Yoshiaki “Sharky” Nagao, interviewed by Eglantina Bacaj-Gondia, 25 March 2015

Yoshiaki “Sharky” Nagao, interviewed by Eglantina Bacaj-Gondia, 25 March 2015

Abstract
Sharky talks about his childhood memories in Victoria and having only two weeks of notice before being sent to Hastings Park for many months before being transferred to Tashme. He remembers each person in the family was only allowed one suitcase. Sharky discusses his memories of his mother who was an important member of the community as a midwife and the values she passed onto to him. He also reflect upon his father, his “Anglo-Saxon” neighbors, and friends. Sharky relays the sentiment of Shikata ga nai being prevelant in his family. His family settled in Chatham after the war and Sharky later went on to Toronto. The interview closes with Sharky discussing his hobby involving model airplanes.
00:00:00.000
Elgantina Bacaj-Gondia (EB)
This is Eglantina Bacaj-Gondia from Landscapes of Injustice. Today is March 25, 2016. I am here with Mr. Yoshiaki Nagao, also known as Sharky, at his residence in Toronto, Ontario. So, I wanted us to start a little about, uh, just your background, where were you born, your childhood.
Yoshiaki Nagao (YN)
As I was saying, uh, born in Victoria, BC, August 24, 1928 and uh, when I was 14 years old, August uh or, no uh, April, sorry, April 1940, uh 14th 1942, we were expelled. If I recall, we just had about 2 weeks notice, you know, it wasn't much time. But, and then we went to Hasting's Park, we were sent to Hasting's Park in Vancouver, which is equivalent to the Toronto Exhibition Ground, uh, well the Pacific coast Exhibition. And, we were confined there till, I think it was August of that year, we were transferred to Tashme and we spent... I think it was about 1946, we, I come to Toronto in June, I think it was sometime in July, and I came to Toronto and then I got a job in Port Credit. One month after, which is August, my family come and they went to Chatham so I quit my job and I went to Chatham also and um... My family stayed there a good 50 years, I, I left, I just forgot when I left, but I left because at that time when we were sent out east, we were required to have a job and a place to stay. But that, this particular person, he had about three families for that one job and the accommodation, and we had to stay on a, well, the work he had was a seed factory. Essentially, when they got seed, they sort of, um... you know, shook the seeds to expel the dust, and you know all that, you know sort of. Anyways, we were required to stay on the factory floor for quite sometime and I resented that. So, I just left Chatham and come to Toronto and I've been and throughout ever since except for maybe 2 and a half years where I was in Chicago for a year and in Vancouver for about a year and a half
EB
What do you remember about...
YN
Pardon?
EB
What do you remember about your childhood
YN
Oh... uh
EB
In Victoria...
YN
That was in 1956-57 and I uh, I've been back in Toronto ever since.
EB
What do you remember about your childhood in Victoria?
YN
Uh, wha-what?
EB
Your, your childhood in Victoria...
YN
Uh-huh.
EB
What do you remember?
YN
What-what?
EB
What do you remember about your childhood in Victoria?
YN
Ahh... I, I, I think I've sort of forgotten quite a bit. I think it was just a typical childhood, uh...uh... Like it was a small community, the people were scattered all over the city, unlike uh some of the, unlike Vancouver, and we were... I don't know, we sort of retained Japanese customs too and being in Canada, we sort of, let's see... Adopted Canadian ways also, and I don't know...
00:05:37.000
00:05:37.000
YN
I, my associates during my childhood was predominantly Anglo-Saxons. After regular school, we went to Japanese school, I think maybe about 3-4 years, and didn't learn very much.
EB
chuckles
YN
Uh, most of the reason I went is because my parents says 'you go', and I think most children, experi-, people in my similar circumstances sort of went through the same thing. And uh, I don't know. While in Victoria, there was, there was discrimination, but, like there were a number of place we were forbidden to go but I went, I went a number of times narrator's alarm clock goes off Oh, excuse me. Tape is paused while narrator leaves to turn off the alarm.
YN
You, you probably heard of the Empress Hotel in Victoria?
EB
Uh-um.
