Howard Shimokura, interviewed by Carolyn Nakagawa, 15 March 2018

Howard Shimokura, interviewed by Carolyn Nakagawa, 15 March 2018

Abstract
Howard Shimokura was born and raised in Vancouver before being interned in Tashme. In this interview, he talks about his family’s prominence in the Japanese-Canadian community, his career, his interest in history, and his involvement in the Tashme history project.
Editorial Note
For more information on the Tashme historical project, see their website.
Howard narrates how his father came to Canada in 1915, how his grandparents lived on Cordova Street, and how his family later lived on Nanaimo Street. He recalls that most of the children in the neighbourhood were Japanese Canadian, and that some anti-Japanese children yelled at him but for the most part he did not experience overt racism. Howard talks about his father’s position as a doctor and how his family was provided with a duplex house in Tashme, shared with the camp dentist, Dr. Kuzahara . He also explains that his father was allowed to keep his car in order to transfer patients to the hospital in Hope, BC. speaks about losing family heirlooms, but that his father was able to keep his camera so that he still has many family photographs. He recalls the Tashme education system being created by Japanese Canadians without governmental support. Howard also narrates how doctors in the camps formed a group and sent letters of protest for the community, as well as a request for better funding. He also talks about his father hosting appreciation parties for the nurses and nursing aids in Tashme, accepting gifts in lieu of payment, and his father’s prominent status in the community. Howard discusses his family moving to Alberta in 1946 because the War Measures Act was extended to keep Japanese Canadians from the coast. He recalls making Japanese-Canadian friends in Alberta while working part-time berry picking or in the canneries, and that the first conversations were always about where they were interned, how it was a point of interest for them, and that he learned the characteristics of the different camps. Howard talks about the racist feelings being stronger in BC than they were in Alberta. He also discusses returning to VVancouver in 1952, and how his family had a strong connection to the Vancouver Japanese Language School, how his maternal grandfather had been on the school board as well as his father becoming a board member. Despite this, Howard talks about English being spoken at home and his lack of Japanese language skills. He narrates how he went to school, married, and lived in the States before returning to Vancouver in 2002. Howard discusses how at this time he became involved in the Tashme history project and his motive behind it being to educate the public about the injustice in order to help prevent future tragedies. He talks about there being a lack of information about Tashme compared to other camps, and how he views this history as a destruction to the way of life for his family at the time. Howard speaks about Japanese Canadians being betrayed by BC, how politics played a big role, and that we need to raise a dialogue and level of understanding and education to minimize the chances of overt racism taking over again. At the end of the interview, he talks about his support for the Landscapes of Injustice project and to raising awareness.
Note: Howard Shimokura has done historical research on Tashme, learning many things later in life.
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Carolyn Nakagawa (CN)
This is Carolyn Nakagawa. It's March 15, 2018, and I'm here with Howard Shimokura at his home in Vancouver. And we're recording his oral history for the Landscapes of Injustice project. So Howard, I thought we could just start off by having you tell me a bit about some memories that you have in your life. If you could start sort of with your childhood and go from there?
Howard Shimokura (HS)
Okay, well, let's see. Childhood. I have very, I'll say faded memories of my childhood in the sense that there are certain things I remember but they're sort of snippets of my life, you might say. They don't relate to each other—they're disconnected—but I do have memories. My very first recollection of anything is my grandmother who I remember when I was about two years old. So in fact, I think it's a real memory. Sometimes I wonder because obviously it could have been a story that was told to me by my parents way back when, but I think these are real memories. My grandmother lived with us and as a child, the very first memory I have about her was when we played with toy boats in the kitchen sink, in our house. At two years old. And I was on a chair, playing in the actual sink, the kitchen sink. And having a good time. And it's a very faded piece of memory, but that's my first recollection of anything. And it's stuck with with me all my life. So it's the very first thing—. People ask me what's the first thing I remember? That's the first thing I remember. We lived in Vancouver. This is 1940/41, before the war. We lived in a house on Nanaimo Street. It's still there, in fact. The house is still there. I do have very vague memories of what it was like living there. For example, the street car—this is something that I'm not exactly sure about—but a streetcar used to pass by our house. So there was a streetcar on Nanaimo street I believe at that time. Other memories, my mother took me to a public swimming pool which was in a park near our home. I fell in to the pool, with clothes and all, and my mother had to wade in and fish me out. I have memories of that. Laughs. Other than that, I guess, next thing, maybe there are a few other things that I remember about our neighbours and so on, but I'll skip over that. We were interned in Tashme, the internment camp called Tashme. I don't have memories of how we got there exactly, except to say that we probably drove there because my father, who was a doctor, was exempted from a lot of the expropriation of property that took place for other people. And so he was able to keep his car. And the reason being that there might have been some occasion when some transportation—the car would be used for transportation of patients from Tashme to a hospital in Hope, in cases where, you know, the Tashme hospital was inadequate. So that's my understanding of why he was able to keep his car. And so we probably drove there, in a car. I do know we arrived in Tashme in September, early September of 1942. And we lived in a – we were assigned, I guess, a house on Tashme Boulevard, in Tashme. Initially.
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HS
Sometime in the first year or so, another home was built for us, located near the hospital in Tashme for the reasons, to be close to the hospital. It was not like many of the other houses in Tashme in that we had—It was custom built, so to speak, in the sense that it was different from the other houses. And it had, it did have indoor plumbing. In contrast to other shacks and houses in Tashme. And we shared it—it was a duplex. We lived in one side, as a family, and there was Dr. Kuzahara who was the dentist in Tashme who occupied the other part of the duplex. And together, we lived in this duplex. Now, the memories I have of living in Tashme were I think quite different from any of the other children my age in the sense that we lived sort of isolated. Away from the rest of the community. Which, to me, was a bit of a problem in that I had very few friends. Normally you have friends because you live nearby with other children, and I didn't. We didn't. And so, I do have memories of being by myself most of the time, or a lot of the time, until I went to school. I went to kindergarten, and grades one and two. But I had some distance to go to attend, because we were living in this place that was quite far away from the rest of the community. So, I guess I felt that because of my father's status in the community, I didn't feel like I belonged in the same way that I might feel if everyone was of the same sort of place in the community. And so I do have memories of feeling a little different. Anyway, we left Tashme in 1946, and because of the situation we were not allowed to go back to Vancouver, which is what my parents would have wanted to do. But instead, we moved as a family to Alberta. Initially to Raymond, Alberta. This is in 1946. And we lived in a rented house in Raymond. My father as a doctor had a practice which took up part of the house we rented. And I have very little knowledge or recollection of his practice except to say that patients came to our home, and also he made house calls. And believe it or not, it was the same car. I think it was a 1938 Ford, four-door sedan. Which he had kept throughout the interment period, and the first few years of living in Alberta. So by that time, the car was quite old. And, I do remember in Raymond that he had to have the entire engine overhauled, just to keep it going. But he used it to make house calls, and I would sometimes accompany him on these house call trips, and he would leave me in the car to wait for him. And that's what I did. But it was, I guess, fun for me to get out of the house so I accompanied him on many occasions.
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HS
And sometimes met the families, as well, on these trips. In 1947, we moved from Raymond, Alberta to Lethbridge. I don't know how far it is exactly, but it's like twenty miles perhaps, or twenty-five miles. Something like that. And we bought a house, and again, my father had his practice in the house. And we lived there for '47 to '52, so the better part of five years. After which we returned again as a family to Vancouver, which by that time, all Japanese Canadians were allowed to move anywhere. So we came back to Vancouver in 1952. Let's see, I have two brothers. One was—my brother Allen was born in Tashme, in 1943. And my youngest brother Raymond was born in Raymond, Alberta, in 1947. So we were a family of five. We moved into a house in East Vancouver. And I went to school at the Templeton. At the time it was a middle school, a junior high school it was called. Grades seven to nine. And then I attended Britannia High School from ten through twelve. And then UBC from '56 until I graduated in '61, and went on to get a Master's Degree, and finished that up in 1963. Got married, and moved to Ottawa, Ontario, to take up a job with Northern Electric Research and Development Laboratories in Ottawa. Lived there for two years. Was extremely fortunate to have gotten an assignment to be transferred from Ottawa to New Jersey, to work at Bell Telephone Laboratories for a while. It was a two year assignment, initially. And while at Bell Labs, was transferred again by Bell Labs to a new operation in Chicago, Illinois. The town we lived in was called Aurora, Illinois. We lived there for two years. So my assignment with Bell Laboratories was three years long, and so we returned to Ottawa in 1968, and you know, I could talk about my job at work, but I won't. I'll just give you a quick overview first. We lived in Ottawa until 1984, then transferred by Northern, well it was not Northern Electric R&D Laboratories anymore, by that time the name was changed to Bell Northern Research. It was the research and development part of Bell Canada, and Northern Electric. Which became Nortel Networks through several name changes, but it ended up being Nortel Networks. BNR—Bell Northern Research—was the research and development part of that operation, and in 1984 we moved to Chapel Hill, North Carolina to work at the BNR facility, which was a new venture by the Bell Canada and Nortel Networks, to set up a research and development operation in Research Triangle Park, North Carolina.
