Tony and Vivian Nabata, interviewed by Kyla Fitzgerald, 15 July 2015

Tony and Vivian Nabata, interviewed by Kyla Fitzgerald, 15 July 2015

Abstract
Tony and Vivian are a retired couple, who are both Sanseis, currently living in Vancouver, BC. In this interview, Vivian shares her memories of her childhood growing up in Kamloops, Lillooet, and Vancouver, BC (post-war) as well as her family’s history of being uprooted and interned from Vancouver to Shuswap Lake and Lillooet. Tony also shares his family’s history in Powell Street and his childhood growing up in Shuswap Lake. Both Tony and Vivian then discuss their lives after the internment touching on subjects such as integration, Canadian and Japanese cultural differences, discovering and learning about their family histories, reflections of the internment, their career paths as a teacher (Vivian) and an economist (Tony), and their involvement in the Japanese Canadian community. Finally, Tony discusses his involvement with the Redress Settlement in which he shares how he, as an economist, helped the NAJC draft the proposed financial settlement for the federal government.
00:00:00.000
Kyla Fitzgerald (KF)
So my name is Kyla Fitzgerald, I'm sitting here with Vivian and Tony Nabata and today is Wednesday, July 15, 2015, and we are currently sitting in the Vancouver Lawn Tennis and Badminton Club. That's the full name correct? Yeah! And Tony and Vivian, if I can just get on record, you feel comfortable being interviewed and give consent to being recorded?
KF
Perfect, great. So, Vivian if we could start with you, can you just give me, you know, what was your childhood like? If you can tell me a little bit about your childhood and...
TN
Well...um, I was born in Kamloops and spent the first eight years in Lillooet and we went back there because my parents went there during the – and my mother's side went there during the internment and my grandparents continued to run an auto court there. So my parents ended up living there too for my first eight years. And then, um, uh...after that my grandparents moved to Vancouver to live with my uncle and then my family moved to Kamloops and we stayed there for...I guess, seven or eight years. And, and then after that, towards, oh, the end of grade ten, my family moved down to Vancouver. So I finished my high school years in Vancouver and then proceeded on to UBC. I took... a Bachelor of Arts in French, and then a one-year teacher's training program. So...and I worked as a teacher for thirty-one years.
KF
Wow. My parents' are both high school teachers.
TN
Ohhh...
KF
Yeah. So what did your parents do for a living? Both your mother and father?
TN
My mum worked at the Province newspaper and then my dad worked at the Army and Navy. He had us in Lillooet - While he was in Lillooet they ran a grocery store and in Kamloops, they ran a lady's wear store. And then moving to Vancouver he worked at the Army and Navy, at the end of his life, of his working career.
KF
Wow, that's quite a diverse career path, well, career paths I should say. So what school did you go to as a young child? Do you know the name of the school that you went to?
TN
I guess for elementary, it was Lillooet elementary...and then in Kamloops, I attended Kamloops high. And, Vancouver, I graduated from Eric Hamber Secondary.
KF
Ok, great. And then you went to UBC for post secondary?
TN
Yes.
KF
What was the house – I mean – so you've moved a couple times, what was your house like in Lillooet?
TN
I think it was one of the cabins of my grandparent's auto court.
KF
Oh, really?
TN
Yeah.
KF
And so-
TN
Because the storefront of one of the cabins, the first cabin, so my mom and dad ran the store and then we lived in the back part. And then in Kamloops, we had a new house... Vancouver... we had a house....
KF
So...
TN
Then at the end, my dad moved in with – or my dad and I moved in with my, with his mother, my grandmother because she was alone at that time and my mom had passed away. So throughout the university years, I lived with my grandmother and dad.
KF
So the size of the cabin in Lillooet then was it...?
TN
Very small.
KF
Very small?
TN
Mhm.
KF
Only a couple rooms or...?
TN
I think so...
KF
Oh really?
TN
From what I can recall...
KF
And how many of you were in the family? Do you have any siblings as well?
TN
No, just the three of us.
KF
Okay.
TN
Yeah.
KF
That's still quite cozy, I'm assuming?
TN
It was all right laughs.
KF
Yeah?
TN
I don't have any negative memories of it, although it was very small.
KF
Yeah. And the house in Kamloops you said was the opposite, quite new...
TN
It was newer but it had three bedrooms, I guess, main floor and then a basement.
KF
Okay, wow.
TN
Yeah.
KF
And then further on?
TN
And then Vancouver was a two-bedroom house and then our grandmother's house was a three bedroom.
KF
Okay.
TN
Yes.
KF
Oh Interesting. Now do you remember any sort of, kind of, key items or toys that you had when you were younger? Any sort of furniture, or, pieces like family pieces that you remember when you were younger, that were kind of kept on or you just had...?
00:05:00.000
00:05:00.000
TN
Mmm No.
KF
No.
TN
No.
KF
Just sort of the regular furniture and toys and things like that?
TN
Mhm.
KF
Can I ask what your, kind of, general atmosphere/culture growing up was like? Was it a combination of Japanese and Canadian or... ?
TN
It was a combination. Our neighborhood in Kamloops, there were three Japanese families within close - fairly close proximity, but the rest were Caucasian families.
KF
Okay so quite a small community then?
TN
Mhm, mhm.
KF
And were you –
TN
There were more people in north Kamloops – uh, more Japanese people in north Kamloops, but we lived in Kamloops.
KF
Oh okay, I see. The three small families then, did you ever get together and practice any Japanese cultural traditions or?
TN
No we visited. We would visit and have tea and, you know, snack or whatever, or um, visit each other, but...I don't think.... Well I don't remember being very close to these families. We would visit but just once in awhile.
KF
Oh yeah, I see. So you didn't really practice too much culturally at your home then? Or were there just kind of everyday things that would kind of trickle in like –
TN
You mean in terms of Japanese things?
KF
Yeah.
TN
Well my dad spoke Japanese all the time because he was sent ... he and two brothers and a sister were sent to Japan to be educated when they were – when my dad was five.
KF
Okay.
TN
So he really didn't come back to Canada until he was twenty, twenty-one.
KF
Okay.
TN
And then my mum was born and raised here and she could write and speak Japanese, but - so she and dad, she was trying to teach him English so they would have a combination of different types of conversations. He would try to speak more Japanese, but she would try to force him to learn a bit more English or speak more English. So...yeah. For me it was listening to dad speak Japanese and my mum, I could always communicate in English.
KF
Right.
TN
So I grew up.... I don't read or write Japanese. I understand the language, of everyday language, everyday usage, but I don't speak it. I can do basic salutations, but nothing more than that because, I'm of that generation where I think the parents having gone through the war, their main emphasis after the war was to fit in to North American culture, Canadian culture so they didn't make me go to Japanese class at all. So I don't speak the language.
KF
Um...
TN
Oh you have to keep in mind that after the war –
KF
Yes?
TN
Most Japanese Canadian families wanted their kids to speak English perfectly at the expense of learning Japanese. And the reason was they wanted us to integrate into Canadian society.
KF
I see.
TN
And whereas if you look at Chinese families, they weren't impacted by the internment so they continued to keep their culture much stronger than us.
KF
So for a lot of the families then, it sounds like yours, it was really about integrating the kids into–
TN
Yes.
KF
- a more “Canadian” lifestyle and living as much as possible.
TN
Yes, and just as an example: I can't speak Japanese, I can't read Japanese, in fact, my wife says to me, “When we're with Japanese people, do not speak any Japanese!”
TN
laughs
KF
laughs.
TN
Because she says it's embarrassing.
KF
laughs Oh that's funny... But I've – I've heard that a lot even just from family friends or my dad's friends through Judo BC, who you know, they say, “Oh well we're full Japanese. Like ethnically we're Japanese and we look Japanese, but then as soon as we speak when we visited Japan, it kind of throws them off that we speak English!” And uh... yeah, but no, I've heard that a couple times. Vivian laughs.
KF
So Vivian, you're of what generation?
TN
Third...
KF
So a sansei?
TN
Sansei, yes.
KF
And Tony you are?
TN
Sansei as well.
00:10:00.000
00:10:00.000
KF
Sansei as well. If you don't mind me asking just to put, sort of, a timeline in place. May I ask when you were born?
TN
1948.
KF
1948. And Tony?
TN
1950.
KF
1950.
TN
So I'm a senior citizen, sixty-five.
KF
laughs Sixty-five.
TN
And I'm more than laughs.
KF
laughs More than. Do you embrace that discount at all? laughs
TN
laughs
TN
They have their discounts, they're good.
TN
Of course! Shoppers! laughs
KF
Oh Shoppers! I know! Shopper's is quite, quite generous with their discounts laughs. Um, ok so you were born then after, the uprooting and internment.
TN
Right.
KF
But Vivian, then I guess your grandparents and parents were uprooted and interned?
TN
Mhm.
KF
Can you talk about that a little bit?
TN
My mum's family went to Lillooet. And they were a self-supporting family.
TN
Yes. Oh! Maybe before we start that part -
KF
Sure.
TN
I'd like to preface that Japanese-Canadians had two options at the time of internment.
KF
Yes.
TN
The first is they could go to internment camps sponsored by the government. Or second, if they had enough money, they could go on their own off the coast of BC. But there was one option, which they had no choice, and that is if the government deemed you to be potentially dangerous, they could actually forcibly take you to a – a government camp, which was in Ontario. And for example Vivian's father because of his very strong abilities in Judo, he was sent to Schreiber.
KF
Schreiber...
TN
Yeah and that's where you'll sometimes see pictures of Japanese-Canadians with these big bulls eye targets on them.
KF
Yeah!
TN
Yeah, well those are the guys.
KF
Oh really?!
TN
Yes, yeah.
TN
My dad when the war broke out was teaching RCMP officers how to do Judo.
KF
Ohhh, I've actually read some of those interactions between, Japanese-Canadians who were interned with RCMP officers, and so your dad was actually one of those that taught RCMP officers judo?
TN
As I understand it, yes.
TN
Before the war.
TN
Before the war, just before it broke out.
KF
Before the war, oh wow. Wow. So you said your father was part of the army and navy...
TN
Mhm.