YN
Ah, right behind there, there used to be a swimming pool called the Crystal Palace and I've been there 3-4 times, and you know were forbidden. Like in movie theaters, it was segregated also. Maybe it's because I was a child, I could just slip through because of the fact that I was with a whole bunch of other Anglo-Saxon kids... But, I found out later, when I become an adult that discrimination was quite rampant there. I think it still is, although from what I understand, there's more people of Japanese background there in Victoria. Another thing, nobody who left there went back, it's all new people of Japanese background. And uh ... I don't know...
EB
How big was your family?
YN
Pardon?
EB
How big was your family?
YN
Uh, my...
EB
Family.
YN
Oh...I had uh, gee, 6 siblings I think, but in the 1950s in Chatham, I had a young sister who's about 12 years old and she died of a childhood disease. My brother, who's a retired pharmacist, he said that in those days it was, he said it wasn't, it wasn't a big thing, it's not a big thing right now, but in those days, it was sort of touch and go so... And, well, I had a brother below me, roughly about 4 years younger. I have a sister below me who's maybe 5-6 years younger. Uh, and I think I had that sister who passed away, and I have a brother who's about 10-12 years younger and another sister who was about 15 years younger.
00:10:00.000
00:10:00.000
YN
And... the lowest two siblings, my sister and my brother, they are professionals and the other sister and brother when they were growing up, high school was or rather you knew, high school education sufficed so they didn't go, but the other younger ones they both went to university. And I remained... when we were expelled from BC, I was still in grade school and when we went to camp, at the beginning... The government didn't provide education but they, after some time, they gave it to us. But my, my thoughts were at that time, at a tender age, I told myself why should I go and get an education when they taught me all lies up till that time. So as a consequence, I haven't gone beyond grade school... But, through good fortune and I think, partly through my curious mind, I retired, you know, working in an engineering office. So I don't know, I wish I had, I had the opportunity under difference circumstances to have a university education, but not so. Another thing... Even during childhood, my playmates I associated with, they were generally 3-4 years older than I. And, although I have a good friend who's 20 years younger right now. He's a former university professor and I met him about 3 or 4 years ago, and I see him every week and he's given me a source of inspiration narrator chuckles.
EB
chuckles
YN
Although after being sort of uneducated for all these years, I find it difficult and uh... I think I've learned a lot during my 87 years and I've sort of come to this, come to a conclusion that it's a terrible world.
EB
How so?
YN
How so? Well, take for instance, my mother told me I should always read the newspaper. Which I still follow to a degree, she pointed out the fact that I should know what goes on in the world, but lately I find that when I read the newspaper, politicians, you know, they're smart to... They campaign, they've got a smooth speech but in reality, they're not, I feel they're not as noble as they try to impress people. And they talk nicely, they get into a high position in politics, and then when they do, they have a little access to public money, they put the fingers in the till. Another thing, most professionals, they're always getting caught in monkey business.
00:15:06.000
00:15:06.000
EB
chuckles
YN
And uh... and the general populance, they're getting to be like that too. For instance, couple of days ago, our gracious mayor Ford passed away. Personally I think he's a scoundrel but yet he's revered! And they've set a precedence by uh, I don't know the words, uh... they... he's at the city hall right now I understand and he's a scoundrel. And people still supporting him, you call that a good world? Mind you, there's a small handful of good people. You know, I sort of revere them but there's not enough of good people. And as I said the so-called good, the potential good people, they're supporting scoundrels like Ford. And other people too, look at Trump down the States, there is potential in him becoming president. And he's a bloody, if you pardon the expression, a bastard... god! And I find it, I find that difficult to live with and the trouble is I'm living in here and narrator laughs... I've sort of got to tolerate them and I find that difficult, most difficult. And... fortunately I've been able to keep my head above the water.
EB
What other advice
YN
Pardon?
EB
What other advice did your mother give you?
YN
What was that again?
EB
Aside from reading the newspaper, what else did your mother give you advice... about?
YN
Well, uh narrator pauses to reflect. She had values. Maybe I should let, let you read this, I was sort of going over this last night narrator walks to his desk, picks up folder, and searches for documents related to his mother. Gee, I should've, I forgot where I put it.
EB
Is it something from your... mother?
