so than maybe Vancouver or Toronto because it is a bigger community here.
EK
Uh-hm, uh-hm. So...
JM
And there were two basically I said in this other book, there were two main groups, one was you know, the Buddhist Church and people who went to the Buddhist Church and the other one was the United Church. And all the people who went to the United Church. And the JC would have the annual picnics and everyone would come to that, and the Buddhist Church would have the Buddhist Church picnic and everyone would come to that, yeah. And, yeah.
EK
Uh-hm. Sounds like a really nice community.
JM
And even now...
EK
Active.
JM
Uh-hm, even now very active. They do Folklorama every summer, and you know, they spend the whole week, you know, from, like it's every day from six PM until I think it's eleven PM. Every day, for a whole week. So it's all volunteers, some people even take their holidays that week so they can do it. laughs
EK
Oh my gosh. Wow, so dedicated.
JM
Yeah, yeah. Yeah.
EK
So all the people that were there, when you were growing up in Winnipeg.
JM
Uh-hm.
EK
All the Japanese there were Nisei, or Sansei, or...
JM
Issei and Nisei, yeah.
EK
Did any of them talk about their experiences or anything that they missed? People that they missed?
JM
pause People that they missed.
EK
From like, before the War?
JM
Uh-hm. Not that I can remember. That's a long time ago.
00:30:12.000
00:30:12.000
EK
Uh-hm. Did your mom or dad mention anyone, any friends or anything that they lost track of? Or kept in contact with?
JM
Hm, I think they might have mentioned names of people, but again, laughs you don't I didn't register, you know? The names or anything and um, yeah.
EK
Hm. So, um. Maybe we could go forward a little bit.
JM
Okay.
EK
Um, are there any like stories or um, any stories at all that you heard from uh, from your parents about life in Vancouver or BC? pause I know you mentioned that um, some of the people in this book kind of think of pre-war Vancouver, kind of like some of it was idyllic, and some of it was I guess, the racism that was present. I'm wondering if the members of your family have had that kind of, those stories.
JM
Not that I can remember. pause Not really. No, I really can't think of any stories. laughs Um.
EK
All right, well, maybe we can talk um, a little bit more about this book. So um, so it says here that in 2008 you were introduced to Nobuko.
JM
Right, right.
EK
And then uh, how did you get to Japan? When was like your first time to Japan.
JM
Oh, my first time I went to Japan was in 1966. When I had to bring all that sugar. laughs
EK
Yes, could you, talk about that?
JM
That was a, that was um, an exchange between UBC and two Japanese universities in the summer. So I spent about a month in Japan.
EK
Yeah, could you...before the recording started we kind of were talking about the sugar. Could you tell the story about how that happened?
JM
So when I went to Japan in 1966, it was the summer exchange program. So I was going to be staying with um, university students in Tokyo and, and other places and we would be traveling with the university students. But I would have time to visit my relatives in Shiga-ken in Hikone. So, laughs my parents said, Take all this sugar and instant coffee and give them to my uncle. So when I came to Japan, I had this huge suitcase, and you know, the students came to pick me up was worried because he came in this little car and EK laughs he was worried that he could get this little suitcase laughs inside the car. I remember that, I was really embarrassed.
EK
laughs Did you open it up to show all the sugar?
JM
laughs No, I don't know how much I had to bring, but it was quite heavy. laughs Because you know, during the war, or before the war, and during the war, you know, there was a real shortage of everything in Japan. People were literally starving to death. And things that were in short supply, things like sugar. laughs Yeah.
EK
So your family would send sugar to...
JM
Yeah, yeah, yeah. Well, after the war my father would you know, send things to the family.
EK
Did he have a big family in Japan?
JM
He well, I'm not sure, he had a little sister that died young. He had three brothers I believe. One brother who was actually drafted into the war, and then he died like a month before the war ended or something like that. It was really sad, it was really sad. And my other uncle was drafted into the war as well, and he was sent on a boat to go to Taiwan, right near the end of the war. And he said, the only thing he could remember was that the boat would drop down and he was so seasick. On the way to Taiwan, as soon as he arrived in Taiwan the war was over. So he hadn't, didn't have to fight or anything. So he spent the next few months working with the Taiwanese helping them to build gardens and plant flowers. And he said they were really grateful for their help. So all these stories that the Chinese say about you know, the Japanese you know, raping and killing, you know, I don't know if it's all true or not. When you hear stories like that you know, from people who were actually there, you know, he said, they just helped plant crops. You know, so.
