By K.M. Fukuma
Momiji Healthcare Society held their annual Seniors’ Day Celebration on September 12, 2014. Approximately 150 seniors mostly Momiji tenants and friends from the Yee Hong Centre for Geriatric Care and Castleview-Wychwood Towers joined in the celebration. This year’s theme was Legendary Lives.
“There are four Momiji tenants who are 100 years old this year and the Vancouver Asahi Baseball Team is also celebrating 100 years. We wanted to make the program something that would pay respect to and praise the achievements of those celebrating 100 years, as well as the seniors at Momiji,” said Yuki Beasley, coordinator of the Elderly Persons Centre (EPC) at Momiji and one of the organizers of the Seniors’ Day Celebration program.
The MCs were Yuki Beasley and Naomi Ono, both from the EPC. The celebration started with a sing-a-long (with John Morry on piano accompaniment), where everyone was given a songbook so they could join in the singing. Then there was a belly dancer Atsuko Abeta who is also a volunteer of the Japanese Wing at Yee Hong, Scarborough-Finch location. The last entertainment group was Ten Ten (with Aki Takahashi on vocals and shamisen, and Kiyoshi Nagata on taiko and flute) who performed Japanese folk songs from across Japan.
During the celebration the four 100-year-old tenants were introduced. They are Amy McLean (born in Halifax, West Yorkshire, England), Kaz Umemoto (born in Cumberland, BC), Namiko Okayasu, and Yasuko Helen Shimoda (born in Vancouver, BC). A special mention was Fumi Kamitakahara (born in Kagoshima prefecture), who is 106 years old, and the last surviving prewar Vancouver Japanese Language School (Alexander Street school) teacher. She currently lives at Castleview.
A short video interview with the last surviving Asashi member Kaye Kaminishi was shown on screen. It surely brought back memories for many who attended the games in the prewar Vancouver days. In the interview Kaminishi shared his memories of the team. For example, when the team lost a game a restaurant owner gave them money telling them they lost because of lousy bats and that they should go buy some new ones.
The MCs announced that a movie on the Vancouver Asahi was going to be released in Japan later in the year.
After the video showing, Toshio Mori’s memories of the team were shared. Mori is the oldest male tenant at Momiji, and is 99 years old this year. Mori started watching the Asahi games in the 1930s when one game was seven innings instead of nine. Apparently when there was a game the team members would take time off work and gather at Powell Grounds. Some mentioned members were Tanaka-san, the Yamamura brothers, Yasui-san, the Suga brothers, Shiraishi-san and Nakamura-san. It was also mentioned that someone had noted that the Asahi team were like Japanese Canadian ambassadors.
After the program was finished, everyone enjoyed a bento lunch by Zero Sun Momiji restaurant.
At the back was a display about the four 100 year olds and Fumi Kamitakahara, the Vancouver Asahi baseball team, a map of Powell Street area 1041 and numerous photos taken at Momiji from the previous years.