Min Takada, interviewed by Josh Labove, 25 September 2015

Min Takada, interviewed by Josh Labove, 25 September 2015

Abstract
Min begins the interview describing his earliest childhood memories and where he grew up. He talks about what his father did for work and sets the scene for the day Pearl Harbor took place. Min describes how the revelation of the attack affected his family as they were labeled enemy aliens and were forced to move from the BC coast to work as labourers in Haney. He highlights the various personal possessions that his family brought with them to the internment camp as well as those that were stolen from their home once they left. Min explains the United Church’s role in advocating for the rights of Japanese Canadians and how that inspired him to become a church minister. He then moves on to talk about his involvement in the fight for remuneration from the government. Near the end of the interview Min reflects on what life was like in Vancouver before the war.
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Labove Joshua (LJ)
Today is September 25th, 2015. I'm Josh Labove in Calgary Alberta with Min Takada. So can you tell me a little bit about your childhood? Where did you grow up?
Min Takada (MT)
I was born in Vancouver along with one brother and two sisters. There are four kids in our family. My dad, he had a pretty good job. He used to work for a tobacco company, wholesale. He covered an awful lot of the stores getting orders, you know, and supplied mostly cigarettes and candy, chocolate bars, and stuff like that. He used to cover the whole of Vancouver as well as Steveston. You know where Steveston is?
LJ
Yeah.
MT
And Westminster. So that was basically his work, was to go to all these shops. There are many shops because in those days transportation was very limited, you know? You go to the corner grocery store to pick up milk, candy, fruits, and vegetables. So that was ... He used to work for what they'd call the Vancouver Tobacco Company and it was the biggest firm that did that type of work. It covered the whole lower mainland in that area. Like I say, all of Vancouver and half way up the valley. Well, as far as Hope. Well, um, what's that lake closer to ... It starts with H. It's beyond Mission, you know? Pause Well, anyways, I graduated from commercial high school in Vancouver; Grandview High School of Commerce. I don't know if it's still there or not. It's on Commercial Drive. So I became an accountant by profession and in the second year of my profession, Japan bombed Pearl Harbor. All of a sudden we were classified as enemy aliens. That was our classification. There are a lot of things we couldn't do. Well, for instance a lot of us were out of jobs because we couldn't, because the rule said that we can't be out after sunset until sunrise. Well, you know, if you wanted to get to work for some company you worked for you have to start early in the morning, you know? Work starts at eight and at six o'clock you've got to, you know, make your lunch and get on the bus or streetcar to get to work. So an awful lot of people they lost their jobs, you know, because if they caught us out on the street they just arrested us, you know. So anyways, that was the situation. I, um, I'm a graduate from the, do you know Vancouver at all?
LJ
Mhm.
MT
Well, I graduated from Vancouver, it's called Grandview High School of Commerce. It's on Commercial Drive and I used to walk there every day. It's a long walk but I graduated from there and after which I became a professional accountant and I got a job in Haney. You know Haney? This is a box factory and they used to do canning and freezing, too, of vegetables.
00:05:11.000
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MT
So I was the head receiver there. In other words everything, all the fruit and vegetables they farmed had to come into the factory and I had to keep track of it, weigh what they brought in, label it, and then I had to, it was just the peas, that I had to put through a machine to test. The machine measured how much energy it took to squish a quantity of peas and the more it took it's older and harder so they don't get paid as much. The fresher the food it doesn't take as much pressure so that's what they used to get paid. That was my job as a receiver and it's a canning box factory, combination box factory and processing, you know? That was my job. I was there for about one year but the second year I was there Japan bombed Pearl Harbor and all of a sudden we were classified as being enemy aliens. To the government we constituted a risk and they evacuated the whole pacific area, you see. No Japanese person was allowed to live within 100 miles of the pacific coast. That meant, you know, ninety-five percent of the Japanese who lived at the coast had to get kicked out and they kicked us out, you know. A lot of us owned our own home and we lived in our homes but, uh, we were relocated, that's the word, and the only thing you could take with you was one suitcase. Each person was allowed one suitcase and one family was allowed a trunk, one trunk. So there were six of us in our family. So what we can take when we moved was six suitcases and one trunk. Everything we owned had to go in there. In other words we couldn't take anything big. It was all basically clothing and small things, you know. The only reason I got to go with this particular bunch is my job after I graduated from the Grandview High School of Commerce was with a canning factory in Haney. A place called ... You know Haney?