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HS
And we lived in Chapel Hill until 1989 when I resigned from Bell Northern Research/Nortel to join Southwestern Bell Corporation in St. Louis, Missouri. Again, in a research and development capacity. The idea there was to help southwestern Bell set up a research and development operation, which started shortly before I got there, but my mission was to help build the organization. And while there, was transferred by Southwestern Bell to Austin, Texas. Which is where we lived and worked from 1995 until my retirement in 2000. And from my retirement in 2000, we stayed on in Austin for two years. Returned to Vancouver in 2002, and bought a home and have lived there ever since. So I retired in the year 2000, it's now 2018. I've been retired for 18 years and I’ve kept busy doing things in that time. We can talk about any part of this, just ask me questions.
CN
Sure, sure. Thank you. I guess I'll start by going back to the beginning, then. Because you mentioned that you have some memories living on Nanaimo Street in Vancouver before your family had to move.
HS
Yeah.
CN
Of your neighbours? And I was wondering if you wouldn't mind telling us a bit about your neighbours?
HS
Well, let's see. That's an interesting question, because you know, I don't remember my neighbours very well. I do remember a family that had a dog that I, kids love animals I guess, myself included. That's what I remember about this family, they had a dog. And there was a boy, Frank, and a girl, I can't remember her name now. But we were friends. And I don't remember very much more than that, but what's interesting is that two years ago when I was working on the Tashme
For more information on the Tashme historical project, see their website.
historical project and the website, there was a story written up about the project in the Burnaby Newspaper. Somebody contacted the newspaper and they wanted to kind of reconnect with me, and low and behold we start a conversation and she ended up telling me that she was a neighbour. And, so we made this connection. And we've met up at the unveiling of the sign for Tashme, in October of last year. Had a very nice conversation about, well, “remember when” and “do you remember this” and “remember that” and this sort of thing. It was very interesting. Anyway, that's about the only person that I sort of have memories of while living on Nanaimo Street. Now, through family pictures and what have you, of that time, you know there are pictures of my third and fourth birthdays, I think. Of kids being invited to a party at our house on Nanaimo Street. But outside of these two people, this boy and this girl, I know nothing about the other children who are in the picture. Laughs. So, my memories are pretty much gone of that time. You know, just bits and pieces.
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CN
Right. But this woman, was she the family with the dog?
HS
Yeah.
CN
Oh wow.
HS
Yeah, yeah. She's a couple years younger than I am, I guess. So we would have been three or four years old, or something, at the time.
CN
And were most of the kids in your neighbourhood in your birthday parties and in this family, were they Japanese Canadian?
HS
Yes, they were.
CN
They were.
HS
Yes, so again, I think, you know. . . My parent's friends were all pretty much Japanese. Outside of maybe some of the neighbours in the neighbourhood. But I don't know anything about their relationship with the neighbours we had. So I can't tell you very much about that at all. So again, if my parents were still living they could probably tell me more about this. But I have no information about that.
CN
Right, because you were pretty young when you left.
HS
Yeah, I was you know, three or four years old.
CN
But you remember the house that you lived in, though?
HS
Ah, vaguely. As I say, this first memory I have of my grandmother was from that house, and it was from the kitchen. I still—recollections of the kitchen sink looks like. And there's a window, just like here.
CN
Oh, right above the sink?
HS
Yeah, yeah right above the sink. You could look out. Like I said, I don't have memories of the house itself, except through pictures that we've got. We've got pictures of our house at that time.
CN
Who lived in the house with you?
HS
Just my parents, and my grandmother. My grandfather, well, let's see what happened. My grandfather, I do know that he went back—I know what happened. My grandmother passed away in late December of 1940. And my grandfather, who at that time, I think was close to retirement if not retired already. He was a physician, a doctor.
CN
Your grandfather was?
HS
My grandfather on my mother's side was a doctor. After my grandmother passed away, he returned to Japan, and spent the war years in Japan. He returned to Canada in the mid 1950s, and lived out his days in Vancouver. With my mother and my uncle, my mother's brother. And he passed away in the late 50s. Now. . . At the time, we lived—well no. After I was born, I think they lived with us. In this house on Nanaimo Street. I do know that they lived, you know when my mother was born, the family lived on Cordova Street right across or right, yeah across the street from what's called Oppenheimer Park now. In the middle of the block on Cordova, facing the park. In fact, I've got a map, I think it's a map that the museum sells of the area, and my grandfather's family's home was—is—located on that map. So I know from that that that's where she lived. And my mother apparently was born in that house, not in a hospital but born in that house, along with my mother's brother, my uncle. I don't know where I was going with this, but where were you going? Both laugh.
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CN
That's okay.
HS
So, my memories of Nanaimo Street as I said are very, very sparse and faded I would say. I can't tell you very much more about that.
CN
Do you have any memory—I know you were quite young, but do you have any memory of there being instances of racism against Japanese Canadians when you were still living in Vancouver at that time?
HS
Ah, no. Not directly. I guess though I. . . What I know is what I've learned since. I can't tell you that I've got any first hand information about that.
CN
Were there stories that your family shared with you?
HS
I can't even say that, no. My father had his feet in sort of both sides. My father's history is interesting because—well for a number of reasons. But, he was one of these very early immigrants who came at an early age. He came to Vancouver at 1915 at the age of 11. Well, without his parents, actually. So I'm not quite sure, I've never found out clearly what the circumstances were of his coming. His father—my grandfather on his side—was living in Canada at the time, but not in Vancouver. He was a labourer, as many people were at that time. Living in one of the coastal towns, Ocean Falls perhaps or something like that. And my father came at the age of 11, I remember him telling us stories about starting grade one with no knowledge of English at all. Nothing. At Strathcona. Being put into a grade one class at 11 years old. And struggling with language and everything else. He lived with a family, a Caucasian family, as sort of a house boy, which, you know, in exchange for room and board he had to do chores around the house. But the family supported the idea of his getting an education. So, he went to school. But at other times, he had chores to do. And I guess he lived without his parents, with this family, and he caught up with the rest of the class, rest of the children of his age, anyway. Eventually ended up graduating with high school and what have you and going to UBC for two years. He wanted to become a doctor, work at it, ended up going to Alberta because Alberta had a pre-med program that was better than what UBC offered. So he went to Alberta for a couple of years. And then he went to University of Toronto, which is where he got his medical degree. He graduated from the University of Toronto in 1932. So in the space of 1915 to 1932, what's that?
CN
Seventeen years?
00:29:51.000
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HS
In seventeen years he went from zero to Laughs. becoming a doctor. I do know that he worked during the summer months at various jobs to earn money. Again, without much help from his parents. Anyway, then after he graduated he went to, at that time and still today I think, you have to go to a residency at a hospital before you can practice as a physician. So he went to St. Luke's University, or St. Luke's Hospital, I should say, in Tokyo. Where he spent two years, getting the required experience before he returned to Vancouver in '34 to set up a practice. Married my mother in 1936 and then had me in '38. Laughs. So that's kind of very briefly the family history. And my father was able to, well I mean he. . . He went to Japanese language school while he was going to school, as well as the public education for all children. So he knew both Japanese and English. And my mother was born in Vancouver in 1913, grew up in Vancouver, and as a person of Japanese ancestry at that time, learned both Japanese and English, too. So they were both bilingual. Although, from my point of view, they spoke only English. I mean, English was the language at home. And at that time, I think there was a definite bias towards having children learn English, you know living in Canada and so on. I've been told I spoke Japanese fluently because, as a child, I have no memory of this. But I am told I did have fluency in Japanese as well as English. So I was bilingual for a while. I lost that, very quickly it seems, so I never had it very well. I guess, maybe that's more accurate. Because my Japanese is very poor. I still have a bit of it but I've never really had it—I was never really put into situations where I had to use it. So I've never really learned Japanese very, very well at all. And what I did learn going to Japanese school was reading and writing. You know, the written language, mostly. Conversation, not so much. So our family grew up more or less speaking English, and my youngest brother knows no Japanese, at all. He didn't go to school—Japanese language school—at all. My middle brother Al has some language, but not a lot. Most of what he has comes from his time in Japan in is his, I guess, middle life. He and his wife spent seventeen years living in Japan, so, most of his language comes from that period. But I got to say, he's lost most of that by now, too. So none of us have really retained much Japanese. What else can I say? Okay, so Nanaimo Street and life in Vancouver at that time I have very little firsthand knowledge of. My father practiced for a relatively short time before the war started. So from '34 to '41, I guess is about seven years. He did have an office which is in a building which is still there, corner of Main and Hastings.
00:35:26.000
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HS
Coincidentally, when he came back to Vancouver, he found an office in that same building, in which he set up his practice for part of the time after returning from Alberta. Just to carry on in that theme. He and my uncle, my mother's brother, set up a medical-dental practice on Hastings Street. Which continued until my father was forced to retire at what I consider to be an early age from illness, and my uncle kept it going with the dental side of the clinic for some years before he retired also. So any sort of racial issues I guess, my firsthand experience with it was during the time after the war ended in Alberta and coming back to Vancouver. Somewhere in the 46-52/53 period. You know, there were lots—not lots, but there were definitely people who were anti-Japanese. . . The experience I guess is basically being sort of taunted and bullied, you might say, by other children who for whatever reasons were anti-Japanese. It was something I knew existed, I guess, but when you encounter it firsthand, I was not the sort of person to fight back. Laughs. It's not a very—. Emotionally, it was sort of devastating, you might say. You know, you don't like to be yelled at and screamed at and so on. But I do have memories of that happening. But over time it stopped, and I did form friendships with people on sort of equal basis you might say. And grew up sort of normally I think overall. So I don't hold any feelings about it now. It's all dissipated. But at the time that it happened, I do recall feeling quite bad. But it's something you get over.
