JoAnne Maikawa, interviewed by Momoye Sugiman, 18 August 2015

JoAnne Maikawa, interviewed by Momoye Sugiman, 18 August 2015

Abstract
In this interview, JoAnne Maikawa, a sansei artist, speaks with Momoye Sugiman. Joanne provides vivid details about her childhood in Vancouver and her interactions with white children and neighbours. She also offers rich descriptions of her various family homes and their surroundings. Her early experiences stand out because she grew up outside Little Tokyo, and her family chose to spend the internment years in a self-supporting, rural community rather than in the ghost towns or on sugarbeet farms. Therefore, she was not entirely immersed in the Japanese language or culture. With candour and sensitivity, JoAnne also recalls her adolescent years in Toronto and her negotiation of her cultural identity. Now retired from her career a public school teacher, she explores the history of Japanese Canadians and the themes of identity and memory through her work as a visual artist.
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Momoye Sugiman (MS)
It is Thursday, August 20th. This is Momoye Sugiman for Landscapes of Injustice. I am speaking with JoAnne Maikawa near her home in downtown Toronto. Thank you for coming to this interview-for a second time. I guess we'll just start chronologically. Could you tell us something about your childhood growing up in Vancouver?
JoAnne Maikawa (JM)
Yes, well, I was born in Vancouver, and I lived in-not in Japantown-but I lived in a neighbourhood that was...it was a white neighbourhood. So I lived there until the time of internment, which was...how old was I then? Let's see. I was halfway through Grade One. I was probably six and a half or so. But my childhood really was kind of a split sort of thing where in the place where I lived, outside of Japantown, it was-the way I remember it-it was all white. I was the only Japanese kid, or kid of colour, in the school, and in my immediate neighbourhood. I spent quite a bit of time in Japantown because that's where my father and mother grew up, and they had a community there, and they were very much a part of that community. And my grandparents on both sides lived there, so I had a relationship with that neighbourhood.
MS
Do you remember the name of the street that you lived on?
JM
It was 2267 Napier Street. I revisited it a few times.
MS
As the only child of colour in your school....
JM
Presumably. This is what I think. My memory tells me that. I think so.
MS
As one of the very few children of colour, did you experience overt racism as a child?
JM
I did. But not from my schoolmates. Though...well, I did feel very different. And my Grade One teacher was not...she was not particularly friendly, but perhaps she wasn't. I don't know. But I felt quite isolated and very different. However, I did make a few close friends in my immediate neighbourhood...with the girl across the street who was a blond person of Scottish descent. And a kid up the street, a little bit, just a couple of houses, who had a large family. And they were very welcoming. So there was that. Where I faced overt racial discrimination was one incident that stands out in my mind because it was so threatening. I was standing with my mother at a transit stop, probably headed for Japantown, and a very elderly woman who, in my memory, she was a very elderly. Who knows. She had a cane, a white woman, small, and she started to shout racist slurs at us and started to wave her cane. I remember I became very scared at that point. And I was sort of getting closer to my mother. And she said something that I heard quite a bit which was, “Go back to your own country!” And I didn't know enough to say, “This is my country!” There was that assumption. It was very prevalent at that time. I'm not sure if it was before Pearl Harbor or after. The racism was rampant before Pearl Harbor. And internment was kind of the way to deal with the Japanese or the Yellow Peril. Get rid of them.
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MS
Why did your parents decide not to raise you in Japantown?
JM
I think one word: “assimilation”. They wanted a better life for me, as parents do. And I guess they defined the better life as getting out of Japantown. Though, who knows. I wish I could interview them about that. But it's too late for that. I was given all kinds of privileges, like dancing lessons, piano lessons, all kinds of lessons. And I was not sent to Japanese Language School, which in later years, I thought, “Oh, what a shame!”
MS
Did your parents speak to you in Nihon-go, in Japanese?
JM
My parents were really fluent in both languages. And they spent half their time speaking in Japanese so that I wouldn't hear. I didn't really know very much about what was going on because they could break into this other language of which I really had no knowledge. Though, you know, of course, I picked up a few words.
MS
What about your four grandparents? Were they alive when you were growing up?
JM
Very much so. Well, one of them died in internment, but the others settled in Toronto, in fact.
MS
Did you have any communication with them in Japanese?
JM
Well, ya, I had a few Japanese words. They were mainly food words. But my Grandfather Maikawa had a very successful business in Japantown. And because his business involved business with not just Japanese-speaking people but English speaking people, he had enough language. And then he had many sons. They were working too, especially, my father who was the oldest son. So he didn't learn a lot of English, but he did have some. My grandmother, on the other hand, had no English. She didn't have to because she could raise all her eight kids very well, self-sustaining, in Japantown. So whenever I saw them at social occasions, family get-togethers and so on, well whenever I saw them, they would smile at me and they would give me an orange. My other grandparents, however, there was more communication, though as I think about it, it wasn't really through language. They didn't have language either. They shared more of their life with me, so I have a lot of memories of the way they lived and spoke, and so on and so forth. But, no, no language.
MS
What did your father do for a living? You said he had a business. What kind of business was it?
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JM
My father was a...my father must have been about 30 years old at the time of internment. Before that, he was really being groomed and sent to the appropriate schools to learn the business. So what did he do? He worked for my grandfather, for his father. And during internment, of course, he didn't work, except occasionally, they would pick up my uncles, and my father would pick up occasional work picking veggies on large agri-farms, and so on. And the pay would be sacks of whatever they were picking. But when we came east to Toronto, he used what skills he had accumulated. A lot of it was around bookkeeping. And so he kept books for certain companies. He washed cars. He drove trucks. He drove taxis. He was very proud that he didn't stay with any job longer than he-not he needed to because he needed to-but longer than he wanted to. So he talked about all the 16 or how many jobs he had. It was really my mother who really kept us, you know, clothed and whatever in one of the traditional ways of Japanese women, since the turn of the century, the last century, in Vancouver, or Canada, and that was through dressmaking. She did her own. She opened up a place in our house laughter. I helped with that, by the way. And she did home sewing from factories. She also did her own. She put out a shingle. And the neighbours came in. She would do things like take old, wornout overcoats from the men and turn them inside out...take apart the fabric, and use the inner part of the fabric to build, to sew, construct new clothes for their kids. Amazing stuff. She would do weddings! It was the time of the coronation of Queen Elizabeth. So all that kind of stuff, the beading, was very popular. So she did weddings which meant the bride's dress, the bridesmaids' dresses. Then she took a tailoring course at Central Tech at night. And she learned to do tailoring. She made absolutely beautiful clothes. And when she showed you her clothes, she would turn them inside out so that you could see how beautifully they were done on the inside. Can you believe it? But our house was filled a lot while she was doing this with neighbours sitting in the living room waiting to try on their stuff in the dining room. But they were both very English fluent. And so...
