For us, by us – ensoku 2019
ensoku 2019 brings young Japanese Canadians and Americans together in unprecedented Vancouver event
photos by Kayla Isomura
Over the May long weekend, 40 young-ish Japanese Canadians, Japanese Americans, and their friends came together to build community and explore our shared heritage and identity. What started as an idea to organize a regional young people’s conference (instead of a national conference as part of the NAJC annual general meeting) became an independently organized “un-conference.”
This community gathering welcomed local attendees from across the Lower Mainland and out-of-town visitors from Canadian cities including Victoria, Kamloops, Calgary, Regina, Winnipeg, Toronto, and Ottawa. This was truly an international event with Japanese American participants travelling from Washington, Oregon, Idaho, California, and Massachusetts!
Six members of Vancouver’s Kikiai Collaborative, Kayla Isomura, Erica Isomura, Davin Shikaze, Carolyn Nakagawa, Reiko Pleau, and Lisa Uyeda, formed an organizing committee and reached out to friends, family, and community members to produce this unforgettable experience for young people in the community.
The full weekend event included a gyoza-making workshop, an open mic with poetry and storytelling, dialogues on present-day Japanese Canadian experiences (connecting to culture, TLGBQ+ and multi-racial identities), a community lunch, a stop-motion animation workshop, cross-cultural walking tour of Strathcona, and optional day trips to the Nikkei National Museum & Cultural Centre, Steveston, and Tashme. Lots of fun was had and many new meaningful relationships were built.
Participants shared the following about their experiences at ensoku:
“ensoku reinforced the importance of storytelling and creative expression for our community, which I’m coming to see as key.”
“There’s a lot of younger Japanese-Canadians who are interested in connecting (with each other and with their history and culture).”
“We need each other and are richer for having this community.”
“I am now hoping to find the Nikkei community within my own city and province.”
ensoku organizers were committed to making this event financially accessible and because of the support of so many organizations and individuals, we were able to provide subsidies for participants to attend and billets for out-of-town guests.
An event like ensoku is one-of-a-kind. While we have no current plans to turn this into an annual event, participants from other cities have expressed interest in organizing an event like this in their home cities of Regina, Ottawa, Seattle, and Toronto!
We will definitely take these memories and experiences forward into organizing new gatherings and community initiatives in the future.
On behalf of the organizing committee, our sincerest thanks to everyone who attended, volunteered, and donated goods or cash to made this event possible.
ensoku organizers: Kayla Isomura, Erica Isomura, Davin Shikaze, Carolyn Nakagawa, Reiko Pleau, & Lisa Uyeda
The organizers would like to thank the following people for their financial, in-kind, and volunteer contributions to this event:
Check Your Head: The Youth Global Education Network
Simon Fraser Public Interest Research Group
Nikkei National Museum
Linda Kawamoto Reid
Kevin and Denise Isomura
Maryka Omatsu and Frank Cunningham
Craig Natsuhara and Emily Wu
Grace Eiko Thompson
NAJC Young Leaders Committee
Meris Ngan Colby
and other anonymous supporters
Kikiai Collaborative (formerly the Japanese Canadian Young Leaders of Vancouver) originally formed in 2014 while planning the Japanese Canadian Young Leaders Conference in Vancouver.
Today, Kikiai Collaborative is a grassroots group of people interested in the history, politics, arts and culture of the Japanese Canadian/Nikkei community. We are a network of individuals living across Greater Vancouver on the unceded territories of the Coast Salish peoples.
“Kikiai” (聴き合い) is a Japanese word meaning “listening to each other.” This word represents our group’s philosophy of coming together, mutually supporting, and listening to one another as equals, while also giving a nod to our Japanese Canadian heritage, identity, and community ties.
While the group was originally formed based on region and age (people generally identifying as “youth”), we feel that it has the potential to grow beyond these labels as long as it continues in the spirit of “kikiai.”
For updates on our work, follow us on instagram and twitter @kikiaicoll or on facebook at fb.com/kikiaicoll.
Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org