LJ
Mhm.
MT
Yeah, even though I was born in Vancouver and went to school in Vancouver I got a job in Haney and because of Haney being out in the country most of them were farmers but a lot of them used to work for logging companies up the valley. You know, between Vancouver and Hope there's all kinds of industries. I became an accountant for this box factory and so when the government kicked us all out they passed a law that said no person of Japanese origin can live within 100 miles of the pacific coast. It meant that ninety percent of us had to leave, you know. We left behind ... We lived in our own homes but we couldn't take, like I said, each person was allowed one suitcase and each family was allowed one trunk so that's all we took.
00:10:09.000
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LJ
Do you remember what you packed in your suitcase and what was in your family's trunk?
MT
Pardon me?
LJ
Do you remember what you packed in your suitcase?
MT
Well, clothing mostly.
LJ
Yeah.
MT
You couldn't pack anything else, really. We couldn't take any of this kind of stuff unless it was really valuable or worth something, you know. What can you put in one trunk? It was clothing mainly and valuable things. There were things that we considered of value. I had just graduated from Grandview High School of Commerce and I became an accountant to this canning factory in Haney so I was able to be included in that bunch, you see.
LJ
Mhm.
MT
So, you know, the government's so-called risk was that the Japanese Navy or Army or whoever would come from Japan and land and talk us into joining all this kind of, which is pure, you know, what do you call it, guess work really. We wouldn't fight for Japan. Hell, this is our country. Anyways, we ended up as laborers in Alberta basically or further east, you know. Wherever there's a shortage of labor, I guess, that's where the government sent us.
LJ
Where did you go?
MT
Like I said, we went to Haney. I know we went to Alberta. We came to Lethbridge, Coaldale, in that area because there was a real shortage of labor. They couldn't run their factories there. There were canning factories and all that but if you were a male they'd put you in the army, you see. So there was a real shortage of labor so we became the laborers in Taber, Lethbridge, Coaldale, all that area. We lived in farm homes where farm workers used to live before, you know. That's where we lived and we used to put in long hours. Well, that's the nature of farm work because you've got to do ... The season is short, you know what I mean? You have to do all the work that was required in terms of thinning, you know. When they plant things they just plant a whole bunch of stuff and we had to come later and thin the thing, that is to say that all the seeds would sprout and we had to leave one to let it grow because otherwise, you know, you'd get a whole bunch of little stuff. You've got to give one plant for sugar beets to grow or any vegetable for that matter. So we became laborers and, you know, there's thinning and then there's, uh, first work was to thin the beets and then you hoe the beets because weeds keep coming up and you have to weed it. Depending on the farm there's more weeds than some areas and depending on how much rain they get and all that. It depends an awful lot on the nature of the, what do you call it, the weather.
00:15:03.000
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MT
You have to give the plant a chance to grow because you've got to thin it so that it can grow like this big, you see. It couldn't grow that big if there were too many other plants so that's why we had to thin the thing and then we had to hoe it and then we had to, what do you call that, um, what's the last ... Anyways, that's what we did and practically all of us. Through it all I got involved in the civil rights movement because they had so many restrictions. We couldn't do this, we couldn't do that, and furthermore we had to leave so much behind us. We lived in a house but we couldn't take any furniture. Like I said, one suitcase per person and one trunk per family. Well, gee whiz. You couldn't take any furniture at all or any kind of equipment, you know? So people were breaking into the homes. The robbers had a field day. Hundreds of homes with nobody living in them. They had a hell of a good time for them. They just broke in and stole everything we left behind. The police just couldn't keep track of them because there were so many. You know, there's hundreds and hundreds of homes and they just couldn't keep track of it. The crooks had a field day breaking into where we used to live. Anyways, and then most of us ended up in the interior of BC doing road work on the Trans-Canada Highway. A lot of work was done on the Trans-Canada Highway. There was a shortage of labor because the army was recruiting soldiers, you know, and they weren't recruiting us. They were recruiting Anglo-Saxon soldiers and that kind of stuff. There was a shortage of labor and a lot of us we worked on the road as road workers and all the rest of it and so on. Of course, I ended up as a receiver in a canning factory in Lethbridge and it was my job to keep track of what each farmer brought in in terms of the vegetables. I'd have to test the peas. I had to test the peas because it's the only delicate thing, you know. There's, depending on when it's harvested the longer you leave it it gets harder and harder and so they were paid by the quality of the peas. So I had to run tests on every load of peas that came into the canning factory. The canning factory was a big outfit because we used to ship barrels full of peas and corn and what have you to all the, you know, uh, canning factories. You know, like Heinz soup, Campbell soup. We supplied them with a lot of the vegetables. We also canned stuff for the general public and froze stuff for the general public and so on. Probably the biggest canning factory in all of Canada was in Lethbridge and I was a receiver. I became the head receiver in the factory because I was a commercial high school graduate, you see.