YN
No, uh narrator returns to table. She lived to be 98 and she ended up in last year, she went to a nursing home and they put out about a 8 page obituary might say like a, well, apparently in Japan she become nurse as a midwife and... I think she come to Toron - Canada, in the 1920s or right after World War I and because of the training, amongst the Japanese in that district she was responsible for about 30 childbirths. And, she's always been, you know, concerned about the welfare of the people and... like, well, amongst some ethnic people, people in a position like that, you know, they're sort of revered amongst a community.
00:20:13.000
00:20:13.000
YN
And, well she was, I don't know, I have a couple of relatives in fact, there is a number of people in my family who are related or work in the medical field. Somehow, I had a great admiration for nurses. And that's the kind of person she was, so...
EB
And your father?
YN
Pardon
EB
And your father?
YN
Oh... I found out later he was an electrician in Japan and when he went to Tashme, he became electrician for that, you know roughly 5 years in Tashme as electrician. Prior to that, he did all sorts of thing and for quite some time he was building boats in the neighborhood of about 30-35 feet, mainly pleasure-type of boats. Well, he was, well in those days he was quite depressed, despite the fact there were a handful of people who had quite a sum of money, so you know, but it didn't last too long. And, towards he went, he worked in the sawmill, sort of maintenance man sawmill there, as I recall. And being a kid, what kid are interested in what their parents do?
EB
chuckles
YN
You know, they live a life of their own and they know very little. And, I don't know. I don't particularly recall, but I think my mother impressed me all values, which I'm sort of glad to know. I don't know, for the last, maybe 5-6 years, I used to read mostly junk but now, nowadays I've been picking up books on courage, values, pride, all those things, and kindness, generosity, etcetera. I know all these things but, I guess I like a carefree life, so I seem to neglect all those important things and I've been buying those as a sort of reminder and. I make an effort to try to not be lazy and... but another thing too... I remember someone, some people, they practice this to the, you know, they seem to cater to a lot of these undesirable people but I don't quite see it that way myself. I think bad people are bad people and I don't think we should be, you know, promoting them and catering to them, which some people do. And, that, I find that's a battle within myself to, and... I would say that narrator reflecting... I don't know, I don't think I've led a really exciting life but... Oh, mind you, despite the fact that I talk about these undesirable people, as a rule when I meet people, they've treated me very, very, very good. So, I consider myself most fortunate in that respect. And, my problem is, uh... I find, I find it sort of difficult to sort of pay them back, you know, life is sort of a give and take, and I've taken a lot but I'm not too sure I've given narrator laughs enough, and that sort of bothers me too.
00:25:23.000
00:25:23.000
YN
Speaking of them, I've been here about five years, I think I'm paying too much rent. The upper echelons of the employees here I hate but the people in the lower echelons, the workers, they treated me very nice and... and I find myself sort of trapped in here, because if I go outside what I'm paying right now I should be able to get a five-room apartment. And I'm just getting small place like that. Oh and another thing too, I had a bedbug problem about 4 years ago. And, I think they treated me harshly... They took everything and threw away or stole some of my valuable things. I sued them. Uh...
EB
What did they steal?
YN
Pardon?
EB
What did they steal?
YN
Uh... I took an interest in model airplanes when I was about eight years old and at the end, I had about 15 engines and I didn't maintain them very good, so I decided to take them apart and sort of clean them up. And then I had it sort of strewn all over on the table, and they just stole them. Like, they sort of said that bedbugs would be attracted to them and, this is just a thing of mine, but, like take for instance, you see that wardrobe that door right there narrator points to dresser with missing door?
EB
Uh-um.
YN
They, anyways, they ripped it off and they claim they took it off so they can spray it. Do you think it was necessary to, you know narrator walks to dresser, it opens like this narrator opens the working door, do you think it was necessary to take the door off to spray inside?
EB
So they took out the door from the... cupboard completely to spray it?
YN
No, they claim that they took it out so they can spray inside.
EB
OK.
YN
OK. Spraying apparently kills the bedbugs but it doesn't kill the eggs. You need high steam heat to kill those. And they said they had to take the door off to spray it.
EB
Only one? Only one door?
YN
Yeah they, well, that's how they claim they broke it off. But you can open the door, why did you have to break it off? And, another thing, the only thing that was left here, you see those metal hangers points to them there?
EB
The hangers?