MS
And your Maikawa grandfather?
JM
My Maikawa grandfather was the businessman, and he had a modicum of English. But he only I think he used it in his business.
MS
And what was that business?
JM
He had a...well, finally, he had many businesses. He used to transport fruit, for example, from Vancouver to Steveston, I think Steveston. Richmond? Steveston. And he was known for that because I think he was the first person to use a motorized vehicle to do that instead of the, you know, horse drawn or whatever? Well, finally, he opened up a Shell service station which was attached to a large autobody shop where he did lots of business cars and so on and so forth and hired many people, a few of which lived, in fact, in the Maikawa home. I guess it was common then. Employees would live, in fact, in the home of the employer. Because I know there were lots of men and their families living upstairs in my Maikawa grandparents' house.
MS
Were they all Japanese?
JM
Oh, yes. Oh, yes, Absolutely.
MS
What about his customers?
JM
His customers, I gather, were a mix, and that is why he had to learn a little bit of English. My father used to...my father built his own car with his friends at the age of... I have a wonderful photo of that. What did he call it? “My bug” or something.
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JM
There's a number of his friends. Some of them the baseball players from Asahi. This goes back a long way because he was born in 1911, my father. But he built his own car, and he used to drive at the age of eleven!
MS
Wow!
JM
How come? He used to boast that his father had arranged it with the police chief and the fire chief , for some...I don't know why fire chief. But so a lot of networking going on.
MS
Do you know what happened to that autobody shop after internment?
JM
Well, when the orders came, you had to go. And they went to a self-sustaining internment place. He, my grandfather, left...perhaps we had gone by then, I don't know. But he had left...the third oldest brothers, who were just kids-one of them was, I don't know 16, one of them was 19-to collect the money from the outstanding bills. That's a story because they tried to do that before they were put into Hastings Park, these two kids. And they were refused. They did not collect any money. Now, I do think that-I don't know this-I'm really guessing. The business was sold, and I don't think they recovered...they must have recovered something, but whatever it was, it was not much.
MS
And what about the family home?
JM
Ya, the family home went the way our family homes went. What I remember...what I remember about my grandfather...we were really the first, my father, our family were really the first of the Maikawa or the Nozaki families to come out east because we came here to Toronto about a year before the end of the war.
MS
Previously, you were in Shushwap?
JM
We were in our own internment by Shuswap Lake. Blind Bay was the name. And the Maikawa family were in...the other Maikawa family were in Rouge River, also self-sustaining. So we were the first family to come and to settle in Toronto in 1944, after living with the Kitagawas for a long time. I think it was maybe six months we had a place of our own. Somehow, don't ask me-it's too late to ask the questions-we managed to buy a house through-because we were not allowed to buy property-we managed to buy a house through the generosity of some of the congregation of the United Church that Eddie Kitagawa was an elder at. And so it was in their name that the house was bought.
MS
Oh, I didn't know that.
JM
Yes. I'm not sure to the extent to which it happened, but certainly, it must have happened with more than our family. So we housed these subsequent waves of family that came out of the internment after the war. So, finally, my Maikawa grandfather had a house, and all his kids living there, and so on. But I think it was somewhat of a hand-to-mouth existence. What is etched in my memory is when my father, who was always very invested in cars, he had a little Ford car with a rumble seat, which he managed to get. The kids used to always argue about who gets to sit in the rumble seat. Anyway, he would pick up my grandfather in the morning-and I don't know why I was in the car, but sometimes I was-and he would drop my grandfather off at the Addsion-Cadillac car place on Bay Street, a big distributorship where my grandfather worked by the hour as a janitor.
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JM
I remember thinking as a kid, “How embarrassing that must...or how humiliating it must be for him to do that after being, you know, the owner of a big....” Yet he always smiled and he always gave me an orange. So, anyway, I do remember that. It's a very strong memory.
MS
Going back to early 1942, do you have any memories of those days when your family got the order to leave?
JM
I have memories. I didn't really know anything because, as I said, my parents would speak in Japanese when they didn't want me to hear anything. Consequently, even though I developed very big ears for listening, I knew that something very bad was going on. Well, of course, I knew by curfews. And I knew by things that happened on the street, as I described this woman waving her cane at us. But I didn't understand why my mother would burst into tears. And I was really puzzled when I was leaving school in...when? Maybe it was April? Whatever. To go to our place of internment. And my Grade One teacher, who was never very friendly, she was very emotional. She hugged me. And I thought, “Oh, this is something really terrible that's happening.” And I have no memory of actually leaving. So whether-who knows, my parents may have downplayed it a lot. They probably did. Or I may have known enough to really block it. But I have no memories of that. Only of being, not arriving even. Though my uncle and his family were already there, I only have memories of being there, not arriving or leaving my home.
MS
You don't have memories of what you brought with you of your own personal possessions ?
JM
Not as a child. And later, I later discovered, quite later in Toronto when my father presented me with my dolls. And I do remember Hinamatsuri dolls I had for Girls Day in Vancouver because we used to set them up on Dolls Day which was early in March....
MS
March 3rd.
JM
March 3rd. And set it up in the hierarchy that it was with the emperor and the empress at the top, all covered with a red cloth.. In my mind's memory, it was quite big. I think it is. And I had all the dolls. And I remember the mochi placed on the altar, on one of the steps, and so on.. And I can't say that in internment I missed those dolls. It was just so weird and different to be in internment where milk didn't come delivered on the front porch and put into the refrigerator. It came straight from the cow, which was pretty awful. And the food came from our chickens that we raised, and the little farming that we did. And the salmon that my grandfather caught and stored away in the root house. So, you know, it was so different. I didn't miss those dolls. And when my father presented me with those dolls, and all of them in those beautiful wooden boxes with the sliding lids. Sandalwood or whatever, with the particular aroma, and beautifully kept, although these were pre-war, from Japan dolls, I knew enough to be surprised that he had this because what I had read in the meantime was that people were allowed only what they could carry.
00:25:32.000
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JM
I think one suitcase or two. Because people believed that their things would be well kept by the custodian, and that at some point, people would return. So I was surprised. And then, of course, it all kicked in. We were self-sustaining, and so we could take what we wanted. And I'm sure my parents regretted not taking more things. Thank goodness my father valued those dolls enough to make that part of...maybe he had a sense. Who knows. But no, none of the furniture came with us. No. I remember the furniture very well anyway.
MS
Oh, which particular pieces stick out in your mind?