00:20:00.000
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MT
Anyways, a lot of the people were put into these old gold mining towns. Way back in the early, the late '80s and early '90s they were gold mining and all that but there's no more gold, you know? So they built houses and everything in which they lived but they had to leave it all behind and they had to go to some other location in the country to find other kinds of jobs. So there were a lot of empty houses in the interior BC and a lot of us, we were accommodated, we lived in these houses that were abandoned many, many years ago. Our family ended up in Lethbridge area. You know that area at all?
LJ
I do, yeah.
MT
Coaldale, Taber, and so on. I used to live in Coaldale. I used to be the head receiver. Well, that's afterwards but, anyways, we established the civil rights movement and we were constantly after the government because they owed us a lot of money because they took everything away. The only thing we can take with us is ourselves and a suitcase, you know, a big suitcase maybe. We couldn't carry any furniture. It takes too much work, too much, you know. Anyways, when you came to Alberta the outfit that really, really complained was the United Church. All the churches complained but the United Church was the loudest and they did the most for us, too. That's how I became a minister. I'm an accountant by profession but I could have gotten a job after things sort of worked itself out but I really felt good about the church and what the church did and what the church ministers did for us. So I decided to become a United Church minister but I couldn't get into, you know, you had to graduate from the theological college. Well, I couldn't get into theological college because my background was commercial type bookkeeping, accountancy, and all that. So I had to go back to high school even though I was in my twenties. I had to put in two years of high school before university would accept me. Eventually, I got into university and that was okay because I had impeccable notes of professors' lectures and all the rest of it. I used to type the notes I took in shorthand so when I graduated, well I had to get my bachelor's degree, three years, then I went to theological college in Edmonton, Saint Stephen's College and I was a gold medalist when I graduated from there. Anyways, I was a minister in the Southern Alberta area. There weren't as many, well there were fair numbers, but the churches of the east they called me to come and be their minister over in Ontario. So I spent most of my ministry in Ontario as a minister. In general terms, mind you, there's lots of things that went on, involved, and all kinds of civil rights movements. You had to ... This is a classmate of mine.
00:26:00.000
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LJ
Roy Ito
MT
Yeah. This guy.
LJ
Yeah.
MT
In fact he's passed away. Even though we were classified as enemy and that we joined the army and the next thing you know. We didn't do too much fighting we just did interrogations on captured war prisoners, Japanese soldiers and that. They had no one to talk to them, to interrogate them, so the majority, practically all of these people were involved in, what do you call it, interrogation. They'd capture all the prisoners and then they had no one to interrogate them so they came after us to join the army. These are, I don't know these guys. They're Albertans. This guy is ... Roy Ito, he's a classmate of mine. He ended up as a high school principal in Hamilton. He was in the First World War and certainly in the Second World War. There's this guy who wrote this book and he was a classmate of mine.
LJ
So how long did you stay in Lethbridge? How long were you in Lethbridge for?
MT
Well, oh I don't know, I got a job. I was a farm laborer but because I was a commercial high school graduate I knew how to type. I knew how to take notes shorthand, write letters, and so on. So I became the secretary general of the Japanese civil rights movement in Lethbridge. I could have continued for the rest of my life as an accountant and all that but I really felt I was influenced by the work that the United Church ministers did. In fact, I was in contact with United Church ministers in every town in Southern Alberta. Three four churches in Lethbridge alone. Taber, Coaldale, Raymond, Welling, all that area, and so on. So I worked with them a lot. They used to ask me a lot of questions to get some answers, where things were at and that.
