Editorial January 2008
John Endo Greenaway
A Renegade Nisei
January 4, 2008. I’m editing a story on Roy Kiyooka while watching Michael de Courcy’s short film Voice: Roy Kiyooka on his website www.michaeldecourcy.com. Today is the 14th anniversary of Roy’s death, and there he is on my computer monitor, unmistakably himself and very much in context—at the Western Front for his 66th birthday/retirement party surrounded by friends: Takeo, Linda, Minoru, Paul Gibbons, Themba Tana, Jim Munro, Rhoda and Trudy . . . His face, his mannerisms, his voice are so familiar, it’s almost painful to watch.
Although I knew Roy as a family friend growing up in Toronto and Montreal, it wasn’t until we moved to Vancouver in the late sixties (at his urging) that I got to know him a little better. He lived down the street from my parent’s place in Strathcona. One summer he hired me to help him build a darkroom in his basement. He bummed cigarettes off me and bought me my first donburi at Aki’s on Powell Street. He explained that it was the Japanese version of a sandwich. I thought that was pretty weird at the time. I remember printing the images for The Fontainebleau Dream Machine in my father’s darkroom in these oversized developing trays that Roy bought specifically for that purpose. It seemed really extravagant at the time. But that was the kind of thing Roy did. I think he hand-coloured the prints afterwards.
Years later he and I were part of a gang that played poker at Mas Funo’s place in Kitsilano. He wasn’t a great poker player, but he more than made up for it with his verve, his sense of style and his sheer enthusiasm. I used to see him riding his bike around Strathcona and Chinatown, his right trouser leg rolled up to avoid getting grease on it, wearing the ever-present down vest and bandana tied around his head. He seemed so deeply imbedded in the neighbourhood that it was impossible to think of it without him.
When he died so unexpectedly early in 1994 we put out a call for tributes to be printed in The Bulletin. Responses immediately began flooding in from across Canada. He had a great many friends and admirers within the arts community. What was so striking about the tributes we received was the immense affection and respect that everyone held towards him.
The premiere next month of Vancouver New Music’s Marginalia: Re-visioning Roy Kiyooka, under the direction of Giorgio Magnanensi, reminds us that Roy Kiyooka had an impact far beyond the body of work he left behind. He was a renegade nissei, an intellectual without pretensions, an artist who refused to be pigeonholed, a wonderful teacher, an adventurer and good friend. That he continues to inspire and engender respect speaks, I think, to his indomitable individuality.
“One of the wonderful things about Roy, actually, was that he got so much joy out of the things he did, you know, the music he played, whatever he did. Poker – he was a terrible poker player, a terrible poker player – except the night he was lucky . . . I wasn’t there, but apparently, every time he’d get a good hand he’d fall on the floor laughing and everyone would just fold.”
Linda Uyehara Hoffman, February 1994 issue of The Bulletin
“I can’t really say that I knew Roy as well as a lot of people did, but I knew him for a long time. To me he will always be the family friend who called me Sam well into my teens—a childhood name that I had discarded at age five. It wasn’t a purposeful mistake on his part, it was simply how he’d known me as a baby. Eventually, of course, he came around. He always did. Roy, you filled our houses with smoke and laughter—there was no one like you.”
from the Editorial, February 1994 issue of The Bulletin
Farewell to Mary Takayesu
On December 8, the JCCA and The Bulletin lost one of our most loyal volunteers, supporters and friends. Mary Takayesu was 82 years old and suffering from Parkinson’s disease, so her death was not completely unexpected, but all of us who knew her were deeply saddened by her passing.
For as many years as I can remember, Mary and Frank devoted a great deal of time to ensuring that the JCCA membership list was kept updated. They had a system of envelopes and cards that they meticulously updated every month. I don’t think they ever fully trusted the computerized system that eventually became necessary, perhaps with good cause. When Frank passed away in 2004, Mary was already dealing with the reality of her illness, yet she remained fiercely independent as long as she could. Our deepest condolences to her family. We shall all miss her.
The Bulletin Goes Virtual
In 1958, The Bulletin was launched by the Greater Vancouver Japanese Canadian Citizen’s Association as a means of communicating with the community members who had begun to return to the coast following the eight-year exile brought about by wartime fears and racist government policies. Over the past 50 years, the content has changed to reflect the ongoing evolution of the community itself, but the purpose remains the same—to serve as a link and a vital tool for communication. As we celebrate the 50th Anniversary of The Bulletin we look back with respect and gratitude to those that came before us and look ahead to a future that promises its own challenges. We look forward to continuing to serve the community to the best of our abilities.
Long overdue, we are pleased to announce the launch of The Bulletin online version. The beauty of the web is that everything is in a continual state of flux and our site promises to change and evolve over time. We are already looking at the possibility of expanding our content to reflect the global reach of the internet. Stay tuned!