EK
Uh-hm, uh-hm, yes. JM laughs So when you went to go visit your family in 1966?
JM
Uh-hm.
EK
As part of that exchange program, did they talk to you about um, I guess they told you how, what their experiences were during the war?
JM
Uh-hm. laughs No one mentioned the war.
EK
I guess it's not the happiest topic for your first meeting, eh.
JM
No. laughs Well, yeah, it, it was twenty years since the end of the war, so. Uh, no they didn't mention anything.
00:35:21.000
00:35:21.000
EK
How did you find out about um, your uncle's experience uh, in Taiwan?
JM
Uh, because I, I would visit my Uncle Rel, you know, after I was living in Japan in 1977, I was living there? We visited him and that's when he was talking about his experiences. laughs in Taiwan. It was so funny. He said, and he's, he's really small. He's skinny, about same size as me. And he said he was the shortest in his group and whenever they'd rush off to do something he, he'd always get lost behind him. And it was like a comedy of errors you know? laughs You think, you know, this, this little guy is, he's, he's one of those fierce Japanese soldiers? You know, that they, they portray in the movies, I mean, you know? It's ridiculous. both laugh
EK
Hm. So, okay so then you were there in 1966.
JM
Uh-hm.
EK
And um, do you remember, could you describe your, your experience there in 1966?
JM
It was interesting. laughs Because I went in the hottest time of the year, in June.
EK
Oh no.
JM
And to go in there, it's like walking into like, a sauna. It is so hot I think it's 100 per cent humidity for sure. And as soon as you step outside, the sweat just pours down, you know. EK laughs I had never been so hot in my life. That was my first experience in Japan, yeah. And we went to Kyoto too, that was the other thing. Kyoto is really hot. More so than even Tokyo I think. laughs
EK
Oh really?
JM
Yeah, because it's in a basin, like a, a it's really bad. And um, my first experience I would say, I thought, this is a third world country. You know? And I said, I was so glad that my parents or my father had immigrated to Canada. Yeah. So, that, when I saw my cousins, and met my relatives and everything. They were living out in, almost like the countryside, you know? That's where we would have been living. And I was thinking, maybe we wouldn't have had the education that we got here you know, because everyone, my family, we got to go to university and, you know, we all had professions and things like that. And I was wondering if in Japan you could do all that. It's more hierarchical, you know? There's the best university and the worst university, you know, it's like, whereas in Canada all the universities are relatively good, you know. Like, you know, they're not, they're not huge I don't think there's huge, huge differences. At least for the undergraduate degrees, I don't think there is. And the other thing I realized was, I thought it was a third-world country because they didn't have running hot water.
EK
Hm, right yeah.
JM
You know? Yeah, there's cold water and um. You'd have to have like a water heater to get hot water. You'd have to have a, install a water heater beside your sink and get hot water and. Stuff like that you know? And you'd have a, a bath and you'd have to get the water in there and then heat, heat it up. Things like that, yeah.
EK
Hm.
JM
This is a third-world country, yeah. That's what I was thinking, yeah. laughs But it was really cheap, because at that time it was 330 yen to the Canadian dollar. You know.
EK
Wow, what could you buy with 330 yen?
JM
Oh quite a bit, I would think.
EK
Oh.
JM
Yeah. Well, now it's like one hundred and, to the American dollar it's a hundred and forty. Or a hundred and twenty. So, it's laughs, yeah. And things seemed really cheap compared to here and with the exchange rate too. So.
EK
What did you think of the food there while you were there?
JM
Hm?
EK
What did you think of the food while you were there, 1966?
JM
sighs I don't, I don't remember really you know? I mean, because, we were billeted by um, university students' families, and so, since we're guests they always give you the best of everything as a guest. You know, so, so they give you really, really good meals. So, it was, it was good I mean everything was good.
EK
Uh-hm. And then after this trip.
JM
Yes.
EK
You went back to Canada.
JM
Right. And I always wanted to go back. I wanted to go back right away. But I never got back there. So basically I went east, I was going the wrong way, I went East, I went to Ottawa and I did a Master's at the University of Ottawa. And I worked for the government in Ottawa. So I went into other things, basically. I went into French. I did my graduate degree in French and Latin.
EK
Oh really?
JM
Yeah, I wanted to major in Asian Studies, that's why I came to UBC in the first place. But, uh, it's a long story. Um, in Manitoba you can get a degree in three years instead of four.