00:29:54.000
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MT
The church even sent workers specially to minister tours to help us because we live in a very complicated society, groups here all over the place doing different things, in order to get the word out and for people to be aware of what was happening and how it was happening and all the rest of it. A lot of people would take advantage of us but the United Church workers, particularly the United Church, they were the ... All the churches had something to say but the United Church had the most staff engaged specifically for our benefits. So I could have continued my job as a professional accountant but I was meeting with these ministers constantly. I knew what they were doing and what they were up to. I really liked what they were doing and I thought, also, that I owed it, you know, to my religion and faith to do something for the church so that's when I became a minister but being a commercial high school graduate I couldn't get into university so I had to go back to public school again. I had to go back to public school for two years to get caught up so I can write the university entrance exams, you know, provincially.
LJ
So did you go to high school in Lethbridge?
MT
Pardon?
LJ
So did you go to high school in Lethbridge then?
MT
Well, uh, what do you call that, there were many schools. It was a small place but, what the heck's the name of it, I forgot the name of it but it was the main high school in Southern ... Are you familiar with Lethbridge?
LJ
Mhm.
MT
Oh, boy.
LJ
But it was down there in that region?
MT
Pardon?
LJ
But it was down there in that region?
MT
Oh, yeah.
LJ
Yeah.
MT
Yeah. The main high school in Lethbridge. Yeah, I graduated from there. I did very well because, see, I was already a commercial high school graduate. I used to be able to take notes that nobody else could take because I had shorthand, you see. I can type stuff out, you know. So I had excellent notes, excellent typing, and all the rest of it. Consequently, when I graduated from university and Saint Stephen's College I was a gold medalist. I guess I could have gone on to become a professor but I was getting too old. I was in my thirties, you know. I didn't want to spend another six years or so to get a PhD and become a professor in theology. I didn't want to do that. Besides, I was married and I had kids and stuff like that.
LJ
So, um, when did you meet your wife?
MT
Well, when I decided to become a minister I could have gone to the high school in Lethbridge but I went up to Edmonton to see what their situation was like and, I don't know whether you know Edmonton or not but, there was a United Church college called Alberta College right there in the MacDonald Hotel there.
00:35:19.000
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MT
I went there because they were much more flexible. The other places they had all kinds of rules and you had to follow the rules but at this school, Alberta College, because it's a private school it's really flexible. So my first year back, so to speak, that's where I went. That's where I met my wife. The second year, I had to do two years of high school because I had shorthand, typing, bookkeeping, and all the rest of the commercial stuff but I didn't have any other, you know, usual high school stuff. Science and so on. Second year I stayed home in Lethbridge and I managed to write the departmental exams and managed to get in, in my third year I managed to get in to a bachelor of arts program in Edmonton. It took me three years to get my bachelor of arts and then I went into theology at Saint Stephen's College and then I graduated from there as a gold medalist at the top of my class. I got a gold medal in that. I didn't want to do anymore schooling because I graduated from commercial high school to begin with. I put in two years or more of high school to get into university and then I got my arts degree, my bachelor of divinity degree, that's another six years. Six, seven, eight, uh, eight years before I was ordained. So that's a hell of a long time at my age. I was at my thirties you see, at that time. So I just didn't want to do any PhD work in theology. So at my ministry I spent ... I was minister at, did you know a place called Alix?
LJ
Mm.
MT
It's north of Red Deer. Oh, you know Lacombe? I used to live there. I became minister there, east of there, and I used to have four churches. I preached every Sunday, four times. The hospitals I had to cover were Staedtler, West-end, Ponoka, Lacombe, Red Deer, and Staedtler. That's a hell of a long drive and the roads were really bad. They weren't all paved. I spent two nights in the ditch because the roads were so bad that I went off the road, you know, the so-called highway. I spent the whole day sleeping in my car because I didn't want to wake up a farmer to go and pull me out but it was more reasonable during the daytime, daylight, to ask the farmer to come and pull you out. Anyways, I put in five years. Four services every Sunday. That's what I did.