CN
Do you remember ever talking to your parents or in your family about people treating you this way?
HS
Sure. Oh yeah.
CN
What the attitude was about what you should do?
HS
Yeah, I do. But nothing about. . . It was basically, “Well it happens. You can't do much about it” sort of thing. I don't recall ever being told that I should do certain things, to retaliate or to fight back. I never did, I don't think.
CN
So the attitude among your family was more to just accept it and move on.
HS
Yeah, and move on.
CN
And was this, would this have been sort of different period of your life? When you're living both before and after the war in different places?
HS
Ah, well I don't recall much of it at all before the war because I was too young. I don't think—It might have happened, but I have no memories of that. What I do remember is after the war. In Alberta, to some extent, but more when I came back to Vancouver. I think the anti-Japanese feelings were much stronger in BC than they were in Alberta.
CN
Even in the 50s?
00:40:18.000
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HS
Yeah. I mean we're talking about '52, '53, '54 in Vancouver. And it would be very occasional. It's not something that I had to put up with everyday, just every now and then something would happen and somebody would yell at me from across the street you know. Anyway.
CN
You mentioned that the house on Nanaimo Street is still there. Do you remember the address?
HS
Yep. 268 Nanaimo.
CN
268 Nanaimo. And have you been to see it?
HS
Yeah, well I've driven by it, but that's it. I've never gone in or anything, no.
CN
Was it something that you talked about with your parents, that you had to leave there? Did you intentionally go to see it, or did they?
HS
Well, no. I knew of the address because the address was in the photographs from the 40s. And I had the occasion I guess to drive by it on a regular basis, actually. Because it was on the route to our home here and a bridge club in North Vancouver. So I took the time, I said “I got to take a picture of this house, now.” So I did. I do have a recent picture of it. But it's the same house, you can tell not only from the address but the house itself, the way it's built. And it is the same place. It's been kept up in that it doesn't look run down or anything. It looks like a normal house on the street, in Nanaimo Street, just like any other. A lot has changed around that neighbourhood, but that house is still there.
CN
Is there anything in particular that you think about or feel when you drive past it?
HS
Well. . . Just I don't know, I know that that's the house that we lived in. That's kind of it. I don't have any other emotional ties to it or anything. Just, “isn't that interesting” kind of thing. And, you know, I am a bit of a—I call myself an amateur historian in some respects. So I do have an interest in my family tree and the history of my family to the extent that I know it. I've tried to record it, so the picture of the house back then and the picture I have of it recently is just a couple of pieces of information that I'm keeping for posterity, I guess you might say. But that's the extent of my interest in it.
CN
Is that something that—the picture then and now—have you shared that in your family?
HS
Yep, yep. And I'm the only one that’s connected to that house now, because my brothers were not there. They didn't live in it. They were too young. And nobody else cares because there's nobody else that’s connected with it anymore. So, it's just me. Laughs.
CN
Do you know if your family owned that house or did they rent it?
HS
I think they owned it. I think my father purchased it. You know, the intent was to live there, indefinitely. But of course the war changed everything.
CN
Did they ever talk about losing that house or wanting to go back?
00:44:41.000
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HS
You know, the answer is no, I'd say. Not in my presence anyway. My parents, I think, they were the classic case of people, of those people who just said you know, “We have to live, we have to put up with this. The war happened, the forced removal happened.” There’s nothing that they could do about it. They weren't going to fight it with lawsuits or anything, like some people tried to do. And let's just get on with it, you know. And they thought, correctly I think, that the war wouldn't last forever, but it went on longer than a lot of people thought it would. But, you know, four years. But what was really, I think, very disappointing was not being able to return to the coast immediately. And as you know and as I have come to realize what happened, there was this very clear effort by politicians in British Columbia to try to keep the Japanese from coming back. So this extension of what was the War Measures Act to restrict people from returning to the coast in the 1940s and that, I don't really, the laws were—. The War Measures Act was extended by another act so that people could not return until 1949. And so, that's why my parents went to Alberta. Alberta was okay, but returning to the coast was not. And this sort of forced expulsion of Japanese from British Columbia was a politically terrible thing in my eyes, and something that, you know, reflected anyway sort of racial prejudice, discrimination. And because it was sort of government, it really felt, as many people I think did feel, they didn't want to continue to live in Canada. And that's why a lot of those people returned on ships back to Japan in '46 and '47. So both my parents were not going to go back to Japan. Clearly, no. Well I infer from their actions that there was no way they were going to go back to Japan. My father was born in Japan, was clearly his allegiance was to Canada. As was my mother's. So there was no discussion ever of thinking of going back to Japan. So the idea of moving on was uppermost in our minds, I think.
CN
You mentioned that your father was able to keep his car, and that you had some pictures from Vancouver. And I'm wondering, were there other types of things like that that you remember having later on that were from Vancouver originally?
HS
Well, not really. Family heirlooms or family things that we had before the war we lost pretty much. I guess I can't really speak to what things we lost, because I don't remember having them in the first place in the sense I don't know what our furniture or stuff was, or anything like that that I can recall. But we were able to keep a few things, and we used them in the house in Tashme, I remember. They came from Vancouver, originally. So a certain amount of that sort of thing. I'm sure every family were able to keep certain things. Besides the car, I do remember my father having a camera. It was not expropriated, it was not confiscated. But it turns out that there were many cameras, people had cameras, and they were able to take pictures. So there’s a pretty good historical record of the internment camp—Tashme camp—in these pictures.
00:50:24.000
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HS
And I think that's true of all these camps. There's probably pictures by all kinds of people who were able to keep their cameras. Radios were also another thing, which not all of them were taken away. So, you know, the sort of regulations that were formulated at the beginning of the war with regards to people being able to keep things or not keep things was not adhered to 100%. And I attribute that to the officials who were carrying out these orders didn't always stick to the letter of the law, so to speak. They let things slide. For whatever reason. Because there were many people I think throughout this whole thing that were sympathetic to the situation the Japanese faced. In fact, I would say that the population, the caucasian population was mixed on the treatment. Or the mistreatment of the Japanese Canadians. And in the end, it was through the people who were sympathetic to the Japanese that helped to overturn the regulations about the treatment. I've learned this since. This is not something that I remember happening but I do know now that there were many, many politicians and specific leaders who were very sympathetic to the Japanese, and helped to overturn the regulations that were trying to keep the Japanese from returning to the coast, or restrictions of where they could live, what they could do, and all those sort of things. And as you know, all those things were lifted in the late 40s through a lot of lobbying by people and by the political climate, which post-war I guess you could say. There were various sort of human rights people, oriented people who wanted to do what was right, I'll say it that way. So things worked out in the end. But, as I said, there were cases of individuals who never got over their animosities towards not just Japanese but Germans, other groups who were somehow tied to the countries who were associated with being sort of the enemies of the west during that time. So, you know things have turned out relatively okay in the end. But that's a result I think of just the resilience of the peoples. And everybody desired to improve their lot or their situations in life. Yeah, so.
00:55:11.000
00:55:11.000
HS
It’s – to me, one of the reasons why I'm interested in sort of helping with the. . . I guess furthering the education of the public of the injustices that took place, is because my interest in. . . I guess, not just preserving history but also to, you know, the old story of trying to prevent future tragedies from happening by highlighting or spotlighting historical wrongs that have been perpetrated, I guess. I don't quite know how to express it, but you know one of the things hopefully we can do as a community now is show that the Canadian government—not just the Canadian but governments, British Colombian government and the Canadian government—were wrong in what they did to the Japanese Canadians. And the same thing is sort of happening on a different scale perhaps against other groups, today. And putting a spotlight on some of this is a way to prevent things from getting out of hand, so to speak. This business of discrimination is still something that is with us, and is a way to perhaps not stop it exactly, but prevent it to the extent we can by education and showing that it's happened in the past, and it's not good, and that maybe the country as a whole will somehow, you know not perpetrate the same kind of wrongs, again. And so, that's a long way of saying, I believe in trying to not prevent it entirely, because I don't think that's possible, but at least bring out the fact that the people who are committing these discriminatory acts are not doing it for the—it's not a first time thing that's happening, it's happened throughout history, actually. And the way you deal with it, I think, is to try to educate the public at large that it's something that happens, and we should try to do something to make it not acceptable. But it's something that's just human nature in a way, and it's through education that you try to keep it from getting out of hand.
00:59:12.000
00:59:12.000
CN
Where were you living during the 80s when the Redress movement was happening in Canada and the US?