YN
I find those convenient and I had about 6 or 7 or 8 of them. That was the only thing left in the room. I had bookcases here and they threw that away. In fact, they had the audacity to ask my brother to see if he'll take my belongings. How can they permit that to do, these people do it? They said, they were afraid of when they do that, the bedbug eggs would be transferred. Are they permitted to transfer contaminated goods?
00:30:23.000
00:30:23.000
YN
And another thing, the government or one agency puts out a book, a guidebook for seniors and in that book it says that if you're paying rent, they can't confiscate or... well. They asked me to put, because my brother refused to take my things, they sort of talked, forced me to put my things in storage. In fact, I've been having most of my things in storage for the last 5 years. And, oh, in that book it says so long as you're paying the rent, they can't do that, but the fact is they did it. Oh, as I mentioned, I sued them for it. The landlord's representative was questioned by their lawyers. But the fact is I wasn't able to speak one word. I'm not a lawyer, I'm uneducated, but I think if they were permitted to speak, I should've been permitted to speak. I wasn't. So, it's a kangaroo court. And, I thought I would appeal that ruling but I don't know. The government, they make rules like when they incarcerated us, they went against democracy, they passed a law and kicked us out of BC against democracy. The government could do no wrong and it's still to this day, it's still done, look at the Aboriginal situation right now. You know, they force them to do many things which was considered illegal now, but still, it's still on the books. And makes me angry, but can't do nothing about it. So, ah... enough of that part.
EB
Chuckles
YN
I try not to think of it.
EB
Tell me about your... in Victoria, when did you have to, when were you forced
YN
What
EB
When were you forced to leave Victoria?
YN
What was that again?
EB
When did you leave Victoria?
YN
Leave?
EB
Yes.
YN
Well... well, we were just permitted to carry a suitcase apiece. Take my mother for instance, my siblings are still a carry-able age. How can she carry a suitcase? Now, people when they have families, they accumulate such as I, maybe I have a tendency to accumulate too much but most people do and if you're just permitted to carry one suitcase, you had to leave almost everything. With people who owned houses, some people took their things and put it in their house and it was promised that the government will look after them. But they lied, they sold it. So, you know, the government is a thief.
EB
What happened
YN
Pardon?
EB
What happened to your house?
YN
What?
EB
Your house?
YN
What about my house?
EB
What happened?
00:35:08.000
00:35:08.000
YN
Uh, we didn't really have any property, but I think, I don't know too much. I consider myself fortunate because most of the Japanese parents, they didn't complain. What's the point in trying to buck the government? There's a saying Shikata ga nai... Sometimes, when you make a translation there's no equivalent, but oh, OK. Like, when I think in Japanese which I do sometimes, I have to think, they say 'it can't be helped' and it can't be helped so they you know, forget and concentrate on the more important thing and I consider this, myself fortunate of being Japanese because I think as it is, like amongst some other ethnic crowd, they blame what happened to their children, you know, to the system but the Japanese as I said, there's no solution so they just concentrate on the important thing like my family and all the rest of the family in bringing up the child properly. And, I think we made a good job out of it because according to statistics, you know, mind you, there are a very small minority who are involved in crime and doing bad things. So in that respect, you know, it's been very good that way. So, I'm, that I'm happy with.
EB
You said you were allowed to carry one suitcase...
YN
Yeah.
EB
What did you put in it?
YN
Well, I guess, I don't recall that, because I was 14 years old and, you know, 14 years old you're a kid. In those days, they, mind you, for a child, I think I thought quite a bit more than most kids. And quite often they're referred to as a mature kid. I don't hear that now, but how can a 14- year old be matured? It's a kid! I resented the fact we're being kicked out and I didn't even know how to protest. And what adult would listen to me? Didn't work that way. I had to find myself and it was difficult. Like I said, I made a bad decision in '42 about the schooling when I said, 'why should I go to school when they taught me all lies?' How else am I going to think? Because of immaturity. So, you might say I was thrown to the dogs narrator reflecting. But I don't know, I try not to think of it, it's too big. Yeah and I've discovered to you as I mentioned about these politicians while they're trying to get to that position they sweet-talk, but when they're home, their thoughts are... narrator chuckles... and then there's no real value to what they talk about, but once again, can't do anything about it narrator sighs.
EB
Which year did you leave Victoria?
00:40:07.000
00:40:07.000
YN
What year?