KF
Did that have any sort of impact during the uprooting and internment? Did that change things or impact the way that you guys were moved?
TN
Oh no.
TN
No, that was after...
TN
That was way after.
KF
Oh way after. Okay, so this was still when they owned the retail store then.
TN
Uh no, before.
TN
Yeah.
KF
Oh well before, okay.
TN
Yeah, well before.
KF
Okay so your family was moved to Lillooet?
TN
My mum's family...
KF
Your mum's family...
TN
And then, my dad's family went to the Schuswap lake area.
KF
Ok.
TN
So –
TN
To Magna Bay.
TN
Yeah.
TN
Schuswap...
TN
So, there were eleven...nine to eleven families that chose to go up to the Schuswap Lake. And all of them bought property in Magna Bay. And so for the first year they sort of sat around wondering, “Well what should we do?” And of course nobody knew how long the war was going to last and then somebody got the bright idea “Why don't we grow strawberries?” So they all cleared up their land and they started growing strawberries, which is amazing because out in the middle of nowhere you're growing all these strawberries and they marketed them, I believe to Alberta as their main source.
TN
Mhm.
TN
And so Vivian's family, her grandfather, went up there and my grandfather went up there and there were a Miyazaki family and Orano, there were a bunch of families. And if you wanted more information you could probably talk to Vivian's uncle, or you could talk to my father Mass Nabata. But my father is hard of hearing so you'd have to speak loudly to him.
KF
Okay laughs.
TN
He has a phenomenal memory.
KF
Really?
TN
Well they both do! They're both quite sharp.
TN
So they would remember the nine to eleven families that were over there.
KF
Oh wow.
TN
But it was an amazing story. And they grew what they considered the very best strawberry called the British Sovereign. And if you go to Wimbledon –
00:15:07.000
00:15:07.000
KF
Mhm.
TN
That's the strawberry that they serve –
KF
Really?!
TN
- over there for the tournament.
KF
Oh interesting.
TN
Because it's considered one of the best strawberries in the world.
KF
Wow. So, just for the sake of the interview, Schuswap is located where?
TN
Do you know where Salmon Arm is?
KF
Yes.
TN
It's in that area.
KF
So Salmon...-
TN
The Schuswap Lake area.
KF
Ok.
TN
Yeah.
TN
So it's one of the most beautiful areas in BC...
TN
The salmon run that goes up the Fraser River?
KF
Yeah...yeah.
TN
That's where they congregate in the Adam's River area and that's where you go for the viewing. So-
KF
So quite picturesque then? At least the landscape?
TN
It's beautiful country...Yeah.
KF
Yeah.... So both of your families were at Schuswap Lake?
TN
Yeah, this is amazing.
TN
Both our father's families and -
KF
Oh father's families.
TN
- Both our mother's families ended up in Lillooet.
KF
Really?!
TN
Yeah! laughs
KF
Oh! And that's purely by coincidence, right?
TN
Just by...yeah.
KF
Oh my god, that's funny! So, just to keep going with what you were saying about your family. So your mother was – family was moved to Lillooet, what did they do there during the internment?
TN
Well these families were quite self-sustaining too, but -
TN
Yes.
TN
It wasn't a group of eleven, I think it was about...
TN
Quite a few...
TN
Sixty...
KF
Larger group.
TN
Sixty cabins?
KF
Oh wow.
TN
I just looked it up, 'bout sixty cabins and a little over a hundred people. So I guess some had two family members –er two sets of families in the cabins, I don't know. I know my grandfather had a car and whenever anybody got sick in Lillooet in the Japanese Community - because they couldn't live in the main town, they had to live in east Lillooet, a lot far away from the regular... Lillooet members. So because he had a car, if anybody needed a medical help, he would have to drive or my uncle would have to drive people to Litton to get medical help.
KF
Oh wow...
TN
So I have an uncle who - he was the youngest of the three kids and he was twenty-five and my family believes that he contracted tuberculosis on one of those trips.
TN
From driving somebody.
TN
Driving somebody to the Litton hospital. And he got very sick and passed away, but he was only twenty-five...
KF
Oh so quite young.
TN
Mhm. So that was the same year that I was born. So that's why I remember nervous laugh.
KF
Oh, I see. So was that, was that the only car then that was –
TN
Mhm.
KF
- In that area that was relied upon...
TN
Mhm.
KF
And so I guess almost like, in some ways, a taxi service?
TN
Yeah I guess so laughs
KF
laughs
TN
A free taxi service.
TN
Yeah.
KF
laughs A free taxi service.
TN
And then, I think, you know, the church people helped. And I know my mom used to teach Sunday school.
KF
Oh okay.
TN
She did some music with some of the younger people in the Japanese community because I know his mom remembers singing...
KF
Oh really.
TN
Singing... I think your mom sang with the choir or something, but my mom was leading – I don't know, something like that. It was just...And I don't know what my grandfather did laughs. No idea...
KF
laughs.
TN
I don't know what my grandparents did...
TN
Her grandfather was a boat builder.
TN
Yeah before the war he was a - he used to build pleasure craft boats.
KF
Oh really?
TN
Boats, yeah so....
TN
Yeah, Hasegawa...
TN
Yeah.
KF
Hasegawa, oh okay.
TN
There's a promenade now in New West Quay. Towards the end they have set up some pictures that they put into the- like you know there are seating areas?
TN
You mean Richmond Quay?
TN
No, no New West Quay.
TN
Oh New West Quay, okay.
KF
Mhm.
TN
And on the edges of the benches they show old pictures of activities in New West before the war and so, my grandfather's - one of the boats he built - is in one of the pictures there. I just saw my cousin showed me last year.
KF
Oh really?
TN
So I think that's one of the boats that grandpa built.
KF
Wow. Just to, kind of, move a little bit forward, has your family told you what kind of property that they lost during the uprooting and the internment? What did they have beforehand or...?
00:20:04.000
00:20:04.000
TN
You know, I know that my aunt and my two cousins have been interviewed so they would probably have a clearer idea, but I know my mum's family was in Queensburough.
KF
Okay.
TN
And they had, I thought, maybe two or three properties...
KF
Two or three properties? Oh wow.
TN
Yeah, oh houses, I think, but that you'd have to corroborate with the other interviews, I'm not positive.
KF
Sure.
TN
I know my dad's family lived in Steveston and they had three or four properties.
KF
Wow.
TN
So...yeah. I know my grandmother kept telling me this story over and over whenever she had the grandkids around and she said that you'd know during that time because you only had – what? Twenty-four, forty-eight hours to pack up and leave?
TN
Yeah.
KF
Mhm.
TN
One suitcase each.
TN
She said that she remembers, you know, they had a pickup truck that they could take up things going to Magna Bay. And she says, “We had to pack that truck” and she said, “I remember driving away from my home in Steveston and just being broken-hearted because she said that stuff was falling out of the truck because they'd overloaded it” awkward laughs.
KF
Oh...
TN
So you know, as you're driving away from your home you're seeing, I mean it's only things but it was a part of their life, I guess is just that, you know? Having being forced to leave right that day. She said she'll never forget...that's her lasting – her last impression, I guess, or lasting impression of having to leave her home in Steveston was that they had to rush, it's chaotic, terrible and...just things falling off the truck...
TN
This is the Nishis.
TN
This is the Nishis side, my dad's side.
KF
Ok, so your maiden name is Nishi, then?
TN
Yes.
KF
Okay.
TN
Yeah.
KF
Did your grandmother ever say what kind of things she brought to the camp with her? What kind of things she packed in that truck?
TN
No, I think it was just the basics. Whatever you needed to live on a daily basis.
KF
The basics, right.
TN
Because you were restricted as to how much you could bring too, so...they virtually lost everything, as everybody did, I guess, you know pretty much.
KF
Yeah one suitcase isn't –
TN
Yeah.
KF
It's virtually nothing, isn't it? Yeah. So the camp itself where they lived, you said it was quite self-sustaining?
TN
It seems to have been.
KF
Yeah?
TN
Yes in Lillooet, yes.
KF
Can I ask what the properties were like there that they lived on? Were they cabins?
TN
They were cabins.
KF
Cabins?
TN
Mhm.
KF
Yeah?
TN
Stacked one right beside each other. They'd be six or eight rows and...yeah.
KF
Wow.
TN
Just cabins.
KF
Wow.
TN
And, I don't know anything about what life was like there. Nobody ever talked about it.
KF
Nobody talked about it, mhm.
TN
To me, and they past away before I was ever old enough, really to, you know, to ask them about that.
KF
Yeah...
TN
So whereas Magna Bay they were pretty free.
TN
Oh yeah.
TN
Eleven, twelve families, they grew strawberries. Delivered them to Alberta.
TN
They had some cows...
TN
Cows....
KF
laughs Some cows laughs. And those British Sovereign strawberries, hey? laughs. TONY and
TN
laughs.
KF
All right, well let's just put a pause to your narrative there, Vivian. And kind of get Tony caught up here. So, Tony, do you think you can tell us a little bit about your childhood and background?
TN
Sure, ok. So, I was born in 1950 in Vernon.
KF
Okay.
TN
And, so my grandparents opted to go to Schuswap Lake, or Magna Bay. And I lived there for the first three years of my life and during that time – oh one interesting memory was, I befriended this cow and I came to sort of - my parents said I loved this cow and one day the cow disappeared. And I said, “What happened to the cow?” And they said, “It's right here!” Like it was part of our meal!
KF
Oh my god! laughs
TN
For years I refused to eat meat because there were tongues and it was my cow...So on that farm we grew, strawberries, chickens, cows, um... oh and vegetables. We had a whole wack of vegetables. But it was very, very, rustic...yeah very... rustic living...There were no true amenities. I remember sometimes when we didn't feel like eating the food, um, we used to throw it into the cracks of the house. And of course nobody noticed because it was rustic, it was just so bare bones.
00:25:24.000
00:25:24.000
KF
Just blended right in laughs.
TN
laughs yeah...
KF
Tony, in our pre-conversation to this recording, you said that your grandparents and parents were uprooted and interned so prior to the uprooting, what did your grandparents and parents do for a living?
