Shioko Mukai, interviewed by Rebeca Salas, 21 August 2017

Shioko Mukai, interviewed by Rebeca Salas, 21 August 2017

Abstract
Shioko tells of her family's displacement to Greenwood from Steveston, postwar resettlement in Port Edward, and eventual return to Steveston. She reflects on her family's living conditions and the communities in the different locales they lived in. She also talks about the importance of Redress, and her attempts to learn Japanese Canadian history, including her efforts to pass it on to her children. A recent highlight in her learnNikkei National Museum bus tour.
00:00:00.000
Rebeca Salas (RS)
This is Rebeca Salas, I'm here with Shioko Mukai, and, we're here to record her or- oral history, excuse me, for the Landscapes of Injustice project. We're in Steveston, and it's August 21, 2017. Okay, so. Uh, we'll start with your, your family's story then.
Shioko Mukai (SM)
Okay. Thank you. Um, my grandparents...uh, immigrated to Steveston, from...Mio, Mihama-cho, which is in Wakayama prefecture, in Japan. And um, my father was born in Steveston in 1913. And, um, my mother, um, came later, to Canada, although her parents lived here, they went back to Japan, and then she came to Canada, to get married to my father. In 1937. And um, at that time, my father was working with his uncle, that was called - uh, my uncle had a very, was a great-uncle I guess, had a, a big herring company, and uh, they would um, catch the herring, off the west coast of BC, and ship the herring, salted, to Korea. And um, so that was all going on before the war, and they were stationed in Chemainus, on Vancouver Island. Uh, then um...in 1941, my sister, my oldest sister, Sami, her Japanese name is Isami, was born, in Steveston. And then the war broke out. And in 1942, we were interned, to Greenwood. And, at that time, um, my family, we were all together...and the Catholic Church, looked after, the Japanese, internees, and my parents were very grateful for that. We moved into a building, 15B, I was told, with three or four other families. And we apparently had just the living room, with a communal kitchen and communal bath- um, washrooms. And in 1944, I was born, in Greenwood. And at that time, my father used to work, um, on the Kettle Valley, laying ties for the railway, and one year, he also got a job, in Midway. No, it was Carmine, where there was a sawmill. And um, he said that he saved, $1000 in those times. Which was a lot of money. But unfortunately the sawmill closed down after a year and then we came back to Greenwood. Now my sister Sami, um...went to the Catholic school, in Greenwood. But then my mum found out that, she really wasn't learning English because she was always speaking to her friends, who were all Japanese Canadians, and so. When she found that out, she enrolled us in public school laugh. And um, there was this um, United Church...uh, I guess she was working for the United Church, her name was Miss Grace Namba, and she, had the kindergarten class, there, and from there, I went into public school. Um, we lived in Greenwood. Um...and uh, my mum, always said, we had enough food...my, when my dad was working for the railway, um, he would get on the train, and then as he was leaving, um...I can remember he used to throw chocolate bars, from the train as it was slight laugh departing, because it was very hard to get chocolate bars, in Greenwood, but, they sold them on the trains. And, we lived in Greenwood...uh, for let's see...well I was born in '44, and then my younger sister, Michio was born, in 1947, and then my brother, Takashi, was born in 1951. And soon after he was born, um. We moved out, out of Greenwood. And we went, to Port Edward. Which is a little Japanese, which was a little VILLAGE, just outside of Prince Rupert. It must, uh, be about maybe, ten kilometres, um, from Prince Rupert.
00:05:11.000
00:05:11.000
SM
And we went to school, in Prince Rupert, and we had to board the bus. There were, about, thirty to thirty-five Japanese families living, in the Americ- they were the American barracks that were vacated after the war, and Nelson Brothers had a plant in Port Edward. And Nelson Brothers eventually became part of BC Packers. And so we grew up in Port Edward, going to school in Prince Rupert, um, working, in the canneries in the summertime, and I can remember I started working...uh, in the summer when I was about thirteen, and we had to get a special permit, from the federal government? And...I can remember working maybe, twelve thirteen hours, a day, and, our mothers, we all, they work there too, and our, my father was a fisherman, and he fished on the Skeena River, and, would make, you know, come down, with the runs, all the way maybe to Namoon, Alert Bay, and then, after the chum season, he would, head back up to, Port Edward. Um, let's see. And um...fishing was very good, in those days. Uh, there were, six of us, eventually, six children, because my two younger brothers, were born in Prince Rupert. And um, my dad, he made enough money in those days, catching fish, that, you know, all six of us were able to go to university, down to UBC, and...but then we realized that um, the fishing, was dwindling, and...then in 1965, we moved back down, to, Steveston. And that's when, by that time I, was um, working, I had a job teaching school in Burnaby. And um, while I was at UBC I stayed in the dorms, in Fort Camp, in Totem Park. And it was quite a culture shock for me to come from, a small little village in Prince-, you know, in Port Edward, and, to come, to UBC, and I couldn't believe, what a beautiful part of the world it was, because, with all the rose gardens, living in Point Grey laugh you know. Such a, um, contrast. But, my, childhood days in Port Edward, um. Might not have been, what you would call, um. Envi- educationally stimulating, but, in a way, it was, we had experiences that, um. Other children really didn't have. We used to go, fishing, up and down the coast. And, we used to go out to pick seaweed. And abalone, and all that was so plentiful in those days. And...let me see. Yes. And then so when we moved to uh, Steveston...my, sister and my brothers all went to university, and then I taught in Burnaby for two years, and then I transferred to, Richmond. And I taught, um, elementary school, basically primary, and then I specialized in special ed, uh, working with children with uh, reading and learning problems. And I retired, in 1999. And....all I can say is that um, my parents, uh, spoke very little, about the internment, years, but um, they lost...so much. So many years of their working lives. And, to be uprooted, and to be taken to a place, that, they had never heard of, um, must have been, a real, a terrible experience for them. My mother said that she would never want to go back, to Greenwood. She said it was so cold, and...um. Let's see, it was so cold, and. Really, you were there against your will. You really didn't have freedom to move around and to move away. But...I know, um, Greenwood was probably, one of the best, internment camps, um, from what I know. I just came back from an internment camp tour, put on the Nikkei, um...uh, society- oh, I guess it's a Nikkei-
00:10:30.000
00:10:30.000
RS
National Museum.
