Terry Watada, interviewed by Alexander Pekic and Momoye Sugiman, 02 September 2015

Terry Watada, interviewed by Alexander Pekic and Momoye Sugiman, 02 September 2015

Abstract
Terry speaks about memories of his childhood and adolescence in Toronto, growing up not knowing what his parents and older siblings experienced before he was born in the 1950s. Terry had attended a National Conference of Japanese and Chinese Canadians organized by Allen Hota. It was here he first saw photographs from the internment period that made a great impact on him. He also discusses how he struggled to get his family to open up with their own history in BC prior to and during the internment. Terry explores how his heritage and family's internment experience affected his artistic creations and how the history of the internment should be remembered by Japanese Canadians and Canadian society more broadly.
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Momoye Sugiman (MS)
Alex, Momoye and Terry discuss the recorder and conclude that they are ready to start the interviewAlright. It is Wednesday September the 2nd and Alex Pekic and Momoye Sugiman are here with Terry Watada.
MS
At his home in Toronto.
Alexander Pekic (AP)
OK, so thanks for speaking with us.
TW
OK.
AP
Uhm, usually what I do, because Momoye has thrown this my way. We are curious to know about your life in general. So usually I like to just ask people to tell me about their life in general as a sort of entry point.
TW
Alright.
MS
Are we going to start chronologically?
AP
However he likes.
MS
OK.
TW
Well since you're talking about Japanese Canadians right, and I noticed in the forms they are about the internment and I will tell you that I knew nothing about the internment growing up in the 1950s in the east end of Toronto here. And I generally thought that my parents and brother, who is 20 years older than I am – landed in Vancouver. Actually my brother was born in BC, but my parents are in Vancouver and then they came here. I don't know what happened in between laughs, I thought that was it, there and there, you know. I knew we were Japanese, I mean my mother made sure, you are Japanese, don't forget that. And we had Japanese food, of course we had a mixture of food, but Japanese predominated. They were on the wall you know, calendars, Japanese calendars usually from Sanko, which still exists today. Or Dundas Union, which did exist and other places as well in the city. We were a working class family, basically, yeah, well, not basically, we were a working class family. My father was a labourer in the construction industry. My mother took in sewing to make a little extra money. And really didn't question anything that happened in my past, I just accepted everything as it was. But then I went to university. laughs And I think it was 1970, yeah it was 1970, a group formed in Toronto, a Japanese Canadian and then an Asian Canadian group formed to discuss themes of identity, racism, all kinds of topics. We met several times. They called it rapping then. it's not like today. But we just sat around and talked about our feelings, and I mean it took an awful lot to do that, to get all the feelings out and whatever. But there seemed to be a need. And then I think the leader of the group Allan Hota decided to hold a conference in Toronto. A National Conference of Japanese and Chinese Canadians, to again talk about these things. And so he actually got some government grants to do this, which was great. And it was held downtown at a house on Mutual Street I think it was. So all these people came in from Vancouver. And during that conference they actually set up a photo exhibit which was put together by the Vancouver people of the internment. Wow first time, I think it was the first time that photographs of the internment camps were displayed in public for public viewing. And it was quite something, it just -- yeah, surprised me. I could use the term blew my mind. It was amazing that it happened. So then I had to ask my parents right? laughs Did this really happen? And of course my mother just said that I was an idiot laughs. You know the term 'aho' or 'baka', you know, you don't need to know this stuff. Why do you want to know that stuff for, and you know you just clam right up?
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TW
And of course my father, well he was just a quiet man anyway so he didn't speak very much. But, yeah, that was the start of it for me. I started writing songs and music based on the internment camp experience and eventually branching out to all the Asian North American experience. Is there anything else you want me to specifically focus on?
MS
Well maybe about your childhood, growing up in Toronto. Did you encounter any overt racism
TW
Oh of course. laughs. I see of course because it seem to be very prevalent back then, whether you were Asian or black or native Canadian or any visible minority. You became a target. And I mean, yes I used to get beat up in school for being Asian, oriental they used to call them in those days. Name called, all kinds of stuff. But on the other side there were people that defended me by saying you know, they would go up against the perpetrator and tear him down for saying stuff like that, and doing stuff like that. But I could remember just walking on the street and some guy on a motor, motorcycle, bicycle come by and call me a name. Now for whatever reason, I don't even know, because I didn't know the guy, he just came up right beside me. I remember a woman came up to me and looked at me and said “Go back to where you came from.” I said, “I live over there. That's where I came from.” So there was a lot of overt racism back then. I think it's a mistake to think that it didn't exist, or that it was underneath it all. No it was out there, it was pretty direct. On the other hand it was a lot easier to take for my parents, for example, then the internment itself. Of course I didn't know about this. They felt they were making their way through life and in the Canadian Society, and whatever else. I know one of my mother's clothing clients was Dr. Best and his wife. Do you know Dr. Best?
MS
Oh yes.
TW
Yeah, yeah.
MS
Banting and Best?
TW
Yeah, exactly. She would come over with his wife, his wife would go upstairs with my mother and they would consult. I don't know what they were talking about because she couldn't speak much English and she didn't know any Japanese. But somehow they communicated and I sat in the living room with Dr. Best. And all he wanted to do was watch cartoons on TV laughs. There was one moment when he said “What do you want to do later in life?”. I didn't really know, you gotta know, you just gotta know. So I said okay fine, who was this guy? laughs. I was 10 or 11 or whatever else. So yeah that would be my experience with racism in Toronto. I don't know, and yet the people, they were groups of people that accepted me, got along, found friends in schools and whatever else. And I wasn't really stopped from pursuing my education or anything like that, so.
MS
You said your parents didn't speak much about the uprooting and internment. But did any stories at all get filtered out?
TW
No.
MS
No.
TW
My brother went through it too but he didn't talk about it at all. It was only at my prompting, I just kept at them and finally it just came up. Actually I started -- what prompted it, what started it all was the fact that I wanted to write music because I was in rock and roll bands in the '60s and it's sort of ended in 1970 to '72. It just, I didn't join any more bands. Singer-songwriter came to the forefront so I started writing my own music. And first rule is what do you write about? You write about yourself. And I realize that I didn't know anything and there's this internment thing, and so after I got the first rebuke from my mother laughs, I took a different tactic. “How did you and dad meet?”and again I got the 'baka', 'aho' you know laughs. You know you ask these stupid questions, well, you know, what's so stupid about it, I want to know. Finally I did get through and she told me that she and my father we're married through an arrangement.