TN
Oh, my grandfather had a shoe repair shop and he became quite well-known on Powell Street because he was known as the blind shoemaker.
KF
Oh?
TN
Not the blind swordsman, but the blind shoemaker.
KF
Laughs
TN
And, my grandmother, she had a barber shop. So they both came to Canada . Most Japanese-Canadians back then, they came to Canada in hopes that they would become wealthy and then they'd move back to Japan, and most – and this is a personal observation, but most Japanese-Canadians who came to Canada did not fit in Japanese society, for whatever reason. You know maybe they were the second son and they weren't going to inherit anything.
TN
Mhm.
TN
Or, you know, there were all kinds of reasons, but they just did not fit, and so this was true of my own grandparents and so anyways he worked as a shoemaker and you know why he moved to Canada was because his eye sight was so bad. In Japan, you know, if your eyesight's not good, it can be tough. And he kind of fooled my grandmother into marrying him. She didn't realize how blind he was.
KF
laughs Oh I see.
TN
And so she had a really tough life. In fact, she died at the age of, I believe it was fifty-six. She had a very hard life. And so they ran the farm and then my father when I was about aged three, maybe not quite four, he went to my grandfather and said, “You know what? We're now allowed to go back to the Coast” and he said, “I want to move back and I'm going to start a shoe repair shop.” So my grandfather said “Okay we've got this family pot of money,” and he gave him, I think, one tenth of whatever was in the pot. My father came with that money and started a shoe repair shop and as long as I remembered my father working, he always got up around 6:30 in the morning, had his breakfast, drove to work, and didn't come back until about 6:20. And that was his life, six days a week until he retired. Oh! But he did retire early, that was a good thing. I think he retired about aged fifty. So-
KF
Ohh, oh yeah that's quite early...
TN
And during that period of time when he came back to Vancouver, he ended up buying eleven houses. And when he retired he sold all of his stocks - and this was his mistake - and he bought this giant-sized building.
KF
So wait, just to situate this year-wise. When was this happening?
TN
This was roughly, um...
TN
Forty-four years ago.
TN
Yeah forty-four years ago
KF
Okay.
TN
Yeah, so he bought this giant-sized building in New West. Like here's a whole city block, but what he didn't realize was there's a rule when you retire. Never do anything that you haven't done before. Business-wise. You see he didn't know the commercial market so of course he buys this giant-sized building, well that was great, but then all of a sudden, all of these people moved out and all of a sudden he was stuck with this building that was one third full and he couldn't rent them out, you know, the unit. Whereas if he had a whole bunch of houses, like added to his eleven houses and bought like, four more houses or five more houses, they're easy, you know, somebody moves out, you just rent it and it's rented again. So that was his- but he's fine. I mean, he still lives in West Van, he's okay.
00:30:18.000
00:30:18.000
KF
Your grandparents, let's just see here, so your grandfather had a shoe repair store on Powel Street. Do you know or remember the name of that business on Powell Street?
TN
Oh...Mmm no. But my father probably would remember the name.
KF
Okay.
TN
And he would remember the name of the barber shop.
KF
That your grandmother owned.
TN
That my grandmother had, yeah.
KF
Okay so they owned two separate businesses.
TN
Yes.
KF
Was the barbershop located on Powel Street as well or?
TN
I think it was just off Powell, if I remember, closer to Hastings.
KF
Oh I see. Okay...okay. Wow.
TN
So when the internment occurred, they decided that they would go up to Magna Bay. So my father always told me this story of- they only had, like I think, two days to sell everything. So of course he says “You're getting ten cents on the dollar, you know, all your supplies, all your everything”...equipment and he um... but he said the funny thing was when they added up all their cash, because my grandfather was blind, he said to my father “Okay, I want you to keep track of all of our cash.” So he added up everything, he says that they left with close to ten thousand dollars when they went up to Magna Bay. Now ten thousand doesn't sound like a lot today, but –
KF
Back then...
TN
Back then...1940...forty-one...
KF
Around 1942, yeah.
TN
1942.
TN
Forty-two.
TN
It was quite a bit of money, so well, even today it's not a lot because if you account for inflation and everything, it's probably about three or four hundred thousand dollars today. But, it was still a lot for them considering they only owned this barbershop and shoe repair shop.
KF
Wow...
TN
So they went up to Magna Bay and did their thing.
KF
So did they sell the businesses then?
TN
No.
KF
Or they just liquidated everything?
TN
They just liquidated everything. Nobody was going to buy anything from a Japanese-Canadian because they knew they could just take it at some point.
KF
Oh, really?!
TN
Oh yeah, that's why you hear stories of people getting ten cents on the dollar over and over and over because we had no choice, I mean, the only thing you could do is just get– if you had something that was worth a hundred bucks. You sold it for ten bucks.
KF
Wow...So, but, what you're saying is people knew that they could get -
TN
Oh yeah.
KF
These personal properties, or, items essentially either really cheap or for free later on?
TN
Yeah, or once the building was empty. Every so often you hear a story of a Japanese-Canadian, who transferred the title of his house, or whatever, to a friend, like a Caucasian person, and being able to retrieve it later on. But I don't – I haven't kept track of those stories so...but in your wanderings you may find stories like that.
TN
A few people.
KF
But there were cases of people who were transferring –
TN
Well we've heard, but I can't say for certain.
TN
It was some years ago...
TN
That that happened.
KF
Okay, yeah, I think –
TN
But those would be great stories because –
KF
Totally!
TN
Because, you know, the person that you entrusted had to be pretty honest to say “Hey, I'm giving it back to you.”
KF
Yeah, it's a big responsibility to look after somebody's property and then, like you said, you don't know how long the war's going to go on, right? It could be decades until things could've finished. Yeah I'll definitely make note of that because, I mean, part of the other part of the project is we're also looking at the experiences or memories from the non-Japanese-Canadian perspective, so Caucasian families. Like not only ones who bought property, really, at really inexpensive prices, but also ones that, you know, even several generations down or decades down, find out that their house that they now own was confiscated or a property that was owned by Japanese-Canadians and their memoires of that. So if there are people, like you said, who did take on that title, that'd be a whole 'nother perspective, right?
00:35:33.000
00:35:33.000
TN
That would be a great story, if you- but it's so long ago now. It would be hard for you to find...
KF
Yeah, it would almost be like you're picking through generations and seeing what you can find. So you're family then almost sounds like they did quite a bit of preparation before they left.
TN
Um, no. Because I don't think anybody expected the Government to suddenly say, “Hey! You guys are all moving off the coast.”
KF
Right, yeah.
TN
So, but certainly our family was much poorer than Vivian's family. I mean, both in terms of actual dollars and education. Oh and my father, he was actually pulled out of high school when he was in grade eight because my grandfather was blind. This was well before the war and my grandfather said you can't go to school anymore. So the superintendent actually came to my grandfather and said, Look, we could put your father through high school, instead of whispers and counts to self nine, ten, eleven, twelve...Oh eight. Wait, nine, ten, eleven, twelve. Oh instead of four years, three years, but my grandfather said “No, we need him to work.”
TN
To help support the family.
KF
Support the family, I see. So your father then, I guess, helped in the shoe repair and later on he decided to open up a shoe repair business.
TN
Yeah.
KF
He learned that from when he was younger from your grandfather?
TN
Yeah.
KF
I see, interesting. So sounds like you have a bit of memory of what Shuswap lake was like at the time. Can you describe what the building or the place that you lived in and the surroundings, what did it look like?
TN
So the family – there were six brothers and sisters and my grandparents. And they were all living in this – it was a log cabin, which they built. Like all of the families built these. So they must've all banded together, chopped down the trees, and built each cabin, on each property. But they were separated, like each of them bought around twenty acres. I'd say at least twenty acres of land. And so it was quite a trek to go between from property to property, but they each a log cabin. And the one we had always seemed really big to me as a child, but as an adult I realized, you know, just remembering various parts of the cabin, it wasn't very big. So to fit, like eight people in that cabin is kind of astounding.
KF
What was the layout like of the cabin?
TN
In the centre was this pot-belly stove. And I remember that because when I was a child – when I was first born – my first memory that I remember of at all was not of my mother or of my father, it was of my grandmother carrying me and wandering around this stove over and over. And that's only memory – that's my very first memory. Maybe I was like, not even a year old, but I remember her going around the stove.
KF
Wow. And was it one, big, open concept cabin?
TN
Yeah it was pretty open. Yeah I don't remember any real walls – oh except! Oh no, there was one room to the left, where my grandfather lived. And my grandfather was kind of like Vivian's in that they both lost a leg because they were busy eating candies all the time.
00:40:03.000
00:40:03.000
KF
What?!
TN
Diabetes...
KF
Diabetes? Really!?
TN
I mean, it was unbelievable, you know, they didn't understand that eating all this sugar was bad for you.
KF
Yeah...
TN
So I guess it was a sign of having, you know, money or something –
TN
I don't think anybody understood in those days though, really.
TN
Yeah. So the other sign- symbol of being in Magna Bay was if you lost a finger, it meant you were working in a sawmill, yeah.
KF
Ah, yes.
TN
A lot of Japanese-Canadians were without one, you know, part of their finger chopped off.
KF
So there was a Saw Mill in Magna Bay then?
TN
Close by, yes.
KF
Oh, close by.
TN
And my grandfather sent all the kids to work in that saw mill to make some money.
KF
Really?
TN
Oh and apple picking.
KF
Apple picking...wow. So, it seems like, like Vivian said before, you guys had quite a bit of freedom as to what you did?
TN
Yeah because my father always talked about how he organized community dances and stuff like that. So...
KF
In Magna Bay?
TN
Magna Bay.
KF
Oh, wow.
TN
All these old pictures, like St. Valentine's Day Dance, you know, Christmas celebrations and they seemed to have had fun, the young people.
KF
Quite a social community then?
TN
Yeah.
TN
Yeah.
KF
So just to go down that pathway quickly, so your father helped organize dances, do you know what other type of things the community did together or? Or common activities?
TN
Oh I'm sure that they did all the traditional stuff like New Year's. Oshogatsu, things like that. And usually, like Japanese-Canadian families on New Year's, a lot of families would go house to house on New Year's Day so...and, you know, you'd eat some of the good food from one house to another house, another house, yeah.