SM
National Museum. In Burnaby. And, um. The mayor there, um, Mayor Macarthur, apparently was very, um, welcoming. And the Catholic Church did look after us. And, um. We weren't really behind barbed wires or, we, also had um. Uh, SOME housing, even though we were all crammed in, you know, maybe four or five families to a, a house, but. It, they weren't tarpaper shacks. And, um...I, all I can say is that, um, being, interned and ha- having lost those years, not only affected, my parents' generation. But also affected US, in a- , because we feel that...something like being, losing all your, um, rights as a Canadian citizen, could happen, at any time, to anyone. Because my father, was, a Canadian born, and, the only thing, was that he was ethnically Japanese laugh. And, Canada was at war with Japan. Right. And, um...let me see. Um, yes, so it, so, it has affected. Um, my generation. And my brother was saying, just last week. That, it really has even affected our children, to a degree. To a lesser degree, but it has. Because he was saying, that, you know, his friends, their parents are selling their homes, and, you know, the grandchildren there, are inheriting, so much money from the sale of their homes, and business? And, our, grandparents, and our parents, really didn't have a chance to establish themselves in that way. Because I know that there were some businesses and um. Uh...companies, before the war that were really thriving. And if it wasn't for the internment years, these companies would have probably flourished. And um, I know there was um, a man named Kagetsu. In Royston? Or, Cumberland, that had a big sawmill, uh, company. And, I'm sure, if it wasn't for the internment years, he might have become, maybe equivalent to Macmillan and Bloedel or...y-you...it's hard to say, but. Those were the possibilities. And my, um, relatives, like the Kashos, who used to own the herring, um, company, and...you know, it just, basically...uh, just, demolished laugh all their, you know. Took away all their wealth, and. It has affected, I know, their grandchildren very much. Because they went back to Japan, and, one...daughter came back. But um. It's very difficult, when you come back when you're twenty or eighteen, to start, learning the language, and to re-establish yourself, in, this Canadian society. So, I think that um, the reason, why I would like, this history preserved, is so that...people hopefully, will learn, from, the mistakes, that they have made, and that, it won't be repeated, again. Because, it is, not just what you see on the surface, but as you dwell further, and deeper, you realize that there are, so many...repercussions or whatever that happened, because of this, event.
RS
Mhm.
SM
Um...and I think...you know, we were able to come back, and, um. And make a living, and survive. And our...we had pretty decent jobs. Uh, I became a teacher, and in fact five out of six of us were teachers, and my younger brother Michael, became a chartered accountant.
00:15:13.000
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SM
And um...my, father, when my older sister became a teacher, could not believe, that she was teaching, these, Caucasian children. laughing Because...during the internment, he would have never even DREAMT, that this was possible. And our children, my children, and my, siblings' children, have all done very well. They, basically all have professional jobs, and. Um...and I think, maybe they have, they learnt that, you really have to work hard, to, get...what you want. But if you do work hard, then the opportunities, are there for you, in Canada.
RS
Mhm.
SM
And so...I'm, really glad to participate in this interview, and um, it's short, but that's my history.
RS
Okay. I do have a...unless you would like to take a break, I do have some questions of my own?
SM
Sure.
RS
-if that's okay if I ask you those? Okay. I think, because you were just a baby at the time,
SM
Yes.
RS
-you of course, you know, as the war broke out, and I think it was your sister that was in Steveston, there wouldn't be memories from there, but. Um, did your parents ever talk about, what it was like day-to-day, in Steveston? Um, before the war broke out?
SM
Well, they...they did say that, um, it was...um...it was sort of a, um...a self-contained community. Because they really didn't have to speak English. Um, there were so many Japanese people, living in Steveston, and there were forty-six or forty-five Japanese businesses along Moncton, and um, I think there were Japanese doctors, so, really, it was sort of like um, a self...enclosed community. And um. She, I think, thought that uh, you know, she was, quite happy, living in Steveston. Uh, my dad, you know. Made enough money, and, they were SAVING, she said, money, and even sending money back to relatives in Japan. Because of course the Canadian dollar was worth so much more, and. Um, they. Uh, in fact the people in Mio, I think they thought that um, money grew on trees laughing you know, in Canada, that. It was, it was incredible how much money was worth, that Canadian dollar was worth in Japan.
RS
Hmm.
SM
But I think um...they were very happy because, they had a hard time, making the, um, the grandparents, had a hard time making a living, in Mio. Because...um, it was just a little, farming and fishing community. And, they knew that there was not much future, in Japan. And so, that's why, they, came to Canada, basically, to find a better life.
RS
Mhm. Mhm.
SM
Mhm.
RS
I think this um...this is a challenging question, because it depends on how much...people either, asked their parents,
SM
Mhm.
RS
-or how much their parents were willing to share, but, um. Sometimes, people either years later return to where their...their properties were, or like to learn a little bit, about what happened to those properties when they were forcible, you know, removed?
SM
Mhm.
RS
Um, did you ever learn about, what happened to your...you know your family's, property in Steveston? Or was that something that, uh, didn't really come up?