HS
Well, that's an interesting point. I was busy working. I will admit to the fact that my interest in Redress was superficial. We were living in the US most of that time. I heard stories about it. I had no real involvement in it. My wife was involved in the early days of the Redress initiative when we were living in Ottawa, but we left Canada actually in '84. So we missed a good part of the activities that had to do with Redress. I was certainly happy to see how it ended. I don't recall being—. There was this intense, as I understand it now looking back at it from my vantage point, there was this intense controversy about whether or not individual compensation or group compensation was the way to go. I can't say that I was in favour of one or the other in any sort of way, but I didn't feel strongly about, I guess, put it that way. Certainly individual compensation was something that was more significant. In terms of, if it was possible for all individuals to be compensated, that would've, I think, I would have thought then I think that it would be a good thing. I'm not sure I felt that it was something that was achievable. Group compensation I thought was sort of a minimum. And I for a long time I think I felt that was probably the way it was going to end up. But I was very, very pleasantly surprised that individual compensation was the end result. But I had no part in it. I didn't participate. I was not present. And I have to say that, you know, my life at that time was pretty much 100% focused on my work. And this involvement that I have now with the community in terms of history and the museum and efforts to better educate the public about the injustices of interment, all that happened after I retired. And, you know, It's one of these things where I feel it's a worthwhile cause for me to spend some time on. I was always very interested in Tashme as a historical exercise,I guess, mostly. In that I've written about this a few times, now. I had very sort of strong feelings about knowing more about the history of what happened in Tashme. There was very little information available. There still is not very much information available, generally speaking. I had the opportunity through this project that I had something to do with—The opportunity presented itself, you know, here's a way to contribute. And I did. I feel quite good about the fact that now there's this website, which has a lot of good information about something that a lot of people had very little knowledge of. And I had very little knowledge of it, either, when I started. But I was able to piece a lot of things together.
Coffee machine beeps and Carolyn pauses the tape.
HS
So, at this point, I feel pretty good about what we were able to do, you know? A lot of this information came together, through a lot of work really, but it looks pretty good, I think, in terms of its completeness. It's comprehensiveness.
CN
So you're involvement with—sorry, the history and community work—did that start with the Tashme historical project?
For more information on the Tashme historical project, see their website.
01:05:01.000
01:05:01.000
HS
Well, in a way I guess it did. Although I've had an interest in history for a long time. My direct involvement, I would say yes, probably true. I got recruited into it, as you know, being involved with the images for a while.
CN
Nikkei images.
HS
Yeah. And I found that an interesting outlet for. . . I guess I’ve always known I had some ability in being able to write, and that combined with my interest and a few things that have turned up prompted me to get more involved. And the images, by the way, what's happened to the images?
CN
Laughs. Nikkei images?
HS
Yeah. It sounds like it's gone now.
CN
We're on hiatus I think. I haven't heard much about it lately, either.
HS
Yeah, yeah. That's a shame I think, because there are a lot of stories out there that deserve to be told, I think. Anyway, it's through I guess the images and this historical project that I got involved with the museum. And I would say now that I feel strongly that the museum deserves to be supported. There's lots of work that needs to be done. And when I compare what the museum is now, as compared to other museums, there's some distance to go. And it would be wonderful if there were more sort of people who were interested in this to build more momentum and, I guess, it boils down to volunteers and funding. But I feel like I'm strongly committed to supporting the museum in any way I can.
CN
That's great, we need supporters like you.
HS
Laughs. Well, yeah.
CN
Can you talk a bit more about what it was like for you to be researching about Tashme? You know, something you experienced as a small child.
HS
Yeah. Well, Tashme turned out to be, the project itself, turned out to be an exercise in finding bits and pieces of information wherever you could. And piecing it all together in a coherent fashion. And I knew that the Library and Archives Canada had all the records, at least the official records that were created by the BC Security Division and the Department of Labour. Who had the sort of administrative responsibility for the camps. I knew that information existed, and I also knew about books and other things. And the more research I did the more sources I found. And what the challenge was then is to piece it all together, assemble it first of all, collect it all, organize it, and put it into some kind of coherent form. And then. . . So, all that took a fair bit of work to do, and getting people to help me to do it. And then, I don't know, at some point I said to myself, at least I said, “The way to exhibit this information, the choices were to write a book or do something like the website.” And I went to the website because it's a lot easier to do. It's changeable, it's malleable, it's update-able. I can get widespread distribution without too much work. So we went that route. And I recruited John Greenaway to help me with the website. And, you know, at first I think he was interested to some extent, but he got really excited when I presented him with all the stuff we had. And, he said, “Oh, this is wonderful. Are you going to do it for the other camps, too?” I said, “Well I don't think so.” But point being that John was a big help to get it on the web and organize it as a website. He knew how to do that—I didn't. So together, a bunch of us got enough information organized and so on to put up the website and the feedback I think has been all positive, I think. Nobody has has come and said—Well I have had several people tell me about what I consider to be minor mistakes, but we've managed to fix those. But in general the acceptance has been very, very good. So I feel pretty good about that.
01:11:33.000
01:11:33.000
CN
Yeah. Were there any times when you were doing that research and gathering those materials when you came across either things related to you or your family?
HS
Very little. Very little that was directly relatable. I mean, a couple things. I guess I found a diary entry, a diary was written by—Phone rings; Carolyn pauses the tape. I've forgotten where we were now.
CN
You were talking about a diary entry you found.
HS
Oh yeah! Diary entry. The diary ws written by a Reverend Ono who was one of the recorders of the history of interment. The diary entry showed that—In fact, I guess they knew each other. This Reverend Ono knew my father, took a note of the fact that he arrived in Tashme on September 8, 1942. Laughs. So, you know, I can't think of any other direct references to internment recorded in any of the documents that I found.
CN
Did you know Reverend Ono?
HS
I didn't. But I think my father had some kind of acquaintance with him.
CN
And how did you feel when you came across something like that?
HS
“Hey, this is interesting.” You know. Well, it's sort of like reading your name in the newspaper. Carolyn laughs. You know you sort of think, “Oh geez, that's sort of interesting.” They spelt it correctly. Both laugh. So nothing direct. As I said, I think my interest is just in putting everything I could find on Tashme into some organized form for the website. As people would sometimes accuse me of being a stickler for detail, and I guess I am. I feel like it's just my nature to get to an understanding of whatever I look at, and to be able to articulate, you know, whatever that understanding is, in a way that is complete and unambiguous. Laughs. So. . . I've tried to include everything I've found in some form on the website, and to do it in a way that is not repetitive or laborious. In fact, it's probably boring when you get right down to it, because if you are trying to get everything in there that you know about something, it can be pretty boring. But that's what I felt like I wanted to do. Complete, and in detail, in depth and all those kinds of things. So I spent a lot of time doing that.
CN
And how did that change the way you think about your own memory of living in Tashme?
01:15:10.000
01:15:10.000
HS
Quite a bit, I think. That's an interesting question. Like anything else in life, you have your own set of memories about it. And when you find the information that adds to that, I guess it makes you feel that you have a better understanding of a more complete picture. You just feel better about it, about the subject, because you know more. And I've said this before, but I think what I've tried to do is make it understandable and clear to other people who have maybe little interest or a bit more than a little interest, because what I've said all along that the people who I hope will read or spend time on the website are people who have had an interest in the subject for a long time through perhaps being descendants of people who lived there. Through curiosity about how their parents or grandparents lived in Tashme. I took that as sort of being the target audience of the information. “What would a descendant, a son or a daughter or a granddaughter or grandson of a resident, what would they be interested in and knowing about?” And so I took that point of view in writing what I wrote, or collecting what I collected.
CN
Can you tell me a bit more about what it was like living in Tashme, day to day? Like do you remember. . .
HS
Yeah, well I don't, really. One of my weaknesses I guess you might say is that I have a relatively good short term memory, but not a very good long term memory. And so, what I remember about Tashme are things that are etched in my mind, and I can repeat over and over again those things. But they're snippets, they're pieces of a much bigger picture. Which I don't have. And so I could tell you about little things. And sometimes they'd be triggered by pictures or things I read, but I will probably soon forget them. So I don't feel very good about being able to describe life in Tashme, except for what I've been able to read and what I've been able to write about it. And so, pretty soon what happens I think is that the line between what you remember and what you know from reading sort of blur. So, I can attempt to do that, I can attempt to describe what life was like, but I'm not exactly sure that it’s all firsthand.
CN
Laughs. Do you remember say, like, going to school or your classmates?
01:19:09.000
01:19:09.000
HS
Oh sure. Yeah. Those are things that I do have memories of. I did go to kindergarten and grades one and grades two in Tashme. Now kindergarten was organized and operated by the Anglican Church of Canada. It was not a public – yeah, It was run by the church. And the location of the kindergarten was in a grove of trees, which is in fact, the kindergarten building is still there. It’s almost completely disintegrated but it's still there. It was used as a kindergarten during the week, and used as a church on the weekends, church on Sundays. As with all the other buildings, it was all wood. Wood construction. I don't remember much about physically how it was laid out, but I do remember the kindergarten classes were organized into groups. And maybe this was the way kindergartens were all done, even now, I don't know. But I belonged to the Bluebird Group. I don't know how big the group was, I imagine it’s ten, fifteen kids? But there were different groups, different names. Bluebird was the only one I do recall, but it was one of the groups. Activities I can't recall exactly, but it was fun. We had a good time. Both laugh. I can't recall—I guess it was everyday. I'm not sure. For several hours, I guess. And at the end of the year, we all got a little certificate, a little diploma type of thing, a roll with a ribbon on it. And we had a group picture taken of it, which I still have. Beyond that, don't know, don't remember much more. Grade one and grade two, that was conducted in a building that before it became a school, it was a storage shed. I learned through the work on the Tashme project that education was a very ad hoc kind of thing in that the parents and the school or organization as such, had to scramble to have the facilities and the equipment and what have you, for school. The provincial government initially said “We're not going to support schools, public education in these camps. It's no longer our responsibility. It's the federal government that is responsible for the whole thing, so they should take charge of education.” The federal government on the other hand said, “We will take responsibility but there's a limit to what we can do, what we will do.” So it ended up on the shoulders of the Japanese people who were interested in the education. And this factor plays in all the camps. They had to set up the schools with some funding from the federal government. And what ended up happening was high school graduates were recruited to be teachers with no training, or almost no training. And there are lots of stories about these teachers having a terrible time, you know, learning how to teach with no instructions. Learning to discipline kids who didn't care much for education. Both laugh. But I do recall, you know, that I thought it was normal, but we had relatively small classes. Grade one was maybe twelve or fifteen kids. The teacher was Miss Arakawa of first grade. Who was in this new building and it was a remodeled woodshed. The woodshed was turned into a school because there was not enough room elsewhere in the existing buildings where they had school up until the time this school, this primary school that I went to, was built. It was about a year, at least, after internment started that this new school was created.