00:40:05.000
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MT
There was a Japanese church in Toronto that asked me to come and be the minister there. So the rest of my ministry has been in Toronto. Toronto's a pretty busy place. A lot of people. Anyways, I put in, oh, I don't know, maybe thirty years in total. Yeah. In Toronto, yeah. I did all sorts of things. We're in Alberta, here. So, anyways, my first church was in Bashaw. Have you heard of Bashaw?
LJ
Mhm.
MT
And Mirror, have you heard of Mirror? Well, it's a small town a few miles from Bashaw. Have you heard of Alix? Like I say, I had four services every Sunday. The hospitals I visited were all those Staedtler, Lacombe, Ponoka. Then I received a call to come to the church in Toronto, you see.
LJ
Did you see being a minister as a way of giving back for what the United Church had done for you during the war?
MT
Yeah, well, I got to know a lot of ministers. I knew what they were doing and so on. Yeah, it certainly is. If it hadn't been for the United Church particularly it makes you wonder. Well, I could have carried on as an accountant. I was influenced by them. I liked what they were doing and I liked how they were doing it. All the social problems they were involved in they just didn't let it go. They spoke out loud and said “Hey, this is wrong.” I liked what they were doing and I liked how they were doing it. That influenced me. I didn't have to. I was an accountant by profession. I graduated from commercial high school, I had a good job, a well-paying job, but I really felt that, you know, I owed it to the church to do something for the church. If I weren't older I would have gone further to get my PhD and all that kind of stuff. What church do you belong to?
LJ
Um, I was raised Jewish.
MT
Oh, I see.
LJ
Have you been back to Vancouver?
MT
Well, for a visit.
LJ
Yeah.
MT
Yeah. I used to live on Cordova Street. Do you know Vancouver well? Well, do you know where Strathcona High School is?
00:45:05.000
00:45:05.000
LJ
Yup.
MT
Well, I was born half a block from there; Hastings and Jackson Avenue. That's where I was born. My dad was a wholesale tobacco salesman and he worked for the Vancouver Tobacco Company and eventually the Hudson's Bay bought them out, I guess, many years later. I knew Vancouver very well. I grew up in Vancouver.
LJ
What do you remember of your life in Vancouver before the war?
MT
What do I remember?
LJ
About your life in Vancouver before the war.
MT
Well, I used to be a courier for the Vancouver Sun newspaper and I went to Seymour School, the public school, and then I went to the Grandview High School of Commerce on Commercial Drive. I used to deliver the newspaper every day and I got to know a lot of people, where they lived, and all the kinds of work they did and all the rest of it. The other ethnic groups, Chinatown was just a corner from us. You know Chinatown? Main Street and Hastings Street there's the library, you know. I used to go there once a week to get books to read and all the rest of it. I used to play ... I was a lousy baseball player but I was reasonably good at basketball and I used to play for a team, you know. I was raised in that area and I went to Templeton Junior High School and then from there I went to the Grandview High School of Commerce. I became an accountant, you see. I practiced accountancy for roughly two years because Japan bombed Pearl Harbor and all of a sudden we became enemies, you see, we're the bad guys and they put all kinds of restrictions. For instance, we are not to be caught in the evening. We had to stay in our home from sunset to sunrise. Well, a lot of people had their jobs. They had to go out in the country practically from Vancouver to New Westminster, the Fraser Valley, you know, you don't get there in half an hour it takes you a good few hours to get there. So they were all out of jobs. My job was as an accountant and a receiver of a factory up in Haney, Port Haney. So I boarded that so there's no problem for me.
LJ
So you were living out in Haney. You were living in Haney when Pearl Harbor happened?
MT
Yeah. So that's why when we were evacuated I was evacuated. I managed to evacuate our whole family with the Haney people. Otherwise we would have ended up in a ghost town in the interior of BC but, as it was, because of my commercial background I was able to evacuate with the Haney people and I managed to get my mom and dad and brothers and sisters evacuated all together you see. We all became farm laborers.
00:50:21.000
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LJ
But you didn't have to go to Hastings Park?