SM
No, because my father was quite young at that time, so, he really didn't, um. OWN that much except for his fishing boat, I think. And then he was also maybe living in a, cannery house, or. So...SHIOKO makes some false starts you know, compared to other families, I don't think they lost as much, because they really hadn't established themselves? But maybe the fishing boat, and, uh really, it was the, um...the WORKING years that he really lost, that were I think, made a difference.
RS
Mm. Mhm. So for, for your, your father, and, perhaps your own opinion, but also, in what you could see with, you know, speaking to him and learning, um. It was more about, um, opportunity and future,
SM
Yeah.
RS
-as opposed to physical, um,
SM
Loss.
RS
-ideas of property and these sorts of things.
SM
Yes, I think so.
RS
Mmm.
SM
Yeah.
00:20:07.000
00:20:07.000
RS
Okay. Okay. Um...one, one thing I was a little bit more curious about, uh, Greenwood,
SM
Mhm.
RS
-is that, um. So I, I imagine there are some things you learned, from perhaps your sister, or your mother, um, or just, over time. But do you have any vivid memories, of your own? Uh, about what it was like there?
SM
pause Well, as a child, I was in grade one.
RS
Mhm.
SM
When we left Greenwood. And I remember, um. Basically, um, living in this house, and I, can remember uh, a very nice Caucasian, uh, couple. I remember her name was Peggy Taylor, and she lived next door to us. And, um. When...on a summer day, like a couple of times during the summer, she and her husband, would take us on their car, to, um...was it Christina Lake, or, no. It was uh, Taylor Lake? One of the lakes just outside of uh, Greenwood? And we were so happy, and we'd play in the sand, and swim, and. And I thought, you know, for...a couple to do that, it was...now that, now that I'm, THIS age I think, it's just incredible that she would really, um, take the time, and the effort to take us there? And, um. I can remember coming home, like I said to my sister, like. We didn't have swimming suits or anything, so we used to just, you know, play around in our panties both laugh. That was our, we were basically topless both laugh. But um. We had...I can remember those days, it was, it was, good, good memories, and I was in grade one, and, I remember the teacher's name, to this day, and her name was Mrs. EGG. E-G-G.
RS
laughs
SM
laughs And when I was in Greenwood, um, I guess it was in June, of this year, on this internment tour, I was talking to one of the ladies that was hosting the lunch for us, and I said to her you know, I was born here, and I, had a teacher named Mrs. Egg. And she said that, she...took over from Mrs. Egg in 1953 or '52. And she took over her job. And um. So she must have been one of the first Japanese Canadian teachers. Uh...you know, working, in BC after the war.
RS
Hmm.
SM
Because. And uh, so she remember Mrs. Egg too in fact, she said everybody, that went to public school in, Greenwood, had Mrs. Egg in grade one,
RS
laughs
SM
-so she must have taught there for both laughing a long time.
RS
Was she a liked teacher, or,
SM
Yes, I think so.
RS
-was she strict?
SM
I had, uh, I have very good memories. Um, uh, in Greenwood. And also, uh, also. At the train station, I remember, when we used, in the summer. It was very hot there. And um. At the train station there used to be this BIG, uh, kind of a wooden...big tub like a container, and it used to be full of water. Cold water, and I think it was for the engine, wasn't it, because it made the steam, you know, for the coal, I guess, to put the, to run the, the train. And so when the train would come, in, they would take all the water out and put it in the train. But I, um, in those days we didn't have a fridge. And so, I can remember my mum and you know, all the children, we would go down there. And when we bought a water, watermelon we would put it into this laugh big, water container! For it to cool! And we would RUSH out there before the train came to pick it up and take it home. Yeah. Because um...you know in those days, uh...I think Greenwood DID have, running water, though. But the year that we lived, in Carmine, um...my dad had to build this little, shack, uh, out of scrap lumber, from the mill? And it was basically just two rooms, and then he built a Japanese bathtub, outside that was bigger than the house! And, we had, he had to chop the, the...wood, for the fire, that was in the stove, basically, like a wooden stove. And, there was no running water, and so my mum would spend basically the whole day going down to the river, with buckets to, get water, and the day that we had a bath, we only had a bath once a week because it was too much work, I remember she had to get...all this water, heat it on the stove, and then have a, and she'd have a big, um, tub? And would fill the tub with water. And that's how we had our bath.
00:25:00.000
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SM
And there were no stores, in Carmine, and so, there used to be a man from a, general store in Beaverdale. That used to come and take, take our grocery order for the month? And so you had to, give him the whole, order and if you forgot, then you had to do a whole month without. And, um. Yes, and so, I remember my mum. She wanted to, um. Um, get some, um, kerchiefs for us because, you know. I think all the Doukhobour kids, they all, girls, they all had these little kerchiefs. And, so she thought that we should have these kerchiefs, and so she said something like, uh...uh, 'ker-chee-fu', or something, or 'ketch-up', or some, and so what happened is we ended up with bottles of ketchup!
RS
Oh! both laugh
SM
-and so 'kerchief' became 'ketchup'! laugh And so when she opened it, she didn't know what ketchup was, laughing and so we were...yeah, so. And then, um, my sister did, my older sister Sami did go to, grade two I think, in Beaverdale. And that's, when the teacher said that she didn't uh, know any English at all. So my mum had to try to, to teach her, English. And the only thing my mum basically knew, was she knew the ABCs, and so she taught my sister ABCs and how to count, you know. And um, but, by some miracle she passed, and. You know, she did fine. In fact, she majored in, English lit at university laughing, so. You know. It was, okay. But. Yeah. It was, it was tough, and it was, um...but, I, I think it, taught us, to work hard. And to, um. Basically, work as a family. Uh, we all kind of had to, contribute.
RS
Mhm.
SM
Yeah.
RS
Do you think your, your sister being a little be older maybe had a bit of different experience than you? Were there any memories that she shared with you that you kind of went, oh!