JM
They stick out in my mind from memory because, you know, I was six and a half when I left, but also, of course, through photographs. So we had a...oh, we had a piano that was a player piano! What do they call them? You know. You have rolls that you put in. And also I played the piano. And we had a console that was a radio, and what else would it be? Oh, yes a record player, of course. A gramaphone. Yes. And we had a lot of bridge tables that folded up with chairs because my parents belonged to a bridge club, and every once in a while it was their turn to house the bridge club. And that was very fun for me because I was the only child, and bedtime was six o'clock or some ridiculous hour. And I had my bed. There were two bedrooms in the house. And I had a bedroom. And they would set up the card tables and people would come over. There was a lot of conviviality, and bridge playing and so on. And I would go to the end of my bed, and open my door and look out the door, because it was a one-storey place, though there was an attic, and watch laughter. And there was a large kitchen where there was a nook with a kitchen table and chair. And there was a refrigerator, and a stove, a gas stove where my mother would sit me down in front of the gas stove, with a curling iron. And she would heat the curling iron on the gas, on the flames, and she would ringlet my hair. It was painful to sit there for that long. And I remember the tiles, the big black and white tiles on the kitchen floor, because that's where I would practice my dance steps. I had to do a lot of practicing.
MS
Was it ballet?
JM
It was tap and ballet and so on. I was a sansei dancer!
MS
Did you continue dancing?
JM
Oh no, just for fun. No, no. Well, you know, my parents were very invested in...it was the thing of the times, in the forties. My husband went through the same thing in the Bronx when they were a family who were somewhat impoverished. Yet they had a piano, and we had a piano. And I took lessons. Many people at that time did that. So they were able to buy a piano. In the dining room where all the sewing stuff was going on, that whole business...Um, what did you ask me? I'm sorry. Do I remember the house...in Vancouver....
00:30:07.000
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MS
About the house in Vancouver, the furniture. So your mother's sewing machine must have been precious to her. Did she take it with her?
JM
I don't remember my mother ever sewing in Vancouver. She was busy. She was busy with committee meetings, the New Canadian, and the Red Cross, and....
MS
What did she do at the New Canadian?
JM
I'm wondering what she did. Too late to ask...I know that Muriel Kitagawa was active at the New Canadian. The interesting thing about the Red Cross is that she was the convener at the Red Cross. And they knitted-this group of Japanese women were very busy knitting socks for the soldiers overseas. So an interesting story about that, a spinoff, is that when we went to our place of internment, we were the only Japanese people...ever...there. And the white community there, I think maybe of German descent, I'm not really sure. I don't know, but there were a couple of families who were prominent in that very small community. And they had taken up a petition before we got there because they'd heard that we were coming. And they were very, very fearful. Very fearful. Well, all you had to do was read the papers and you would be fearful because we were the Yellow Peril descending on their community. The interesting thing about it was that one of the prominent members of the community were Arthur and Margaret Reedman. And the Reedmans ran the post office-it was important-and a kind of marina, not for resorts, but a functional marina because we were right by the lake. And one of the Reedmans taught at the one-room school house, Grade One to Eight. I was immediately put into Grade Three because I could spell, so I missed all that math, which was really too bad. And so...my mother was very sort of outgoing and friendly. When Margaret Reedman found out that my mother was, in fact, a fellow Red Crosser and had been knitting socks for the guys overseas, she was stunned. And they became really good friends. And after we left Blind Bay, in fact, they kept up a correspondence that lasted for several years. And I became friends with-was it their daughter? Yes, I think it was their daughter, yes, though she was many years older. She was probably in Grade Seven or Eight, and they put me in Grade Three. Anyway, also my father, before we left, it was interesting, my father managed to get my dolls. He also managed to get to that garage and take out important tools, remove them. He had important things. He had this box of probably very heavy tools. And Arthur Reedman, the husband of Margaret, being a marine person, looking after the marina, my father gave him the tools. He had no use for them. My father wasn't particularly good with tools. He wasn't good with tools at all. So anyway, he passed them on to Arthur. And Arthur was so grateful. And they also became very good friends. So...it's an interesting story.
MS
How did your family end up there as opposed to Kaslo or New Denver or Slocan?
JM
Or even the other self-sustaining internment that the other Maikawa family went to, which was Bridge River. Because my mother's older brother...actually, my mother, as a teenager, and her older brother by three or four years, as teenagers, were taken under wing by an Italian guy who owned a bowling alley on Granville Street. The bowling alley still exists. It's there. I was there in April.
00:35:28.000
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JM
He, Frank Panvini was his name, I remember him very well. And also he was very important in our life. He employed my uncle...oh, maybe first of all, as a pinboy, and then later gave him a very important job in the bowling alley. He also employed my mother who looked after the cash at some early point. She was still a teenager. He told my uncle that he was going to buy a resort that met the criteria of the RCMP, so a hundred miles inland from the ocean, and that he could take his whole family and stay in that place until the war was over. And he also told my uncle that he was going to buy his house, my uncle's house, so that he would have a house to come back to after the war was over. And so he did that. In fact, my uncle and his family-he raised six children in internment-he had good reason to stay there until they were allowed back in Vancouver. They weren't allowed back until 1949 when we got the federal vote, and so on. So he had good reason. He went back to a job. And he went back to his house. And also, Frank Panvini was quite a bit older than my uncle. When he died, he left the bowling alley to my uncle.
MS
So did Mr. Panvini have family, children?
JM
In fact, he did. It turned out that the will was contested by a long-gone daughter who lived in the United States, and with whom, I gather, Frank Panvini had a very serious falling out. So there was a court battle. I don't know the details. But my uncle got the bowling alley. Perhaps my uncle made concessions in other ways. I'm not sure.
MS
And who owns that bowling alley today?
JM
When my uncle retired, one of his sons took it over. That did not last for too long. And who owns the bowling alley? Nobody in the family. It's an interesting bowling alley at any rate, and it still exists.
MS
Can you describe the house that you lived in during the internment? Was it a cabin?
JM
The area that Frank Panvini bought for us had...it was farm land. It was quite big. It had an old farmhouse. And it had another building which may have housed...I'm not sure if it housed horses or what it housed, but my uncle and his family and later on my grandfather Nozaki, which my mother and her brothers found in Northern B.C., working on a road camp. And they brought him to this place. So they all lived in the farmhouse. And my family-there were three of us at the time-lived in that other building which was a log cabin. But they partitioned it inside with pine boards so that it had a bedroom and so on. Later on, they put up another building, a small house with pine boards, I guess-for the youngest Nozaki brother. There was no water.
00:40:04.000
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JM
There was no electricity, so we had those kerosene lamps, Coleman lamps, and so on. And there was a place where we could get water and carry buckets of water into our place. And heat water on the woodfire stove. My father tried to make doughnuts on that wood fire stove because he loved doughnuts.