EB
Yeah, what year.
YN
April 14, 1942. It was sort of an adventure in a sense. You know, first time getting on a large ship narrator chuckles. Using the dining room with all these, as rich people dine. Yeah, I think it was more of an adventure. I don't know, sometimes I wish I was a little, you know about 4 years younger. I go to the reference library almost every day and there's a Toronto publication called the Nikkei Voice, like all newspapers they've got an obituary column. And one of the fellows I used to work with, he passed away a couple of month ago and he was 98. And I always thought he was about the same age as I narrator pauses to reflect. Well, most of my friends as I mentioned, I always picked on people 3 or 4 years older and then quite a number of them passed away and the ones still living, they're also, they're not quite as mobile and I don't see them too often. I see them infrequently, years ago I used to see them frequently but that's changed and... regrettably, life doesn't stay still.
EB
Have you kept in touch with friends in Victoria?
YN
No. Uh, I still remember there's a small handful of Anglo-Saxon people I used to go to school and for... I think there are a few Victoria peoples in Toronto that I still keep in touch with and I still remember their names, maybe... well, seven or eight people I still know their names and I know, so... Like narrator thinking, I don't know, I got to know some people fairly well but not as good as some people get to know each other. Maybe it's because I tend to have a suspicious mind narrator chuckles. Not that I'm an angel or anything... I try to tell myself I have ethics but it's a difficult thing to keep up narrator pauses.
EB
Did your friends know what was happening?
YN
What?
EB
Did your friends, in Victoria know what was happening?
YN
That who?
EB
Your friends in Victoria....
YN
Oh friends...
EB
Yes.
YN
I'm not too sure. Some of them did I think but most people, so long it doesn't happen to me, it's alright. I think that's the general attitude about most things. Yeah, as I mentioned earlier I met this professor, ex professor and I admire him because he's considerably different. I think he does a hell of a lot more, he practiced hell of a lot more than most people.
00:45:35.000
00:45:35.000
YN
And that's something most people don't do, you know, it's 'me me me me.' And, when I was in Victoria, it's a small place, we used to live about three blocks from the downtown center and there was a young Scotsman and he owned, he used to sell new shoes. I think he owned the building and he has a second store and it was sort of a hall upstairs and he was religiously inclined, so on Friday nights he used to sort of teach the gospel and that was the only place allowing Oriental kids were permitted to go. And I thought he taught us values very well, and he's one of the few peoples I have great admiration, you know... He sort of, it was a difference between right and wrong and he did the right thing. But most people, they use either one of them, for their own conveniences and I find that too many people do that. But, and this is why I was saying before that I've been buying books just to remind me, you know, things. But I, more often, I put a stop to it with certain groups of people, but you know for the rest of the... I find most people OK, but there's the other small portion that are no-gooders as they say. And I don't think I should assist them in any way possible. You're sort of, if you do that, you're sort of perpetuating the bad things and I don't think I should be promoting bad things, I should be promoting good things. But it's hard, but I don't know. I think, I'll always think religion is a good thing but people use it, once again, to their convenience and I've sort of discarded it, but as I said that fellow named Stuart, the fellow who owned the shoe store, he taught us good values and uh... well, anyways, sometimes I think I'm a failure... but that's the way it goes and...
EB
Were your parents religious?
YN
Pardon?
EB
Were your parents religious?
YN
Well, in answer to that, I've known some people, I thought they were very religious who's never spent a day in church in their lives. On the other hand, I know people who go to church narrator sighs faithfully, but they're really not religious. If you can call that an answer. Yeah, as I mentioned this professor too, I like the way he does things. In fact, he narrator hesitates, I don't think he goes to church, he's a Jew but I don't think he goes to the church but he sure practices are good.
00:50:15.000
00:50:15.000
YN
Actually, it's the first time I met a person like that, you know I just admire the things he does and... I think I'm fortunate in meeting more people than most people but I find very few people that I can think that much of. I wish I could meet more narrator chuckles, but doesn't go that way. Yeah, I guess you got to ask the questions, because I don't know what else to say narrator chuckles.
EB
chuckles No, you've, you've, you have shared a lot so far.
YN
Eh?
EB
You have shared a lot so far. Um... would you mind if we revisit and talk about your experience in the camp. Do you remember that experience?