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TW
That shocked me too, you know laughs. I don't -- I mean I knew arranged marriages existed but I didn't know what happened to my own parents, and you know this was the 1950s, sorry, 1970s, so why would that happen, you know? And then the story started coming out that my father was here with his father and brother in the 30s I think it was, 20s and 30s, yes. He came, oh when did he come, 1920 he was here, that's right. He was 14 years old. And he stayed and then at the age of 27 decided to get married and so went back to Japan. Actually wrote back to his parents and said get me a wife. So they did laughs. So they did which was amazing to me. And I asked “You just went back there and got married?” And he said, “yeah, yeah”. I said “You didn't know her?” “No, no, not at all.” Well ok, fine. “And she was willing to come here?” “No.” laughs. What do you mean? She was 16 at the time. She called him a gaijin, which is foreigner, you know. Not a very nice word. But they decided okay, she said -- well she had to do what her father told her to do. But the reprieve was that the Canadian government would not allow her into the country for 2 years. I don't know why they had this rule, but two years. And my father had to go right back after he got married because the government, the Japanese government, threatened to put him in the army, the military, and he would be in Manchuria fighting in that war. And he didn't want to fight in a war for Christ's sake. So he went back to Canada and waited for 2 years for his wife to come. The great story is that she came over by herself and it was either Victoria or Vancouver, I can't remember which, but she was met by a stranger who claim to be my father's cousin. And said “ I will take you to him. He is working on a lumber raft up the coast of Vancouver Island.” So what could she do? She didn't have much money, she couldn't you know wait for him in Vancouver or Victoria or wherever it was. So she went with the guy, and he was telling the truth laughs. Fortunately because I'm sure you have heard all the stories of women forced into prostitution for just that reason. They get off the boat, they have nowhere to go, and this is what happens. Anyways she was up the coast at first experience was seeing this lumber raft. And it was pretty rough I would imagine, with a couple of cabins on it. And the only place, this is what she told me, the only place open for a couple was a chicken coop. And no chickens in it anymore laughs, they got rid of them because they knew this was going to come. And so she spent the first two, three, four days cleaning up the chicken coop. You know she didn't like chicken for the rest of her life laughs. But that's how life started for them in Canada. So that coupled with the internment camp photos, I said why don't I write a song based on that and the internment camp experience. That's how the song New Denver came about. Fortunately it was a very popular song amongst Japanese Canadians and Asian Canadians for that matter as well. And it was a hit at that conference I told you about in 1972. So that's how it all started I think. Where should I go from here?
AP
Did your parents speak much about their life on the West Coast prior to the internment?
TW
Well there are photographs. So I saw photographs of the lumber camp that they, the primary lumber camp that my father was in. And he became foreman of the place. And it really wasn't until after I started talking about it and bugging them that they began to open up. But during my childhood and into my teens, nothing, you know, really nothing. I mean I'd see the old men come over and his old friends and whatever else, or some of them would bring their families and whatever else. But they were all speaking Japanese and I could not speak Japanese.
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TW
Actually for the first 5 years of my life I could speak it fluently but then I turned on the TV and that was it laughs. I just lost it, just lost it all. But yeah they didn't talk about it. But when I started pestering my father and I guess if he had a little whiskey, Canadian Club whiskey. That stuff is wretched stuff but he liked it. And he would start telling these stories. For example, think of one now. One day his best friend, the timekeeper for the lumber camp came to him and said “ There's $100,000 missing from the bank accounts.” Now $100,000 in 1930 whatever was it could have been a million or more laughs. So you know can't tell the boss, who became the father-in-law of the timekeeper, and my dad was the foreman he thought he might get blamed for this. So they started investigating. Well it turned out that my father's boss who I called grandpa, you know, he had taken the money and spent it on women. Because it was a whole system that was built up in Vancouver, and I wrote about this too. Basically if you were rich enough you could sponsor a woman to come over from Japan. And you would pay for her passport, papers, passage and her room and board, which was in a bar club. There was so many different ones. The Shoa Club is the most famous one. And these women would serve these men in the clubs, in that club, and if -- sometimes they disappeared upstairs and you know coughs, no one would say anything. Well turns out my grandpa laughs, bless his soul, had 10 mistresses. At the same time. That's where the $100,000 went. My grandmother, the woman I called grandma, tolerated it to a point. If he came home drunk in the afternoon, or evening, and all the neighbors were watching, and they usually were, she would, well, start hitting him and kicking and spitting at him and calling him all kinds of names right out onto the street according to my father. And knock him down and drag him by the hair and whatever else. and he would never fight back. Obviously he could have overwhelmed very easily, but he knew he was wrong he said. Or my father said. And yeah in fact when my grandpa died, on his deathbed, he begged forgiveness of his wife. I don't know if she gave it laughs. But that's an example of one of the stories he told me about life before World War II. Fascinating stuff. And I think that's what intrigued me about it all. I knew nothing about all this stuff. Even the men that came through the front door, I just knew they were friends of my father and that was about it. So I guess it started me on my life journey of finding out what happened, what was going on? What was life like back then? Even during the war and after the war as well. So it became important to me, very important to me.
MS
What was your ethnic identity, sense of self like, when you were growing up? Before you started discovering what had happened?
TW
Yeah I guess I thought of myself as a Japanese somehow. And then when I went to school more and more with friends I became a Canadian, whatever that meant laughs. I guess yeah, it wasn't really until the late '60s, early '70s that I started calling myself Japanese Canadian. The identity thing started kicking in and whatever else.
MS
Did you have Japanese Canadian friends?
TW
Oh yeah, yeah, yeah. There were a few of my street, lots at my school which was interesting. I joined the Buddhist Church, the young people there, young people's group there. And uh Phone rings. See this is usually spam so we never answer it. But yeah, then I started going to the Cultural Center and joining the youth group there and -- yeah, so I had lots of Japanese Canadian friends.
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AP
Did your parents and brother ever speak about what they had on the west coast prior to the internment? Homes, possessions, stuff like that?
TW
Again, photographs came into play. They were basically in rooming houses that whole time. My father was an itinerant so he always went up into the woods and up and down the coast of Vancouver Island logging. And before that he would go to do mining and a little bit of farming, not all that much. But yeah they usually stayed in rooming houses and whatever else. My brother didn't talk about anything laughs.
MS
Did your father remember any names? Did he tell you the names of the lumber camps and the mines?
TW
Well uhm -- do you know Toyo Takata's book?
MS
Uh huh.
TW
There's a picture of the Kowgetsu Lumber Camp crew. And there's my father, my grandfather and my uncle sitting there. I thought “Jeez, where did you get that picture?” and of course the mean when he worked on the longest was the Jikamura Lumber Camp, grandpa, you know? It wasn't as big as the others, but yeah, he did work for them for a long time. And most of his lasting friendships came out of that lumber camp. He worked at Britannia Beach, do you know that area? It's up the coast right on the mainland Coast, I think. You'll have to look that up. He worked for a pig abattoir there. One, was it a summer? Might have been. He was in between jobs so he had to get one there. So he went there, took my mother there. My brother wasn't born yet. There's a great story that comes out of that one. My father worked in the abattoir and my mother was the cook, camp cook. And it was just all Japanese Canadians. And she said life is pretty boring except for Friday and Saturday night when they had their pie and coffee party. Well they all go together, I don't know how many there were, but my mother made all kinds of different pies. And she was great at making pies. And she'd serve it, you know they talk and have a party basically. And then at the end of the evening my mother made a mistake. She saved the leftover pie and put it away and everyone went home. Then all the gossip started after that. Japanese Canadians do not confront one another. They started to gossip. The custom was that she gave the pies away to the families and they would take it home and eat it there at their leisure. But no she laughs, she took all the pies and didn't give them that opportunity. And so all this gossip started, it was probably pretty vicious gossip. Eventually my brother told me about this. Pretty vicious gossip and then she wanted out of there as fast as she could and they never went back to Britannia Mines, or Britannia Beach, sorry. So what was the question again I forget? laughs
MS
Oh about the names of the mines.