MS
I guess he missed them.
JM
He missed them a lot. So he and his brothers-in-law tried to make doughnuts. They failed miserably. Those doughnuts were as hard as rocks. Nevertheless, they tried. And also the women tried to make bread. In fact, in desperation, because the bread was as hard as rocks. How do you bake bread and cook doughnuts on a wood fired stove? So, finally, the obasan of the woman that came to marry my mother's youngest brother in internment, she wrapped the dough in a blanket and took it to bed with her to keep it warm so the bread would rise. And then they would bake it. A lot of invention going on. You had to. Necessity, right?
MS
Did you have any Japanese ingredients?
JM
laughter The rice, right? I don't remember the rice. I just remember the horrible salted salmon that I could not eat. But it's a Japanese delicacy I guess. But eating it every day? They ate it every day. I did not eat it.
MS
To this day, can you...?
JM
I don't eat salmon-to this day. I do eat smoked salmon.
MS
I was going to say...laughter
MS
The last time we spoke, you said some interesting things about your adolescence and your cultural identity.
JM
Ya...
MS
How do you think the internment experience affected your cultural identity?
JM
Well, I guess I have to preface that with something that happened to me growing up as the only kid, the only, you know, the only Japanese kid in my neighbourhood, blah, blah, with not being in a government internment camp, which I later came to really regret when I realized how much community there was there, and I had no community. But that was a later thing. My experience in Toronto growing up was that I also was the only Japanese kid in my grade school which was quite a large school, as well as in the high school I went to. And I felt...I felt different. I was different. And I realized later when my mother desperately wanted to connect me up with the young, Japanese youth...particularly she wanted me to have a boyfriend that was Japanese. So she did her very best with her Japanese community, her friends, to connect me with Japanese young groups, and specifically, to hook me up with some younger brothers of nisei friends that she had. And there was a whole group of young, very young, same age as me really-because I think I'm an older sansei-group of young, very young nisei, both girls and boys. And so I did go to some social events, dances. I guess I think what happened is that I would get phone calls which were set up phone calls for a date. I did not go to these dances alone.
00:45:42.000
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MS
A blind date.
JM
Ya. And someone would come to my house and call on me. So you know, I went along with this, but I knew.. I knew that I was an outsider. I was clearly an outsider. I felt uncomfortable. I felt isolated. I knew that this was not going to work for me because of the outsiderness, because of being always the only Japanese person. But also it was just very different. I mean I didn't have older nisei siblings. I didn't have that. I had a nisei father and mother who broke into Japanese when they didn't want me to hear something, and who wanted me to have a life they didn't have, which I was, having a life they didn't have. And so that really didn't work for me. A lot of arguments with my mother about this, and she...because she really was very much a part of the community, as were nisei of that age. Of course, the community had to stick together because there was so much out there that was negative. So I mean even Japanese families who came to Toronto made a point of not living close to each other or congregating on the street because of their experience. So it wasn't that...it was understandable that I would feel this way. I've certainly accepted myself by now. If not now, when? But I did feel also at the time when to be a Japanese woman was oh... so wonderfully special, right? Through the movies. The G.I. Then you know, I experienced a layer of real resentment because of that. Well, now I' m okay! Well, now I'm desirable! Whoa! Anyway, then, I did go through a period.... Oh, so then in high school, I met a like-minded guy. And we married, had a couple of kids. Not Japanese. I found out, in fact, our values were very different. And so I left the marriage. I took my kids, and I lived with my parents for a couple of years, at which point-not at which point, they always had a close relationship with my parents. But living together is a different experience. And so they had the benefit of that familial and cultural experience of, you know, what being Japanese Canadian is about. And so that was a good thing. Then I went through a period of thinking that well, I don't really belong to the Japanese community. And the other community didn't really work for me.
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JM
So I'm going to get a Japanese man from Japan. And also I'm going to learn the language and be more...authentic. I had a lot to discover. So finding a Japanese man didn't work. I had a few...I put ads out. I responded to ads. We just were not of the same...naturally, why would we be. So then, interestingly enough, while I was taking Continuing Ed courses at U of T to learn the Japanese language, both to write it and to read it and to speak it, I met a man that I was very much in tune with. And he came from New York, and from a Jewish background. But we really hit it off. Very similar values, and so on and so forth. So there you are. And I have kids who are of mixed background, but they are fourth generation....
MS
Yonsei.
JM
Yonsei. And six grandchildren who are gosei, I guess. And now one of my grandkids, my son's middle daughter, had a child a few years ago, so there's six generations.
MS
That's amazing.
JM
It is amazing. It's wonderful. And my husband has two kids from his....so second marriage for both of us. And he has two sons. And he has no biological grandkids. But he has become a very close grandpa to these kids. It's really nice.
MS
I know that the Jewish community in Toronto was very supportive of the Japanese Canadians who relocated here. Did your parents have any experience with any Jewish Canadians when they came?
JM
Yes, they did. My father, as I mentioned, had many jobs. He had, by the way, the way we got out here was through a job. He had to have a job to get out here. It had to be approved by the B.C. government, by someone out here, and so on and so forth. And it was that person out here who got him his first job. I think it was a car wash place or whatever. And he desperately wanted to get out of that job. He really hated it. He went to this person and said, “How do I change my job?” He said, “You can't just do that. Maybe you could think of a way?” So my father said, “Okay, from now on, I'm going to be hours late every day.” So he was fired. That's how he got to his other jobs. His other jobs-there were many of them-were mainly Jewish employers, the Jewish employers who were mainly employing in the garment area, very much so on Spadina or in small businesses. And many of those small businesses were attached to the garment industry. So, in fact, one of the jobs my father's took was the button place, I think it was on Adelaide and Spadina, on Adelaide Street. It was owned by two brothers who were Jewish. These two brothers had a relationship that was...very...the style was argumentative. It was just their style. My father didn't like it. Finally, he quit. He went to another job. Mainly they were Jewish employers. Because the Jews understood about discrimination. They had many doors closed on them. And they were very generous in offering jobs.