EK
Oh.
JM
So when I did one year in Winnipeg. When I transferred to UBC, I did a credit for an extra year and I had to go into third year and I had to major right away, and I couldn't major in Japanese because I hadn't taken any. So I had to major in French and Latin, so I ended up graduating in French. laughs So I decided I may as well continue in French, so I did a Masters in Applied Linguistics.
EK
Applied Linguistics.
JM
And so then I ended up working for the Official Languages Program in Ottawa. So I was going into another field completely. Yeah.
EK
Uh-hm, uh-hm. laughs sound of children playing They're very cute.
JM
Yeah, very cute. Then I took a trip to Japan with some friends, friends whose husband was working for External Affairs.
EK
When was this?
JM
In 1976.
EK
Okay.
JM
And, uh, they were wondering whether they were going to be posted to Japan or not, whether they would like it. So it was kind of like an exploratory trip for her. So she and another friend and I went to, uh, it, it's really like chance meetings, isn't it? The last day I was in Tokyo, I went to this university because I'd been introduced to the university somebody, and I met this fellow who was working for a language school in Tokyo who offered me a job. And so it was like, you know, the last day I was in Tokyo. And the next year, I left Tokyo to work. It was, it was just like a chance acquaintance. laughs You know, so um, yeah, I was really lucky because it was a really good school.
00:41:59.000
00:41:59.000
EK
Which school was it?
JM
It was a school called the Japanese American Conversation Institute, 日米会話学院 and it was the oldest English language school in Japan and it was founded in 1945. EK coughs And actually I interviewed the head of the school's wife because she was Japanese American.
EK
Oh.
JM
And she came back in 1941, EK coughs and she had never lived in Japan before either. And so she had the same kind of story except from the American side, so I, I interviewed her and wrote it up as well unintelligible. But I, I couldn't put it in the book because she wasn't Japanese Canadian. laughs
EK
Oh, must've been an interesting-
JM
Very interesting because EK coughs her husband was a Japanese national, and so she was put on one of these exchange ships as well. To come back to Japan.
EK
But in 1941.
JM
1941 I think it was, or 1942 I'm not sure. Yeah. Yeah.
EK
Hm.
JM
Yeah. Maybe it was after that.
EK
So, after that, um, you started working at ... sorry. coughs You started working at this school.
JM
Yeah, and I was, I was only going to be there for two years, because my contract was for two years. I ended up getting married so I then I stayed ten. Uh, and then we came back to Vancouver in 1988, I think it was, we stayed here for a few years. I got another job, actually laughs in Japan, in '93. So I went back. So in '93 I worked for the um, the Government of British Columbia Office in Tokyo, and so I was the Education Officer. So what we were doing there was we were promoting BC. But basically I was promoting BC education. And trying to get more students to come and study in, in BC. And then BC government office closed that office completely a few years later in about, let's see, '93, '95 I guess? They closed their office. Which was really not very smart because they had to open it again ten years later and they had lost all their contacts. laughs
EK
Oh no. laughs
JM
And so it was, a terrible waste of money.
EK
Yeah.
JM
And so I worked for a private um, study abroad agency and we did the same thing, we recruited students to go study in Canada. And uh, I worked there for about three or four years. And then there was an opening in the Embassy in Canadian Education, and so I started working for the Canadian Embassy in 1999. And I worked there until 2008, 2007, I guess. And I retired in 2007, uh, and then I went back in 2009 uh just on a temporary contract and I worked in their Consular section for awhile. So.
EK
Okay.
JM
And then in 2011, because of that earthquake and the tsunami and everything, we decided we should move back to Canada.
00:45:13.000
00:45:13.000
EK
Okay.
JM
And so.
EK
So 2010 you were in Japan?
JM
I was in Japan, yeah. So 2008, nine, ten, I was in Japan and we met all these people. Yeah.
EK
Uh-hm. Could you talk a little bit more about that whole um, process? I know you mentioned, you had talked about the history of that group and how it met and how um, you met Nobuko and everything.
JM
Uh-hm, yeah.
EK
Could you describe a little bit more about that period, 2008 until you started doing these interviews?
JM
In what way?
EK
Um, I guess. pause Uh, just kind of how you...began to identify with some of these people in the book.