01:25:32.000
01:25:32.000
HS
So the first year was really a scramble. Apparently they had to have temporary classrooms with move-able walls and blankets for partitions, and teachers had a terrible time because there was no sound insulation from one classroom to another because of proximity. So, teachers had a terrible time. I guess the kids had a terrible time, too, but anyway. Grade one and grade two got organized when this new school was opened. So what I remember of it is was just like any other school, normal classes and so on. Blackboards, desks, what have you. Interesting thing is that we have a class photograph of that class, Grade One. And it was shortly after my wife and I started dating that we discovered we were in the same class. Laughs. That was funny. So anyway, grade two was the same thing. Different classroom, same building. Mrs. Sado was our teacher. In both grade one and grade two, besides by wife being in the picture of grade one, there was another person, Ed Ryujin. Do you know Ed Ryujin?
CN
Sorry?
HS
Well he was in my class. He lives here in Vancouver, has done for years. We're friends from way back. But that's where I met him. And we never reconnected until our 50s, or well, yeah 50s I guess. But school was school. My problem, or if I called it a problem, because of where we lived, you know, as I said earlier in the story, ways a away from the rest of the population. I had a much further distance to go for school. And it was in a different direction, right. Because everybody else after school they all went back home, which’s that way. And I was by myself, of course, would go this way. So I remember feeling at the time, “Okay.” It was hard to have sort of friendships and so on when I wasn't part of the group that went back to our houses, our homes. So, I guess through circumstance, I ended up on my own for a lot of the time when I was a kid. At least in Tashme. So I still remember being, feeling somewhat outside the group, so to speak. Because of that. But I did have friendships, I did. But I had to go from—. Someone calls Howard from within the house; the tape is paused.So what else?
CN
You said you did have some friendships in Tashme?
HS
Yeah. The closest place where I had some friends was in the apartment building. You'll have to look up the layout of Tashme. The apartment building was closer to where we live than the houses which were farther away. So I did have some friendships there. But again, there were one or two kids. So I was never part of a larger group of children who hung out together. So I'm sure that, Laughs. well I'm sure that, well I think that probably affected my growing up a bit in that I felt always on the outside.
01:30:24.000
01:30:24.000
HS
Then we went to Alberta. Starting up in school, it was, being an outsider again. And especially so because there’s not very many Japanese there and same thing in Lethbridge. The number of Japanese in our school classes was very small as compared to everybody else. So not like today where I understand you go to any school in Vancouver and it's three-quarters Asians. Laughs. So, things were quite different, then. But some friends I've kept up friendships since those days. I guess what happens in life is that, at least, in my age group, we started to separate again. In that, you know, people pass away and life continues on with children rather than other friends, it seems like to me. And so things like playing bridge regularly you say is I think fairly beneficial to me in the sense that I have a different set of friends from bridge than from the rest of life. And because we have this common interest, you know, it's a different kind of friendship in a sense that it's through bridge that we have this friendship. It's not through family or long-time friendships that we might have. So, it's a different kind of network of friends that I’ve ended up with. Part of, I guess, both the wife and I have moved a lot, moved a great deal. So everywhere we've gone, we've formed friendships, and then we lose them very quickly. Because after we move away or they move away, cause we're all transient. Friendships don't last. Except in a few cases.
CN
So you said there are a few people that you have kept in touch with, though.
HS
Yeah, well, throughout there are quite a number of sort of Japanese friends that I, my wife and I, both have, from before—from high school, let's say, or university. That we've kept in touch with. We were away for thirty-nine years, in Vancouver. We left in '63 and came back in 2002. So for thirty-nine years, we didn't live here, and the result of that is that we didn't live through all of the changes that have taken place in Vancouver, in terms of the Japanese-Canadian community. So the friends we have now, at least many of them, are from our high school days. Yeah. What comes to mind right now is that someone, there's a couple of people but they've organized a octogenarian lunch. Everybody who is turning 80 this year are gonna get together, and a large number of those people are people that we knew from back in high school. So, it's going to be interesting. I haven't seen many of them in a long, long time. So we never formed friendships for obvious reasons in Vancouver during the time we were away, because we were away. And so we live now in a situation where we have friends from bridge, friends from high school days, and very few friends that are not in one of those two categories.
01:35:56.000
01:35:56.000
CN
And are your friends from high school, are they mainly Japanese Canadian?
HS
Ah, mainly, yeah. And you know what, you probably know this but I remember growing up in those days in high school years, we all had two sets of friends. And they didn't interact. We had Japanese-Canadian friends, and we had non-Japanese friends. From school. And the non-Japanese friends and our Japanese friends, they didn't interact. They were just completely two sets of friends, for each of us. They were not the same.
CN
So you'd have Japanese-Canadian friends and then each of you in that group would have your own separate set of non-Japanese-Canadian friends?
HS
Oh yeah, I'm sure. Yeah, yeah, yeah.
CN
But then the Japanese-Canadian friends were the ones that you stayed in touch with?
HS
Yes.
CN
Why do you think that is?
HS
Why do you think that is? Well, I don't know. Because we were friends, we had this friendship affinity I think lasted because of what we all shared int terms of our experiences, I guess. I do have one or two non-Japanese friends from those days, but the only times I see them are at reunions. And I can only tell you that I've been to only two or three since we came back to Vancouver, so I've seen them two or three times in fifteen years. We don't have any sort of a strong bond of any kind anymore, and I don't quite know why that is, but that's what it is.
CN
Can you tell me more about what kind of shared experiences you had with your Japanese-Canadian friends?
HS
Well, it was a friendship of high school kids who were interested in girls, in my case, and interested in sports, I guess. And having fun, you know. I mean, there would be social events, dances, and parties, picnics, and some of organized and some of it not organized. And we spent weekends, mostly weekends I guess, together. And those are the friends we still have, and those are the friends that we'll meet up at this octogenarian lunch thing. Both laugh.
CN
How did you come together with this group of Japanese Canadians?
HS
Well, that's the interesting question. We were very few that were in the schools we were in, but one way that I distinctly remember is Japanese Language School. Another was finding part-time work, like picking strawberries, which a lot of kids did that. There were strawberry farms in Richmond, at the time. And if you want money, we'd have to go to work and earn money doing things like picking strawberries. Others through part-time work at the fish canneries. There's lots of Japanese hired because of past history, I guess. So being associated with the canneries. So you meet Japanese friends that way. And of course these friends were, because they were not necessarily through living in the same place because of course we come from all over to go berry picking or working at the cannery. So you get to know people from, in my case, Richmond, Burnaby, that I never would have met otherwise.
01:40:31.000
01:40:31.000
CN
Did you talk together about things like where you were during the war?
HS
First topic of conversation: where were you during internment? Or it was called evacuation, then. Where were you evacuated to? What camp were you in? You know, almost always the first question you wanted to know about somebody else.
CN
And what would that mean once you gave that answer? What would you glean from that?
HS
Well, sometimes you find out that they were in the same camp you were and didn't know each other at all. And that's worth a few minutes of conversation, I guess. It never lasted long, it's just a point of interest—everybody's curious about where they were. And you get to learn about sort of characteristics of every camp because they were different. Greenwood for example was largely populated by Catholics—Japanese Catholics. The Catholic Church took charge of organizing a lot of their life in Greenwood. That's the one that stands out, I guess. I don't know about other camps. It was just a point of conversation, just an icebreaker I'd say.
CN
Laughs. And would that continue to be a topic of conversation?
HS
No, not so much.
CN
It was mainly dropped. That's very interesting.
HS
Yeah, what I found during those conversations was that very—. Tashme was not talked about, for whatever reason. And maybe because most people who lived in Tashme never returned to Vancouver or something, I don't know what it was, but Tashme didn't' come up very often. And I often wondered about that—I still wonder about it. I have ideas about it but I'm not, it's not clear to me why, exactly. But Tashme was underplayed and has been in the public knowledge of internment camps. That's one of the reasons why I did this, I decided I was going to do something about that. People talk about other camps, you know New Denver, Lemon Creek, Popoff, there was a, you know, it happened more often to me anyway that Tashme was not a topic of conversation. Not many people admitted to the fact that they lived in Tashme, or they actually didn't live in Tashme, so. It's a curious phenomenon I found, or at least in my mind it was—or is, still. It was the largest camp in terms of number of people, the largest single camp, anyway. But despite that, it doesn't come up very often.