TW
Oh yeah, or the lumber camps, anyway. So there is Kowgetsu and there is Jikimura. Yeah, lumber camps.
AP
Was your brother old enough to be working at that time?
TW
No he would, when the war broke out he was 10 years old. But he remembers a great deal and one of his memories, and this is later in life, my brother passed away in 2012. And he started talking about the past. Again I had to prompt him laughs, but he said when he was a little boy they were living in Amitani's Rooming House I think it was on Main Street or Powell Street. Powell Street probably. And times were different then. My mother felt absolutely comfortable leaving him home by himself when she went to sewing lessons or whatever things she had to do. Shopping or whatever. So he was often left home alone, at the age of 4. He would be in this apartment, this dark apartment, not knowing what to do really. It was pretty rough apparently. There is a Chinese laundry downstairs and there are other roomers of course.
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TW
And then he told the story of the man, an issei man, coming home drunk, bashing through the front door. He dropped his bottle. And my brother being a good Japanese boy, went to run up and grab it and hold it for him. And the guys said something in Japanese, cursed at him and slapped him across the face. You know and he -- to the point that he -- my brother said he couldn't understand why he did that, you know? And of course my mother took it out on the guy, gave him bloody hell and whatever else. But that stood out in his mind, that whole period of time.
MS
Did he talk about New Denver?
TW
You see that's the thing. They didn't go to New Denver. I made that up.
MS
Oh you made that up. OK. Where did you parents go?
TW
Well ok. My, again, my grandpa and grandma and their kids went to a place called Minto Mines.
MS
Oh yes.
TW
It was a self-supporting camp. And so my mother -- my father had already been taken away to what do you call those camps? Road camps, yeah road camp. And again my brother told me about that too where a knock on the door came at midnight. And it was the Mounties. And of course they came at midnight because they could be fairly sure that you'd be home. And they took my father away. And he said that was the only time he saw my father cry. Because well, obviously you know? And so they took him away and then that panicked my mother and when the order came down to get out, she went to my father's boss and begged him to sponsor them to the self-supporting camp. And of course you needed $1,500 or something like that? Certain amount of money to go. She didn't have the money so I don't know how they did it. But somehow he, my grandpa, got them up there. And my brother remembers they dragged a Miner's cabin from somewhere, you know a few miles, all the way to new Denver and set it up beside them. And my brother said he felt like a second-class citizen because my grandparents had this nice cabin with a garden and a white picket fence and running water, electricity. And they had nothing. They just had this empty shell of a cabin. But yes so, that's why they ended up in Minto. My father's rejoined them again for 6 months. And again I got a lot of stories out of that as well. A vivid recollection of my brothers was that he remembers a, hearing a crying woman in another cabin that the Jigamura's had brought over. And she never came out. He found out later that she was one of the bar girls, remember I told you about my grandpa? She was one of them and he sponsored her up to the camp as well. And she was so ashamed, everyone knew of course who she was. So she was so ashamed that you would never leave that cabin and -- well according to my brother just crying all the time in that cabin. The great story and central story of my family, happened to be with my father after the road gang, he came back to -- was reunited with the family in Minto. Terry speaks briefly to his wife And, how did it go? My father got a job, or a lot of people got jobs with the lumber camp, lumber company in Minto. So they were going to make extra money and whatever else. And so one day, the night before, there was a huge thunder and lightning storm, huge, and some saw it as an omen because their lights went out in the cabin. They thought “ooh” because of the crack of the thunder and whatever else. So they said something bad is going to happen.
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TW
Well the next day the truck came, the transportation truck Terry speaks to his family briefly to pick up my father in the rest of the crew and they drove up the mountain to where they were going to log. The truck driver was getting over from a hangover and made a wrong turn and the truck went over the side of the mountain, slid down the mountain. It hit a couple of logs, tree trunks that were criss-crossed on a pair of rocks underneath. And it stopped the truck from going all the way to the bottom and killing everybody. It killed the man next to my father and it and crushed his ribs. But others are saying you know the night before during the thunderstorm, lightning hit these two tree trunks and they walked across the road and fell down the side of the mountain laughs and criss-crossed there because they knew, or whoever knew that the truck would land there the next day. So my father was taken to Kamloops Hospital. And about that time, a few days later, my mother had an attack of kidney stones. So they had to do a major operation. So they had to take her to Vancouver to get an operation. Both journeys might have killed them, well I don't know if you've ever had broken ribs, it's the worst pain in the world. I know, I just had two broken ribs right here. And I don't know how my father survived because the left side of his chest was caved in basically. And my mother of course, kidney stones, horrendous pain and she had to make that journey by truck all the way down to Vancouver. And the story goes that they wouldn't treat her because she was the enemy. And she was actually left on a gurney in the hallway of the hospital for 6 to 8 hours or something like that until a Mother Superior discovered her and the Mother Superior insisted that the doctor take her right away because she was dying right? So they took her into the operating room right away. Meanwhile my father was in Kamloops, leaving my 10 year-old brother in the camp by himself. Now my grandparents felt they should take care of him, but there has to be a limit to that. He actually heard them talking about him. They said “what are we going to do with him? We can't take care of him for the rest of his life” you know “ it's not fair. He's not our child. Let's send him to Japan.” laughs My brother had never been, well I mean Minto was the farthest he had ever been out of Vancouver so going to Japan, I mean, he heard all the rumors, his parents are dead. They're both dead, they're never going to survive that. That left a traumatic mark on his psyche for the rest of his life. Fortunately they all got back together later on in the war, after they had recovered. I wouldn't have been born otherwise laughs. Anyway.
AP
How did the family end up here in Toronto?
TW
Good question laughs. Again, they were given the opportunity to leave Minto. I think what year would that have been. I think '44. it was before the end of the war. But they couldn't go back to the coast. They weren't allowed. So my father heard about this farming opportunity in Alberta. You could go as a family. And so they decided to go there and they ended up 20 miles south of Calgary in a place called Lyalta, BC, Alberta, sorry. And again they were the sharecroppers. My father knew very little about farming laughs. And life is harsh there. My brother always used to like telling the story of walking 6 miles to school and then 6 miles back because the place was closed. I'm sure it was a pure exaggeration, through 6 feet of snow. We're talking about July here, what are you talking about? “Nah. nah. You don't know nothing. You're an idiot anyway.” They like using that word a lot. So, and the water was grey blue, it wasn't a lot of fun.
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TW
In the winter time the pots would freeze and whatever else. Same in New Denver, I mean Minto as well, but more so there I guess. So after a year, again they appeal to my father's boss who was in Toronto. In fact in Riverdale. You know Hampton?
MS
Oh yes.
TW
They had a big house there. Is that where you live?
MS
Just around the corner.