JM
So, um, I, I didn't know these people very well. Because we just had lunch. Or we'd go and do things. You know, it was like an outing. Um, but then once we started working on the book, we would go to these peoples' houses, and we'd talk and there was a lot of things that people talk about that weren't in the book. That weren't even related to this at all, and like social. And so we got to know the people there anyway. And so because Nobuko was there, we were able to get this book done. Because I wasn't really one of this group, because I wasn't in any camp. It was sort of a very restricted group of people who had been in internment camps. Yeah. But because I was with Nobuko, uh, I could, I could join the group. laughs
EK
Okay, yeah.
JM
And because she could ask questions that I wouldn't know about to ask.
EK
Yeah, yeah.
JM
And the other thing was, they were really good, they would switch from English to Japanese, to English to Japanese, you know? laughs And she had the same experience as they did. And she'd say, Yeah, where were you, where were you when this happened, or you know?
EK
Uh-hm, uh-hm.
JM
But then Nobuko said, she had written her memoirs a long time ago. But nobody else was interested in writing their memoirs. And some of them said, Well we're not confident in our English anymore. Because we haven't written English in so long. And we, we do everything in Japanese right now. So, okay, so then, I'll write it, I'll write it for you. Just tell me, you know.
EK
Yeah, yeah. coughs
JM
And then I'll write everything down. And then, I wrote everything out, and well I, well I recorded almost everything. I wrote everything out and then I sent everybody the transcript. And then they could check it or correct it and send it back to me. But, it was a little bit disappointing because one guy had really interesting stories you know, talking about EK coughs when he was sixteen he pitched against one of the Asahi pitchers and he struck him out or something like that. But when he sent me back the draft, all the pages that I had written, like four or five pages of stuff were all completely like crossed out, crossed out. laughs He said, it's too personal.
EK
Too personal. Oh man.
JM
So I still have it on tape you know, so one day, one day when he's maybe if he's passed away maybe I could put down. laughs Because he is, he's in here and he's like one page. He's like only one page, that's it. Let's see where he is, Tom.
EK
Did he say any more about why he didn't want it in the- -
JM
He just said it was too personal, he didn't want to sound EK coughs Yes, there he is, he's one page, look at that. And it's like a CV.
EK
Oh, right.
JM
You know?
EK
Uh-hm.
JM
And it's not that interesting. I said, Well can't we put in this thing about you said it was too cold or something like that? And dadada, and he said, Okay I'll put that in. So. sighs
EK
Oh Lanky.
JM
Yeah.
EK
Mizu...I recognize, recognize that name.
JM
Do you.
EK
I think he was in, in Steveston.
JM
Oh, yeah, they were, they were in Steveston. And he said, You know, he was one of the last people to leave Steveston because his, I'm not sure if it was his father? Used to train the RCMP in judo, so they were friends with the RCMP. laughs
EK
His father did.
JM
I think so, I think his family is involved in judo.
EK
Okay.
JM
And so, he said, the RCMP would let them stay in Steveston until the end, or something like that. laughs
EK
Oh my gosh.
JM
But it's not there.
EK
Yeah, that's too bad.
JM
I know, I know. He had all these stories, and it was like four or five pages. laughs It's all not there. And other people, one guy he re-wrote some of it to make it sound more what's the word, polished. Like, it was like an essay, you know and I said, you know, don't do that, you know? And in one place he said, It was so cold, it was snowing like hell. And he crossed it out. And I said, No, that sounds good. He says, okay I'll keep it in. laughs And Miho, she took out all the contractions. laughs I mean, she says, I don't want to, I do not want to. I said, You can't do that, it sounds.
EK
Proper.
JM
So some people did really um, revise their, what they said, you know. both laugh Yeah. And you know, Nakano-san, it was all in, in Japanese, so I, I wrote it out in English, but it, it loses some of the nuances or the flavour.
00:50:26.000
00:50:26.000
EK
Yeah, you were mentioning, talking about the...
JM
Yeah, yeah, yeah. Because it's not the same.
EK
Hm. Can you explain a little bit more, like, what is lost? In the translation?
JM
Yeah, well, you know, the conversational part of it. I think. Because I wrote it out as like an essay almost, you know, right? So that I think and some of the, so left some of the Japanese expressions in because you can't get the exact English expression? And especially things like, when you say, We have to ganbaru. There's no word for ganbaru in English, really.
EK
How would you translate that word?
JM
So, like try hard, do your best, keep going,
EK
Keep going.
JM
Endure uh, you know? It's, it's really hard to get that, get that.
EK
Expression.
JM
Real meaning of that expression. Things like that.