CN
I wanted to ask you more about photographs, because they keep coming up. In particular, photographs that you have or that your family has, either from Vancouver or taken in Tashme. Those were things that I guess your parents must have taken with them, both from Vancouver and then afterwards. What kind of a presence did that have in your house growing up? Like were they albums that you looked at often, or?
01:44:32.000
01:44:32.000
HS
Well, there were albums, for sure. I think I said to you earlier that I guess I'm detailed oriented, and I like to have a complete view of things. So I took charge of the family photographs. This is going back a few years now, but I did. My brother's didn't care—I was the one that had them. My mother gave them to me, and so I’ve had to overhaul several times over the course of years, because the albums were in terrible shape when I first got them. And I was the one who was curious about who was in these pictures, and nobody else cared. I wanted to find out as much as I could, but I was too late. I discovered—not discovered—I developed this interest too late in life. My father was gone and my mother was, I guess, she was let's see, I guess I would have to say she helped me with a lot of it but not enough to satisfy me in terms of what I would like to know now. And so I've only got a partial view of my own family's history in terms of people, who's who and how they fit in. So the album exists, but I don't know these people, I don't know who they are. Laughs. And I have no way of finding out now, it's too late. So I will keep them, but I'm not sure that I can add any value to them in terms of passing them on to my kids. Who, by the way, I don't think will have an interest in them. So I'm kind of, I know that they will likely be tossed at some point, because they're of no value anymore, right?
CN
Donate them to the museum. Laughs.
HS
Well, I could do that, except I can't tell you who's in these pictures.
CN
Someone might be able to.
HS
I doubt it very much, because we're going back to the 20s and 30s.
CN
So you're looking at these photographs is mainly from the time when you took them over from your parents?
HS
Yeah, yeah, yeah. Pretty much, yeah. There were lots of them that I know I was in them, or I am in them, so those ones I'm much more familiar with. And I donated, well I shouldn't say that, I've donated some of these pictures to the museum. Especially as they relate to Tashme. But of the photographs hat I've kept—occasionally I have the fun experience of passing them on to other people who are connected to those pictures, but they had no knowledge of that connection. For example, this friend I told you about that was our neighbour on Nanaimo Street? No, I take it back, that's not right. No, no, what happened was that another friend that turns out to be related to Dr. Kuzuhara who was our dentist-neighbour in a duplex in Tashme, she contacted me also and said “Hey, I'm Dr. Kuzuhara's granddaughter.” And I said, “Oh, wonderful.” I knew that he had a granddaughter, and “I'm very happy to know you.” So I gave her some pictures of Dr. Kuzuhara and this granddaughters, I guess they would be uncles, or great-uncles even. No, they're uncles, because their children of Dr. Kuzuhara, so they're uncles of this woman. And she was delighted, I mean who knew, right? I have some of them, those kinds of pictures, and in fact another one of the pictures is of Dr. Kuzuhara's wife who, I guess is his granddaughter's grandmother. Yeah, grandmother. And she didn't have any pictures like the one I have, so I gave her a copy and she was delighted with that as well.
01:50:29.000
01:50:29.000
HS
So, you know, there's payoff in keeping these pictures, sometimes. But it doesn't happen often, and it's not going to happen much anymore I wouldn’t think because the connections are disappearing. I have pictures of my mother's brother's family. This is some time ago, but we shared these pictures with my cousins, who are the children of my uncle, that she didn't have, she didn't have these pictures. She has in turn pictures of sort of our family as well. So we had this wonderful experience where we know each other, or know the people in the pictures. But again, that's not going to happen often. That's going to happen once or twice, maybe, in your life. So pictures are a wonderful thing, but again, the funny thing about pictures is that they used to be much more valuable in the past than they are now. We take pictures and don't think anything of it. Put’em up on our smartphones, pass them on, but taking pictures by the hundreds. Where in the past it used to be a process of getting it developed and printed and so on and so forth, so things have changed a lot.
CN
I wanted to ask you about your family's connection to the Vancouver Japanese Language School.
HS
Yeah, I mentioned earlier that my grandfather was on the sort of school board at the time.
CN
And was that your maternal grandfather?
HS
Yeah.
CN
So the one who went back to Japan?
HS
Yeah. And I think I mentioned that he was a doctor, and so was kind of a prominent person in the community. And he served you know volunteered to be part of several different things. The one I know about is the school board. So there's pictures of him taken in front of the Japanese Language School. One of a large group of people. That's how I know that he was there. You also probably know that the school was run and organized and managed by a Mr. Sato and his wife Tsutae Sato I think her name was. No, Tsutae Sato was the—
CN
Was the husband.
HS
The husband.
CN
The wife was named Hanako.
HS
Yeah, that's right. Exactly. They both taught at the school. They taught my father, I know, and my mother. And me, I was one of his students after the war, for a while. As was my brother. So I have recollections of that experience. When we returned to Vancouver, Mr. Sato recruited my father to be a school board member, too. So he served for several years, I think. Not very long. Three or four years, maybe. Early 50s, '52, '51, '55, something like that in there. So I don't know much about actually what he did, in terms of being a school board member, but, I guess like all school boards, they have things to do there, decisions to make.
01:55:08.000
01:55:08.000
CN
Did you ever talk in your family about the importance of the language school, or?
HS
Well, my father always said, you know, “You've got to learn Japanese, you've got to learn Japanese.” Laughs. I went because of him, because he wanted me to go, he wanted my brother to go. And it did serve a purpose, I mean I learned Japanese to some extent, and also formed friendships through that as well that I still have today. So, it was of some benefit. But it was also a bit of a chore because, you know, going to school, after school, coming home and then going off to the Japanese Language School three days a week. Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturday mornings. At least, part of the time, anyway. Can you imagine going to school on Saturday morning? Laughs. Anyway, did that for several years. And one of the things, one of the benefits I'd say, was not only the friendships but we formed, at least not we, I was part of a group of kids who participated in a sort of social activities that were held at the school. I remember, you know, parties and dances that took place in the school, which were the only connection I had was through the school, because of the school, and because of the initiative of some kids, I guess, to organize a teenage group of kids to hang out and do things together. You know, thanks to the school. If it wasn't for the school I wouldn't have been part of that.
CN
Was your dad a board member while you were at the school?
HS
Yeah.
CN
Was that something that you were conscious of?
HS
Not so much, no.
CN
If didn't make a difference?
HS
It didn't make any difference.
CN
Okay. I also wanted to ask—because you mentioned your grandparents house was on Cordova Street right by Powell Grounds, and your dad had an office at Main and Hastings. So those were, even though you didn't grow up in the Powell Street neighbourhood, or weren't there as a child, there's other connections to that connections to that neighbourhood that you had, including the language school. So I was wondering how you're conscious of those connections?
HS
Hmm. Well, you know, language school was after the war, in the 50s. My dad had an office during that time on Main and Hastings. Life around Powell Street and around the language school after the war was, you know, all the remnants of Japantown were not there—gone. There was no—I mean there were a few stores on Powell Street that were Japanese. There was a restaurant and a fish store. But outside of that, it was all non-Japanese. So there was no connection to, sort of, a life that you might connect with a Japan Town at that time. The war completely destroyed, or, yeah destroyed Japantown as a community.
CN
So you didn't have a consciousness of that neighbourhood being one that you had a connection to, really?
HS
No, not especially. It was just like East Hastings or the other place. There was no Japanese-ness left. So, can't speak to any of that. You know, it's only through sort of being interested in history that I found out about life in that area. And I knew about it, that it was there, Japantown was this part of town, but when we went back, when we came back to Vancouver, there was nothing left of it to speak of and so on.
02:00:45.000
02:00:45.000
CN
Do you remember, did you parents talk about why they wanted to return to Vancouver after the war?
HS
Not specifically, no. I just do know that they were not—they didn't want to go back East, to Toronto. Which is where a lot of people went, you know, east of the Rockies. As soon as they could, they wanted to come back to Vancouver. It's just where they, both of them I guess, felt where they wanted to live. I can't say any more about that.
CN
I'm also curious about why you came back to Vancouver. In 2002 you said?
HS
Yeah. Well, I think more than—. Well first of all, let me say that my wife was much stronger about returning than I was. Her reasons were family, and she had a very good argument that convinced me. And that was, that, you know, “Where do you want to live out your days? Do you want to live out your days someplace where you're going to have trouble forming new friendships and creating a life for yourself all over again?” Which is what we've had to do every place we moved. She had the responsibility of creating a social life for both of us wherever we went. We moved, I don't know, seven or eight times to completely different new locations, and had to fit in. And create a life, right. She said, “I don't want to do this again. And I certainly don't want to do it when I'm older. I want to be with friends, with family, I want to be in a place where I know what it's like, I have good health care and familiarity. And, you know, I'll have friends until I pass away.” Moving to a new place, or staying where we were which was Austin, Texas, would have been okay for a while. But you can't put off—. I mean you have to face up to the fact that when your health goes and you're going to have to rely on friends and relatives, being someplace like Austin, you're going to be by yourselves. And life would be, you know. . . Anyway, being back in Vancouver living out your days would be much better, is the way she convinced me that we should come back. And I agreed because I think she's right about that. Having family and longtime friends around, when you're old, is a good thing. As compared to the alternatives. So that's why we're here.