KF
Did you guys eat osechi? Like the traditional Japanese New Year's –
TN
You mean the rice with the brown beans?
KF
Yeah, like uh –
TN
You mean in the boxes? Yeah.
KF
The boxes, the lacquered boxes.
TN
Oh, oh yes.
KF
And I guess it wouldn't necessarily like a traditional osechi because you guys just used what you had, but –
TN
Uh yes. But once people came back to Vancouver, we tended to make very traditional food.
KF
Oh really?
TN
And in fact, we had some students come to visit our house over the years, you know, like high school students or university students. And they would stay for a week just to visit and we discovered that in Japan more and more – they weren't even going for the base material, they were starting from pre-made stuff so I think we were becoming more authentic than the Japanese.
KF
Yeah there's a lot of premade stuff, even now that you can get because it's difficult to get stuff. We're always bringing stuff over from Japan so we'll rely on stores here or like, my grandfather is getting quite old, but he'll send some stuff over through packages over for New Year's because my mom always insists that we have to celebrate oshogatsu and New Year's. Like, we do not go anywhere; the house and family are on lockdown New Year's Day laughs.
TN
Oh that's nice.
KF
And you know, family friends will call and be like “Oh! Let's go out and have a drink,” and my dad's like, “Can't the wife will kill me, it's New Year's!” laughs TONY and
TN
laughs
KF
Well that's great. Now just to delve further a little bit with life in Shuswap Lake... Do you remember, with Vivian, do you remember any household items or key toys or any items that you kept that kind of stick out or that your family had?
TN
Um...no we had tractor, which we would play on. I mean, without running.
KF
Okay laughs
TN
We had this barn and by the time I was six or seven, I used to go back to Shuswap lake grade one, two, and three, the summers of each year.
KF
Really?
TN
Yeah, I just loved that area and ...
00:45:07.000
00:45:07.000
TN
He had an aunt and uncle-in law that remained in that area.
TN
That remained there, yeah.
KF
Oh, so would you stay with that aunt and uncle?
TN
Yes.
KF
Okay.
TN
It was very carefree, I mean, we would spend our days fishing and catching grasshoppers, butterflies, all kinds of stuff. It was a wonderful life. I mean it was hard for our parents, of course, but for us as kids, just incredible memories.
KF
You said you were still quite young, but did you do any schooling in Shuswap?
TN
Oh, no, all my schooling was in Vancouver.
KF
Okay.
TN
I started out at 12th and Cambie? Do you know where the Curry restaurant is?
KF
Yeah!
TN
Okay and they put a big building around two older buildings.
KF
Yeah!
TN
Yeah, well I went to one of those schools. It was called Model School.
KF
Okay.
TN
And so grade one to three I went to Model School and my parents lived at 16th and Cambie at the time. And then in grade four, they moved up to 60th and Cambie, so then I went Sir Wilfred Laurier and then to Churchill High School.
KF
Okay.
TN
When I went to Churchill, it was probably at least fifty percent Jewish and in my grade, I think there were only two Japanese-Canadians, me and this other lady, and then maybe ten percent Chinese. But today if you go to Churchill, it's probably ninety-five percent Chinese and five percent white.
KF
So the demographic has changed.
TN
It's a dramatic change, yeah.
KF
There's are a lot of stories or memories from lots of different Japanese-Canadians about attending language school. Did you ever attend language school?
TN
No, no language school. In fact, what my mother did was she had us take elocution lessons. And that's the art of speaking really clearly and doing public speaking, acting, things like that. But everything was based around English. Now, I hated elocution lessons and after a year I said to my mother, “I'm not going anymore.” So then I took lessons on French horn and joined a band and...oh and of course I played piano to the grade ten level. Oh and she stressed art too. She wanted us to be really all-around, but not Japanese. Just really good and, sort of, in a broad area of knowledge.
KF
So then beyond things like Oshagatsu and things like that, were there any Japanese traditions practiced in your household? Or like you said, it sounds like your mother emphasized more of the integration.
TN
Yeah well we didn't speak Japanese. My parents would every so often speak Japanese if there was something they didn't want us to know, but um –
KF
Yeah, that happens a lot still laughs.
TN
But, no there was no – Oh! But something I think you can never escape from no matter how Canadianized they wanted us to be is that way of being Japanese.
KF
Mmm.
TN
You can't get away from that and even like, do you know the term wabi-sabi? It's the concept of Japanese beauty. And in it the three most important parts are - I can't remember exactly...imperfection. So beauty is imperfect, beauty is impermanent, and beauty is incomplete. Now I never knew those words, but all my life I've always looked at things, beauty, and I've always remembered- I've almost instinctively known that the concept that “Gee that's not complete, but it's truly beautiful and imperfect and impermanent.”
00:50:05.000
00:50:05.000
TN
And so those are things that you can't escape from like the typical Caucasian guy, he looks at something beautiful, he would never think of those concepts. And yet, it's ingrained in us at some...hard to describe level. And the very fact that we have certain traditions, like New Year's and oh! And the sense of giri, you know that sense of when somebody does something for you, you have an obligation to do something back and of at least in equal value? And I always tell people when they buy me a dinner I say, “Don't buy a dinner because then I have to remember to buy you dinner next time.” I would rather use the North American way of we each pay our own way, you know, like when we go out with friends... but that sense of giri is so strongly ingrained in us, I mean, you know most Caucasian guys, you do something for them, you never– well number one, of course, when you do something for someone you never expect something to happen back to you, but quite often nothing will happen back. So that's sense is...it's astounding. And when Vivian and I went to Japan about six year's ago, we stayed at the Imperial Hotel and it's a really nice hotel. And after about four days we looked at each other and said, you know there's something about – even though we don't understand what people are talking about - there's something about being home. And it was really true. So it's different.
KF
Hmm, that way of life. Yeah...
TN
That way of being there.
KF
Yeah.
TN
There are ten million people just like us and not because they looked like us! It was their thinking...
KF
Totally. Well my family's side, on my mother's side - Japanese side, we are all Shinto. So that idea of imperfection and beauty and that there is no such thing as perfection has been so solidly ingrained, I – like I totally get what you're saying because it's just... yeah. It's little things, I don't think my mother consciously ingrained those things, but it was always, you know, when we'd go back and you go do certain things or you go back to temples and things like that, it's just the way of being, it's your way of life and you don't really think about it. And it's amazing how much it sticks with you later on even living in Canada, there's still some things that I think about a little bit differently or approach a little bit differently.
TN
Right.
KF
And you know you don't really think about why and then my mom will say, “Well yeah, obviously. You're – we did Shinto stuff all the time every time we went back to Japan. That's why!” But yeah it is...and if you're not a part of that or you weren't raised in that sort of upbringing, it's really difficult to empathize or understand a hundred percent, you know, that perspective, right? Isn't there in Canada, for example, but as soon as you go back to Japan, even when I was back just last week, yeah, it just slides right in. And everyone is sort of on that thought process. Yeah, I totally – it's so off topic, but I totally get what you're saying. Yeah, yeah...So it sounds like for you two, it's more a subconscious passing of ways of life or practices, but nothing really explicit, it was more...
TN
That's right. She wanted us to be...she just wanted us to have a great life in Canada because she was well aware that we weren't going back to Japan. We were here to stay as Canadian citizens.
KF
So your parents were Nisei then?
TN
Nisei.
KF
Were they planning on going back to Japan eventually?
TN
No, there was no way my dad was going back to Japan. He only understood one way of doing business and that was to repair shoes and he always said to me, “When you do something, you become the very best at it.” And he became one of the very best.
00:55:17.000
00:55:17.000
TN
He serviced all of the - what you call - “upscale” or “high-end clients” in Vancouver. You know, like, Gordon Southam from the Southam family. He went there, his wife went there, the Segals went there. Pretty well all of the, sort of, elite in Vancouver they went there. And in fact, once there was a lady, who he got really annoyed at, so he said to her, “Don't ever come back to my store!” And she started crying, she left the store and then a couple days later, her husband came and said, “Do you mind fixing these shoes?”
TN
laughs
KF
Which happened to be wife's shoes, I'm assuming? laughs
TN
Yeah and he knew the husband because he always came in for shoe shines all the time. So it was a good lesson for me, even though he was a shoe repair man, he aimed to be the very best.
KF
Did your grandfather and father repair shoes when they lived in Shuswap? Or what did they do?
TN
No, it was all strawberries farm.
KF
It was all the strawberries. And the strawberries, I'm assuming, they made profit from those strawberries?
TN
Yes and there was an interesting little side story. They were introduced to- a company came up to them and said, “Look, we can gas all these strawberries and they'll last three or four days longer.” And so they had a long discussion with all of the farmers and they decided that no, they didn't want to do that. So they were the forerunners of people who thought, hey we're not going to mess with our food, so even though it wouldn't last as long, they were satisfied.
KF
And you'd mentioned that they were shipped out to Alberta usually?
TN
Yeah!
TN
Like to a co-op.
KF
To a co-op?
TN
That kind of idea.
KF
Oh okay, wow. So what happened when you and your family finally decide to move back? What happened to the strawberry farm?
TN
Oh well because there were six brothers and sisters, my father was the first of the siblings to leave.
KF
Okay.
TN
So he moved down here and then the rest of them stayed up there.
KF
Oh they stated there?
TN
Yeah and then eventually, Tusatsu moved to Lumby –
TN
Which is near Vernon...
KF
Yeah.
TN
And then they built a second house on the property and they lived on the second house. And when my grandfather passed away, the two remaining kids, my father took them in and said to them, “Okay, you guys each have to get a job of some kind.” So my aunt went to hairdressing school and my uncle said, “Well I don't want to go to school,” because in Magna Bay, there was a rumor that he and a couple of other kids had burned a school down. So he worked for my father.
KF
Oh, I see. Does your family still have property on Shuswap?
TN
No, they sold it. Years after my grandfather passed away, my uncle actually paid all the property taxes and he assumed that the farm was his because he was the last boy to leave. And then decided one day that he was tired of paying taxes and he was going to sell it – so he did sell it. But they did have a little – one of the other uncles wanted half or something– anyways they all fixed all that. You know how families are, sometimes they argue over things.