EK
Hm. sound of papers shuffling Yeah, these were...it's interesting also like some of the people clears throat, say that um, like hers in particular don't they say all's well that ends well? So did they kind of end of the interviews on like, a positive note, or?
JM
Uh-hm, yeah. Yeah.
EK
Or was it more reflective, or?
JM
Positive, yeah, yeah. Or one guy said, We had a really hard time and I hope people realize it or something, you know. After realizing, people will get an indication of how, how it was you know?
EK
Uh-hm, uh-hm.
JM
Something like that, and so, sort of positive. And some people said, I'm okay now, I'm living with my son and you know, and we're doing okay, you know?
EK
Hm.
JM
Yeah.
EK
Did any of them ever say that like they had told their sons, or their, their um, children about their experiences during the war?
JM
No, they hadn't. I don't think they had, actually.
EK
Really?
JM
And somebody had said, oh we should get, publish a Japanese version of this, because uh, the sons and daughters probably couldn't read this.
EK
Uh-hm, uh-hm.
JM
Find out about their parent's lives. But oh, that's a hassle. both laugh Translate this all back into Japanese. And I said, Well I have some of the original in Japanese, you know, on tape. But some of the others, they're just in English. So they'd have to be translated into Japanese and oh, that's a big task. EK laughs
EK
Hm. Were there any interviews that really stood out to you? Or any particular stories that really stood out to you?
JM
pause sighs
EK
There's a lot but, uh...
JM
They all stood out, in a way you know? Everybody has, you know?
EK
Hm.
JM
Ones that stood out?
EK
Or uh, maybe could you walk me through the whole process of, um, what were the steps from the point that you decided to do this book to the very end?
JM
So, we decided to do this book at one of the lunches. clears throat When Nobuko said, um, she had written her memoir and she was saying, Oh, can't, doesn't somebody else want to you know, write a memoir and publish it? And people said, No, no, no, no. laughs Can't write in English, no it's too difficult, dadada. And so, that's when we said, well, we'll come and interview you if anybody's interested. One guy actually she approached and he sent an email and we sent back another email in capital letters saying, “This was the most terrible experience, or terrible time you know, of my whole life and I don't ever want to think about it again, so don't ask me.”
EK
Hm.
JM
laughs You know? He was really ...
EK
Very strong?
JM
Yeah, very strong, and you know, some other people said, People have interviewed us before and nothing has ever come of it, so we don't want to be interviewed anymore. So I was telling you about that Gabrielle?
EK
Yeah, yes, yes.
JM
And she had done that, you know? Before, several years before. So, um. Yeah, so that's how it started, we said, Okay, we'll write it up for you, if you just tell us, if you just talk to us, if you agree to talk to us. And we'll set up the interview and come and ... and they said, Yeah, okay. And so we, we went all over. laughs Visited people in their houses.
EK
Did you go by car, or?
JM
No, public transit.
EK
Oh wow.
00:55:11.000
00:55:11.000
JM
And then we also went out to Uraga, which is the place where they all landed. They have a, a, it's sort of like a small museum there. That's where I got these pictures, I took all the pictures of the Uraga camps and everything. And uh, it's really interesting. They show, you know, what it looked like in 1946.
EK
Hm.
JM
So we went out there. And what else is there. So what I did was I made a list of questions, basic questions, like you know, your name, um, where you lived in Vancouver. Everybody knew their address. Or almost everybody knew their address.
EK
Yeah, yeah. cough
JM
Well, almost everybody. Uh, siblings, father, mother, um. And then, where did you go to school, how old were you? What camp did you go to? And then life in Japan. And tell us about your life in Japan. Basically a question about that yeah, yeah. Yeah.
EK
And so then you went to each of their homes?
JM
Yeah, most people. EK coughs We did a couple of interviews maybe, like one was a restaurant. It was really noisy. laughs It was hard to. And one was another place, was it a restaurant or some place? It wasn't really that bad. Most places it was people's houses. Yeah. And then Kobe it was the um, venue of the lunch that they had. We used a side room.
EK
And did people bring out any things? Something to show you, while you were doing the interview?
JM
So like, um, two people actually came to Tokyo to Nobuko's house. People who lived outside of Tokyo, and didn't live in Kobe. So, Mr. Sumiya, who had the big box. He sent that box to Nobuko's house. And Nobuko was so worried about it, because she was like, What if I have a fire, or what is something happens to this box, you know? Or what is someone steals it or you know. both laugh So she was really worried about it and we took everything out and I took photographs of the documents and everything. And she sent it back to him. And we were asking him, if he wouldn't like to like donate it to one of the museums in Canada. You know, he said, Well, he'd think about it. I think I should try and ask him again. laughs
EK
Yeah, that would be.