02:05:15.000
02:05:15.000
CN
That's interesting because it actually reminds me of when people talk about the issei in '45, those of them who went back to Japan. When they're old, they want to be with family. It's funny how the situation is different but the factors are the same in some ways.
HS
Yeah, well I know from what I've read, not having experienced it directly, that that was a terrible situation for them. Many of them were not necessarily old enough to be concerned about aging, but what I call the mistreatment of the Japanese in terms of the choices that were given, my my it was a terrible thing. And it's probably the worst thing that most families had to deal with was whether to return to Japan or not. Many of them were mad, you know, angry, resentful, all these things about how terrible they were made to feel. All their possessions taken away. Future looked like, you know, gosh, what are we going to do now? Terrible situation I think, and it's not surprising that many of them returned to Japan even though they knew that Japan was a terrible place. Why would they do that? Well, they did it because—Well for a whole bunch of reasons I think, but this idea of anger and resentment was a major factor, I think.
CN
But I guess it's also similar to your maternal grandfather who returned to Japan before that?
HS
Well he went back before, though.
CN
Yeah.
HS
And I don't think he realized what was going to happen. I was never close to him to understand why he went back. I think he was heartbroken, for one thing, because he lost his wife. But beyond that I don't know why he came back. And furthermore, why he came back to Canada.Laughs. Because he did come back, he came back in the 50s.
CN
Oh, really.
HS
And he died in Vancouver, actually. So it's always been a kind of question I guess in my mind as to why he did what he did. I still remember when he did come back, he lived with us for a while. And he was happy to get the equivalent of old age pension from Canada, when he came back.
CN
Because he was a doctor here before?
HS
Well because he lived most of his life in Canada, right.
CN
Yeah, I guess he was only gone about ten years.
HS
Yeah.
CN
Wow.
HS
Yeah, so he felt an affinity to Canada still, I guess. He had a very quiet, probably a lonely life though when he came back to Canada, because he had as far as I could tell very few or if any friends in Vancouver. And he lived with us for several years and then he, you know my mother was his daughter, and then he went to live with his son, my uncle. And one day, he was gone. So. . . Yeah, so, I've never found out why he came back to Canada because he could have lived in Japan the rest of his life, I think. Unless he wanted to be close to his kids.
CN
Maybe. Oh, I wanted to make sure to ask you about your father, because the doctors are always people that were talked about in terms of their roles in the communities before the internment, and even and during, in the camps, as well. But you have a different perspective of course, being his son. So I was wondering if you could tell me what he was like from your perspective?
02:10:30.000
02:10:30.000
HS
Well, I think I related to you earlier that I thought that he led a remarkable life in terms of his rise in the communities from basically nothing to getting a medical degree. Through a lot of hard work, I think. My father was a very quiet person, he never spoke out very much. He never expressed any really strong views about anything, you know. Didn't impose any rules or regulations on the family, Laughs. for example. But, you know, he earned his place in the community around him. I think he talked about and I do know this, I think it's pretty accurate, that he is the third Japanese Canadian doctor trained in Canada. Anyway, because of the fact that he had all this training and so on, when he set up his practice I guess he earned his place in the community as a doctor. And when the war broke out, he sort of went along with the flow of things. Was assigned to be the doctor, the Japanese Canadian doctor, in Tashme. Other doctors were assigned other camps. I do know that the Japanese-Canadian doctors in the camps formed an affinity group amongst themselves, because at one point my father was connected with, in fact he was the secretary of this group. I don't know how many in there, in the group, about maybe half a dozen or so. Now, they were all not trained in Canada. Dr. Miyazaki in Lillooet for example was trained in the US. So he doesn't count as one of these people. Although I think he started his practice earlier than my father did. But anyway, there were other doctors. Dr. Uchida, Dr. Shimotakahara, Dr. Miyazaki. Maybe several others. I don't know their names. They formed this affinity group as I said, and interesting enough, Linda found some documentation about this group complaining to the B.C. Security Commission, that they weren't being paid enough. And this letter was signed by my father. And it was issued to the commission, asking them to review the salary structures of the doctors. And arguing that they were not just doctors, but they were sounding boards, they were people who listened to people's complaints about this, that, the other thing, all the time. And they spent hours outside of what they considered to be normal working hours dealing with the, I guess the complaints or airing of issues and concerns by the community. Because my father was bilingual, they felt that he could talk to the commission and express their concerns and have something done, right?
02:15:12.000
02:15:12.000
HS
So all these doctors were in the same boat, they were bilingual, they were sort of authority figures in the communities, and all the community members felt they could have some pull with the commission to make some changes. Anyway, the point is they all agreed at this point and time in 1943 or so that they weren't being paid enough. And I don't know what happened, whether or not they got pay raise or not or anything. All I know is that Linda found this letter and got a copy of it. So, his life in the community, both before the war, and during, and somewhat after, was one of a bit of respect in the community because of his position. And people expressed their thanks and appreciation for what he did in several ways. For years afterwards, when we came back to Vancouver, we used to get gifts from former patients, I would assume, who continued to feel, you know, a sense of appreciation for what he did, for his contributions. And every year we would get these wonderful boxes of Okanagan apples. There was one box of delicious every year, and one box of Macintosh apples. And they were really good. Laughs. Anyway, I don't know, it continued for several years. I remember every year we'd get these. And one of the other things that I’d happened, that I sensed an appreciation and so on, were the nurses and nurses aids in Tashme. Who were supervised by my father and by the nurse in charge. I do know that my family, through pictures, used to host parties for these nurses, nurses aids actually. And nurses. There were three nurses and maybe about twenty nurses aids who were non-graduate but had diplomas or something in health sciences or something. They were hired as nurses aids. Anyway, my parents would host parties once or twice a year, because we have pictures of those occasions. Anyway, these people would come and visit with us, with my father, for quite a while through the 50s. In Alberta, and in Vancouver.
CN
Wow.
HS
40s and 50s, I guess. Those are some of the pictures that I've donated to the museum is, you know “here are the Tashme hospital staff.” Interestingly enough, one of the orderlies, a man, he's still alive. He lives in Hamilton, I think. I had a chance to correspond with him when I was trying to raise money for the website. Linda knew him as well, so Linda gave me his contact information, and I wrote to him and I said “Here I am, I'm Dr. Shimokura's son.” He says, “Oh I remember you!” And he donated some money, he donated some pictures. Very interesting interaction. So, they're all very appreciative of my father, you know, but all that's gone now. None of that interaction is happening anymore. My father's gone, but even before he died this whole interaction with these people faded away. But, to me it was an indication of how well respected he was. He, because of his language skills and because of his position in Tashme, was viewed as a person who might be able to change things for the better for the people who were unhappy about something. So, that's what I know about him. Now, after, you know, the war I would say he went about his business very quietly. Didn't do anything outside of what he was asked to do as a physician. People came to be treated and so on.
02:20:53.000
02:20:53.000
HS
He'd often—I'm sure this happened often, actually—he would accept things in lieu of payment. I spoke about these apples which were gifts, but that's not when I mean. I mean when he made house calls and so on, he'd come away with, you know, fruits or vegetables or something that had compensation rather than money. And he would accept that. And so, my father, I think, was quite willing and gracious to not charge people what he should have charged them for services rendered. Now, he didn't live a life of any sort of wealth at all. I mean we grew up in a family that was fine, there was no real problem, but he certainly had no where near the compensation that today's doctors get relative to their community at large. You know doctors get paid a fair amount. So what he earned through his services was middle-class, or maybe slightly above average, but not what doctors earn today relative to the rest of the population. My mother lived out her life, a very frugal life I would say in terms of money. My father died at a relatively young age. He had to retire when he was like fifty, late fifties? Because of Parkinson's. Which is what ultimately, you know, caused him to be bedridden and eventually die. So he died at seventy-one. But from fifty-seven to seventy-one, he was in and out of various, well I shouldn't say in and out, his life deteriorated quite drastically and slowly. Parkinson's in his case was something that nothing could be done about it. He went through surgical treatments, which didn't work. And medication was limited in those days in terms of what it could do, I guess. So last five or six years he was totally bedridden, and could barely move. So he died at a very young age. So his impact on the community he served was, I'd say, maybe minimal is not the right word but it’s not something that you might expect from somebody who had a prominent position in the community. Contrast him to Dr. Miyazaki, if you know his history, he was a very prominent person. A large part of it was him, and my father was nowhere near the kind of person he was. And there were other doctors I guess who lived out their lives more fully in terms of their contributions and their services to the community. So I often felt that my father's life was cut short by his illness. And, you know, my mother lived a very quiet life and has got joy out of grandchildren and so on, but she was by herself most of the time.
02:26:14.000
02:26:14.000
CN
And did she play a similar role in the community during those four years as your father?
HS
No, I would say not. And I'm not sure why because, you know, she had a kind of a quiet personality, and was not. . . She did not have any strong feelings about contributing to the community. She lived a very quiet life. Her brother, my uncle, on the other hand who was much more community-civic minded.
CN
You uncle is. . . ?
HS
His name was George Ishiwara.
CN
That's what I thought. Yeah, I've heard of him. Laughs.