00:55:14.000
00:55:14.000
JM
And they were also incredibly generous about opening their doors to rentals because. ...I don't know about the whole city of Toronto, but certainly, just up the street here, was D'Arcy Street where big, old Victorian houses with three or four storeys were owned largely by Jewish people. I mean there was also the Kensingnton Market. So lots of Jewish people in that area. I know that as a kid, we lived down in the eastend-we were one of the privileged families who owned a house out there-and we would visit people from Vancouver days who were on D'Arcy street living in a flat, or sometimes even rooms. And we would go visiting there. That was my introduction to the west end of Toronto. Anyway, in fact, my father in his last days, I used to get him out...he was living in Kensington Gardens in his last days, a nursing home. I used to have him often on Wheel Trans, and we'd be taking the road up Beverly or whatever. And when we'd come to D'Arcy Street, he'd say, “That's Powell Street.” Because indeed it sort of was. And also, Jewish families were very, very open to renting to and giving jobs to the black community, which I found out firsthand. So both those things. And so it was a...a good experience to know that, you know, there's some solidarity somewhere, so you need to build on that, right? Anyway....
MS
Did your parents talk about what happened to them during World War Two? Did they feel anger, resentment?
JM
My mother and father, when I think about it in retrospect, were like a split family because my mother was...could be quite vociferious, and worked with the NAJC around Redress. In fact, she was one of the seniors-she was quite senior at that time-she was one of those picketers in Ottawa who went to Parliament with the contingent on buses with Roger Obata, and so on... But my father was...he was pretty “let bygones be bygones, let's get on with it”, you know, that sort of “move forward, let's not rehash old wounds.” I don't think, if push came to shove, that he would have aligned himself, finally, with the group of nisei, in the Japanese communty who were against, actively against Redress. And it would have been a big problem in the family if he had. But I don't thing by nature he would have done that. But I don't think he was very involved in or perhaps had strong feelings about that. He went his own way. Except I do recall a surge of anger, which was kind nice for me to think about in retrospect. My father was bilingual-in terms of his English, was almost flawless. And he had a lot of Japanese, being his age and having gone to Japanese school and so on and so forth. So of course, the military wanted him. And he was offered the...how did it go?
01:00:07.000
01:00:07.000
JM
One of my uncles was hired by the British through the Canadian military, to be an interpreter, but that uncle went to Burma and he talked directly to prisoners of war. But my father said flat out, “You want me to come and we're in camps, and you want me to do that? Forget it!” I didn't hear that story until later, but I felt very proud of him. You know, sansei are freer, more free to feel outrage and resentment and anger and so on than those who were so directly assaulted. And coming from the kind of culture where you don't make huge waves anyway....
MS
JoAnne, I know you're an artist. How has your personal experience as a Japanese Canadian been reflected in your work?
JM
I'm learning more about this as the days go by. And when I retired from teaching, I....from an early time, I always wanted to...I guess be a painter was the way I formulated it, or have an artistic life, or whatever. And I couldn't really do that while I was a single mom. While I was teaching. When I retired, I went directly to art school. And I had all kinds of ambitions to learn to do everything. To learn to work three dimensionally, to do printmaking, to do whatever. I wanted to do all of that. In fact, because I did a diploma course that required you to do all these things, that's what I did. I did little bits and pieces in the first year. And I followed up on other things later. What I found, what I'm finding in retrospect as I look through the work that I've done that I liked-because I kept work that I like-you know, you take your life with you when you do these things. And of course, it reflects in your work. Because I've spent a lot of time in Mexico, I have done pieces that are...that use the kinds of material that I have found in Mexico, and about Mexico, and so on and so forth. But in the last few years, my work has been...it's been reflecting my historical roots. And it's been somewhat didactic. I use a lot of text. Let me see, my first one, my first installation that I did that was about Japanese history, Japanese Canadian history and internment and so on, was...I was using text from Muriel Kitagawa's book, Letters to Wes. I selected out things that I felt were the most powerful and said what I wanted to show. And along with those pieces of text, I did pieces that showed the Angler prisoner of war camp in Northern Ontario. And so I had pieces that covered the text and the images from that. I had covered it with a grid paper that to me suggested...it was like covering it up with barbed wire, if you like, or netting that suggested imprisonment.
01:05:18.000
01:05:18.000
JM
And rolled it up. So you roll it up, you're shining light on it, it comes to light, and people begin to find out about it. So that was my first clue. From then on, my work has been mainly that. So I did an installation of...showing the internment at New Denver and where my grandfather finally died in the sanitorium in New Denver. And I interspersed things about that with photographs...a photograph of him, a photograph of his funeral there in New Denver. And then from there, my work has been really all about that lately. I had problems with it at first. And you know, people would say to me, “Well, now you've done that. Now it's over, right?” And I'd say, “Ya, ya, I think it's over.” But, you know what? It wasn't over. And I had to keep doing it. But my last piece-maybe it's over laughter-was about the end of an era, Powell Street. But I did put a memory cloth over it which was on a kimono by the way. Cape of a kimono, thank you. And so looking at it through the lens of memory because it's gone. End of an era. So what I do from now, I don't know. What I do know is I'm me. I've had my life, my history. It's made a deep...If I'm going to be true to who I am, my art is going to reflect that somewhere, somehow. Now I think I'm going to Mexico for a couple of months. I will be involved in a small way in things that are going on around the militarization that's going on in Mexico, and the 43 student teachers who probably were killed there, and so on and so forth. I have some ideas about how I will use materials from the demos and stuff like that. You know, it's not that different from other stuff, so I'm going to stop apologizing for not having all the skills that I think artists should have, all the photographic skills, blah, blah, blah. Luckily, I have a teacher's pension. I do not have to sell my work. So, you know.
MS
I can't wait to see your work, your next exhibition. I know that you're a mother and a grandmother and a great-grandmother. How do you think the story of the internment has filtered down to the generations in your family?
JM
They certainly have filtered down by intent. My intent and also the intent of my daughter who is very identified with the Japanese side of her heritage, which is very interesting because her children who are in their twenties reflect this. And I think that my son's children not so much, though I don't know...it's hard to say. I think the great-grandson and the generations to come, he will have some through the filter. Absolutely. But not much given generations, time and distance.
01:10:22.000
01:10:22.000
JM
I often wonder...but you know, as I see that my work will take a different direction now, but really, it will be much the same, then I think that it is certainly very important... at some point-Max is turning three-but at some point, he will get the story and he'll listen to the story. And it won't be a big part of his life, but he will...I don't know how or what will pass down into the next generation. But on the part of my grandchildren, the kids of my daughter, there are many generations where this will filter down. For example, they have all been born in the U.S. Both Jennifer and her husband are Torontonians. He's of British-Scottish background, as is Jennifer's father. And she-I try to go at Christmas always, stay a week or whatever-she is is very involved, she is very invested in taking me to the internment camp that was set up in Colorado. A small one. And maybe there's a plaque there or whatever. But it's clearly important to her, which I think is wonderful.
MS
The last time we were speaking, you mentioned a memory of the Custodian of Enemy Property? Or the warehouse where Japanese Canadian possessions were stored?