TN
laughs
KF
Yeah, property is always a difficult one. And Vivian, your family, when the war was over... the property that they lived on, did they stay there, keep that, or what happened?
TN
No, my mum's side, as I said, stayed in Lillooet for about seven, eight years –
KF
Right...
TN
But my dad's side, they came back down to Vancouver right away. And then my grandfather, after the war, set up a business selling suzuko to Japan. Salmon Roe.
01:00:11.000
01:00:11.000
KF
Right...
TN
So he had a place down at the foot of Gore Avenue near Chinatown, by the Canadian Fisheries. They used to give him the salmon roe and my grandfather, and his workers, my grandmother, would process the salmon roe and ship it off to Japan. So he was very happy with his business because he thought he had a good product and Japan kept buying and buying it until I guess the sixties or mid-sixties, seventies, I don't know. The Canadian Fishing Company decided that they could make a profit from it so they bought out a number of the small operators like my grandfather so that shut down his business. But he was retirement age by then, so –
KF
So it was a natural progression. Okay so let's delve in to more how you guys got or heard about the internment and the uprooting. You guys both have, evidently, strong connections...How did you guys hear about the uprooting and the internment? What happened... Where did that initially happen? Where did you hear about that history and that series of events that happened?
TN
pause For me it wasn't as positive a thing because what happened when we moved to Kamloops, I suddenly I was like seven or eight and I suddenly started realizing that I was not encouraged to bring friends home...Caucasian friends. And I didn't understand because my friends – these friends would invite me over and I'd be running up the block and playing, I was going out almost every day to play with my friends, but when it came time to invite them over because I would ask my parents, “Well can't I have my friend pack come over, my friend Linda,” and they'd say, “No.” And then my mum would say to me – I got so mad, I would get so upset at times that she finally said that, “I can't help you with this, that this is your father's decision.” So he was so bitter that I wasn't allowed to have friends, only Japanese people.
KF
Only Japanese people.
TN
And there weren't that many. So it was not the happiest situation for someone like myself because I didn't have any siblings. So that's basically, you know, when I told you earlier I don't really have that many memories it maybe because I'm blocking some things, that just sort of came to mind now. Yeah I wasn't allowed to have anybody...
KF
And you had mentioned before that nobody had really talked about their experiences –
TN
My dad would sometimes he would get frustrated and he would say things that he couldn't do as well because of the war. But never really a full explanation, I knew that the families had to move away from their homes and that they lost property and they lost money and they had to start all over again, but that would be about it. He would just...sometimes he would let that much out when he was upset, but I never really got a full explanation, that's why my memories are not like his.
KF
So where did you eventually find out or have a broader picture of what happened during your father's time?
TN
Only when I became an adult.
KF
As an adult.
TN
When he started becoming involved in the Redress...
KF
Oh really?
TN
...Movement when we were living in Ottawa is when I started to find out exactly what had happened and I started asking more questions. And then got more clear-cut answers, you know, but I didn't really delve into that until I finished university.
KF
So would you ask community members or friends?
TN
It was more family, I'd ask my grandmother... She would talk to me in Japanese and I'd picked up the gist of what she was saying, but I couldn't respond to her, you know...
01:05:06.000
01:05:06.000
KF
Right...
TN
And so my uncle now whose living has a very clear idea of what went on because he was a young man in those days, he would've been in his twenties or I guess in his twenties or whatever. So he has very strong memories of what happened. Remembers a lot... and just like his dad. They are two people that you might want to contact because–
KF
Yeah.
TN
If you ever feel that you need to get further information because –
KF
Yeah...
TN
His dad rattles off the names of all these people and what they were doing.
TN
Yeah, well he's getting older. He's ninety-four now so...
TN
He's getting older; he's ninety-four...
KF
Oh he's ninety-four! Wow, but still sharp?
TN
Pretty sharp...
TN
Yeah! He just can't hear a bit, so he wears the hearing aids, but he's pretty good, he's better with wearing them now.
KF
Mmm, I see. Ok so for you Tony, was this narrative of uprooting and internment and property loss, was it a common narrative throughout your childhood or was it spoken about, not spoken about?
TN
It was sort of spoken about very matter of factly. It wasn't a judgment thing like “White guys are bad, never trust them,” or anything like that. It was always like it was part of life and it happened. And that goes to the root of the way Japanese thinking is, is that you accept what happens and whenever ...I'm going off subject a bit but you know this whole Greek situation?
KF
Mhmm.
TN
You know if this happened in Japan, the people of Japan would not riot.
KF
There wouldn't be protests!
TN
No, they would sort of say “Hey this is really unfortunate, but you know we've been living beyond our means and we have to pay the price.” And that's what it would be. And I think a lot of Japanese families are the same thing that they said, well this was wrong, but it happened and we're going to make the best of it that we can. And that's the way my parents sort of looked at it. Although my father always said to us kids, he said, “When you graduate from university and you're applying for a job and there's you and there's a white guy, you better be at least ten percent better than that white guy or else they're always going to choose the white guy.” And it was sort of a good lesson for us in the sense that we always knew that we had to be good no matter what we did in life. So it forced us to- that concept of excellence was always there.
KF
So would you say that that was a guiding mandate in some ways for life and it influenced how you approached things?
TN
Yeah it had a strong influence because no matter what I did, I'd always immerse myself. Like when I decided that I was going to build houses, like a house, our house in Ottawa, for six months I lived and breathed houses and that's all I could think about...
TN
whispers He was reading! laughs
KF
laughs
TN
I dreamed about how I was building this house and I thought about all the bad things and I did budgets over and over and over. And it was unbelievable. And when I finally built the house, I built the house – we built our house - and a couple built a house next door to house and they hired a contractor. Well, we were not only faster than this contractor, we built a better product for way cheaper and my friend was so impressed, and in fact, the contractor came over and he said, “Do you mind if we look through your house?”
KF
Really?!
TN
Yeah, it was amazing because it all came from my father's thing of “You better be better than everybody else.”
KF
Sounds like your house was more than ten percent better than this other house laughs.
01:10:00.000
01:10:00.000
TN
Yeah, so –
TN
They were probably looking for holes.
KF
Holes! Yeah! laughs
TN
So I ended up building five houses in that area. It was a golf course, one acre lots so I built five of them – it was good.
KF
So you built houses for a while?
TN
Yeah, well I decided to leave my job as an economist; built houses...My first job was as a computer programmer for EBCO Industries in Vancouver.
TN
Here in Vancouver.
KF
Oh okay.
TN
And then we run out to Ottawa– oh I got my master's degree in finance and I wrote this exam...forgot what it was called. Anyways, it was this cross-country exam and they kept trying to interview me and I wasn't really planning on going to Ottawa. Finally they said, “We'd like to offer you a job,” and I said, “Oh I actually wasn't that interested,” and they said, “Do you know what? Ten thousand people wrote this exam, students across Canada...we're only hiring one hundred people.” Well that kind of got my attention. So then I talked to a bunch of profs and they all said, you should go to Ottawa. So we ended up going to Ottawa.
KF
And that's how you moved to Ottawa.
TN
Yeah. But you know the sad thing is, Thom Shoyama, he told me this story. How when he graduated from UBC and he got his – he was the gold medal student in accounting, like he was the absolute top student. He couldn't get a job. And he went back to his prof and said, “I'd like a job, but nobody will hire me,” and the prof said, “You know the unfortunate thing is nobody wants to hire a Japanese-Canadian right now because it's bad for business”. So the poor guy went to Saskatchewan – well of course, he eventually became famous: Deputy Minister of Finance.
KF
Yeah...
TN
Now Thom had a very strong influence on me because – and of course I didn't even know him at the time – he became Deputy Minister of Finance and when I joined the Government I was thinking, “I'd like to be Deputy Minister of Finance one day.” And he became one and I thought, “Oh my gosh! He's the first Japanese-Canadian to do that!”
KF
So a good driving motivation then?
TN
Well...no, it was a downer.
TN
laughs
KF
That's funny...
TN
But he was an amazing man.
KF
Yeah...
TN
There were three great Japanese-Canadian speakers: Thom Shoyama, David Suzuki, and Roger Obata. He's the guy that I said that you might run into on Redress stuff.
KF
Yeah...
TN
Roger Obata was an incredible speaker. And if I could've found one of those guys to go in front of the camera – oh, oh what we talked about...
KF
The camera, yes.
TN
That's what you needed.
KF
So they had that “it” factor.
TN
They had it.
KF
Ok let's fast forward a little bit more. How did you two meet?
TN
laughs
KF
Because it sounds like you guys had a lot of life connections well before!
TN
Yeah, yeah.
TN
Yeah, yeah, but we only found out after the fact, right? We were both selling –
TN
Well I'll tell this story since I like this story!
TN
Okay.
KF
laughs
TN
We were both going to UBC.
KF
Okay.
TN
And as my summer job I applied to the lady shoe department at Hudson's Bay. And they hired me so –and also Vivian happened to be there. So we're both selling ladies' shoes at Hudson's Bay and happy as clams and then –
TN
Avoiding each other because he's Japanese...
TN
Well we weren't avoiding each other, but yeah we were sort of wary of each other.
KF
Ahh...
TN
That was the sad thing about Japanese-Canadians back then. They were always a little suspicious of each other whereas – and I remember a Chinese guy, Sean Gunn, writing a poem about how as an Asian, he would pass by an Asian person and he would turn his head away and the other guy would turn his head away. And then later he saw two black people passing each other and they would – well not high five each other back then – but they would greet each other. And he says, “That's the way we should be.” Ok anyways getting back to our story...
KF
laughs.
TN
We would go out from time to time on a platonic, sort of, relationship of, you know, having pizza or coffee and we'd talk about all kinds of stuff. And then one day I said to Vivian, I said, “You know my cousin doesn't have a girlfriend, so would you like me to introduce you to him?” and she said, “Oh sure.”