MT
No, no, no. No, we didn't. That was the process that you had to go through. No, we didn't have to go to Hastings Park, thank goodness for that. I think that was pretty bad. I had many respects. Not that, you know, when you're living in a fairly good house or whatever and, you know, everything is fairly natural and all of a sudden you're a prisoner of war, practically, and there's hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of fellow Japanese Canadians in one place and there isn't a heck of a lot to do, you know? You just wait, wait, wait, wait until they make arrangements so they can kick you out. That's what Hastings Park was all about. It was a gathering place. With the openings that prevailed in the interior BC they just shipped them out to there, you see. The only thing we can take for ourselves was one suitcase per person. So there's six in our family so everything we owned we put in six suitcases which means mostly your clothes. What you were wearing and all that kind of stuff and then one trunk for the whole family. Well, what can you get into one trunk? My dad had to leave behind his car, he had a piano, my sister played the piano, so we had to leave behind the piano, and then all the furniture that we had and all the tools we had. Not major tools, but still, tools. My dad used to like to putter around and stuff. All that stuff we left and the crooks, it was a field day for the crooks. It was a whole community with nobody living in there. They just broke in and stole all kinds of stuff.
LJ
Did you and your family hide anything in your house or no?
MT
No. They, like I say, we were allowed one suitcase per person and one trunk. Yeah, well my dad had to leave his car behind. My sister had a piano and that was left behind and, you know, fridge, stove, all the rest of it.
LJ
All the furniture?
MT
Oh, yeah. The crooks broke in and they stole all kinds of stuff. They had a field day stealing stuff.
LJ
Did you ever go back to your house to see what was there? No?
MT
Yeah. It was all gone. There was somebody else living there. So, yeah. Well, we went by the house but that's about it. You don't go into a house that you used to live in. You don't even know who lives there anymore but, anyways, they decided to sell because too many crooks were breaking in. You know, you've got hundreds of homes with nobody living in there. Oh, the crooks had a field day. “Wow, let's break into that house.” No cops or anything but, of course, the government figured this won't do so they decided to sell the damn thing. So they sold all our houses for a giveaway price.
00:55:07.000
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LJ
Do you remember finding out that your house was sold?
MT
Oh, yeah. We did know about it but, yeah, it was all sold.
LJ
You got a letter from the custodian and they said your house was sold?
MT
Yeah, well you assumed that. Yeah, it was sold. I haven't a clue. There was a shortage of homes, you know. People moving into bigger places for jobs and so on. I graduated from Seymour School and then I went to Templeton Junior High School, graduated, and then I went to Grandview High School of Commerce and then I became an accountant and that was my first job as an accountant at a combination canning factory and box factory in Haney. I became the head receiver there responsible for everything that came into the factory, grading them and sorting them so that somebody else made the decision whether it should be frozen or canned or barreled, whatever. My job was to receive it, weigh it, test it, segregate it, label it, so that they don't get mixed up.
LJ
Do you remember getting involved with redress, at all?
MT
Pardon?
LJ
Redress, do you remember getting involved with the redress movement?
MT
Oh, yeah, sure. Of course, we only got a fraction of whatever we had. How are you going to evaluate stuff like that? It's changed hands over and over again. A lot of people have died. Anyways, the reason I became a minister was ... I could have gone back to my accountant job. I liked what the ministers did and the way they did it. They were the voice or became very influential in many of the things that we were able to, you know, redeem. That really played ... I think it was about, all totaled, the people who were involved in that, there were about three of us who became ministers. Anyways, I got to know what they did and how they did it because I was associated with ministers in all the little towns. You know Lethbridge at all?
LJ
Mhm.
MT
Coaldale, Taber, MaGrath, Raymond, Picture Butte, Don Spring. I was involved with all those ministers. I really liked that because they were the loudest voices in the whole area. They stood up and they said “Hey, this is wrong.” These are the most law abiding people in all the country, practically, and we were because one of the first things we learned from our parents is 'don't do anything to bring shame to the family.'
01:00:08.000
01:00:08.000
MT
It was an absolute no-no, you know. So in terms of criminality amongst us, there was none existent, really, because of our parents. But because of my background as a commercial high school graduate I knew how to type, write letters, and all the rest of it. I became heavily involved in the civil rights movement in Southern Alberta.
LJ
So what kinds of things were you doing in the civil rights movement in Southern Alberta?