JM
It's ringing a faint bell, but...Stored in B.C.? Well....
MS
In Vancouver. Did your parents speak of it?
JM
No, no.
MS
Never mind.
JM
But I would really be interested to know in findings through your interviews. Someone will know.
MS
Did your parents speak about any of their white neighbours?
JM
In Vancouver?
MS
Yes, in Vancouver.
JM
Well, you know, my parents were such regular guys. Well, our neighbours where we lived...they lived on the street a year before I was born, so we're talking seven and a half at least years they were there in that house. While they did have a very active life in the Japanese community, of course, you're side by side with neighbours. You have a little bit of a street life. And my parents were outgoing. So, yes. There was a Scottish family. I did the Highland Fling. Did I tell you that story?
MS
No.
JM
Oh! I remember dancing. I used to hide. I hated dancing on stage, but anyway...Apparently, I did the Highland Fling with the whole works: the kilt, and so on. In later years, maybe twenty years or so ago, I said to my father-this was a period of some casual interviewing. I wish I had done more interviewing-so I said, “So Dad, how come I was doing the Highland Fling?”
01:15:08.000
01:15:08.000
JM
And he said very offhandedly, “Everybody was doing the Highland Fling.” A lot of Scottish people. And I said, “Well, but Dad you weren't doing the Highland Fling, were you?” And he said, “Oh, no. Not me!” laughter
JM
It's telling, isn't it? “I'm not taking piano lessons, but you're going to do all those things I didn't do.” So, anyway. Highland Fling....laughter
MS
So you didn't have friends on the street?
JM
I'm sorry. I got off the track. Ya, Scottish. It just took me to a story. Sorry laughter. So, yes, our very closest next-door neighbours were Scottish. And my mother....sometimes I slept there overnight!
MS
Oh.
JM
Ya. They didn't have any kids, so maybe that's why they liked to have me overnight. I don't remember being particularly close to them. But I must have been very comfortable sleeping in their house. And I remember their kitchen very well. It was interesting. I could name you pieces of things in the kitchen. And her husband, the guy, was a...what do you call them...a curfew monitor. There's a name for that, who went around with a flashlight and made sure that everybody was...blackouts. It wasn't curfew. Sorry. Two different things. Blackouts. So...
MS
So you slept over?
JM
I slept over. But they had to be on fairly good terms. I know that the Scottish woman who lived there was not a part of any of my mother's groups. Because I have photos. They were all Japanese women, and some of them I remember quite well. I certainly remember Muriel Kitagawa. And I remember others too. And sometimes, well often, any of those women who had kids, would bring their kids, so we would play. The neighbours on the other side, well, I was very attracted to our neighbours across the street, also Scottish. And they had a kid who...maybe she was in my school. She may have been in a different grade level or something. but she was certainly not in my class. And I loved this kid. I don't know whether we played so much together. Jonie, her name was. And she had these beautiful blond, reddish blond ringlets. But I loved her mother who was so cheery and friendly, and she loved having me over. So I'd escaped my house, and I'd go over there and spend a lot of time there. And I don't think my parents were, as with the Scottish couple next door, were very involved. There weren't dinners together. But there was no animosity coming at us from there. So it's interesting. It's like my first father-in-law who was rather shocked...this is a guy of British...and the mother of my first husband was Scottish. Scottish again, with a tartan. They were really disapproving. But the strange part about it is they became really friendly with my parents, and friendly through the time and beyond, after the time that I left the marriage. Crazy. So I guess what I'm saying is when we, my parents, have been isolated from the areas of racial whatever going on, they didn't encounter, you know, that kind of stuff, though the press, of course, was full of it, right. They didn't encounter that from their very close neighbours, though they were not socially, just neighbourly engaged, but not socially engaged. But it would be very interesting to know, I wish I could ask, if, in fact, there were....
01:20:41.000
01:20:41.000
MS
I'm just wondering how those friendly neighbours reacted in early 1942 when your parents were forced to leave.
JM
My guess is that they were very sad. That's my guess. Ya. I may be wrong. I'd like to think...
MS
I just wonder...did they came out to say goodbye?
JM
You know I don't remember going, so they may indeed have come out to say goodbye. But I know that was the case, I've heard or read...it would be interesting to know. Ya.
MS
Regarding the place of internment, do you have any strong or faint olfactory memories?
JM
Ya, well, umm....long pause. Oh, my God, I remember the...of course, we didn't have any indoor plumbing. My cat fell down the toilet one day, and my grandfather he rescued the cat. Umm, I'm just remembering, in fact, the smells of Japanese food. And so where did that Japanese food come from? Where I'm remembering it from is...what happened after we moved there is an entrepreneurial Japanese guy, under the sponsorship of two non-Japanese guys, opened up a sawmill. I guess to take advantage of the place, the labour, the location, or whatever. And so they set up...they built little houses. I remember this very well. I went through the woods from our place to their place, a heavily wooded area, the foothills of a mountain. I remember the six outdoor toilets that they built. I remember I was impressed. Six. So there were families living there. I don't think they were kids, school-age kids. They were teenagers, workers for the mill. And they put on a New Year's...you know, New Year's a big, what's the word for it, a big spread. They had amazing Japanese food. Where did they get it? Maybe they had some connections. Maybe. This is not too far from Vancouver. Anyway, I remember the konnyaku, with the spices. And the foods that we...I remember it as a kid because I went to all those special things at my grandmother's house through the year. Oh, I certainly remember them. My parents didn't do it, of course, but they went to Japantown. There was such a spread of food. Wow! Again, I wish I could ask those people.
MS
Maybe some of it came from cans? Bamboo shoots?
JM
Ya, but where did the rice come from? They must have had special privileges. And the RCMP waived restrictions aside to let whatever.
MS
So there was an RCMP officer or officers around?
JM
I didn't actually see one, but I went to bed early and much was hidden from me. And they kept a friendly profile, as they do. Sorry, what did you ask me?
MS
Oh, about the smells.