JM
You know, because there's a museum here and there's one in Toronto.
EK
That would be really wonderful.
JM
Because he has all these documents, yeah.
EK
What kind of documents um, weren't those the ones that they had out?
JM
Well like this, you know, like this, the magazine, plus this, you know, all these papers that he had, the photographs of his you know, school. In front of his school, things like that. A lot of people had photographs, photographs of their school pictures?
EK
Uh-hm.
JM
Those are from different people. So everyone seemed to have one of their pictures from Lemon Creek. Or whatever.
EK
Really?
JM
Yeah, yeah.
EK
Yeah. Did they tell you anything about why they decided to keep it or how they...
JM
No, they just said they had pictures. You know, and they lent them to me. And that was, also I was worried about. laughs
EK
Yeah.
JM
Because I had all these, and, and especially like this, this document that George sent me. You know, it was really was . Like this is old, old, piece of paper, looks like it came out of a . An old, old piece of paper. Like it was the original document, you know, this one and this one? Like they had when they first came to Japan?
EK
Uh-hm.
JM
And they had to exchange all their Canadian dollars into Japanese yen. And stuff like that. It, it's you know, it's the original document. laughs
EK
Oh my god.
JM
I was really worried when he sent me that. laughs In the mail.
EK
How big is this, like...
JM
It's just a paper. It's like a piece of paper like, like this. Yeah, like. But it's like from 1946, so it's, it's falling apart, you know, it's really old. You know? But uh, so people had all these.
EK
Did they have any, any other objects, and documents? That they had decided to keep?
JM
Uh, I didn't see any. I was interested in basically photographs and papers. Because I was taking photographs with my camera. To use in here. Yeah. So all the photographs back here were from people. You know, the uh, the school photographs, these, you know? And some of them had names on them and everything you know?
EK
Wow.
JM
And this photograph somebody gave me, I think it was Mr. Sumiya again, had Matsuba, Tak was one of the people interviewed even. This is him when he was young, you know? And the, the connections like that. And one of these pictures, this one I think it was? The kindergarten picture with you know, Mr. Tanaka? Was the brother of one of the people I interviewed? Has um, Tsukuda-san in it. She was a teacher of this class. She was a kindergarten teacher. Tsukuda-san is this other lady that I interviewed and there's all these connections.
EK
There's some. There's some, um hakujin people in this class?
JM
No.
EK
No? All Japanese? Hm.
JM
Because that's in, I think, Lemon Creek.
EK
coughs Hm. I guess just one of the teachers.
01:00:07.000
01:00:07.000
JM
Yeah, just one of the teachers, yeah. EK coughs And the teachers in, in Strathcona. All of people, people had, um, that Nobuko had. My brother-in-law's mother saw this book and she said his sister's in this photograph. I mean it's really a small world.
EK
Oh my goodness.
JM
And I think one of my, distant relatives is in there too. This one Katie sent and this one, somebody else sent. And everybody has their own pictures you know? And then these are the ones that Mr. Sumiya had? So, some. And this, picture was really significant. The back of the picture has this stamp on it from the photography shop. And it says, take good care of this picture, it will be useful in your later life.
EK
Oh wow.
JM
But uh, names on it and everything, you know? People had all these pictures. So I thought that was quite amazing, that they would keep them. And these two? Yeah, yeah. She had. This lady passed away. Yeah.
EK
So, when was, the people that you interviewed...
JM
And pictures like this you know? Like, when they were in the camp.
EK
Hm.
JM
My father wasn't there, because he was sent to um, Angler.
EK
Oh, Angler. Uh-hm-uh-hm.
JM
Yeah, so. pause
EK
Hm, look at this. Uh, did any of the people mention being in self-supporting camps, or any other...because it seems like most of them were in internment.
JM
Uh-hm. I think Tom was in a self-supporting camp, because he mentioned a place that was not one of EK coughs the regular camps. pause He was in Ashmont, which was Francis Ridge, Ridge. I think it was a self-supporting camp.
EK
Uh-hm. Hm. Hm. pause So then after um, it was all compiled and translated and everything. Then you, you made it into a book and sent it back to them?
JM
So we gave everybody a copy. Yeah.
EK
What were their responses?