SM
Yeah, well she, I, she, I remember she said she didn't really like to go to Beaverdale because she had to, I think she was picked up by a school bus. And, uh, she didn't know anybody, and, had to get on this school bus, and I think there were only two other families, in Carmine. All the other workers were single men, and they lived in these bunkhouses? But I know, um, the Mukuyamas were the other families, and maybe they had a, they had a few children, so maybe they went on the bus together. But, uh, you know, for a child in grade two, even though it was maybe five six miles, or ten miles away, it seemed like a big trip for her, every day? Yeah.
RS
Hmm.
SM
And, um. Sami, she...yes. The one thing I could say about, my sister Sami is that. She, um, never wants to go camping. She, had three boys, and they always wanted to go camping. But she said no. She said that, she camped enough.
RS
Hmm.
SM
And, so she said, I've been there and I've done that, and I don't want to camp laughing ever again. And so when she travels, she doesn't, like to travel that way.
RS
Right.
SM
Yeah.
RS
Right.
SM
Uh-huh.
RS
Okay.
SM
Mhm.
RS
Um...do you remember much about what your...your mum was doing? During those years? Was there, there quite a change, uh, for her as well.
SM
In Greenwood?
RS
Greenwood, yeah.
SM
I think in Greenwood, she said, she allotted herself a dollar a day, to feed us, the family. And so she would take a dollar every day, because we didn't have a fridge, so she had go and buy her food every day?
RS
Mhm.
SM
But, she - well she was, in a way she was very fortunate, because she had, um, a couple of cousins. A Mrs., um, Mayede, um, who had, eight children, they were there, and. She was very, close to her. And, to Mrs. Mayede's sister. Mrs. Ora. And, Shizuye Ora. And so she had um, support, from her cousins. But um, she didn't really have her immediate family, like her, sisters or brothers, with her. And my father, um, really didn't have any close...family members in Greenwood either.
RS
Hm.
SM
But I know that many people, many families from Steveston, were interned in Greenwood. So they did know, the people. Right.
RS
Right.
SM
But having that support, I know was very, uh, important to her.
RS
Mhm.
SM
Mhm.
RS
And what would have your, your father's daily life, been like then, during those years?
SM
Okay, I remember he said that he, uh, when, when he wasn't working on, on the Kettle Valley railroad, or the um, at, um, Carmine, he said he was helping to fix up some of the um, uh, places where the nuns stayed? You know. And, of course he was very curious, because he's, you know, nuns, he's hardly ever seen any laugh, so he just couldn't beLIEVE, REBECA laughing that they would dress like this, all day long, every day, the same! laughing And so he talked about that, and. And so, um. He learnt, he had a, a little bit of carpentry skills, and so he said he would fix their, um, dorms or, housing.
00:30:27.000
00:30:27.000
SM
And, he said that um, yes, I think, the men, they tried to pass the time away, he said they used to play gaji, which is a Japanese kind of gambling game. And get together, and. Of course there was no alcohol there, you know, in those days too. And so he used to ask my mum to make um...uh, I guess, beer or something, from dandelion leaves? I think it was dandelion leaves and then so, they used to go picking all these dandelion leaves and then, and uh, try to, I guess ferment...make alcohol laugh.
RS
Right.
SM
Yeah.
RS
Right.
SM
Uh-huh.
RS
Oh, interesting.
SM
Yeah.
RS
And um...I guess moving in, forward in time a little bit, um, did you ever get a sense of, first impressions, coming back to BC for the first time? Or sorry, coming back, um, to, move and, and settle -
SM
Oh, in 1951?
RS
Yes.
SM
When we, uh, when we went back to, when we went up to Port Edward?
RS
Yes.
SM
Yes. We came by train. And I remember at the station, the Mayedes and the Oras and all the people we knew came to say goodbye to us, because we were, we left in '51 and the Mayedes, I think they left later. And they went to, Ucluelet, which is, you know, near Tofino on Vancouver lsland. And um, when, we came by train, to Vancouver. And my mum had um, a relative, that helped us find a room, at the Patricia Hotel on Hastings. And, I think it's still there. Yes, in fact I saw it, when we went down to the uh, Powell Street Festival this summer. And I said to, um, my friend, This was a real classy hotel, my mum and dad thought they were springing a lot of money laughs. Of course, it isn't now, and it's in a very, bad part of town now, but at that time...uh, I think, they saved, you know the spent quite a bit of money staying there for a few days. And my sister, who was um, in grade four, when we moved, um, to Port Edward, she was the one that basically translated, and bought our tickets for the Union steamship? To take us up, from Vancouver to Prince Rupert. Along the coast. And, uh. When I think back, and I see some of the grade four students, I, kind of marvel, at, the responsibility that she had? In, being responsible basically, for buying tickets and making sure we got on the steamboat and we had, whatever. And, my brother, Tak, uh Takashi, he was just a few months old. And so of course, you know, we had cloth diapers, and my mum had to, you know, basically, she had to wash the diapers on the boat, and. I don't know, I don't know how long it took us to go up there but it must have taken us a day or two, to. It must have, at least two days in those days, to go up to Rupert. And then when we landed in, Prince Rupert. Um...uh, we had to get to Port Edward, and I can remember, uh, we had to get a taxi, and. Everything we owned, had to fit slight laugh into that taxi, and plus all of us, right, and there were six in the family, at that time, so six of us, in the taxi, plus all our belongings, you know. Were, just in this one taxi. And then we, went to, Port Edward, and Nelson Brothers, basically. Um, put us up, in the bunkhouse for a few, weeks, until they found us, uh...a room. Or basically, uh, it's, it's now what you would call a townhouse, it's row housing, basically, because they were barracks, like American barracks. And um, yes, and, I remember there was a Mrs. Matsuba, who was cooking for the Japanese men in that bunkhouse, and we stayed in the bunkhouse. And then later on, we moved to, one of the, um, you know. Places in the, along, in the row housing. Um...Port Edward was...um...uh, it was good. Um, we didn't really face, that much discrimination? Because, we were basically, the majority laugh of the population at that time, when, all the people were coming into Port Edward?