TW
So they -- my father asked if they could sponsor them into Toronto at that point and help set up somewhere. So he agreed and they came to Toronto and they rented a place on McCaul Street near College. It was the third floor attic or something. Hot as hell in the summer and freezing cold in the winter time. That's how they ended up here and eventually they were able to buy a house in the Greenwood and Gerrard area. $8,000. And a little bitterness there. I don't know, they depended on the Jigamura family a lot. They asked to borrow money for a down payment. $1,000. That's all you needed, right? And I think the eldest daughter said “ You'll never see that money again. Don't do it.” So they said no. Somehow we got the money though to set up the mortgage at Greenwood and Gerrard.
MS
So you said there were quite a few Japanese Canadians at your high school. Why do you think they were so many in the East End?
TW
Well believe it or not, just after the war there was a Japantown in Toronto down at Spadina and Dundas. And they were all down there, well most of them were down there. And I think that's why my parents lived on McCaul Street. But they were all kinds of families down there and clubs grew, nissei clubs grew and they had social activities and whatever else. And the church was instrumental in setting up, oh what was that place. Furia? Do you remember Furia? Well the church set up a food co-op initially right next to it. And eventually they sold the rights or whatever to the Furia family and they set up a grocery store. And they also started the language school downtown. And all kinds of other activities. so once Japanese Canadians were basically allowed to move out they came into this area, over to Greenwood, basically because it was cheap, or relatively cheap. And from there they moved to Don Mills. So by the time I was growing up in the fifties there was still a lot of Japanese Canadian families in the area and they would send their kids to, well, Leslie Street Public School and Riverdale Collegiate, and Danforth Collegiate which is where I went. So, that's why. I think another part of the city would be Dufferin area, Oakwood, around there, there was a lot of Japanese Canadian families there as well. And after that they started moving way out to the suburbs. The dream, right, a split level house out in the suburbs. That's where you want to live. Now they all want to come back in laughs.
AP
What did your parents do in Toronto?
TW
Well as I told you my father worked in the construction industry and my mother was a seamstress. And my brother went to Jarvis Collegiate, finish his high school education and then went to U of T in engineering, got his BA, MA there then he went to McMaster University for a PhD and started working for, oh, Ford Canada, down in the Windsor area and then eventually Gulf Oil.
MS
So is he a mechanical engineer?
TW
No, chemical engineering. So then there's me laughs
MS
Went into the arts.
TW
Literature. English Literature. that was the Compromise actually you know? They never let me become, you know, an artist, a writer or anything like that.
MS
But a teacher.
TW
That's okay. If you are high school or elementary school teacher my brother didn't like that at all. But I became a college, at the time it was called a college teacher, then all the sudden they said you have to be called a college professor. This is the Ontario government that said that. I don't know why, they just did that. So they gave my brother some prestige, his brother is teaching at a college. Stuff like that.
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MS
What food memories do you have from your early childhood?
TW
Food memories, food memories. Oh yeah, yeah. Well you know what okazu is? My mother would make something, whether it be chicken based or beef based with vegetables, fast fry and always serve it with rice. You got to have rice. Tofu was big. I don't know if you know this about Dundas Union, the Japanese grocery store downtown. They had a service or a truck would go from house to house, Japanese Canadian house, all around the city. And they would have everything in their truck. It was a van actually. So if you wanted fresh tofu, they had it. They had fish, meat, Japanese food products, canned goods. Whatever, they had it. Rice was the big thing. And my mother would always order the hundred pounds of rice. I don't know if you had that too Momoye. She had me carry it down to the basement. That bloody thing was so heavy. I guess because the Japanese Canadians went too far away they stopped that service. It wasn't profitable for them anymore. But I think it lasted two the early '90s, I think it was. Terry and Momoye talk about Japanese food delivery in Toronto
TW
All I know is that at Dundas Union they made a weekly trip to these houses and they would ask if you wanted anything. you didn't have to phone or anything like that, they just showed up and you would order. And right down the street from us, well not right down the street, it was about 4 or 5 houses, was the Miyamoto family. Mrs Miyamoto was the community caterer. And she would make platters of sushi and all kinds of fish and all kinds of other dishes as well. I remember that really well, you know. Because she would always burst into our house. We would never lock our doors. Just burst into our house. I could be in my underwear watching TV and she would -- I have to grab a blanket fast. And she was an issei woman. She had leftovers for us. It could be a cooked saba or something like that, chow mein or whatever, she would bring it in and give it to us which was really nice of her. Loud woman though. Interesting thing about her was that she had three husbands in her lifetime and they all died before her. You know accidentally Terry makes quotation marks in the air with his hands. She had one daughter who had really dark skin and they called her the Brown Bomber, all her friends, well not her friends, but nissei, would call her Brown Bomber. And this was an extra layer of prejudice. She was ostracized a lot from social groups because of that brown skin, dark skin. And in fact she decided to rebel and met and married an African American sax player, Jazz sax player. I think they got divorced later laughs but she lived in Buffalo for the longest time. I always felt sorry for her. I didn't see any problem with it, but apparently other Japanese Canadians did. That was part of the sub community I guess within our neighborhood as well. There were a few other Japanese Canadian families around as well. And yeah, so, food, yes. Chow mein, pakuy, fried rice, these were all made up by issei because Chinese food was seen as a luxury, right. It was expensive. You would take the family out on a special occasion or usually a birthday, anniversary or significant birthday, sorry, not just any birthday, but anniversaries as well. And they carried that tradition right into Toronto from Vancouver. Those are great choices occasions. Again my grandpa, it would be his 80th birthday or something like that or Golden Dragon, half dozen other places.
MS
Sai Woo.
TW
Sai Woo, yes. There is another one I forget what it's called, still exist today up on Bathurst or something. Si Hai, that's it, yup Si Hai. But Golden Dragon, any one of those restaurants you'd go into and have a banquet, right. Not the real banquet food that Chinese Canadians are famous for, but you know lots of different dishes. And that was like a joy to me. I love that food. To this day I love that food. My family is not so crazy about it, but it's okay. Just because there's too much of it now.
00:45:17.000
00:45:17.000
TW
But back then -- so my point is that the Japanese Canadians would make up dishes that approached the Chinese dish, right. The chow mein itself, you didn't get the same kind of noodles that the Chinese did. Cumberland chow mein, which was basically spaghetti noodles, mixed up with vegetables and whatever else, but they made do. And this unique dish called pakuy, I don't know if you've ever heard of it, but it's sweet and sour ribs, but they had a specific combination of ketchup and vinegar and whatever else, and pickle juice I think they used. I know I'd love that. Oh man you get a little soya on that, a little tofu on the side. Good stuff, good stuff. Fried rice of course. My mother used to make that a great deal, I remember it well. Oh yeah so my mother at Shogatsu,s he knew all the traditional dishes, and that was something too, talking about food, it was the most glorious day of the year for food. My mother had a way of making BBQ pork, chashu, and I've only ever tasted it once since my mother's passing. And it was in Hawaii actually. This place called Shida Kia, Shiro Kira sorry, have this barbecue pork. Soon as I tasted it, it took me back, took me right back to the 1970s, or '60s when my mother made the chashu for Shogatsu. That's not the only thing, there were so many dishes back then. It was an old tradition that the men would go from house to house and have food, right, and drink.
MS
On New Year's Day.