MT
Well, every meeting we had I had to take notes of all the stuff that had to be done, letter writing to this that and different outfits, you know. Any complaints we had, anything we didn't like the way they did I had to write letters. I was associating with the provincial government and many of its committees. The local government, the provincial government, and the federal government. So there were many levels, the local, the provincial, and the federal government. Three levels of communication, you know, and because I was a commercial high school graduate I was able to do that without too much trouble and the community was very happy that I was able to do that, too. I didn't have to go into it. I could have continued being an accountant but I was influenced by what the ministers did and I liked what they did. They came right out and said “This is wrong, wrong, wrong. These are the most law abiding citizens in the whole country. We kick them out, take away all their stuff, and sell it, give it away” and stuff like that.
LJ
Were there ever moments you felt angry about what was going on?
MT
Yeah, there was some anger into it. Yeah, sure, because we didn't commit any criminal thing at all. We were being treated almost like we were criminals. Yeah, we didn't like that. No, I didn't like it one bit. This is what the church, they spoke a lot, especially the United Church. They just came right out and said “This is wrong, wrong, wrong.” They were loud and this is the reason why ... I wasn't angry to begin with but I became a United Church minister because I liked the way they conducted their, you know, the whole outfit. Not only did they say it was wrong they themselves were personally involved. You can shout about anything but for them to become involved in a very commercial way, not just the ministers but the congregations and the whole structure of the church, and they were the loudest voice in the whole country; the United Church of Canada.
01:05:00.000
01:05:00.000
LJ
I forget where it's from in the bible but it says if you want justice, work for peace.
MT
Work for what?
LJ
Work for peace.
MT
Yeah.
LJ
So the United Church was your way to work for justice, through peace?
MT
Yeah. They were really loud. They just came right out. All the churches, they were involved to a point but it was the United Church that did the most in terms of being loud, doing things, you know.
LJ
So what kinds of things were they doing? They obviously were activists and they were opposed to what was going on but were they providing services to people? What other things was the United Church doing?
MT
A lot of them, through the church and the congregations which they belonged to, you know, and so they provided all kinds of things. Not just physical things in terms of food and that but really writing letters to the government and making the government know what they thought about the whole business. The ministers, the way they preached, especially this fellow in one of the biggest churches and the most prominent church in Toronto, when he talked everybody listens because that was the church, so to speak. All the churches in the community, they reached out to us. They welcomed us, you know. “The church is open to you. If you want to use it go ahead.” All the churches, they opened up. This is the thing about the United Church. They not just spoke but they actually, themselves, became involved and opened their place free of rent for you to use whenever and whatever we needed it for. Yeah, that really, really made an impression on all of us that the United Church was like that. It's easy to talk, you know, make noise and that but they talked and all the churches were open for us as meeting places. “Use our facilities” you know and all the rest of it. So we didn't need to rent a hall or rent this or that. The church was there for us to use and so on.
LJ
So what did your family members find or get up to after Lethbridge? You went into theological school but your sister, your parents?
MT
Well, my mother never worked. She's not a working person. She's a ... In Japan her father was a, sort of, very prominent village head and people used to come and ask for his advice in just about everything and she used to listen in on this and that. She's very, very a minded person so that, eventually, when she converted to Christianity she was able to preach sermons.
01:10:16.000
01:10:16.000
MT
She never went to college but she read so much and she got to know so much of the Christian faith that she was able to preach, preach the gospel without any education, shall we say, in terms of schooling. She's very efficient that way. Yeah, the United Church was, well, that's what influenced me because they just did so much and not just talk. Talk is easy, talk is cheap, but they actually did things. I was an accountant by profession. I could have gone back to accountancy and all that sort of thing but I watched the minister and what they did and how they did it and all the rest of it. So I decided to become a minister and, you know, because of my commercial background, you know, making money is nothing. I know all about investments and I was able to invest so even being a minister, you know, I'm pretty, financially I'm pretty well off. My son, he's a lawyer here. My daughter, she became a high school principal. Now she's gone beyond that. She's staff in the educational system. Anyways, I'm ninety-four years old. I'm not a young punk but I've been pretty fortunate and pretty lucky in that respect. So I've had churches in Alberta and then I went to Toronto. In Toronto there's more Japanese people in Toronto than anywhere else because, you know, it distributes there. All kinds of factories and so on and so on. You know Toronto at all?