00:35:14.000
00:35:14.000
SM
Because, Nelson Brothers was recruiting, fishermen, for their cannery, and it was Mr. Sakai, Yonekichi Sakai, who, um, recruited my dad to go up to Nelson Brothers. And um, there were families from Lillooet, and, the Yamamotos? Iwakazu Yamamoto and his family, they were from Magrath, in Alberta, they were working on the sugar beet, um, farms. And so Port Edward was basically, um. Um. Where we, where we all kind of got together, and everybody came from different places...and so, we, we all just kind of got to know each other, and, there was no, kind of established groups there? And, um. I felt that my childhood days in Port Edward were, uh. You know they were...uh, uh, pleasant, like, I have good memories. In fact, um, we still have Port Edward reunions, where people get together, and, you know, reminisce about old times?
RS
Hm.
SM
And, um, in fact this past summer, um, we took our, younger daughter, Joanna, to Port Edward because she has heard us talk about, what we used to do, and the cannery, and the store, and, um...uh, we met up with um, eight, other people who...that, that I went to school with who still live in Prince Rupert. And we went out for dinner, and. Those eight people said they would NEVER, ever leave Prince Rupert. That, this is where, they want to spend, their lives. Um. We still, I still keep in touch uh, Jeannette Yamamoto and, Akemi, and. All the girls that we, grew up with. Um, when we were FISHING on the river, because I used to, um, go out fishing with my father, because my brothers were younger? So I was my dad's partner? In fact, he wanted me to pretend that I was a boy. So he would dress me up you know with big, high gumboots, and, yellow raincoat, those real hippie yellow raincoats? Um. And, um. Uh, you know, I had, when I think back, I think I had a, a real, uh, a good, childhood. Fishing, with my dad. And I got to know him, and work with him, and I got to respect him because I saw how hard he worked? And, but. We did um, uh run into um, some First Nations, um, fishermen, that resented the Japanese fishermen coming back, on that, river? Basically, on the Skeena River, because, they thought it was their own river? And my dad, like he liked to fish right in the river, and. So, he would say to me, Go out and tell them, you know, um. Just say, uh, shout back at them when they shout at you, and so that was my job was to laughing stand on top, and say...leave us alone! Basically.
RS
Hm.
SM
You know. But, you know, as the years went by...uh, you know. They got to know each other, and. Some of the, um, native fishermen became my dad's friends, and. But it was just that adjustment time, when...I can understand, THEIR point of view too, when they thought that they owned the river? And all of a sudden you get an influx of Japanese Canadian fishermen coming in? And um, you know. Taking their share, uh. So...but. Yeah, it was um. But in the school, like, in the school system, in Port Edward, uh, we, basically had First Nations children, um, the Japanese Canadian, and just the children from, you know, from the management company. Like SHIOKO makes some false starts the Nelson Brothers company, like the managers', or the foreladies', children, that were there. So, um, I really...didn't feel that we were really discriminated, in, you know. And when we went to Prince Rupert, that was an adjustment, because, then, the majority were Caucasian, students, right. But then...uh, I remember Mr. MacEwan, he was the principal at Port Edward, and he said, you know, um...when I went from Port Edward to Prince Rupert, he, he told them to put me in the academic class?
00:40:12.000
00:40:12.000
SM
But in Prince Rupert they put me in the, commercial class, I think it was, because they said, oh, you're, she is, she's from Port Edward, right? But after the first term, they moved me, but. Um, Mr. MacEwan said see, you know, um. I think they're learning, that, we DO have some academic students from Port Edward laugh. They sort of generalized and thought that here we are, we're not going to, you know.
RS
Hm.
SM
Go to university, or. Pursue our, uh, education, so, they're just in the general program. But um...yeah. But in Prince Rupert, um, I felt that, you know we, all got a really good education? Yeah. The teachers really cared for us, and, in fact when my sister went down to uh, U of Vic, in Victoria...it was her teacher, her commerce teacher, that found her, her, um, like housing for her? And in fact it was a relative of her, of her teacher. And so, you know, arranged all that, and kind of went, beyond their kind of, teaching duties, to. Make sure that we, uh...you know. What, that it was easier for us?
RS
Right.
SM
Mhm.
RS
Right.
SM
Mhm.
RS
And then um, let's see moving forward in time again, um. Have you learned, or have you heard about, um, coming back I think it was in '65, coming back to Steveston, and what that was like for your parents and what the atmosphere, was maybe like at that time.
SM
Right. At that time, in '65, when my dad, we lived on Broadmoor. In Steveston, just off Number Three Road? And, um. There weren't too many Japanese families, there, because it's, a little bit, you know. Far, from Steveston, right, it's not right in Steveston Village?
RS
Mhm.
SM
And, uh, there was the Takeuchis and the Nomuras. I think they were the only, other Japanese families in that Broadmoor subdivision. And, um. My dad when he moved to, um. Broadmoor. He said he felt like he was, um. In a cage, because. You know, you couldn't walk here and you couldn't walk there, like it was in Port Edward? Like in Port Edward if you wanted something you just walked there. And you walked here, and you walked to your boat, right? But. There he felt like he was kind of isolated. So there, it was quite an adjustment for him. But for my mum...I think she as a little bit more flexible. Right, and so...um...she, started working in the cannery in Steveston. And, um. Yeah. And...and my brothers. I think, like I was already working, and teaching in Burnaby. Uh, my sister Mitch was at university, and my three brothers were in public school in Ste- in Richmond. I think my brother Tak, who went to Hugh McRoberts, maybe had the most difficult adjusting? Because he was in, what grade would he be in. He would be in about grade nine. Right? And I think that was a difficult, adjustment for him. My younger brothers...at Errington...I think, uh. They talked, you know, at the beginning about, people calling them Japs and you know, because. Uh, there weren't too many around, right. But uh...uh...later on, I think, you know. They were accepted. You know, and. I think, you know. They had a pretty good time in school.