01:15:17.000
01:15:17.000
TN
So I introduced them and I had a girlfriend at the time and then six months later I no longer had that girlfriend so I phoned my cousin and I said, “So how are you doing with Vivian?” He says, “Oh I haven't seen her,” I mean, you know, he met her once and then he says, “I haven't seen her since then.” And I said, “Well do you mind if I go out with her?” and he says, “Oh sure.” And wouldn't you know it, I phone Vivian and that was okay, but that weekend he phones Vivian, goes out with her and then he introduces her to the whole family! Like, everybody.
KF
Ohh...sneaky...
TN
Now that's a bad thing to do because when you introduce somebody to the family, it's like, that's an important person.
KF
That's a big deal.
TN
Anyways we went out on our first date, then for the next fourteen days we went out together every night. And by the end of the fourteenth date, I said to Vivian, “Would you marry me?” and she said, “Yes,” and so then we told our parents and then...So three months later we were married. So it's an amazing story because it didn't – my thing always in life was that you pretty well know, pretty quickly if somebody is the right person for a lifetime. And it's turned out to be true and – oh yeah and one other amazing fact about Vivian. When I proposed I said to Vivian, “I'm going to be an artist and we're going to be really poor,” and she said, “Well that's okay.” Now the amazing thing about that is, you know, in this club if I went out with any woman in this club and I said to them, “I'm going to be an artist and I'm going to be really poor.” Do you think any of them are going to marry me? No! Not one single lady!
KF
laughs
TN
Because that's the whole club mentality is that, you know, financial wealth is the most important thing, but that's not true it's that relationship that you have and the quality of it. And so...yes that was an amazing thing about my wife.
KF
Yeah, that's so nice.
TN
Yeah.
TN
I went back and got my teaching degree, like the one year teaching degree, I thought, “Well if he does his art then at least one of us hopefully gets a job and at least I can help him.”
TN
Oh yeah. Although at the same as you got your teaching degree – yeah after a year I decided, “You know what? I don't want to be as poor.” Like one of my friends, he lived in this place –
TN
laughs
KF
That dream was over laughs
TN
He didn't even have hot water! And I was thinking, “Oh I'd like to have some hot water. I don't want to suffer that badly for my art!”
KF
laughs That's funny!
TN
So I went back for my master's degree and then that year she got her teacher's degree.
KF
Can I ask what kind of art you wanted to pursue?
TN
Oh, sculpture and etching. See what happened was when I was in grade eleven – no grade ten – I took a summer pottery course and I got so good that I took some of my pottery to a local gallery and they said right off the bat, “We'll buy that from you.” And I was so excited because, I mean, who just buys your art from you? And –
KF
Oh my god, people dream about that for years!
TN
Yeah, so then I told my parents, “You know what? One of the pottery instructors at Vancouver School of Art –er Emily Carr, said I could use their studio.” And my mother got so worried because by the time I got to grade twelve I said, “You know I think I'm going to become a professional potter.” She got so sick, she was in the hospital and I thought she was dying because of my decisions so I said, “Mom, I promise I will finish UBC.” And then of course, miraculously she got better and –
TN
laughs
KF
Funny timing...
TN
Yeah, funny timing...And then, yes, I finished UBC. And by then I had lost my interest in – well I decided that pottery was more of a craft than pure art. And although I love, I don't know, have you seen pottery by Wayne Ngan?
KF
No...
TN
Oh some of his really good stuff is –
TN
It's on Hornby, it's been on Hornby for years.
KF
Oh Hornby? Really? Okay.
01:20:12.000
01:20:12.000
TN
Yeah, it's out of this world. It's just unbelievable stuff.
KF
Can I ask – this is sort of off topic, but what kind things would you make or...?
TN
Oh okay, so if it was etching and sculpture it would've been all sort of ultra-modern.
KF
Oh okay.
TN
...In approach. Pottery is a different sort of world...it's hard to get, sort of, way out there because if you use – like I like the wheel so basically everything is kind of round and short. So yeah, that's why I decided was the wrong thing. I like etching because you could replicate it and sell it for a really cheap price. I was lucky because I took a bunch of my stuff to the Equinox gallery and Paul Wong was the owner at the time. And I was so thrilled at the time because –
TN
Boshi, Boshi gallery.
TN
Boshi, sorry. And so he says to me, “I'd like to take you out for lunch.” And I thought, here I am this starving student and this guy's going to take me out for lunch, but when he took me out for lunch he said to me, “You have to paint.” And I said, “Paint?!” I said, “I hate painting,” and he said, “Why?” and I said, “Painting is one of the most elitist of the arts because you have to sell your painting for a really expensive price and only rich people can buy it. Whereas if I do etchings, a poor person can buy my etching and enjoy it.” But he said, “You know what? You're going to starve.” He says, “The guys who don't starve are the painters.” It's an interesting statement. But he's being practical so I've decided, you know what? Maybe art's not going to be the right thing.
KF
And you wanted some hot water, too? laughs
TN
laughs
TN
And I wanted hot water laughs. Yeah, I wanted hot water.
KF
So can I ask both of you then, you know, when Karen initially mentioned your name, she talked about – we talked about this today earlier on about your involvement with the Redress movement. Can both of you elaborate about how you became involved with that and what are your personal connections to it? What drove you to stick with the movement itself and see the settlement go through?
TN
When we were in Ottawa, there was this small Japanese-Canadian community and we started to grow quite close to it because, unlike Vancouver, it was just a very friendly group and they were, actually they were starving for new members and so it was really nice. So one day they said, “This guy's coming out from Toronto, his name was George Imai.” And George came up and said, “You know, I think I have an agreement with the government. And they will give us fifty million dollars to settle the whole issue of Redress”. And I listened and I didn't know Redress - the internment in its totality – but he gave us some of the numbers, you know I think it was like, fifteen thousand, twenty thousand people of Japanese ancestry who were sent to the camps or sent off the BC coast. And that was it, dividing all the numbers and stuff, and I was thinking “Gee, these numbers don't add up, it's like two thousand dollars a person,” and because I remembered what my grandparents and my parents had gone through and I thought, “Wow, I don't know if my grandfather would be very happy, if they plunked down two thousand dollars”. Oh and they weren't even getting the money, it was going to be put into a National fund. So I said, “Well what about the individuals? Shouldn't they get some sort of token compensation?” And he said, “Well, it's just too much trouble and it would take too long to negotiate something.”
01:25:06.000
01:25:06.000
TN
And I think at the time he had a pretty good idea; he'd thought everything through fairly quickly. And then somebody at the community started speaking up and saying, “You know, we don't think this is enough.” But they didn't know why because they couldn't quite figure it out. And fifty million just seemed like a very small amount. And so I started doing more and more research and then I looked at Ann Sunahara's work and Ken Adachi's stuff and then the Ottawa group asked me if I would represent them at the NAJC meetings and I said, “Sure.” So I went with another economist, actually, Elmer Hara. And Elmer was really good because he knew, you know the – what's that of Robert's Rules of – you know for meetings?
KF
Yes
TN
He was like this unbelievable expert. So he kept all the NAJC meetings going, he would say, “Okay, we can talk about this or you can't talk about this because...” it was really great. So between the two of us we started to...we had a fairly good influence and then we became good – or I became really good friend with all of the individual participants. And at one time I knew every single person to the point where I knew which way they would vote on different subject matter and that was an important thing to have in your mind at any time. And so the more I learned about Redress, of course, I realized that George Imai's proposal was not sufficient and so a group of us started to lobby very hard “We should not accept that,” and eventually we – yeah we just convinced... we took over the NAJC...and we looked at how we were perceived...And so our roadmap was we would write “Democracy Betrayed,” you know like the basic document first and so that became our centerpiece. Whenever people didn't know about Redress, thumb up thumb down, give it to them and then we presented that to Chretien and that became the basis of our claim.
KF
And Vivian how did you get involved with the Redress movement?
TN
points at Tony
KF
Through Tony?
TN
Mhm.
KF
And what were your reasons or interest for – I mean you say Tony obviously was the reason why you got involved with the Redress movement, but what were your reasons for staying on or maintaining a level of involvement with the settlement?
TN
Well I didn't have an active role. That was his area of interest so I can't honestly say that I wasn't on any committees or anything like that. I helped out at the local level, you know, joined the board of the JCA, the Ottawa, but as for direct involvement in Redress, no I didn't do anything. I supported it, you know, but...
KF
Yeah...Can I ask what kind of things was the local board that you were working with, what kind of things were they doing or were you involved with at this time?
TN
It's more community...things.
KF
Community-based.
TN
Yeah so cultural and social.
KF
Ah yeah, okay. But so you were more of a, like you said, a supportive role in this entire thing.
TN
Mhm.
KF
Did you meet a lot of these people that Tony was involved with? Or was it...?
TN
Oh the Ottawa people, yes. They were meeting quite a bit before the settlement and then some of the national people, we had a few gatherings at our house when they came from Vancouver and Toronto.
KF
Oh at your house. Oh okay.
TN
Actually we had quite a few parties at our house...
TN
Yeah.
KF
Lots of parties? laughs
TN
Yeah... You see we built a- the last house I built in Ottawa, I built for ourselves and it was, um, 9500 square feet so it was pretty big.
01:30:00.000
01:30:00.000
KF
Yeah...
TN
We would – yeah we hosted quite a few parties...I remember the ambassador from Japan – to Canada – he came to our house and was looking around and he says, “Can I see your bedroom?” So we go up to our bedroom and he says, “That bedroom is big, as big as my apartment in Japan,” laughs
TN
laughs
KF
Oh, that's funny.
TN
So...He was an amazing ambassador...yeah...
KF
And what was his name?
TN
Yoshio Okawa.
KF
Okawa? Okay.
TN
Yeah and he passed away about four years ago, but he and his wife, Chikako, we had many memorable dinners together. It was nice. And one day, out of the blue, he called me when we were in Vancouver, he said, “My granddaughter is going to go to UBC,” and he said, “Do you mind, you know, sort of taking care of her,” He said, “She doesn't have to live with you, but can she – you know, can you take her out for dinners and stuff?” So it was nice. And then when we went to Japan, she – she personally -
TN
She became our guide in Tokyo.
KF
Oh that's nice!
TN
We met six years ago...yeah it was nice.
TN
Yeah she just totally took care of us and it was a trip to remember.