YN
Well, I consider my, well, the maximum population was 2,600 plus man, woman and child, and I got to know a number of them. At one time, I had a house, we had tar paper shacks there, uh maybe about 250 of them, and I think half the time, I sort of forgotten a bit, I cleaned the chimneys and got to know a lot of woman folks. Like, the men folks are out to work, got to know the woman folks and I knew 95% of the young people too. And uh, I got along with 95% of the people, there was a very small handful of people I thought were undesirable so I just didn't bother. I'd say hello to them just to be polite, because, you know, I've always figured you got to be polite. And the rest of the time, I used to work in the so-called warehouse, where all the incoming goods came in and the... Another thing, maybe I got along good with peoples because I generally like people.
EB
Did you make friends?
YN
Eh?
EB
Did you make friends there?
YN
Not close. I think as I said, I associated generally with people 3-4 years younger, older than I, and I found out that they were a little bit more knowledgeable than the younger ones so... narrator pauses. Yeah, I don't know, I'm not too sure I was really, like I was at the camp until I was about 17 years old I think, and I... I didn't think too much of what happened... I guess, in a way, I was partly serious and partly you know, not serious.
00:55:10.000
00:55:10.000
YN
You know, just being a kid I guess, but as I said, when I went to this gospel place in Victoria, he taught us, you know, values and I'm glad of that... because uh narrator pauses... Yeah, and another thing too, even if you thought that seriously, you couldn't do anything about it anyways because of the confinement
EB
What did you do everyday? You worked, you cleaned chimneys.
YN
Yeah, I was working. Fortunately there, there was quite a bit of work in comparison to the other camps from what I understand narrator pause.
EB
And your parents were working, your father was...
YN
No, just my father. In those days, very few women worked, they just stayed home, and you know attend to the narrator pause. Yeah.
EB
How many siblings did you have by this time?
YN
Let's see. Me, Jack, OK... Four. We had five but... Yeah, most Japanese had quite a number of kids, there's some families that had 10 narrator pauses to think. Gee, yeah. There's one fellow, as I said I go to the reference library and I generally pick up the newspaper there and read it and there's one fellow named Frank and I think, when he was, I don't know, he did go to university but I think he took up journalism and is still writing and I think he's about 95-96. And uh, yeah, he was in the army in the far east. Yeah, that's another thing too... like at the beginning the British they wanted interpreters out in the far east so they put out a call for Japanese to join the British Army, but Canada coms along and they says no. I couldn't quite come to see them saying no because at the beginning in the war, they just didn't take them and change of heart because they could use them. So, I thought of that too, I thought they said no for the wrong reason narrator pauses to reflect. I don't know, I haven't really got to say much about when I was confined. In a way, it was like a picnic and... I think I thought it was just a matter of time before we got out, but... another thing too, the war ended in 1945 but we were still confined in 1946. And, you'd sort of think that they'd automatically cut off all the rulings but they extended it, which is narrator sighs. I always thought that was illegitimate but...
01:00:04.000
01:00:04.000
EB
Did you know this at the time?
YN
Eh?
EB
Did you know this at the time?
YN
Uh... yeah, I often think I wish I didn't think this way, but the thing is that I do think this way and... yeah. I don't know, at the beginning I tried to tell myself I want to forget everything but uh... I haven't, some things I've forgotten, some thing I still remember but ... narrator stops and seem to be in deep thought
EB
Where did you go after the camp?
YN
What?
EB
After the camp, where did your parents go?
YN
Oh, they went to Chatham.
EB
Chatham.
YN
They were there for 50, oh, about 50 years I think. And, uh, anyways. Like, amongst a lot of the ethnic families, they always wanted their first-born son to, you know, lead the way. I was in that same position too, so. I thought I was treated quite harshly, but when I see my other siblings grow up, you know my dad, you know, relented and bought into, they were able to attend university, so I'm quite pleased. Yeah I spoke to him narrator referring to brother over the phone yesterday and he, for quite some time, he's done my income tax.... And a couple of days ago, I went to see him, he lives on Eglinton and Royal York and I gave him some papers. Anyways, I discovered I forgot a couple of pieces. So, I took it up to his place yesterday, and he sort of gave me hell because it was slippery and you know... and I says I was very careful, luckily, you know, I didn't slip. Ah the weather's been terrible.