RS
Hmm.
SM
Yeah.
RS
So in the sixties there's, you're...you got the sense that there was still a bit of a...
SM
Uh, yeah-
RS
-transition that,
SM
-yeah, transition, there still was a little bit of transition.
RS
Mhm.
SM
But with me - I just have to get up. My legs, so.
RS
Oh, sure.
SM
Can we just stop it for a minute?
RS
Yeah, for sure.
SM
Yeah. sound of footsteps, silence; a mug being placed on a table, etc.; footsteps returning 00:44:07-00:44:40
SM
I think when there, whenever there's a change. Like you know, you could understand too, like in a, white community. When you get, somebody that's...someone that looks different. There's going to be...maybe they're curious, or. You know, it takes a bit of adjustment, until they get to know you as a person.
00:45:01.000
00:45:01.000
RS
Right.
SM
You know.
RS
Mhm.
SM
Yeah.
RS
Mhm. Okay. Um...the next question I'm trying to remember. Oh yeah. Um...
SM
laughs
RS
laughs Sorry, I'm remembering my train of thought before our break. Uh...do you remember what it was like, uh, at home in terms of, perhaps conversation and also, reaction during the time of Redress? Um...during the Mulroney government, and the, deliverance of the apology, and.
SM
Oh, my parents, were very grateful. I think, uh, just to be told that a wrong was done, was very important. Uh, the monetary, compensation, uh. Was, a token compe- you know, basically it was, token, it was 21 000, right. And, my parents got the 21 000 each, and, the three girls did. But my brother Tak, who was born in Greenwood, just missed, I think, and so. And then, so my mum and dad, felt badly for the, three boys. And so what they did was they took their compensation, and then they third it, so they all got a little bit laugh.
RS
I see.
SM
Right? And so they were, uh, they, just gave it to the, to the boys. Um, but um. My parents felt that um. Uh...that, at least, the government had acknowledged that a wrong was done. And, um, they were very grateful for that. And they always said, that you know Canada is a great country, a good country. And um. Like, they said, um, you know, it was just a mistake, it was a MISTAKE. It was, um. It just depends, who's in control, basically, right? At that time. And, um...yeah, that's. I. That's all I can, remember. And I remember when, we had to get our, signatures, um, basically, um, witnessed by a lawyer or, I think we had to get it um, to make sure that our signature was um, our own signature? And I remember this lawyer in Richmond. His name is, uh, Rick, Henderson. And he came to our house. He was so nice, he came to our house. Because there were so many of us, right, there were. Uh, three of us, five of us. No, there would be - yeah, five, because those three didn't get it, there was eight, yeah. So five of us. So he came to our house. And, you know, he, um, made sure that it was all our signature. And then so. My mother said, well how much do we owe you? For, being, you know, for coming here. And for your work. And he said, how can we, how can I take money from you? For doing this. And that kind of um, really touched my mum's heart. She thought, yeah there are people who understand, right? And who are...aware of really what happened?
RS
Right.
SM
Yeah.
RS
Hmm.
SM
Yeah, so.
RS
Can you, expand a little bit on what you mean, um, about the monetary part of it being a token?
SM
Well, being, like, a, like, being a token, like, $21 000, per person, and losing how many years of your working years, is very, and, you know, it's just a small, percentage, right. But...it was, the token was important because they're saying, that um, a mistake was done, and we want to compensate you...you know. The amount...could have been, whatever. More, or less. But just the fact, that they were willing, to try to compensate you, I think that was important.
RS
Mmkay. I see.
SM
Mhm.
RS
Okay. And um, just out of curiosity within your, your own life, uh, learning about the history, it seems like it's always been quite, accessible to you?
SM
Mhm.
RS
But, was there a point in time when you perhaps became a little bit more, uh, interested in, in learning about it? Or was it...because I, I've spoken to people who, you know, pretty much went almost their entire lives, not knowing about it.
SM
Mhm.
RS
Um, was that...a different case for you, do you think?
SM
I think with me, I, I became more interested after I retired. And after I, you know, had more time? To think. And to, basically, and, as my parents passed away, I realized that, we really lost, uh, a chance to talk. Uh, but. You know, when you're raising your own children, and you're so busy, uh, you don't really have time to sort of sit down and talk about, things that really matter? Which is really, uh, too bad. And, when you do have the time, then, they're gone.
00:50:11.000
00:50:11.000
SM
And so, really...it's so important, to make that time to talk about, important, um, you know, your life, basically. Because...you know when you're working, like, I was working...my husband was working. We're raising children. And...it, it just. I-it just too...it's just unfortunate, that we didn't have time to talk more about, that, but. Now that I've retired, I'm, um...uh, more interested. I'm working with um...Kelvin Higo, and, with Don, and a few other members. On these, on this advisory committee? And we are, um, working on putting up a memorial for the seventy-fifth internment, um, camp year, in Steveston. And uh. Don, uh, does the tours in Steveston. And, we went on the internment camp, and. I, am reading more and more. Um. Those, the books. Like, you know, the fishing books, and the other books about internment, and. And I think, it's...it's the time, I think, it's a time element. And maybe it's also the time in my life too. Right, when you reflect more, you have time to reflect, and think. Of where you came from? And this is why, um. We're trying to, sort of MAKE the time to talk to our two daughters, more about it, and we're encouraging them to take that internment camp tour. And, and, um. You know, Carla, my oldest, um. She, uh, was uh, working at uh, basic- not working, but volunteering at the, Tonari Gumi for, a few years, as a director or something, yeah. And um. I think, it's so important, that, um. You keep part of your heritage. Right? I know it's important that you have to assimilate to a certain degree, of course we live in the Canadian society, so you, have to function in this society, but I think it's also, very important that you keep part of your culture. Because that's, that's you basically, right? That's, part of you.