TW
On New Year's Day. And so we'd wait and people would come over and then it was my father's turn to go out and go to his friends houses, and he'd take me. My brother had his own route too laughs, all over the place. But I remember asking my mother if she would come and she refused to go. “Might be people coming over, I have to be here, it be rude if no one was here.” And I couldn't understand it myself, so I went with my father. As it turned out that first year that my mother was here, when she got married and came to Canada, it was the first Oshogatsu, she went with my father to the bosses house for food. Grandma took her aside and scolded her for not being at home. “What are you doing here? You're an idiot, you're so rude” etc etc. Tore a strip off of her actually. And from that day on she never left the house on New Year's Day. Even when it got to the point when no one was coming over, I mean no one. It died off unfortunately, we could still go to my grandparents house but that was about it. Even then my grandparents passed away, the oldest daughter, she caused a lot of trouble, but she didn't tell anyone that she wasn't going to do it. So you don't like father went to the house, knocked on the door and it was completely dark, and no one was there. I kept telling him, “Dad there is no one here. I'm sorry but it's not going to happen.” “No they got to be here, its New Years, she is like my daughter” and in fact they were very close, both families were very close. And it broke his heart, it really did break his heart and so I had to take him home. And I never forgave her for that. One phone call that's all it took. I mean she knew that people are going to come over, and there's going to be more than my dad because there's so many men that did that. So those are the food memories I have, lots of food memories laughs. Yeah.
00:50:32.000
00:50:32.000
MS
Did your parents bring anything from BC to Toronto?
TW
They did but I didn't know about them until they both passed away. My brother called my wife and said, “You know that chest of drawers that you have? That old chest of drawers. You don't want to do you? We'd like it, or I'd like it.” And so I jumped in and I said well what do you want it for? Well Dad made it in the camp and we kind of like it. “Well, we are kind of using it right now.” And it's upstairs. You saw it when you went up to the washroom up there. It's just a simple wooden, I don't even know what it's made out of, chest of drawers. So that's a memento from that period of time. There was a box in the old house on Ivy that said Lyalta Alberta. I think that was a packing box. But other than that there wasn't very much help that they brought.
MS
Did your brother have any toys?
TW
laughs Oh God. That is a question laughs, oh my God. my brother was obsessed, or really angry with my mother that she gave away his toys from BC days right through I guess to I don't know. But he was like in his 40s at the time and laughs and I mean they had been lying around in the basement for decades. So my mother said what's the use of this end I'm going to give it to the neighbors next door or a cousin or something like that. And so yes she gave them away and my brother never forgave her and talked about it every time the family got together. And again in relation to that he talked about going to Woodwards department store in Vancouver at Christmas time. And my mother consented to taking him to see Santa Claus. So they were in the line and we're waiting and waiting, you know a very long line, so finally they got up to the front and Santa Claus said “I'm going to lunch” laughs. And you know come back in an hour and my mother refused. So my brother said “you know I really wanted that Buck Rogers Ray Gun. That's what I was going to ask for. Buck Rogers Ray Gun.” And he talked about it endlessly after that and I thought -- I assumed, in fact everyone in the family assumed that he had got one as a kid and that mom had given it away. As it turns out, he never had one until as an adult he went out and bought 5 of them. Even the gold special edition Ray Gun. God you can get so obsessed about it. But you were in your forties what did you want laughs. As it turns out he was just a collector of stuff, lots of stuff and yes so, toys. Yes he had toys. But they were all gone. A lot of them were handmade too, that my father made, or Grandpa Jigamura made or whatever. Good stuff.
AP
You have a son that we met.
TW
I do, yes.
AP
How do you sort of speak to him about the internet and all of that time?
TW
Oh he knows about it laughs. He knows about it, I constantly tell him about it and we go to various commemorations. Vancouver, I've taken him several times, showed him the PNE and where Hastings Park was. All of our friends talk about it. I've been blessed with knowing some really incredible people. Yuri Kochiyama, I don't know if you know her, but she was an activist down in New York City. Nisei woman.
00:55:12.000
00:55:12.000
TW
I mean if you met her, walked in the front door, “Oh sit down. Would you like some hot dogs?” laughs. Tea, you know, whatever. Just a very normal normal kind of person but she knew Malcolm X. Malcolm X came to her apartment and gave a lecture on civil rights. She was there when he was gunned down at the Autobahn Theater and she was holding him in her lap and tried to give him mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. Keep him alive you know. But not only that she knew Coretta Scott King, she knew, God you named anybody, she knew them. And they all knew her too. And they lived in Harlem and if you walk down the street they'd say “Hey Yuri” and her husband Bill, “Hey, how you doing?” Amazing people. So she met my son and took to him right away and held him in her arms. Of course you wanted to know about her so I would tell her, him, all the stories about her and other things. And my personal friendship with her. But she's not the only one there so many others that we have met over the decades. So he knows about the internment. I don't know how he feels about the internment but he knows about it at least. And one day he's promised to read my books laughs. “Oh dad don't worry I'll read it. One of these days”. Ya ok, fine. He's listening to the music, he's going to concerts with me. And even jumped on stage and tried to take over the microphone and stuff like that. I had to drag him off. Stuff like that. He should know anyway. There's some artifacts around the room here. That one was done by Kazuo Nakamura Terry motions to a piece of art in the room, that one in the corner there, that's a view of the Prairies when he was out there during World War II. So he should know about it.
AP
What are your thoughts on the Canadian public's awareness of the internment and its legacy?
TW
Well I think at the time that redress was settled people were keenly aware of it. For or against right? But since then it's waned. I think people know that it happened, and know the results of it, but it doesn't matter to them anymore. There are other pressing issues I think. That's a shame because it can happen again. And in fact when 9/11 happened there are these headlines that we're very similar to what the headlines were back in the 1940s. And there was talk of an internment in the United States. I'm not sure if there was such talk here. But in the States some vociferous senators were standing up and saying “ We got to put them in an internment camp” and whatever else. Bless him, but Norm Mineta who was the Senator of the time and Transportation Secretary actually stood up and told them “ You can't do this. Look what you did to the Japanese-Americans. Look what you did to me during WWII. It's just against the Constitution, the way we live.” etc etc. And actually I think he silenced them, he silenced them. But yeah I think it's up to Japanese Canadians, organizations like the National Association of Japanese Canadians to remind people of what happened and keep them mindful of the implications of the interment and make sure that it doesn't happen again. So yeah that's how I feel.
AP
Any other thoughts Momoye? Stuff you want to ask?
MS
I want to know, if you can describe how you felt as the story of the internment unfolded? Did you feel angry?
TW
Through the decades? Uhm, it was a surreal experience. Here I was thinking I was Canadian the whole time and then I found out that Japanese Canadians didn't get the vote until '49. In fact they couldn't even move around the country until '49. And that was like two years before I was born.
01:00:02.000
01:00:02.000
TW
So I thought, jeez, am I Canadian? Am I accepted as a Canadian? If you can do this to my parents, you can do it to me. So yeah I felt a little angry but at the same time he gave me, I can't say a cause, but a reason to go forward. To explore art. I should talk a little bit about how that whole thing started. It was back in 1970 I think it was. As I had told you I'd been in all these rock and roll bands around Toronto area for the longest time. And the last band I was in was called the Asia Minors. I don't know if you heard of them?
MS
I have a vague memory.