TN
Because her grandfather was quite – well he wasn't well then, you know, so I guess he probably talked to her and said, “Oh you know you should - you have to show them around,” but it was great having a guide in Tokyo. laughs It was wonderful.
TN
And then all the families, I think that are fairly well-educated, they all have a certain pot, and so when we were at their place after a couple of hours, I saw him look at his wife and his wife said, “I'd like to show you something.” So she goes into this draw and she pulls out this box, pulls the top off, and inside was a pot by Hamada. And Hamada was one of my great heroes when I was doing pottery because of his glazes the and so it was such a joy just to hold this thing. But since then I've discovered quite a few Japanese families, they will spend some money on a good Hamada pot.
KF
I think my grandfather has a couple in his house.
TN
Yeah! He probably does.
KF
We definitely had the conversation last week while we were packing; we're like – because my grandfather is in a flexible care home now so we still have the house, but he doesn't live in it, he comes back if he needs to, but he stays mostly at the flexible care home. So there's all these nice pottery just sitting around and my mom's like, “Do you think we should take some?” and I know he wouldn't mind because he doesn't have – the room that he's in now is significantly smaller, but...I'm pretty sure we have a couple because glazes, I remember my mother saying the glazes are always very famous.
TN
Yeah.
KF
And so there's one in the genkan, like the entrance way, there's one in my grandparent's old bedroom and there's one in the study upstairs, uh, yeah my grandfather liked to collect a lot of different art pieces and a lot of different – we took back a lot of pottery so far especially since my grandfather has gotten older because my uncle, who lives in Japan, doesn't really care for that stuff and my mom's like, “We are – we are not losing that!” And there's like, still beautiful lacquered tables like you know those beautiful coffee tables?
TN
Yeah.
KF
We're trying to figure out how to bring that over laughs from Japan. But it's going to be expensive. But, yeah I think I know – I didn't know the title, but I think the pots that you're talking about we have a couple of those.
TN
Yeah he was very famous.
TN
Yeah he was actually the potter that bridged the gap between Japan and England. And so basically he was the bridge to the Caucasian world and everybody recognized the great glazing he had.
KF
Interesting...So to go back to the Redress settlement, so it sounds like you're interest or reason to join because you thought the numbers didn't really make sense for the settlement that they were proposing.
TN
Yes.
01:35:00.000
01:35:00.000
KF
You were mentioning this in our conversation before about understanding the actual total loss value versus more of the symbolic settlement. Do you want to elaborate on that?
TN
Oh yeah ok.
KF
I think it would be really interesting from a property perspective.
TN
So when you look at symbolic settlement, you can't just pick out a number, you have to have some sort of background supporting numbers. And there are two ways, one is to look at the actual economic loss at the time and then bring it forward to today's numbers and if you do, sort of, back of the napkin calculations that number probably back then and going up to today, you might be able to make a good case for say, eight billion dollars. And then if you go the other way, you look at similar incarceration, like for example the FLQ crisis time, or the guy – remember there have been a couple people who have been incarcerated for like, five years or something and then gotten like two million dollars, three million dollars. We could use that as another example, although ours was worse because not only we were incarcerated, but we were forced to pay for our incarceration. Normally if you go to jail, you don't have to pay for your own incarceration. So that FLQ guy that got twenty five thousand dollars for six days of being in jail, if we asked twenty five thousand dollars well that's not bad, that's a good deal for the government because we were incarcerated for roughly four years versus five or six days so that twenty five thousand dollars all of a sudden looks like a pretty cheap price for settlement. And so if you take the big numbers like eight billion dollars and say, “Look we're looking for a half a billion dollars,” then it's truly symbolic, our token settlement.
KF
So the eight billion dollars that you're talking about is the perceived total value –
TN
Today.
KF
Today?
TN
In today's dollars, yes.
KF
Okay, uh yeah, that's a big number...
TN
Yeah, yeah. No matter how we looked at it, the numbers in today's dollars were, you know, when we first applied, they were big numbers, they were all over a billion dollars and if you did the Quebec settlement like the twenty five thousand dollars for six days and you said, “Okay, each year must surely be worth at least twenty-five thousand that means a hundred thousand dollars, at minimum a hundred thousand, times however many people, it adds up to a huge number.” But that's not what we were looking for, we just wanted something symbolic, but enough to be a deterrent should this happen again to some other person.
KF
I see, so almost in some ways to set precedence if anything happens.
TN
Yes, yeah. And if we ask for fifty million dollars, it's insulting and the government would say, “Oh gee we can trample on anybody's rights and just pay fifty million dollars.”
KF
So for economic novices like myself, one of our clusters is looking at property pricing and what its value was and what it was sold for. Just for listeners, how do come to those numbers and how were you able to take all these properties and come to this one number at the end?
TN
Oh okay, because we didn't have the time and the resources, we didn't try to replicate anything exact in terms of what were the numbers. So when we made our presentation to the government, we did not include any supporting numbers, we just said, “We want you to entertain the idea of negotiating with us,” but the NAJC, we got them to agree that we would have a minimum of somewhere between twenty and twenty-five thousand dollars per person as the minimum amount. So we might negotiate at a higher amount initially, but we know what our bottom line is.
KF
Okay and the twenty to twenty five thousand, you came to that number...?
01:40:02.000
01:40:02.000
TN
Because we knew it was truly a symbolic number, but we knew it was enough of a deterrent for the government in the future.
KF
Right.
TN
And also, it's not going to change anybody's lives, but you know what? You can go on a trip to Japan, you'd come back or...
KF
Yeah...
TN
You know, do something, um, it paid for our moving costs from Ottawa to Vancouver.
KF
Oh did it really?
TN
Yeah, our moving costs were pretty high when we moved back to Vancouver.
KF
Oh I see...No I think that's really interesting because nobody – I don't think I've come across somebody talking about how the number was actually created or even the reason for that number, right?
TN
Yeah actually you have a good point on that and actually the NAJC had left it more or less up to me to look at how we approach it. And so I looked at all kinds of different ways, but the more I looked at the market value compensation whether it was through incarceration costs or through actual economic loss, they were all in the billions. Like, high billions so I might've been able to even make a case for twelve billion or even more, but the point was we weren't looking for that, we just wanted to say to the government, “Okay you guys have been bad people and if you give us an apology and you give us something that means something, we'll let this all go.” So that's the way we approached it.
KF
And what was the government's reaction to your initial proposal?
TN
Well, it's that whole thing of, “You have to have a dancing partner”
KF
laughs okay...
TN
To negotiate...Well they weren't interested in dancing with us so it was kind of tough. It really was. And of course, the Japanese-Canadians, because so many of them were afraid, I mentioned earlier that it was not a slam-dunk, it just was very difficult. So many Japanese-Canadians were reticent and they couldn't understand why we were pursuing this at this point in time. So it wasn't easy because together with the government not dancing with us and Japanese-Canadians saying, “Hey, are you sure this is the right thing to do?” It wasn't easy.
KF
So you would say, I guess, you guys were both alluding to this before the interview, that it was a lot more of a grey area as opposed to the slam dunk that it's perceived to be today, right?
TN
Yes, it was very, very grey.
KF
And what do you think made the government finally settle?
TN
Personally, and from some of the people I've spoken to in the civil service...now no one's every said for certain, but I think it was Lucien Bouchard, who was the catalyst, and I think he believed in that concept of right and wrong and said, “Hey, I think we should settle this now.” And it looks good for us I mean we're the ones who settled it so I think that's what happened. And also I think Bouchard was looking at the states and they were coming to that twenty-five thousand dollar settlement –er twenty-one thousand dollar settlement in this US. So I think that made a big difference. I honestly think that if he was not there, we'd probably would still be struggling today. Well no, actually maybe we wouldn't if we – assuming certain things happened.
KF
You know I think it should also be noted in this interview, something that was really shocking for me when we were talking about this over dinner was your current employment during the time of this Redress settlement –
TN
Oh yes, yeah.
KF
If you want to just explain that a little bit, because that's, you know, it's crazy...
01:45:09.000
01:45:09.000
TN
So at the time of the negotiations with the government – oh and leading up to the negotiations, I was working as an economist in the federal government and I was actually concerned about my job at the time and so I mentioned to you that when we hired Don Rosenbloom to help us –
KF
Who was the lawyer, yeah.
TN
Yeah, and Don was a very high end native claims lawyer.
KF
Okay
TN
He did a lot of stuff – really good stuff. So I said to him one day I said, “You know if I get fired, I would like you to vigorously defend me,” but yeah I was concerned about my position, yeah.
KF
Vivian were you concerned as well about the potential, pretty strong conflict of interest in this situation?
TN
Mhm, definitely.
KF
Yeah.
TN
It wasn't so much a conflict of interest as I was worried that the government – if it was the wrong person looking at my situation, he might've sided, “Hey, we don't want you to be outspoken and you either stop or we're going to fire you.” But it never came to that point; nobody ever came up to me and said, “You have to stop doing this,” so it was okay.
KF
Yeah I think that's – I don't know, you always read these books and you never think about what that person's job was at the time, right?
TN
Yeah.
KF
And so when you mentioned, you're like, “Oh yeah I worked for the federal government,” I'm like, “Wait a second here!” laughs
TN
But that's why in Ottawa, a lot of the people working for the federal government, they did not get close to Redress.
KF
Yeah...
TN
I mean, they went to meetings, but there was no offer of help or input so...
KF
Because there was a component of fear.
TN
Fear, yeah. And it's human nature to worry about, “Gee, I could get fired if I do this,” and so yeah, it wasn't easy for a lot of people.
KF
And once the settlement went through, how did you feel about it? What were you memories when the settlement actually happened?
TN
Um, I think we were both pretty happy.
TN
Oh yeah, we were happy. Relieved!
KF
Happy? Relieved?