JM
I don't know because I wasn't there at that time. By that time I was back here. And so Nobuko was um, entrusted with the task of getting it published and just getting it printed actually, and sending it out to everybody. But I think everybody was glad they actually had a copy of you know, their, their life stories. Some of their life story, you know? Yeah. The fact that we actually got it done, you know?
EK
Yeah, yeah.
JM
Yeah.
EK
Hm. That's great. Yeah, because I'm...um, you mentioned uh, translating it into Japan, Japanese would take quite a long time and everything, but then uh, that way, that uh, if they hadn't already told their uh grandkids and children about their experiences after the war. clears throat That um, they could give a copy of their book.
JM
Uh-hm. Yeah. Right, right, right.
EK
Because it seems like some of the, some of their reflections are very, they're very moving and very...
JM
Yeah, right.
EK
There was one story about uh, having being served like a rice gruel?
JM
Yeah.
EK
Out of dirty pails, I think?
JM
Uh-hm, yeah.
EK
With like little bits of whale meat.
JM
No, not whale meat.
EK
Not whale meat?
JM
No, I remember Miho said that she, she got this rice gruel and it looked like a bucket that you washed out a dirty mop in. And that was their food you know? laughs
EK
Yeah. Yeah.
JM
Yeah. Yeah. And the other one was Yoshiko Ikeda who said uh, they had, I think it was Yoshiko. On the boat, they got rice gruel, and they thought it was sesame seeds but it was really bugs.
EK
Oh god.
JM
In the rice. laughs
EK
Yeah.
JM
Ew, you know. Yeah. Yeah. And the fact that you know, because of Yoshiko, I found out about these exchange ships. I'd never heard of that before.
EK
Uh-hm. Hm.
JM
You know, the fact that they had to exchange one person from the Japanese side, one person from the, uh Canadian or American side?
EK
Uh-hm.
JM
You know, that I had no idea.
01:04:59.000
01:04:59.000
EK
Hm. Could you describe that a little bit more? The story of behind that?
JM
So, after the war broke out.
EK
Uh-hm.
JM
Apparently they had exchange ships. And these ships carried, I think it was a white flag, saying that um, it was not um, on either side. And so a ship would go from like New York, and it would have to go across the Atlantic and it went to Africa and they would meet a ship from Japan halfway. And they would exchange people. One for one. So, the prisoners of war, like the American prisoners of war, the Japanese had had?
EK
Uh-hm.
JM
Would be exchanged for um, like the Japanese diplomats and things like that from Canada, the USA, and they even went to South Africa, South America apparently. And somebody said because they didn't have enough people they just rounded up people. both laugh And put them on the ship.
EK
Yeah.
JM
EK coughs So they would have the exact numbers. And they'd exchange one person for one person. And then the ships would, you know, go back to their countries.
EK
Uh-hm. Yeah.
JM
Yeah.
EK
It's always these things that you don't hear about.
JM
I had never, I had never heard of that before...but there was a website. And I put it in there actually because I looked it up. Uh, a website on exchange ships. And it tells that story about you know, where one person, a Japanese had jumped overboard and committed suicide. And so they couldn't make the exchange until this American prisoner of war said he'll go back to Japan. So he, he sort of sacrificed his life. Yeah.
EK
Hm. Hm.
JM
So, uh, Yoshiko's family was on that ship.
EK
Yeah.
JM
Yeah.
EK
Yeah.
JM
And so was the um, the Japanese American Conversation Institute President's wife, she was on one of those ships as well. Because her husband was working for the Japanese Consulate in New York as well. She was on one of those ships. So.
EK
My goodness. sighs
JM
Things you never heard about.
EK
Yeah.
JM
Never, you know.
EK
Yeah, things you never heard about. Hm.
JM
Hm.
EK
It's also very um, useful that you uh, speak Japanese, understand Japanese because coughs it sounds like most of them were done in Japanese, not in English.
JM
Um. Half and half, I think.
EK
Oh really?
JM
And some people would go back and forth, back and forth. You know, from Japanese to English. Yeah, English, I don't know what you would say, yeah.
EK
Did they ever like get emotional or?
JM
Hm.
EK
During the interview. Reflecting about these things?
JM
Mm, no, not really, not really. It was quite matter of fact, you know?
EK
Yeah, yeah.
JM
And people were joking about it saying this and that, you know?
EK
Yeah, yeah.
JM
And you know, it's like it was a tough time but we got through it sort of thing, yeah.