TW
Vague memory, yeah that's right laughs. They were basically, I don't know if you know the Lum family, they owned, what was that restaurant called.
MS
Wasn't it Semun?
TW
Kwong Chao. Great restaurant right and like Prime Minister's went there, Mayors and all that. Well the mother of the family, powerful woman, Jean Lum, her children, and she had 6 of them laughs. Six children. The core of then decided to start a rock band. So eventually I joined that band. And eventually we got a lot of great gigs around the city. It was really a lot of fun, a lot of fun. But we didn't do any original stuff and that's why I started writing my own stuff. But before that, one of the last gigs that we got was a Hiroshima Day commemoration concert down at City Hall. It was an outdoor concert. Several bands were involved and so we are one of them. I guess they liked the look of an Asian band up there. And really it was a protest against Vietnam. but at the last minute Mrs. Lum got wind of this and decided that she didn't want her kids involved with this because it was, you know, it was the Vietnam War and North Vietnam were communist and she was anti-communist at the time. So she actually got on the phone and started calling her contacts at City Hall and got it cancelled laughs. I--she may have even called the Mayor I don't know at the time. They had to say no because all the permits have been released and whatever else. So she did the next best thing. She forbid her kids from performing. And like the oldest was in his mid-twenties laughs. But she had such a hold on them, they all called me one by one and said we can't do the gig Terry, sorry, we can't do it. I said this is embarrassing guys they got posters up. Ok, I did it by myself. I went down with my guitar down there plugged in and there was this great song called “ I Feel Like I'm Fixin to Die Rag”, I don't know if you heard of it but it's by Country Joe and the Fish. And I love the lyric “Come on all you big strong men, Uncle Sam needs our help again. God himself into a terrible Jam, way down south in Vietnam.” laugh Anyway goes on like that so I did that and the power of, you know the applause that came back, well I was overwhelmed. Hey, I never got this when I was in the band, right? I thought wow this is great. This is what propelled me, you know after the band broke up, shortly after that, I gotta' write my own music and seek that sort of acceptance again. And that's how I got into the whole singer songwriter thing.
MS
And how did your parents react?
TW
Oh laughs, it was a hobby to them. Especially my brother, he'll make friends that way, don't worry about it laughs. Never make a career out of it but you know friends. And typical Japanese, whenever someone with stop us in the street and someone would say “Oh your son is such a good singer” and whatever else, my mom “Oh you kidding me? He's got a frog voice” laughs. Awful. ███████
01:05:35.000
01:05:35.000
MS
Terry I was just wondering how you think the Whole World War II experience affected your parents psychologically, socially?
TW
Well as I said they wouldn't talk about it at all without a lot of pushing on my part. And so I think that's how it affected them. They weren't very, I don't think they were -- I recently found in 1942 memoir or diary, sorry, of my fathers. and so it's all in Japanese unfortunately, well except for little snippets of English. So I asked a translator to look at it and to give me some translation work. Just the beginning of it, she just started basically, he says that he is grateful to our fighting men. You know this is laughs, you know they're fighting overseas at that point. Canada was fighting in Europe and whatever else and I think they are just beginning to gear up for World War II. I didn't know you felt so strongly about Canada, you know his adopted country as it were. And I'm not too sure that continued after the war because he never mentioned it again. I mean he would go up to the parades and things like that, but no real patriotic fervor was within his self. So I think -- it affected him that way and in my mother's case I think she was very afraid, you know, weary of Canadian culture and community out there and not wanting to mix too much with Canadian society. She said I had to marry Japanese to you know laughs. You can marry anyone you want but she has to be Japanese. Funny story with that is one day my mother, well actually two stories. My brother waited a long time to get married. Must have been his late twenties early thirties I think when he finally said okay Mom find me a woman laughs. Find me a wife, sorry, I shouldn't be so crude. So she sent it out on -- what fascinates me is the issei community, you know the very first generation community. She just sent the word out in it was all over the place and suddenly there's a parade of women coming through our house. My brother would take them out one by one and give his assessment. and I remember one vivid one that my mother was keen on. She had a Phd, she could speak Japanese like a native, she could cook. perfect woman, right? So my brother afterwards sat her down, “No, I don't like that one.” laughs Why not? Terry mentions a Japanese phrase which means really ugly face laughter. My mother just bristled, what are you stupid or something? This woman's perfect for you. No, no, no. So that was bizarre. To top it off, a few years later when I was in my mid-twenties I guess, my mother came to me and showed me a picture. It's this woman standing in a rice paddy up to her knees in water waving like this Terry motions with his hand. Who is this? Oh that's your future wife laughter. What are you crazy? Who is she? I don't even know her. Remember 1959 when we took you to Japan, yes, and you had that baby on your back and we're wondering around. Vaguely. That's her! When I saw you two together I knew you were perfect for one another, just perfect! Oh man you are crazy laughter. You think I'm bakai, I think you are kitchi gai laughs. And she was really insistent. Just say the word and she will be on the next JAL flight out of Tokyo. Right here. Can't speak a word of English, clearly out of her depth basically. I just ignored her.
01:10:08.000
01:10:08.000
TW
Three months later my mother came by and slap me in the head. What was that for? You idiot she got engaged! laughter. You missed your chance laughter. So that's what fascinates me, issei culture, marriage is not out of love it's just, has to be, you know. Yeah I think they tried to maintain that as much as they can, could, after the war and I think that's a product of the war itself. Even their friends that came over they were all Japanese. All Japanese. And many of them were from the logging camp days which led me to another area of, well in my writing especially. One man was a scary guy, Ricky Matsu was his name. And I'm not even sure if that was his first name or his last name, probably his last name and his first name might have been Kintaro, but I'm not sure. But he had a skull like head, I mean it looks like a skull basically. Very thin, and he had no nose. And so I remember this later and ask my father, “Who was this guy?” “Oh a good friend of mine.” I know he's a good friend of yours but who was he? He says “He was the yojimbo or right hand man of the head gangster in Vancouver. Mori Esuji.” Right hand man, he was the enforcer, he did all the dirty work right. How did he get that nose? Well, one of his jobs was to go into Chinatown in Vancouver, go into the gambling dens in Vancouver and find all the issei Japanese Canadian guys. And then he would sort of sidle up to them and whisper in their ear “What are you doing here? They are cheating you. They're taking every dime you got. You know the guy over there is sleight of hand, you know, they're really cheating you. Come back to our neck of the woods and play at my bosses gambling place. we won't take all of your money, will take care of your family too.” So that was his job but then the Chinese bosses caught him and they took him out in the back alley and beat him up and then cut his nose off. As a reminder, don't come back here. That was his job.
MS
Did your parents tell you stories about Morisa?