RS
That's right, yeah, yeah. Um. Mentioning the, the tour, of the uh, internment camps,
SM
Mhm.
RS
Um, going back...so many years later...what was that like, and was there anything that, sort of, surprised you when you, took that tour?
SM
Well in Greenwood?
RS
Yeah.
SM
Oh, in Greenwood, you know. I can remember my mum and dad talking about Mook's Cafe and all these uh, different places? And Tasaka Barbershop? And, the buildings are still standing. Because Chuck Tasaka, he...uh, um. Is very involved in Greenwood, in trying to keep Greenwood, uh, history alive. And, um. He took us on a tour. And he said, to me, Shioko this is where you were born! laugh And thi- you know, you were living here, and he, he pointed out all the different places, and this is the Mook's Cafe, it's not Mook's Cafe anymore. But, this is the building. And then he showed us around? And, um. Yes. You know, to see a little...town like that, still intact. You know, it's sort of like, you're seeing a movie. It's, um. Uh, you can have a vague idea, of what it was like, but when you see it, in person, it's like, oh this just looks like the western movie, you know you see this main street, and. You know. And a bar, and. All, all, the buildings, and there's, most of them are still original buildings.
RS
Hmm.
SM
Yeah.
RS
Did any, um, memories come back to you or anyone around you? Just by, by being there?
SM
Well. pause Um...when we were walking to, to find, this other house that we stayed in, on Kimberly Street in Greenwood. We met um...uh, Sue Shinde's, brother. And he said to me that, oh you lived quite close to us, and it was on Kimberly Street, and he still lives in his parents' home. And, um. You know, walking along that, uh, road...I thought, I can just sort of imagine myself as a four or five year old, walking on this sort of dusty road, down, you know, and it must have seemed so far? Like it's, it must have, you know, to, as a chi- for a child? It's so far, but now, I mean it's just, you know. A city block or so, and that's, both laugh. That's the distance, right? But. I can remember walking, and, yeah, on the dusty road, and. I can remember the summer, somehow, it was so hot. Right, basically, very hot. And um...uh...you know. And I still run into, um. Uh, ladies, who are older than me, in Steveston. The Nishi ladies. And they, every time I see them, they tell me that they used to babysit me. both laugh Yeah.
RS
Mm.
00:55:32.000
00:55:32.000
SM
Yeah. But um. Yeah. I think um. I think Greenwood, you know. My mum, didn't really want to go back to Greenwood, but I think from a, child's point of view, from my point of view, I was very curious to go back and see. And there, the original courthouse is there, and. It's a substantial building, quite impressive. And they have a museum there. And, there was a lady. I think her first name was Claire. And, I told her that I was born here and she said let me look to see if you're in the registry, in the museum. And sure enough, I was there.
RS
Really.
SM
With my birthdate, and. Yeah.
RS
Wow.
SM
So she said they're working on, keeping a record of all the people that were living in Greenwood at that time.
RS
Hm.
SM
Yeah.
RS
Wow.
SM
Yeah.
RS
Kind of an interesting experience.
SM
It, yeah. To go back. Right?
RS
Yeah.
SM
Yeah. And then also too, it was interesting to see the other, internment camps, too. To see how they were, like, Lillooet. Like, this fellow that was on our tour. He talked about, remembering being in EAST Lillooet. I think, because in, um, I think the Japanese Canadians were only supposed to stay in EAST Lillooet. And they couldn't cross the river, or something. Over the bridge. pause And then he said that...the only way they, um...got to, get along, was that, uh they saw, that, the Japanese Canadian, uh boys, especially, were such good baseball players. Right? And then so. When they started playing baseball, against each other? Like East Lillooet against the other, main Lil-, then, they got accepted. And after that, they were allowed to cross the bridge. So, you know,
RS
Wow.
SM
-something like baseball, kind of. Brought the two groups together?
RS
Mhm.
SM
Yeah. Which is interesting, you know. Yeah. Because they talked about, oh, no, you weren't allowed to go, across that river. Yeah.
RS
Hm.
SM
That was. And then all the, different places, like we went to Kaslo. And, um. Uh, let's see where else did we go. We went to, Popoff and Slocan. And Sandon. Yeah. There's not much left in Sandon, but uh. Yeah. But it's interesting that, um, the community in those places, some of them are still trying to preserve, the history? Like, you know, New Denver is very, uh, well established, the museum. But places like Kaslo, and. You know. Yeah.
RS
Mhm.
SM
And then, in a couple of places, um. The mayor of those little places came to greet us, and. You know. It's, um. Yeah. It's, uh, it's interesting.
RS
Mhm.
SM
And Tashme, I've never. We've driven, you know. We used to go up to, Hope. Uh, like Manning Park to ski, and. Just, you know, drive along that highway. But, didn't realize that just off the road, it was, Tashme, right? Which is now...Sunshine Valley? I remember there were some lots there. You know, a few years back, maybe, ten years back. But, uh. Yeah, and um. Tashme was, one of the bigger, internment camps. Yeah.
RS
Hm.
SM
So. It's, um. I think it's important. That we keep history alive. Yeah.
RS
Right.