EB
Yes it has.
YN
Like, I got two canes right behind you motions behind interviewer's chair. Yeah, about 13-14 months ago, I broke my leg and when I went to the hospital, one of the attendants says do you want to come into us and I says why. Oh he asked me a couple of questions and I told him I had a heart attack about four years ago and he says at my age, they don't operate so they let the broken leg heal by itself and it's been about 13-14 months, and it's worse now than when I was in the hospital. And, anyways, about 4 days ago I went to see my pharmacist and I get along with my pharmacist better than I do with my family doctor. And every time something that I feel major happening I tell him, he didn't say anything so I asked my pharmacist and he says... I don't know, when it comes to medical terms, I'm not to used to it so I forget the words but he indicated that it generally takes about a year for a broken bone to heal. But in my case it's an exception and then that... I told him at one time even after therapy, it used to be quite painful after the therapy but now all the pain's gone but now it hurts because there's a difference between pain and hurt. And, he said, it could linger on . But gee, 13 months...
01:05:44.000
01:05:44.000
EB
Long time.
YN
Because 15 years ago, I broke my left foot and I broke it in five places and I broke my right hip. And I was in the hospital eight months but it turned out alright, but this time, I was thinking it was due to you know, the injury but apparently not. I'm not a medicine, but I can think, and then as I said, mentioned earlier about professionals, I've sort of lost hope in most professionals. I shouldn't be asking and a lot of time it's guess work. Mind you, even a doctor I think they do a degree of guesswork but they know a little bit more about my body than I do myself. And, well everyday, almost everyday, you find about , I think it was in the last week that a couple of doctors who got charged with overbilling. God! Yeah getting back to what I did in Tashme, in many ways it was quite an uneventful, it's just a matter of time, I think with most kids too, and it's just the adults who thought but in most cases Japanese, they sort of forgot about the tragic moments and concentrated on the more important things, so I'm glad of that.
EB
What sorts of important things narrator's telephone rings
YN
Uh.
EB
What sorts of important things did they focus on?
YN
Well, bringing the children up right. And as I said, you know, there wasn't, there maybe have been a few delinquents but not more than any other kids of ethnic background. So, I'm glad of that.
EB
Did your parents ever talk to you about their experience in the camp?
YN
No. Very little. I wish I did, but maybe that's the wisest thing they could've done for the kids' sake. Look at me, you know, partly carefree and partly serious but, and discovering that there's not a hell of a lot you can do about it. I don't think I'm particularly weak but you just can't fight the government who makes their own rules. And the people who serve in government, every so often they seem to write books and revere politicians, but they're all bloody scoundrels. Look at Mulroney for instance... He got involved in monkey business, the ones he had in his pockets got away with a lot.
01:10:11.000
01:10:11.000
YN
Some people who were in opposition to him, they got the full consequence but they are very few. And he's still making money, the foolish public, they're paying money to go hear him talk... which I can't, it's happening but I can't believe it. And I think, well I think the general populace like Ford for instance, is in the same category. I just don't know. I don't know... I haven't got much more to say about the camp. In a way, I thought I had fun there Sharky chuckles.
EB
Chuckles Mhhm. Was Toronto different from
YN
Pardon?
EB
Was Toronto different from Victoria? And BC?
YN
What was that from BC?
EB
Was Toronto different from BC when you first moved here?
YN
Oh, my friends.
EB
When you came to Toronto
YN
Uh-huh
EB
Was it different than BC?
YN
What was the last part from BC?
EB
Was is different? Different?
YN
Fun?
EB
Different?
YN
Oh, different.
EB
Yeah.
YN
Well, the big city. I got quite used to that, in fact I sort of like it because in a way, BC was... you might say almost the same but on a smaller scale. And, like another thing too, I took a liking for model airplanes when I was about eight years old and then I joined the model airplane club and I got extra exposure in that too, and....
EB
Was the club in BC or... in here?
YN
Here?
EB
The club... was in Toronto?
YN
The club?
EB
Yeah.