EK
Um. pause Well, I don't have any other questions, is there anything else that you want to say about the book?
JM
No, no, not really. laughs
EK
Yeah?
JM
Not really. Do you want to hear any of the interviews?
EK
I definitely do um. I don't know if it would be possible to get a copy of them.
JM
Um, I don't know how easy it would be to copy this, because it's like this on this. And some people saying well just put it into your computer but this, this is an old, old, old, um, machine that I don't think has anything that you can put into a computer. You know, it's just not.
EK
Uh, can I see it?
JM
Yeah, sure.
01:08:40.000
01:08:40.000
EK
Hm. pause Yeah.
JM
It's not um.
EK
I don't think so. So you'd have to like, play it through and...
JM
Yeah, yeah, yeah. So what I was doing was I, I'd stop, play, stop, play, stop, play and transcribe everything.
EK
Oh wow, you did that way, eh?
JM
Yeah, yeah. plays tape So like this. ███████
01:15:21.000
01:15:21.000
JM
Laughs. First day we didn't eat at all because, you know, we had all this stuff with us, you know, like chocolates and things like that. The second day, we were so hungry, we ate whatever they served.
EK
Phew.
JM
He's saying, they'd bring out, brought out buckets of stuff, called zousui, which is like gruel. And it was so horrible that nobody ate it, because we had our stuff, we brought chocolates. Good stuff from Canada. The second day though, they were so hungry, they ate everything. Laughs.
EK
Oh my gosh.
JM
Laughs. So it was sort of like that, that kind of conversation.
EK
Yeah. That's really, it's so interesting.
JM
So that, that is George, George.
EK
Hm.
JM
Here, when I transcribed it, it came out like this. Papers shuffling as Elena and Michiyo go through the transcript of the interview.
EK
Yeah, yeah.
JM
And here. And here Nobuko couldn't agree, were they on the same boat or were they on different boats?
EK
Yeah. Someone's telling a lie. Laughs.
JM
But I didn't put that down, you see.
EK
Yeah, some of these transcripts can get really, really, really long.
JM
Yeah, and people say things that you know, out of the blue that, it's all over the place, you know. So. You know.
EK
That's a nice, Unclear.
JM
And we had trouble editing this book at the end because Nobuko ... I was here and so Nobuko got her son to lay out the, the book. And I'm not sure how well he reads English. And so, when I was making corrections, I made all these corrections and I sent them and some of them got put in and some of them didn't get put in. And Laughs. it's really hard.
EK
Well, it's a really beautiful book and thank you very much for, for talking to me about how, how it came to, to be. And all the work that you put into it. The stories are all like very unique.
JM
Yeah, they are, they are.
EK
And the interconnections are really interesting.
JM
Yeah, yeah. Yeah.
EK
And it's sort of.
JM
Yeah, and the fact that someone's got a, got a school picture and the teacher is the other guy.
EK
Yeah.
JM
They didn't realize then, or later on they meet you know? It's like, yeah.
EK
Well, I'm going to turn off the recorder now.
JM
Oh okay. So I don't know how useful that is. Laughs.
01:17:58.000

Metadata

Title

Michiyo Jean Maeda, interviewed by Elena Kusaka, 23 April 2015

Abstract

In this interview, Jean discusses a book she co-authored with Nobuko Nakayama, Japanese Canadian Stories from Japan, about Japanese who were expatriated from Canada following WWII. There is some discussion of her own life growing up in Canada. Jean recounts how she grew up in Winnipeg among rich presentations of Japanese traditional arts, including theatre and music. Through a connection of Winnipeg’s sister city, Setagaya, she met Nobuko. Jean describes the process of compiling the book with Nobuko. In 2008, they both travelled to Japan and conducted interviews in both Japanese and English; sometimes a combination thereof. Jean lived with her husband in Japan for many decades and recently moved to Canada following the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster in March 2011. The last ten minutes of the recording includes excerpts of these interviews as she plays the recorder. These portions have been transcribed and included in this interview.

Credits

Interviewer: Elena Kusaka
Interviewee: Michiyo Jean Maeda
Transcriber: Nathaniel Hayes
Translater: Nathaniel Hayes
XML Encoder: Nat Hayes
Publication Information: See Terms of Use for publication and licensing information.
Setting: National Nikkei Museum and Heritage Centre, Burnaby, BC
Keywords: Deportation; refugee camp; expatriation; Winnipeg ; Setagaya; 1940s-present ; Meigs; Racism

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.