LJ
Mhm.
MT
Well, we lived, oh boy, from one end of the city to the other. Scarborough and outside of Scarborough, east of Scarborough, you know, and in the beaches. You know the Kew Beach area?
LJ
Yup.
MT
I was a minister at Kew Beach United Church, too. I must've had about five different churches in Toronto. Yeah.
LJ
Was that a big change of scenery coming from Alberta?
01:14:42.000
01:14:42.000
MT
Yeah, in one sense. Toronto's a pretty huge city. It's cut up into different areas, you know, and different ethnic groups living in different places. You know, the Jewish community, the Italian community, every ethnic group in Toronto. So I had churches in Toronto, mostly in the east end and practically out of the east end. My memory is getting bad. Most of the churches are east of Yonge Street, you know. I was involved in ... I used to do a lot of traveling because usually a church serves a community and the church is there and the communities have churches but if you're an ethnic group they live all over the city. So you can't be having churches everywhere they're living. You have to have one church and they have to do a lot of traveling to get to the church. I used to live in Scarborough and to get to the church where I was minister is about ten miles. The people who'd come to the church, they would have to come a long, long way. Do you know Toronto very well?
LJ
Mhm. A little bit.
MT
Oh, let's see. There was a ... Oh. There's a store there. It belonged to the Jewish firm. Oh, boy. It's the famous store in Toronto. It's one letter. My memory is starting to go. It's the famous, probably one of the most well-known stores in Toronto. It's one letter but it's owned by Jewish people. Their prices are so good but the church I was minister with was one mile west of there but to get to that church, I lived about ten miles away. So I did a lot of traveling. Toronto's a big city, spread out all over the place. So, you yourself, you were born here?
LJ
No, I was born in New York.
MT
Oh, in New York.
LJ
Yeah, another big city.
MT
Oh, yeah. Oh we know New York pretty well.
LJ
Yeah.
MT
We've been down there lots of times. When we were living in Toronto we used to go down to New York a lot. We even drove down there.
LJ
Yeah.
MT
Yeah, it's a great city and what a mixture of people. Yeah, we used to enjoy it. In fact, we've been to New York more times than any other city I suppose, yeah.
LJ
There's a lot to see and do there. You can go back hundreds of times and never see it all.
MT
Oh, yeah, yeah. We've been down there. We've driven down there several times but we've been in New York many, many, many times.
LJ
Well, I want to be conscious of your time and I realized I've taken a good bit of it. So I just wanted to say thank you for sharing some of your memories with me and allowing me to capture your story.
MT
Well, I appreciate that Jewish people because they've been through so much themselves historically. They've suffered an awful lot. They were awfully good to us and for us. They understood. They knew, you know, a lot of people they don't know because they haven't been through it but you've been through it all and I appreciate that and I really associated myself with many Jewish groups in different locations. We were very welcome because we spent, well, most of my ministry was in Toronto but ... Yeah.
01:22:23.000

Metadata

Title

Min Takada, interviewed by Josh Labove, 25 September 2015

Abstract

Min begins the interview describing his earliest childhood memories and where he grew up. He talks about what his father did for work and sets the scene for the day Pearl Harbor took place. Min describes how the revelation of the attack affected his family as they were labeled enemy aliens and were forced to move from the BC coast to work as labourers in Haney. He highlights the various personal possessions that his family brought with them to the internment camp as well as those that were stolen from their home once they left. Min explains the United Church’s role in advocating for the rights of Japanese Canadians and how that inspired him to become a church minister. He then moves on to talk about his involvement in the fight for remuneration from the government. Near the end of the interview Min reflects on what life was like in Vancouver before the war.

Credits

Interviewer: Josh Labove
Interviewee: Min Takada
XML Encoder: Stewart Arneil
Publication Information: See Terms of Use for publication and licensing information.
Setting: Calgary, Alberta
Keywords: Vancouver Tobacco Company; Alberta ; Pearl Harbor ; Taber ; Lethbridge ; Coaldale; United Church; Japanese Civil Rights Movement; Theological College; Alix; Red Deer; 1940s – 1980s

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.