Editorial – September 2020
When Amy and I decided to make the trek east in August to spend a couple of days camping on Kootenay Lake we were pleased (and honoured) when our two daughters, Emiko and Kaya, announced that they wanted to come along. We spent many summers camping with the girls when they were younger but hadn’t had a family camping trip since 2009. Given that half the province seems to have either discovered or rediscovered the joys of the great outdoors, we were lucky to grab a site due to a last-minute cancelation – probably when someone realized that camping meant sleeping on dirt. The family road trip was on!
Although we have made the drive along Route 3, known as the Crowsnest Highway, a number of times in the past, this was the first time the girls were old enough to fully appreciate the historic nature of this part of the province, particularly the Japanese Canadian history. Although we were trying to make camp before nightfall, we made several stops along the way. The first was the Tashme Museum in Sunshine Valley, as neither girl had been there before. The Museum was closed when we arrived but as we were about to leave, Ryan Ellan, the tireless founder of the Museum, rounded the corner and graciously offered to give us a private tour. I was impressed by the work Ryan had done on the Museum since my last visit. I was particularly taken the two large koinobori (carp windstreamers) suspended from the ceiling. Ryan proudly showed us a photo of the same koinobori flying over Tashme during the war and explained that a family had recently donated them to the Museum. The Tashme Museum truly is a remarkable gift to our community.
Although we weren’t able to stop for as long we would have liked, it felt like an auspicious start to our family road trip. We thanked Ryan and set off again, next stop Greenwood. Just as Ryan has done with the Tashme Museum, one person has made it his personal goal to ensure that the history of Japanese Canadians in Greenwood is not forgotten and that there is a visible reminder of that history. Over the past number of years, Chuck Tasaka has spearheaded the creation of the Nikkei Legacy Park in Greenwood, a monument to the 1,200 Japanese Canadians that spent the war years in what was the first internment camp to open in 1942. We spent some time at the monument, admiring Chuck’s work and taking photos, including recreating a family photo we had taken on the same spot many years earlier when the girls were much smaller.
Our final stop was Nelson, for a quick visit with family. Then it was off to Kokanee Creek Provincial Park. Despite our best intentions, we ended up cooking dinner by lantern light before heading to bed.
Kokanee Creek is located on Slocan Lake, some twenty minutes outside of Nelson. To our disappointment, nearby Ainsworth Hot Springs was closed due to the pandemic, but we spent a lovely day at the beach just a few minutes walk from our campsite. In contrast to the Okanagan, which seemed to be busting at the seams as we drove through, the Kootenays had a much more relaxed atmosphere and there was plenty of room on the beach for distancing.
On our last full day we toured the Nikkei Internment Memorial Centre in New Denver, a must-see for anyone interested in life during the internment years. Although I have been there many times over the years, including performing at the grand opening in 1994, the Centre never fails to leave an impression on me with its beautiful attention to detail and the many memories that it holds, both painful and joyful. In Kaslo we spent some time at the Langham, another place full of precious memories, before taking a walk on the lovely River Trail just outside of town. In the shade of the forest, with the rushing river providing a comforting background roar, it is easy to feel the weight of those consequential times – what Roy Kiyooka once referred to as “those altogether plangent Year/s.”
The next day, as we retraced our steps towards the coast, it struck me how familiar this drive feels – every curve in the road, mountain pass, roadside pullout. From an historical standpoint, the Crowsnest Highway, running from Hope to the Alberta border, holds so many storylines: the Chinese railroad workers, the exiled Doukhobors, the gold-seeking prospectors, and of course the thousands of Japanese Canadians who followed the route east in 1942, many of them never to return. The highway feels like an old friend, tracing the contours of my life. To be driving it once again in the company of family felt like an unexpected gift in these turbulent and uncertain times.
On a sadder note, Terry, one of our Bulletin volunteers, called me as we were tearing down the campsite with the news that yet another of our crew members had passed away. Sunako Hinada, know to all of us as Sunny, was a treasured and well-loved member of our team. I will miss her deeply even as I hold out hope that one day we can return to our monthly mail out work parties. Stay safe everyone.