TW
No just about Ricky Matsu. Others told me about Morisa and the things he did and whatever else. Enigmatic character. I remember talking to Frank Moritsugu about -- well I wrote about Ricky Matsu for the Nikkei Voice. And then Frank took me aside, he was the editor, no he was the publisher at the time? He took me aside and said “ We'll print this if you really insist, but you have to be careful.” What do you mean? There are Mori supporters in this town. He's been dead since the early '70s, right. And still this was like 1990, whatever and I thought -- and so Frank said you're going to get death threats. You're going to get all kinds of, it's going to be dangerous for you. How old are these guys Frank? They must be in their eighties. Well I think I can outrun them laughter. But even at that, they were afraid. People when you mention the name, would clam up, get frightened of them. But we ran the story and I didn't get any threats. Interesting, interesting, that he would have such a hold such a hold on the Japanese Canadian people. But my father didn't tell me so many stories about Etsuji Mori other than the thing about the women. bBut many stories about Ricky Matsu. In fact there's a great story about him in Toronto. He eventually ended up here in Toronto, well that's why he came over to our house and whatever else. But he said -- Ricky Matsu frequented the Chinese gambling dens down at Bay and Dundas. And he went into one, one day, and he found a young guy there. Must have been in his 20s. Nissei guy, knew his family, right? Dragged him out, you know, “ You should be working. Don't be like me”, right? And the guy said “Well I got no job. I got no wife. I got nothing. What else can I do? I might as well go gamble.”
01:15:09.000
01:15:09.000
TW
So he laughs maybe roughed him up a bit. Told him to go home. And a week later he had a job, because Ricky Matsu got him a job. Week after that he was introduced to a woman who became his wife. Now I know this because I went to Ricky Matsu's funeral and this nissei guy stood up and he told the story. There are really two sides to Ricky Matsu. In fact there are two sides to Mori as well. He was benefactor as well as tormentor. I just find it fascinating, the whole issei community. You know I think another example of what happened to them, or how they want to keep the thing about the war quiet. They consistently say that they were law-abiding people, we didn't do this, we didn't do that. We just existed, we loved Canada etcetera etcetera. Fly the flag and whatever else. But really there's more to it than that. Under that -- basically they were human beings susceptible to all the foibles. You know there's gambling, there's prostitution, there's illicit alcohol as well as debt. All kinds of other things too. Cheating, you know. When I found out about that issei woman who had an affair with, turned out to be a gigolo. A gigolo in the Japanese Canadian community? She fell in love with this guy and then her daughter who was who was mentally handicapped discovered them, one day. And the story goes that the daughter fell down the stairs and broke her neck and died. People speculated whether she push the daughter down, or maybe not. Who knows? But anyway the daughter died and then the mother, to hush this all up, took her daughter and put her in the furnace. Get rid of the body. Oddly enough it didn't burn. She couldn't start the thing or something like that. Later the police discovered the body. She'd been reported missing from school and whatever else. They found the daughter and they ruled it a suicide. Who laughs put himself inside an oven, furnace, to commit suicide for God's sake? But the corner finally said no this is murder. I found the newspaper with the picture of the corner and the two detectives in front of the furnace. Didn't show the body thank God. But nothing ever came of it. And like I heard the story from issei and nissei for a decade before that, there was this killing, this woman, you know. And first it was surprising that a woman had an affair. A Japanese Canadian woman had an affair. Because of the war I think they tried to idealize the Japanese Canadian community. And anyway this is a good example -- I met the woman, nissei woman who sat behind the daughter in school. And knew her from those days. Yeah, yeah. I have a feeling that Mori had a hand in keeping her out of jail and the hangman's noose. Concocted the whole story about that. I think that's what's fascinating about the issei. They have all these hidden stories. It takes a lot to get it out of them, but you will be rewarded if you do. And I hope that comes across these interviews that you guys are doing here. Well not only you but the entire cluster.
MS
What was it like for you visiting Powell Street for the first time?
TW
Well the first time I was there I was 8 years old, 7 years old. My parents decided in 1959 to take me back to Japan to visit the relatives. And I had a horrible time. I mean I had a great time in Winnipeg and in Vancouver and in Tokyo laughs but when I went to visit the family homes in the countryside, it was like wow man. They have fish for breakfast. Fried fish. I hate fish, right? Miso shiru as well. Now I don't mind of course, but back then I wanted Corn Flakes, frosted Corn Flakes, never mind Corn Flakes. And they just didn't have that, it was a horrible time.
01:20:16.000
01:20:16.000
TW
The first time I was really aware of Vancouver was in 1977 when I went back for the Powell Street Festival, the first one. And yeah, it was a moving experience, just stepping into the area. Powell Street area, Oppenheimer Park. And I'm thinking wow this is the first -- I haven't been, my family hasn't been back since the pre-war days. And I felt something as soon as I stepped on the ground. It was like wow you know? Swelling of some kind inside me. An amazing feeling. And had a little tour of the area with newly made friends and old friends from Vancouver. They took me to the New World Hotel which was the original place of the new Canadian newspaper. And of course by then it had fallen into disrepair. They took me upstairs to one of the rooms, well several the rooms actually. and as soon as you open the door it's dark and there is one room in particular, 1 bare bulb, light bulb, piled high with newspapers and other debris and whatever else and a hot plate with food and a old issei couple. They had moved back to Vancouver and they had taken up residence in the New World Hotel. No relatives so they couldn't do anything.Yyou know, I mean I was working class but this was absolute poverty, right? And I didn't think Japanese Canadians existed like that. It was an eye opener. And that's how -- you know Tonanei Gumi had been working for a little and were committed to helping these people. This was part of it. We brought them food and other things as well. Just wish them well and had a conversation with them. My guide was able to speak to them in Japanese. And so heart rendering, heartbreaking but made me realize that there was a community, right, at one point and it should be revitalized, somehow. Not possible I suppose, not the way it was. But at least it was an attempt back in the '70s and into the '80s.
MS
Did you also go on the Ghost Town tour?
TW
I did. three of them I think it was. And that was something too because the issei and nissei started talking, telling stories which they hadn't told -- I mean they're own family haven't listened to them. But I was taking notes furiously all the way through it. It was wonderful. Some of the issei would cry when they saw a place like Hope, BC, you know with that Tashme.Oour tour guide was Reverend Dave Morata. You know him?
MS
I've heard the name.
TW
Oh he is a fun guy, fun guy. He actually trespassed onto the laughs, he took the bus right into the old Tashme campsite. It's a private resort area I think now. But we went in there and look around and everything. The one that was really inspiring and a little frightening was Sandon. I don't know if you know Sandon, but it's one of the internment camps initially open for the Buddhist only. Because they did it by religion initially. And then they realized it was impossible. Most Japanese Canadians are Buddhist, you can throw them all into this one little camp so they started splitting them up. But initially this was it. And I think in the peak of summer it only gets 3 hours of daylight because the mountains are so high it blocks the light after a while. It was pretty ominous in there. And all kinds of ghost stories around that count as well. So yeah I went to those ghost town tours and it was just amazing. Do it again if I can.
AP
Did you visit any of the places where your parents lived or frequented when they were out there?
TW
My brother went to Minto and unfortunately they flooded the area. So he jokingly said he wanted to move there, on the shores of Lake Minto. His wife was just laughs --why would you want to do that? My youth, you know. I went to Lillooet which is just outside Minto and saw that. Of course we weren't allowed to go in at that time but it gives me an idea of what life was like. So yeah. Yeah pause.
01:25:21.000
01:25:21.000
MS
Anything else you'd like to add?
TW
Probably when you guys leave I'll remember laughs. There must be something. Alex: You can contact us and we can come back. Terry Oh, yeah, yeah. That's true.