YN
Oh yeah, when I come to Toronto I joined the club too, but the thing was, I worked steady but I used to get laid off more than often and as a consequence, you know, it costs money to support a hobby like that. Well, most hobbies do, so I always believed that if I joined the group, I got to be a contributing member and for the fact that, you know, I had very little money, one thing I learned, my dad told me I'm not a cripple you look after yourself, and that's one of the very few things I took heed. And when I did work and I used to hang onto it, when the layoff come. Anyways, because of the fact I believed in being a participating member, I used to help out. Anyways, I remember my young brother, he build a couple of airplanes and when he retired he got into it full-time. And he joined the same club as I. I never really belonged to the club, I used to just go there and this is about 50 years ago and when my brother joined up, they got to know that I was his brother because right now there's about four people who was there at the same time and they gave me a life membership and they gave me a plaque about this big gestures to rectangular shape with hands a couple of month ago.
01:15:00.000
01:15:00.000
YN
So I was quite pleased and it mentioned the fact that I made a contribution towards the enhancements of the hobby. Because, like, in that aspect of the model airplane, it was called U-control. There were two lines attached to the airplanes to control it, and the other form was letting it fly by itself but the one that was captured generally when you flew it you needed an assistant and I used to be the assistant and I got, in fact, if I may say so, I got quite good at it narrator chuckles. But uh, I don't tell anybody because, well, most people are not interested in anybody else's hobbies.
EB
That's a very interesting hobby.
YN
Well... like I, as I said, I've not graduated grade school, and I ended up in an engineering office and I attribute that all to my hobbies because, like, well model airplane is essentially an engineering job anyways, so... When I used to get laid off often, then the unemployment insurance used to send people to courses and I picked up drafting. And uh, when I went, what they tried to teach me I already knew. Well, most of it anyways. And I flunked the course, after the course finished, I started looking for a job. I ended up going to General Electric and inquiring there. And I talked to the personnel manager and he said that generally we took high school graduates, but they're too young and immature, and we were looking for somebody a little older. And I was 28 at that time and they accepted me, so I was there for seven years and finally, like even employers that do contract work for another firm maybe and, you know, the contract runs out and then they got to let people go, so I used to always get laid off and. So...
EB
So your brother has an interest
YN
Pardon?
EB
Your brother has an interest in the same hobby... your brother.
YN
Yeah. Like when he was a kid, he did a number of things. He made himself a guitar... I was going to make a double bass, you know the stand-up bass, but I acquired quite a bit of information on it but I never got around to it, because I was involved in too many things... like, prior to my stay at the retirement home, I've been there five years, I had a house for about 35 years and I had a machine shop. Mind you, I didn't work at it all the time, but I did, and I was involved in a number of things so. But I sort of over-reached a little bit too far, so I had a number of interests. So...
EB
I, I think this is a good time for us
YN
Eh?
EB
I think it's a good time for us to pause and... thank you so much for
YN
Not...
EB
Sharing your story
YN
Not at all.
EB
With me.
YN
Uh-huh.
EB
Um, any last words you'd like to say
YN
Eh?
EB
Any last words you'd like to say?
YN
Oh, um. Yeah I was thinking of, you might want to look at some pictures, so you know, a couple of days ago I went down to the storage and got the pictures. Would you like to see it?
EB
Sure, we can, I can definitely see those.
01:19:42.000

Metadata

Title

Yoshiaki “Sharky” Nagao, interviewed by Eglantina Bacaj-Gondia, 25 March 2015

Abstract

Sharky talks about his childhood memories in Victoria and having only two weeks of notice before being sent to Hastings Park for many months before being transferred to Tashme. He remembers each person in the family was only allowed one suitcase. Sharky discusses his memories of his mother who was an important member of the community as a midwife and the values she passed onto to him. He also reflect upon his father, his “Anglo-Saxon” neighbors, and friends. Sharky relays the sentiment of Shikata ga nai being prevelant in his family. His family settled in Chatham after the war and Sharky later went on to Toronto. The interview closes with Sharky discussing his hobby involving model airplanes.

Credits

XML Encoder: Stewart Arneil
Publication Information: See Terms of Use for publication and licensing information.
Setting: Toronto, ON
Keywords: Victoria ; Hastings Park ; Tashme ; Chatham ; Toronto ; Pictures; Shikata ga nai; Airplane models; politicians; Hastings Park ; ; 1920s – 1950s

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.