JM
Ya, it came to the food. The smells. Definitely, it was definitely from my background because I came from an urban, a very urban....Ya, and the smells of the animals. We had pigs. It was my job to feed the pigs, which were slaughtered. I was told to go into the house. And the guys with rifles came. That's why they built the root house. And where the salmon was. I can't say that I really could smell the salmon. But certainly, it was very much the smell of the land and of the cow. Very funny story about the cow. The cow we called “Bossy” was the only cow we had, and that was our milk source. And my mother was given the job of milking the cow. I mean she had never milked a cow. Crazy. So one day, at the top of the hill, my mother, I think she was milking the cow at the top of the hill. The hill has some corn growing. Not too much. It's not really where we're growing the food. For some reason, I'm at the bottom of the hill. And there's a gate and a fence. My mother, all of a sudden, comes storming down the hill. She may have left the bucket down. And the cow is chasing her with its head down. Well, my mother didn't know how to milk the cow. And she's shouting at me, “Open the gate! Open the gate!” I can't remember the rest of it. But I guess I managed to open the gate. She must have been saved. The other cow story is when Bossy the Cow disappeared. And everybody was very upset because we only had one cow. Every morning, my uncle, the Nozaki brother, would get up on the farmhouse roof and he'd look for Bossy up in the hills. One day, my father decided that he would go up there. My father was such a city person. He really had no background in these things. Damn, if he didn't come down the hill with a calf slung over his shoulder. Bossy went to the mountains to have her calf. And he knew that. My father knew that. And people said, “Mickey, how did you know that that was the way it was?” My father took me to see every Western movie that existed until 1942. I saw all the Westerns. He loved Westerns. He went to see them all. There certainly was the smell of the earth. And you know what? The earth and also trees. There was lumbering going on at the sawmill. Those guys weren't paid.
MS
And you have used wood, different kinds of wood in your art installations, right?
JM
Yes, I have. Mainly I started using wood because the installation I did over the New Denver internment grounds is that I was showing the evolution of the houses that those internees lived in. And I started with canvas tents, so I was using canvass. And I was using cedar. And I got my son to pull off some of the cedar planks from his old garage so that I could have old, weathered cedar. So...ya... Tape is paused.
01:30:15.000
01:30:15.000
MS
Going back to your early childhood, what do you miss the most about your Vancouver days? Or what do you remember missing most after you left Vancouver?
JM
The milk. The milk. I wanted my milk to come out of the refrigerator, and not straight from the cow. I mean....
MS
The taste, I guess, was different?
JM
It was such a different...as I said before, it was such a different experience for me. So, for example, the Japanese bath that our Grandfather Nozaki built for us, was really...I'm not sure if I would say at the time, as a kid, that it was a wonderful experience. But it was a very exciting and a very different experience for me. Although I had seen Japanese baths before because my Granfather Maikawa had one built one into his house. I saw it. I knew about it, but I hadn't actually used one. And at first, when he first built it, we were all waiting for it to be finished. So we all had our first bath under the stars because the roof was not added at that point. And I had pigs to look after. And I had chickens, too. I didn't look after them, bu they were there. And I think I gathered some eggs. And I had rabbits of my own. Well, I didn't have that kind of life. And so...did I miss anything? Well, the milk. And my school experience was not wonderful. I didn't really...I felt very isolated in my school experience. No. No, I can't really say. I visited that house, by the way, with my family, in 1998 after my mother died. Fifteen of us went there.
MS
How were you received by the current owners or the owners at that time?
JM
I wish I had never gone because it was such a...It so changed. My memories would have been just fine. But anyway, I did go. And I knocked on the door and I said, “I used to live here. Would you mind...” And the young man who opened the door looked a little bit taken aback, of course. But then when he saw my entourage of 14 other people standing on the sidewalk, he said, “Well, you know, would you like to come in?” Strangely enough, it was my son, his wife and a couple of kids. I can't remember. Maybe it was just one daughter and my daughter's family of five. And Dick, of course, and his kids, and so on, so it was all family. No, there were a couple of friends as well. Anyway, so strangely enough, my son recognized the guy. My son's in the music field. And apparently, the guy, who either owned or was renting this house I used to live in, had a little store on Queen Street, just south here called “Songbird”. Anyway, a musician. And he was living there with either his partner, a partner of some kind, so there were two of them. But they had renovated the attic. The attic came, the staircase, right from the room that was my bedroom. It was a little bit scary up there in the attic, but an attic is a wonderful place. What they did is they made it into a recording studio. So it was full of music. Completely different from what I remember. And they also covered up the stucco. Many Vancouver houses in Vancouver made of stucco with...what do they call it? Sideboard? So a totally different look.
01:35:31.000
01:35:31.000
MS
Is it detached or semi-detached?
JM
A detached house. I don't think I went to the basement.
MS
Some Japanese Canadian actually buried some of their possessions in the basements of their homes. Do you recall your parents speaking of having done that?
JM
How buried?
MS
Well, because a lot of the floors were not concrete. They were just dirt floors.
JM
Were they able to recover anything?
MS
Oh, I don't know.
JM
It would be interesting to know. No, I really doubt very much that they did that. We had concrete floors. It was a pretty new little house. But that's so interesting.
MS
And also, apparently, in the walls, somehow.
JM
Wow! But difficult to recover because it's not your house anymore.
MS
So do you know who bought your parents' house immediately?
JM
Well, I'm speculating that it probably was the name...the name of the person I remember very well. It probably was the police person who came before, just before we were interned during curfew time, I think it was, and sitting in our living room when my father got home-was my father's story. He knew about the impending internment and wanted first dibs on our house to rent. And then...it wasn't all that much longer or after that the houses were sold, went up for auctioned, or were auctioned, right. And so, I believe, because I remember his name so well, that it probably was this man who then after renting...who did he pay the rent to? Anyway, probably bought, was able to get the house, was my guess. I guess it could be tracked down. Through records.
MS
What was his name?
JM
I don't know how to spell it. Dalzell. Dalzell.
MS
I'm sure it could be tracked down if records were kept.
JM
Yes, Well, who knows about records, right? I mean the government leveled a lot of those internment camp sites.
MS
Do you remember your mother or father talking about any possessions that were particularly precious to them that they had to leave behind? long silence
JM
I wonder if they would talk about those in Japanese and I would hear...I think...I'm speculating that their lives, as mine was, were just so different, and they spent so much energy and time in dealing with the environment, you know. I don't know. I didn't hear anything. My father missed the doughnuts.
MS
And you missed the milk.
JM
Interesting...food.
01:40:00.000
01:40:00.000
MS
Besides those precious dolls from Japan, do you recall the other objects that came directly from Japan that were passed down through your family?
JM
Passed down....Well, umm....
MS
That your grandparents would have brought?
JM
I have something. How wonderful. From my Maikawa side of the family. My father's youngest sister was throwing them out. Anyway. Well, only, only the wedding presents that my parents were given as those dolls were given me on my birthday. So there are quite a few things I think that were given to them that came from Japan that were passed on to me. They're things like special dishes and stuff like that, you know. No, I can't think of anything else. pause, coughing
MS
We were talking earlier about inventions and how resourceful the internees were. Do you recall anything that your mother or father made, any makeshift objects?
JM
Umm...during internment you mean?
MS
Yes.