SM
Because, you know when you travel through Europe and all that. Like, you know, we went to Dachau, you know, the, um, the concentration camp? The Jewish concentration camps, and stuff, and. You know, I think, you, um...hopefully, people will visit, places like that. It's not, a pleasant experience. But I think after visiting a place like that. You change. Your whole, way of thinking, and, you think, what man is capable of doing? It's just frightening, you know. And I think, we have...learn, that um. You know. I mean, we have to treat each other better, basically. And uh, especially with what's happening in the States now, I think it's...it could happen. And, even racism now. Like, here. Just this past weekend there was a, you know. A rally here and a protest here, and. In Vancouver, which. You know. Five, ten years ago. I, wouldn't have thought they would happen.
01:00:09.000
01:00:09.000
RS
Yeah.
SM
Right?
RS
Mhm.
SM
Yeah. And so...it's sad, but. History repeats itself, and. I think. You know, that's...in, in a way it's sad.
RS
Right.
SM
Yeah.
RS
You're sort of leading into, my last question, which was going to be my closing question.
SM
Mhm.
RS
Um...because, uh, we're trying to also with this project, um. Make it, you know. Information, educational for other people. Um, if you could share a message, message to other Canadians, learning about Japanese Canadian history, um, what would that be?
SM
Like...my message to uh, the people learning about Japanese Canadian history?
RS
I think so, yeah, you know just, just other Canadians...um, who, maybe come across this project, and maybe listen to one of these interviews, or, maybe look at some of the materials. Um, or, perhaps just heard about the history for the first time. Because a lot of people actually, don't know very much,
SM
That's right,
RS
-right?
SM
Some of my FRIENDS don't!
RS
Yeah.
SM
Uh-huh.
RS
Or even if you could pass on perhaps a...you know, a lesson, as you were just. Sort of describing. Mhm.
SM
Well, I think. I think, yeah, because it's happening to the, uh, new immigrants coming to Canada. That's...like my sister said. That's what we went through, basically. Right? Um, we weren't immigrants, but we were living in Canada, but. To be, singled out, and um. Uh, you know. I think...we have to. We have to, sort of, accept people. I think. Because I think this is a global society now. Uh, we can't just have it, say, okay we want it really good for, just the people who are here. I think...uh. You know, we're all. We all live on this planet...all together, right? And, we have to learn, to share. And I think that's really important. And share and to accept, each other. And, um, I know it's difficult, because, when you get a whole influx, of a different, ethnic group coming in, it just, it does change the complexion, and the whole structure of, you know. What's happening in that community? But. I don't know what the answer is, like. Uh, I, you know I, have some friends that. Uh, think that, maybe, immigration should be maybe, um, um, done slowly? So that we don't get a whole influx at once? You know. But. I kind of think, when you hear about, you know Syria and stuff. You can't help, but accept them. Because they're people. Right? They're, human beings just like we are. And they have every right to live...uh. You know. On this earth just as we do. And so, I think. We have to. Hopefully people who. Um, look into this Japanese history, you know. Uh, for the Japanese Canadians, would understand, that, it's basically happening now. Maybe in a little different form, but. It's the same thing. And I think we have to accept people.
RS
Mhm.
SM
For what they - for who they are.
RS
Mm.
SM
And, um. You know. Because, given time, they're going to, become part of, our history- our, uh, society, they're going to contribute. Like us. You know? We were singled out, we were deprived, and we were given, you know, all this, but. Now, I mean. We contribute, we, we're part of, Canadian, life, basically, right? So. I think...that's, I think that's the way the world is going. It's global. Right, we just can't say, it's just our country, or our village, or our whatever and we're going to protect it.
RS
Right.
SM
It's, I don't think. Y-you can't do that, anymore. It's just, it's wide open. And so I think, you know, we have to. We have to treat people, like people, I think. Yeah.
RS
I think that's a great message.
SM
Yeah. That's all. laugh
RS
Okay. Uh, I'll just...just for the, last time, sort of say, if there's, anything that, maybe, you didn't have a chance to say, any stories you didn't have a chance to share, maybe perhaps I didn't, give you the opportunity to, to talk about something, I'd like to just...you know offer that, time to you now? Um...and, yeah, if not, then.
SM
No. I, I kind of. Uh, you know, I thank you.
RS
Mm.
SM
For, giving me this opportunity to speak to you. And to share my story. And, um. I think my story is probably very typical of, uh, Japanese Canadians at like, like, at my age, like, people my age, because. We all kind of went through this. But, of course every story's different. But, generally speaking, you know. I think, um. We...we basically survived, and um. You know. Um...kind of thrived at the end, but um. It, it was um, it was an injustice done. And I think, we have to remember that. You know. I know some people say, well let bygones be bygones, and all this, but. I think, history has to be preserved. The, historical facts.
RS
Mhm.
SM
Yeah.
RS
Yeah.
SM
Okay, so thank you very much.
RS
Thank you! laugh
SM
laugh Yeah.
01:05:27.000

Metadata

Title

Shioko Mukai, interviewed by Rebeca Salas, 21 August 2017

Abstract

Shioko tells of her family's displacement to Greenwood from Steveston, postwar resettlement in Port Edward, and eventual return to Steveston. She reflects on her family's living conditions and the communities in the different locales they lived in. She also talks about the importance of Redress, and her attempts to learn Japanese Canadian history, including her efforts to pass it on to her children. A recent highlight in her learnNikkei National Museum bus tour.

Credits

Interviewer: Rebeca Salas
Interviewee: Shioko Mukai
Transcriber: Carolyn Nakagawa
XML Encoder: Stewart Arneil
Publication Information: See Terms of Use for publication and licensing information.
Setting: Richmond, BC
Keywords: Steveston ; Greenwood ; Port Edward; fishing; education; Redress ; history; intergenerational; 1913-present; especially 1940s-1960s

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.