MS
What do you hope that future generations of Japanese Canadians will learn about the past?
TW
Well whatever they learn I don't want them to dismiss it, you know, like it was nothing. I mean it happened but it has no application on my life. They have to realize that yes it does have an impact on your life. It formed you. I would like them to do a lot of research into their own families and other families as well because it's very rich you know. Lots of stories. And it's amazing how human Japanese Canadians are. I really hate it that there's a sort of stereotype now that Japanese Canadians were very law-abiding people. Peaceful, passive almost. and it's just not true. They were really angry people and I'm sure that will come out in your interviews as well. But yeah future generations I would like them to delve into it and realize that there was a community and to realize what the importance of that was. It forms their identity, it is them.
AP
What would you like Canadians of non Japanese descent to know about and take away about that time in history going forward?
TW
Again, not to dismiss it. I know of people, non Japanese Canadians that resented and are still resentful that Japanese Canadians redress. And I don't understand that attitude but -- they'll personalize it. They'll say my mother had MS and that and shouldn't she get compensated? What has that got to do, I don't understand the logic there but that's fine if that's how you feel. Yeah sure compensate, her I don't know. But I want them to, non Japanese Canadians to see that it's a human rights issue. It's not just the taking away of property and years of incarceration. And the mental anguish actually. I also want non-Japanese Canadians to realize that it affected generations. My generation, Momoye's generation, the next generation after that and after that too. There is a residual effect and they should question it. What is it, what is that affect? And I think that Japanese Canadians should ask that to. I've met sansei at the Cultural Centre. “This is my first time here. I'm not Japanese.” “ I didn't say you were.” They're like volunteering this to me. I don't care, buddy. But this is the first time I'm here and I'm not Japanese. They insist on it. Well that's fine, you know. But I'd like them to realize that their Japanese Canadians. What does that mean? Well let's look at that. What does that mean? To define it and to live with it and embrace it in fact. I want them to embrace it and to love it as well as for the following generations as well. Yeah I find a lot of the so-called hapa generations now will come back in and explore their Japanese Canadian, their Japanese Canadian side as well and explore it. Because usually their Japanese Canadian parent doesn't talk about it. So yeah, so yeah I would like the non-Japanese Canadians and the Japanese Canadians to explore that past and realize that what happened to, and I use the word advisedly, us, is a human rights issue and it can inform our treatment of other groups in Canada as well from here on in.
01:30:10.000
01:30:10.000
AP
Any last thoughts? I know we already asked that.
TW
Last thoughts, yes, yes, well--
AP
Last-last thoughts this time.
TW
I want to continue creating. That's what I want to do, you know. But it's difficult because of the peculiarities of the publishing business and oh God laughs. And finding out new things. In the third novel I'm -- well I've got a first draft of it, but it will take awhile to get it together. I talk about the sansei generation, 3rd generation and how the war has affected, the war has affected them despite the fact that no one believes that it has. A friend of mine, this is a true story, actually robbed a bank in the 1980s as revenge for his grandfather. This was before redress. He said this is his redress, I will rob this bank in the name of redress. Before his sentencing laughs, he was convicted right, before his sentencing, I had the chance to talk to him and he revealed that he was not for redress, and he robbed the bank to shame Japanese Canadians for asking for money. It's really twisted you know.
MS
That's interesting.
TW
He said we are individuals and we have to do with our life to make ourselves rise above it all. It happened, the internment happened but we have to rise above it and make ourselves the best that we can be. But I said you rob the bank laughs. YOU think I robbed the bank, the police think I robbed the bank but I know that I didn't rob that bank. But you walked in and said that you had a bomb and you wanted $20,000, which was the exact sum the NAJC wanted for redress. You robbed a bank, no not in my head. Why did they arrest my grandfather? Because of the way he looked. They arrested of me because of the way I looked, acted, in that bank. But I know I didn't. So in his Twisted way he was reenacting World War II and he wanted to see what it was like and he was going to rise above it after he had paid his penalty. He didn't want a lawyer, he didn't fight the guilty decision. He didn't, would you call that when you get a retrial.
MS
Appeal?
TW
He didn't want to appeal, he just wanted to go to jail. laughs. And they put him in a maximum-security jail for 3 years. Then after he got out he just disappeared. Apparently he's trying to make his name, trying to be a better person. But if you say that World War II did not affect the third generation, I hold this guy up. This guy, you know. And coupled with that, research is really exciting for me and I discovered that there was a group of Japanese Canadians who protested the internment for two years after the war ended. They ended up in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan. They were let out of the concentration camps in Ontario and they went straight, will they were transferred to Moose jaw and they staged a two-year protest there because they wanted an apology, they wanted an acknowledgement that the Canadian government had done wrong. This is after the war, just after the war. I thought oh my God. So I've done a lot of research in that area.
MS
Do you have names?
TW
Huh?
MS
Do you have the names of these guys?
TW
Well they are called Gumbaria but they didn't change their name or anything.
MS
No I mean the ones who ended up in Moose Jaw.
TW
Oh the ones that went there? I met one of them, his name was Noda, I think. No I'd have to check that.
MS
He would be interesting to interview.
TW
Well he may have passed away. The one thing I could remember about him was that he had an anchor over his fireplace. No it wasn't, what am I saying an anchor. A whale harpoon, because he was a whaler before the war. And I mean he's in the middle of the prairies, why's he got the harpoon up there? That's his past, his past, that's when he felt alive. And the war really did him in. Man, the perseverance, two years of protesting the war. They even kicked him out of the place. Kick the couple, 2, 3, 4 of them at the end. They just kick them out of the camp. We don't want you here, just go back to your property. You know what they did they set up tents outside the camp laughs. And continue to protesting. Wow who are these guys. So that's the basis of my third novel, based on that. Anyway that's what I want to continue doing, just keep researching hoping to recreate in some way the Japanese Canadian community.
MS
Thank you.
TW
Oh you're quite welcome.
AP
Thanks for speaking with us.
TW
Yeah, no problem. if you have any follow up questions email me.
AP
OK. Thank you so much.
TW
Yup.
01:30:26.000

Metadata

Title

Terry Watada, interviewed by Alexander Pekic and Momoye Sugiman, 02 September 2015

Abstract

Terry speaks about memories of his childhood and adolescence in Toronto, growing up not knowing what his parents and older siblings experienced before he was born in the 1950s. Terry had attended a National Conference of Japanese and Chinese Canadians organized by Allen Hota. It was here he first saw photographs from the internment period that made a great impact on him. He also discusses how he struggled to get his family to open up with their own history in BC prior to and during the internment. Terry explores how his heritage and family's internment experience affected his artistic creations and how the history of the internment should be remembered by Japanese Canadians and Canadian society more broadly.

Credits

Interviewer: Alexander Pekic
Interviewer: Momoye Sugiman
Interviewee: Terry Watada
XML Encoder: Stewart Arneil
Publication Information: See Terms of Use for publication and licensing information.
Setting: Terry Watada's home, Toronto, ON
Keywords: Toronto ; Vancouver ; music; food; issei; nisei; Japanese Canadians; internment; 1920s-present

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.