TN
Yeah, relieved, yeah...And it was a good settlement. I really liked the community component, although I really wished that all of the centers had gotten together, the building – the people in charge of the building committees had all gotten together. See in eastern Canada, all of the people in charge of the building committees, I got all of us together and I said, “This is the way we should split up our money and this is the way we should go about doing things.” So we told the foundation, “This is what we all agree to, we had a democratic vote, we all unanimously agree that, you know, x number of dollars are coming to us and each community gets this.” Anyways, the foundation still gave us a hard time, but at least we talked about it, but all of the groups should've gotten together and the reason is they should've understood the concept, “You don't build with all the money you've got” because then you got no ammunition left for all of your yearly expenses. So the res in Ottawa were fine, I think some of the other communities are still okay, but I'm sure over the years there will be some communities who are going to run out of money. And they'll have to either sell their properties or in fact, that would be a good study to see the financial condition of each of the communities and the capital projects.
KF
Yeah.
TN
Because I don't know what's happened all over because I no longer have contacts all over the place, but that would be an interesting study.
KF
Are you two still involved in your local JC chapter here?
01:50:00.000
01:50:00.000
TN
Mmm...
KF
Not so much?
TN
No, not really, no.
TN
He did some work with – a spent a few years working with Tonari Gumi.
TN
Oh with Tonari Gumi.
KF
Oh okay, yeah.
TN
Oh Karen was working there.
TN
Yeah that's where he met Karen.
KF
Yeah, oh that's how you met Karen? Okay?
TN
Yeah, yeah.
TN
Yeah, but that's it.
TN
Actually Tonari Gumi approached me because they didn't know whether they should be a part of the Nikkei Heritage center.
KF
Oh yes, okay.
TN
So they asked me, “Would you look into it,” so laughs, so anyways I looked at the property and I said, “They're right beside this huge hydro station,” and so Tammy Wakayama, who is the chairperson of Tonari Gumi, he said, “Well what do you think?” And I said, “Well that thing can't be very healthy,” but I didn't know anything about EMFs at the time. So then we got Karen to join us and the three of us started to read all these books on EMFs and we discovered, you know, this is not very good for your health. And so we started saying to the building, the NNHC, we said to the board, “Look maybe we shouldn't buy this property because it's right beside this sub-station.” And Tommy and I went out and we measured the EMF levels and they were really high at the edge of our property and like they were way higher than what I considered acceptable and even when we got quite far away, it was still high enough that, to me, it was a concern. And like for example in a typical house the EMF level – average EMF- is no more than one miligosse. But all over there, I think the lowest was three miligosse and as you got closer to the hydro station, I forgot what number, but it was a big number so we were saying, “I don't think we should buy this property”.
KF
Mmm, interesting...
TN
So...but anyways, yeah, I was – I have been involved from time to time.
KF
Well I guess to conclude, just for our first interview, what are your thoughts on the uprooting and the internment? What kind of messages would you like to pass on to future generations, future Japanese-Canadians? I know the NAJC is really keen on getting youth and young Japanese-Canadians more involved in continuing the narrative and the history, do you have any messages or any thoughts you'd like to pass on?
TN
Mhm. Well I think it's really important to get the young people involved because it seems that a lot of them don't know exactly what happened during those years. So hopefully they'll become interested enough to find out. And I think the education programs have to continue and I think that's happening, there's a youth leadership group now and that's only positive, right? So hopefully if young people can continue to remain interested then that's a big bonus, you know?
KF
Yeah and as a teacher yourself, do you see any improvements that you'd like to see appear?
TN
Well Mas Fukawa was involved in a program now that's gone out into the grade five level social studies program I think it's about the Japanese-Canadian internment and there's another one in the high school now. So that's been a big plus, right? So I think they're just going to review that program in the next little while to see if everything is okay in it and whether it's approved, I think that's a major thing. It's just like the same thing that's happening with the First Nation's curriculum going into the schools now, I think it's a really good idea – it's about time. Mhm.
KF
Yeah and yourself Tony? What messages do you have?
01:54:49.000
01:54:49.000
TN
Um, I don't really have any messages... It's all so complex. It's, I mean, I guess one of the things I'd like to see is for us to be able to digitize a lot of the information we have, not necessarily to analyze right now, but just to have it there. And because my thing is in the future we will have computers that can crawl through, find all kinds of stuff and we may as well do it while we, kind of have, funds. I don't know how much more money the NAJC has for doing things, but if I was them, if they had say, two or three million dollars, I'd just hire a whole wack of people and go from centre to centre, take all their archival material and just digitize it all and if you had a team of ten people going all across the country, you could probably do it over a one year period. So you would have maybe twenty high speed scanners and big flat bed ones as well to do big documents, or you can even just photograph large documents. But just put everything digitized and roughly put it in folders for now, but in a later date, individuals can fine-tune the folders because I think we're just going to lose more and more stuff, but there may be Japanese-Canadians out there that still have their original deeds for, you know, prior to the internment. And so at some point if we have a computer that is powerful enough and looks at every single deed that happens to be available, it might actually be able to get a rough picture because they can extrapolate from their and say, “Okay we have this many more properties.” But anyways, that's just my thought in terms of something practical.
KF
Preservation is something you're interested in, yeah absolutely. And especially now you hear – I get told a lot, especially once I started this project, you know, local JC community members would say like, “Oh you have to talk to the Nisei as much as possible, they're starting to go now –”
TN
Yeah.
TN
Yeah that's right.
KF
They're slowing passing away or some of their memories are not as sharp and try and preserving that and capturing it as much as possible and not only for the project, but we've had a couple other interviewees that we're working with, one in particular, who is really keen on capturing his mother's story, and she's about ninety as well -
TN
Ninety-something
KF
Yeah ninety-something and she's still really sharp. The son was telling me, like, “She can list off everything in Powell Street, like where she lived.”
TN
Oh my gosh!
KF
Right?! And apparently they asked her to write some stuff down and she just start jotting stuff down.
TN
Well long-term memory gets better, right, as you get older. Short term gets worse.
KF
Mmm, yeah...
TN
So we're starting to find out! laughs
KF
laughs
TN
Well related to that, you could actually set up a huge, you know, like those family tree-like things?
KF
Yeah.
TN
So if somebody sees their name on there, they could start entering little things. Like for example, if I saw my name on their, I would probably digitize, like Democracy Betrayed, and say you know this was my contributions to Redress or maybe my father has some old land documents or something, you know, pre-war. Like for example, my father always says, “Well we have some land in Japan.” Well it's this little wee piece of land; it's probably this big.
TN
quietly laughs
KF
Oh you have land in Japan!
TN
But it might be interesting for me just to – if I saw my dad's name on there, I'd just sort of slot it into that as a document and you might actually end up with a real sort of living document across for Japanese-Canadians.
KF
Do you mind me asking is that property still under your family name in Japan?
TN
Well, I don't think they –
TN
I don't think he knows, eh?
TN
Yeah, because they kept sending him letters to hand it over, but my dad being my dad, he didn't want to hand it over so he just ignored the letters. But I figured that over the years–
KF
Hoping that it flies under the radar? laughs
TN
laughs
TN
But I figure at some point they might be able to legally just take the land.
TN
Somebody's living on it though, right?
TN
Yes, somebody's living on it.
TN
So maybe he's lost it.
TN
Maybe it's even bigger, maybe it's this big. But it's not hard –
KF
Well it's amazing the houses that they can build on such small pieces of land over there.
TN
They go up instead of –
KF
Yes, skinny and tall.
TN
Yeah...
KF
Like our neighborhood, our family house, it's not that big of a land, but it's considered quite large because houses are really difficult to come by. Everyone lives in apartments, right? So my mother was warning me, she's like, “Just to let you know, you know that beautiful old house just across from us?” And I was like, “Yeah, yeah,” she's like, “So they knocked it down.” I guess the owner passed away so they knocked it down and now - the separation between our house and this guy's old house is like, from me to the door, like it's quite close, but so you look outside to the entrance now and there's four houses.
TN
laughs
TN
gasps You're kidding?!
KF
Very modern, very slim, very tall and long, there's no real backyard. There's like, this little patch of grass in the front and there's like kid's bicycles and I'm like, “Oh my god like how can you fit so many houses?” And you know they've got those really cute little compact cars, there's like two little neat cars parked in the driveway. And I'm like to my mom, “How can you even build that many on like” – it's a regular plot of land that you would find in Canada, right? Like if anyone was buying property, but they....yeah...Well thank you very much.
TN
I can't believe it! It was two hours – well, almost two hours.
KF
Almost two hours? Yeah I've got two hours and one minute.
TN
Yeah, unbelievable!
KF
Well thank you. Here we'll just stop this.
02:01:32.000

Metadata

Title

Tony and Vivian Nabata, interviewed by Kyla Fitzgerald, 15 July 2015

Abstract

Tony and Vivian are a retired couple, who are both Sanseis, currently living in Vancouver, BC. In this interview, Vivian shares her memories of her childhood growing up in Kamloops, Lillooet, and Vancouver, BC (post-war) as well as her family’s history of being uprooted and interned from Vancouver to Shuswap Lake and Lillooet. Tony also shares his family’s history in Powell Street and his childhood growing up in Shuswap Lake. Both Tony and Vivian then discuss their lives after the internment touching on subjects such as integration, Canadian and Japanese cultural differences, discovering and learning about their family histories, reflections of the internment, their career paths as a teacher (Vivian) and an economist (Tony), and their involvement in the Japanese Canadian community. Finally, Tony discusses his involvement with the Redress Settlement in which he shares how he, as an economist, helped the NAJC draft the proposed financial settlement for the federal government.

Credits

Interviewer: Kyla Fitzgerald
Interviewee: Tony Nabata
Interviewee: Vivian Nabata
XML Encoder: Stewart Arneil
Publication Information: See Terms of Use for publication and licensing information.
Setting: Vancouver Lawn Tennis and Badminton Club, Vancouver, British Columbia
Keywords: Kamloops ; Lillooet ; Shuswap Lake; Magna Bay; Japan ; Integration; Sansei; Schreiber ; Steveston ; Silence; Childhood; New Westminster ; Marriage; Powell Street ; Vancouver ; Liquidation; Ottawa ; UBC ; Tom Shoyama ; NAJC ; Tokyo ; Community; Settlement; Incarceration; Redress ; Community Work; Art; Democracy Betrayed; Pre-World War Two, World Two, Post-war (1948 onwards), Redress Settlement (1980’s)

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.