HS
He's a dentist. Very ambitious guy. He got his dentistry degree in Oregon because UBC did not have a dental school. Was prominent in the community in the point of view of a—Well he once told me that he was either the first or second president of the JCCA in 1936-37? '37?
CN
I know he was president of the Vancouver chapter a little later than that, but I'm not sure when he first was.
HS
Yeah. But I know he had a, I think he was president, in the late 30s anyway. And he, ...they were interned in Greenwood initially, and then in Grand Forks. And he was a very civic, he contributed in a sort of civic organization. I think Kiwanis, he belonged to. But he also, I don't know what he did, but he felt, I felt, that he contributed in some way to the Grand Forks community. He was a Red Cross as well, I believe. Anyway, he gave me talks once or twice about doing your civic duty, Laughs. contributing in some way and so on. Anyway, that's about all I know about him other than the fact that he lost his wife, my aunt. No, the other way around. He died first, he died of a heart attack. One day just dropped dead. Which is kind of tragic, actually. And my aunt went on to live a few more years. Anyway, all these people are gone now, and we as a family I would say have not really spent, you know, we haven't, my cousin, we have three cousins, Dr. Ishiwara's children. Only one of which I think I have any affinity with, and she lives with her husband on Quadra Island, on Vancouver Island. Another son, another cousin, lives in Delta? And another cousin, a daughter, lives in Toronto. But we never, we never see them. My brother is closest to all three of them, but he doesn't see them, either. So, you know, as a family, we kind of dissipated. So anyway, my uncle, you know, took it upon himself to be a civic leader, if I could put it that way. And wanted to do things, and actually did things in a civic way. My father never did. My mother never did, either.
02:31:34.000
02:31:34.000
CN
Except when they had no choice.
HS
Yeah, maybe. Yeah.
CN
During the war years, maybe.
HS
Yep, yep. And you know, things were thrust upon them as opposed to them taking actions themselves.
CN
Right. Do you think that your relationship with your extended family might have been closer had you stayed in Vancouver? Because you mentioned that your mother's parents lived with you.
HS
I think so, I think so. But who knows, right? Because you can't live life over again. It's speculation. In fact, life for everybody would be drastically different I'm sure if the whole war/internment/forced removal/forced dispersal exercise—it's just a total destruction of the way of life at the time. And today, it'd be impossible I think to speculate about what things would have been done had that not happened. But, it's the nature of human existence, I think, is to adapt. Either you adapt or you do, and most of us are still around so we've all adapted I think. And one can argue about whether things are better or worse, or you know which way things would have been better before. Had things not happened, would life be better for us now or not. Well, impossible to tell. But as you know, what internment did was to force the community to adapt, and you know, I just look upon it as a remarkable circumstance I guess that people were able to kind of rebuild everything, their own lives basically over again. In the scheme of things, it's a total destruction and a rebuild case. Nothing is the same as it was before, and furthermore the effort and work that went into rebuilding is a huge achievement. Having all your resources taken away and having to start all over again, how many times has that happened?
02:35:35.000
02:35:35.000
CN
That actually leads well into my next question, which is, if you could say one thing to Canadians who are learning about this history, maybe listening to this interview or engaging with other ways of learning about Japanese-Canadian history, what would you tell them that you think is important to take away from knowing these stories?
HS
One thing? Laughs.
CN
Or like you can choose more than one, but. . .
HS
Well, I guess you know I've thought about that question. The more time I've spent on this whole business, the more I feel that there was a huge injustice perpetrated on the Japanese Canadians. Pauses. People have said this before, I'm not saying it for the first time. In a way Canada, particularly British Columbia—I'd narrow it down to British Columbia. British Columbia really betrayed the Japanese community. The sort of anti-Japanese resentment or discrimination in British Columbia is what lead to what happened, I think. They were abetted, aided by what happened in the US. I'm not sure that it would have been strong enough to cause politicians in British Columbia to do it on their own had it not been for the United States. We'll never know because it's, I mean you're talking about history and history is not something that is, is absolute, right? But it was certainly a political, I mean politics played a large part in this. National Security in my mind was another excuse. It wasn't I don't think a dominant factor. So British Columbia betrayed the Japanese Canadian community. And in hindsight, I think that's more true than ever. So the lesson is that . . . Pauses. Exhales. Unfortunately the discrimination as a human emotional characteristic that can never be eradicated, I don't believe. And the best we can hope for is that it is moderated by education, by a sense of fairness, by rational decision making, and so, you know, . . .
02:40:14.000
02:40:14.000
HS
Making people aware, making the population at large aware of what can happen. Because it has happened. As a way of cautioning the community to tread with care when making decisions that affect the well being of a community. What happened, I think, is a form of, I wouldn't call it mass hysteria exactly, but it's a form of hysteria that took over the minds of the politicians, anyway. Many of whom had sort of racist tendencies to begin with and were pushed over the edge by circumstances and what they perceived to be dangers that were exaggerated. So, all of this to say that we should do what we can to prevent the same thing from happening again. To other people, perhaps. And, you know, it's getting harder and harder to deal with this issue because there are more and more, what appears to be, reasons, not reasons, but circumstances that are occurring in the world that cause us all to think about racial discrimination or discrimination against the peoples. And the Japanese were only one, but it happened at a time when the Japanese were probably the only group for which there was a controversy, I guess. Today, there’s all kinds of reasons or groups of people that could be ostracized through, you know, political decisions that, you know, I think a country should be as fair as they can be in dealing with issues like this. And I think, you know as I said earlier, the business of trying to get the level of education about these issues to a higher level is the way to go. And we all should be doing what we can to raise the level of dialogue and raise the level of understanding and education in general about these issues. So that we minimize the chances of overt racism taking over.
CN
Thank you.
HS
That's how I would put it, I guess. The one thing that I, the one message I guess I would try to say.
CN
Those are all the questions I have.
HS
Okay.
CN
But is there anything else that you would like to share today? Any stories you thought of that I didn't ask you about, or?
HS
No, no. Well I guess I like to say that I'm supportive of what you're doing, supportive of the project, supportive of this whole raising of the level of awareness of what happened. Because it all contributes to this thrust of building awareness and knowledge of what has happened and through that to try to prevent bad things from happening in the future.
CN
Well thank you so much.
HS
Okay.
CN
Great.
HS
Alright.
02:45:40.000

Metadata

Title

Howard Shimokura, interviewed by Carolyn Nakagawa, 15 March 2018

Abstract

1914, 1930s-50s, 2000s-present
Howard Shimokura was born and raised in Vancouver before being interned in Tashme. In this interview, he talks about his family’s prominence in the Japanese-Canadian community, his career, his interest in history, and his involvement in the Tashme history project.For more information on the Tashme historical project, see their website. Howard narrates how his father came to Canada in 1915, how his grandparents lived on Cordova Street, and how his family later lived on Nanaimo Street. He recalls that most of the children in the neighbourhood were Japanese Canadian, and that some anti-Japanese children yelled at him but for the most part he did not experience overt racism. Howard talks about his father’s position as a doctor and how his family was provided with a duplex house in Tashme, shared with the camp dentist, Dr. Kuzahara . He also explains that his father was allowed to keep his car in order to transfer patients to the hospital in Hope, BC. speaks about losing family heirlooms, but that his father was able to keep his camera so that he still has many family photographs. He recalls the Tashme education system being created by Japanese Canadians without governmental support. Howard also narrates how doctors in the camps formed a group and sent letters of protest for the community, as well as a request for better funding. He also talks about his father hosting appreciation parties for the nurses and nursing aids in Tashme, accepting gifts in lieu of payment, and his father’s prominent status in the community. Howard discusses his family moving to Alberta in 1946 because the War Measures Act was extended to keep Japanese Canadians from the coast. He recalls making Japanese-Canadian friends in Alberta while working part-time berry picking or in the canneries, and that the first conversations were always about where they were interned, how it was a point of interest for them, and that he learned the characteristics of the different camps. Howard talks about the racist feelings being stronger in BC than they were in Alberta. He also discusses returning to VVancouver in 1952, and how his family had a strong connection to the Vancouver Japanese Language School, how his maternal grandfather had been on the school board as well as his father becoming a board member. Despite this, Howard talks about English being spoken at home and his lack of Japanese language skills. He narrates how he went to school, married, and lived in the States before returning to Vancouver in 2002. Howard discusses how at this time he became involved in the Tashme history project and his motive behind it being to educate the public about the injustice in order to help prevent future tragedies. He talks about there being a lack of information about Tashme compared to other camps, and how he views this history as a destruction to the way of life for his family at the time. Howard speaks about Japanese Canadians being betrayed by BC, how politics played a big role, and that we need to raise a dialogue and level of understanding and education to minimize the chances of overt racism taking over again. At the end of the interview, he talks about his support for the Landscapes of Injustice project and to raising awareness.
Note: Howard Shimokura has done historical research on Tashme, learning many things later in life.

Credits

Interviewee: Howard Shimokura
Interviewer: Carolyn Nakagawa
Transcriber: Jennifer Landrey
Audio Checker: Nathaniel Hayes
Final Checker: Jennfier Landrey
Publication Information: See Terms of Use for publication and licensing information.
Setting: Vancouver, British Columbia
Keywords: Tashme ; Hope ; Vancouver Japanese Language School

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.