JM
My mother's younger brother with whom we lived in internment was very good with tools and making things out of wood, and so on. And, yes, he constructed game boards, beautiful with inlaid pieces of wood. He had lots to choose from, the wood. So, for example, do you know the game cribbage?
MS
Well, I've heard of it.
JM
Well, so inlaid pieces of wood, and tiny little drawers on the side to keep the pegs in. Very beautiful. I don't recall him making any vessels, or you know, pots and things like that. Although he may have, but I don't think so. I'm sure there were things made out of necessity, but I don't remember them.
MS
Did you miss your piano? Did you create new instruments?
JM
I didn't particularly like my piano-or my dancing lessons. I was a kid who took a lot of lessons, and you know. But I did follow up with piano later. But I have no desire anymore to play the piano. I have friends who do, who want to, you know. But for me, no.
MS
When you were in high school here in Toronto and in history class studying about World War Two, how did you feel?
01:45:02.000
01:45:02.000
JM
I don't recall studying World War Two.
MS
Do you recall teachers talking about it?
JM
No, no. That was late forties, early fifties, I guess. No, no.
MS
Was there anything else you'd like to add?
JM
Well, I can't think of anything. I will later, of course. I would love to hear other people's interviews because this has piqued my interest, of course.
MS
You will be able to hear other interviews eventually.
JM
I can't think of anything.
MS
I guess I have one last question. What would you like your grandchildren and great-grandchildren to know about what happened to you during World War Two?
JM
What I would like them to know...I would like them to know what happened. And I would like them to understand that injustices like the one that happened to our family happen all the time in the world, in particularly in, well ...we know more about what is going on. However, it goes on. And I think that's in their own time. They don't have to look back, you know, explicitly. If they know and have an awareness that these injustices happen, how they happen, and why they happen, and so on, then they become more alert to what is happening around. And if there's any feelings, emotions or attachment or whatever there, then that will help to propel them to join forces, if you like. Ya. That's all.
MS
Thank you very much for giving me so much of your time today.
JM
It's really been great to talk to you.
MS
It's been very enlightening and enjoyable. Thanks.
JM
Well, thank you. Tape is paused.
MS
I just have one last question, JoAnne. I know that you travelled to Japan. Can you tell me what that experience was like?
JM
By the time I went to Japan, I understood that I wouldn't be viewed as a real Japanese person. I understood that. And I was there for four months. And when we travelled in the south of Japan, Fukuoka? I found that the further south that we travelled, the more I was viewed as...being not quite right. I had a few words of Japanese, which I used. And especially the older men were very disparaging. They quickly dismissed me. I found that didn't happen in the major cities I was in. But I also realized that people didn't view me as a real Japanese. That really wasn't a surprise for me. That was okay. I can't say that I came back feeling that...um...I think I went to Japan, feeling that, knowing that I was not really of that...that I'm not a real Japanese from Japan.
01:50:12.000
01:50:12.000
JM
I kind of figured that one out by the time that I went. I went in, let me see...I think it was maybe the year after I retired. By that time, I had figured it out. We were living in a Japasnese style house which we had chosen because my husband was teaching at the university in English. And we were given a choice of a Japanese style house or a Western style house. We chose the Japanese style. It was really wonderful because we experienced that, which was great. And also because all of my family came in bits and droves. And they all experienced that as well, which was really very nice. That's probably one of those filtering down experiences that we were able to give to my kids, their kids and so on-although, unfortunately, some of the kids were so young that they don't remember very much. But, in fact, Dick even took some of them to his class with him. We were very close to the university grounds. It was very hot. At first, it was very cold when we arrived there in April, cherry blossom time. Much colder than I expected, and so we huddled around their wonderful Japanese table with the heater underneath the table and the blanket covering our feet. So those experiences were really very interesting.
MS
Did you connect with your grandparents' relatives?
JM
Oh, I'd forgot about that! My goodness that was a surprise. Just by chance a sociology professor found out that I was from the Maikawa family. He, in fact, was tracking the immigration of the Maikawa family to Vancouver and was tracking what happened to people, so after I identified myself, that I really was a person from that family, he arranged for me to visit the youngest son-I guess he's my cousin-in the family home in Shiga Prefecture. So we went, and my sister and her daughter happened to be visiting at that time. So we were able to go with a translator and see the house that my grandfather was born in. And we were taken to...we witnessed the wonderful Buddhist altar. We had tea with them, sitting on the floor, which was nice. And an interesting thing that happened was while we were having tea and we were sitting on the floor looking through photo albums, which interestingly enough, he, my cousin, went quickly past the pages of either him or whoever in Japanese military uniform. So I guess he thought we won't get into that. And then a Buddhist priest arrived. He came to the door and let himself in, very friendly, because he makes these trips every month or something. And he went to the altar, and he made his appropriate, you know, whatever he did. I think he checked the altar. I then he joined us. He spoke with us. He was like the hydro man coming to check the meter. That was a wonderful experience, and I'm sorry that my whole family could not have experienced that. However, I did take my son and his family when they came to visit on a taxi ride around there. I didn't feel comfortable knocking on the Maikawa door to say “Well, here we are again.” It wasn't quite that way. But the taxi driver was wonderful. He filled us in on the immigration of people to Brazil. Some of the Maikawas went to Brazil and to Canada, and so on. And he took us to the gravesite of the Maikawas. And we saw the tombstones and so on. And we were right by Lake Biwa, which was very thrilling for my kids. That was very important. Who knew that would happen, part of the trip. And though I complain about...I just didn't have a moment to myself. I was the tour guide. But it was really wonderful to have everybody coming...
MS
Thank you, JoAnne.
01:55:47.000

Metadata

Title

JoAnne Maikawa, interviewed by Momoye Sugiman, 18 August 2015

Abstract

In this interview, JoAnne Maikawa, a sansei artist, speaks with Momoye Sugiman. Joanne provides vivid details about her childhood in Vancouver and her interactions with white children and neighbours. She also offers rich descriptions of her various family homes and their surroundings. Her early experiences stand out because she grew up outside Little Tokyo, and her family chose to spend the internment years in a self-supporting, rural community rather than in the ghost towns or on sugarbeet farms. Therefore, she was not entirely immersed in the Japanese language or culture. With candour and sensitivity, JoAnne also recalls her adolescent years in Toronto and her negotiation of her cultural identity. Now retired from her career a public school teacher, she explores the history of Japanese Canadians and the themes of identity and memory through her work as a visual artist.

Credits

Interviewer: Momoye Sugiman
Interviewee: JoAnne Maikawa
XML Encoder: Stewart Arneil
Publication Information: See Terms of Use for publication and licensing information.
Setting: Toronto
Keywords: self-sustaining internment; assimilation; cultural identity; 1930s to 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.