History of The Bulletin Part 1
Much of the history of the Japanese Canadian community has been well documented, from the arrival of Manzo Nagano in 1877, through the struggle to gain a foothold in a new country, to the wartime internment and dispersal. The ensuing Redress struggle and ultimate apology and settlement have also been chronicled in-depth.
But what of the in-between years, the period following the lifting of wartime restrictions in 1949? The franchise had finally been granted to Japanese Canadians, four years after Japan’s surrender, and they were free to live anywhere in the country and enter any profession. The New Canadian, the only Japanese Canadian newspaper allowed to publish during the war had closed down its Kaslo operations and relocated to Winnipeg. After the uprooting and trauma of the wartime years, it was time for families and individuals to take stock of the situation and plan for the future. For the many who rejected the government’s offer of free passage to war-ravaged Japan there were several choices—put down roots wherever they happened to have touched down, move east, or make their way back to the coast. Virtually all property, including businesses, boats and vehicles had been confiscated and sold at fire sale prices to help pay for the internment, so there was nothing to return to, save memories and a familiar environment. Indeed, many chose to remain in the east, to start over again with a clean slate.
Many felt the pull of the coast, though, and beginning in 1949, Japanese Canadians began filtering slowly back to lower mainland—some returning to fishing or farming, some taking up new occupations. Younger people enrolled in universities or began to enter professions previously barred to them.
It was time of uncertainty, but also of hope, as people began the process of rebuilding their lives. It became evident early on that an umbrella organization was needed to provide advocacy for the community and the Vancouver Japanese Canadian Citizen’s Association was formed in 1952.
IN 1950, A YOUNG NISEI NAMED Mickey Nakashima returned to the coast from Montreal. She became involved in the Vancouver community and the JCCA and in 1958 came up with the idea of starting a newsletter for members. She named the new publication The Bulletin, after the Montreal Bulletin, and the rest, as they say, is history.
To look back over 50 years-worth of back issues is to trace, issue by issue, page by page, the rebuilding of the Nikkei community in BC. To look at the 50 years worth as a whole is to see a cross-section of history, the ebb and flow of a community in flux. As can be expected, the transition for the JCCA and the community wasn’t always easy. The issue of how to reintegrate into the mainstream Canadian society begged another question: what kind of identity did the Japanese Canadian community want for itself?
Even as early as the third issue of newly-launched Bulletin, the issue of how Japanese Canadians conducted themselves came to the fore, with the following guest editorial appearing in the June 1958 issue of The Bulletin:
It was ten years ago that the National JCCA and the BCJCCA with its headquarters in Greenwood were fighting to eradicate the last vestige of legal discrimination. The biggest problem at the time was the right to vote. At least 50% of the Japanese population in B.C. at the time were dependent upon employment in crown contracts, on crown land and crown timber. By legal means these employments were closed to those citizens who did not have the right to vote. The battle of course, as you are all aware, was won in 1949 when all Orientals were given the privilege to vote.
With the granting of the franchise, many Japanese Canadians have returned to the fishing industry without any restrictions to their licences; others are operating and maintaining logging camps upon crown land and timber. Other fields, such as pharmacy and law, have all been opened. In the practical sense with the last group of barristers and solicitors admitted to the Law Society of British Columbia all fields of employment, whether professional or otherwise, are now open to the Japanese Canadian.
Therefore it was shocking to hear the other day from a Japanese Canadian whom I believe had seen the worse days of economic discrimination say, “if it weren’t for those DP’s I would not be unemployed.” With the current economic recession there appears to be more of it in the daily conversations of not only Japanese Canadians but also of our society in general. This statement shows an astonishing reversal of the opinions or attitudes of the Japanese Canadians. At one stage we were united to fight such discrimination.
Now in our more favourable atmosphere we are treating the new group of immigrants in the very act which we fought so hard to eliminate. An occidental friend drew two morals from this observation. Firstly, that one easily forgers the hardships and difficulties one had once encountered, and secondly, how well integrated Japanese Canadians are into the current Canadian society and its opinions.
Should we not be more careful of harbouring any sort of discriminating opinions but rather assist those in more unfortunate circumstances? Should we be as any other Canadian and resent the possibility of immigrants taking our jobs? The question is what is integration, and further to what extent should the Japanese Canadian be integrated. Is assimilation our aim? I should leave the topic and let your memory and conscience undertake the answer.
The writer is George Fujisawa, a thirty-year-old nisei who was among the first to return to the coast. A graduate of the UBC law school, he had been called to the bar a month before penning this piece. The opinions shared in this article reflect to a large degree the issue of the day, and that is the degree to which Japanese Canadians, faced with a greater acceptance (both legally and socially) are assimilating into mainstream Canadian society.
ALMOST FROM THE BEGINNING of The Bulletin’s appearance, the question of the JCCA’s usefulness begins to appear in print. In the March 1959 issue, one year into publication, the editorial reads, in part, The JCCA is you and I and all those others whose interests and lives may diverge in a thousand ways, yet who all have the common bond of a racial and cultural ancestry. And as long as this bond exists between the individual members, there will be a Japanese Canadian community and, we hope, a JCCA.
In that same issue, however, a feature piece by Gordon Kadota takes a different view: Today it not only seems that the JCCA is no longer a true representative body of the Japanese Canadian populations, but it is actually void of any such aspects. The majority of Japanese Canadians in Vancouver have absolutely no concern for the organization that is supposed to represent them in their civil and social welfare. The present JCCA is merely a convenient medium for the almost-self-elected executive to assume representative chores. This is not the fault of that executive but the fault of the people, if they ever complain or mumble about misrepresentation.
The piece goes on to point out the general apathy within the Nikkei community and lack of support given to the JCCA. The editor’s note attached to this piece, while questioning some of the conclusions, welcomes the comments and invites others to voice their opinions.
Kadota’s piece would prove prescient, as the theme would be repeated many times over the ensuing years.
In another article, George Fujisawam writing again, asks, Whither to, Vancouver JCCA? He goes on to write, Has the JCCA outlived it usefulness? This question appears to be in the minds of various Japanese Canadians in the city of Vancouver. We have, during the past few years together with other ethnic groups, accomplished the enactment of the ‘Fair Employment Practices Act,’ amendments to the ‘Cemeteries Act,’ and an enactment in the Vancouver by-law known as the ‘Fair Accommodations Practice By-law.’ These are almost the last of the discriminations in our society. Although it is the law of the country, of course, it is only used as a “standard” upon which our society should base their behaviour on the matter of racial and religious discriminations.
THE REFERENCE TO THE CEMETERIES ACT goes back to the April 1960 issue of The Bulletin that highlights discrimination on the part of two Vancouver cemeteries, who practice segregation in the allotment of plots, with Asians and Blacks restricted to certain areas of the cemetery. Due in large part to pressure from the JCCA and threats of wider publicity, the cemetery by-laws that read in part, . . . any person of Asian or African blood in any degree whatsoever shall not be buried in any part of the park except in that portion allotted or set apart for such purposes, were amended, providing, as the article concluded, De-segregation from the cradle to the grave.
Given victories like this, together with the earlier achievement of full rights for Japanese Canadians including the right to vote, the issue of relevance continues to crop up regularly in the pages of The Bulletin. Despite this, the JCCA manages to stay afloat and The Bulletin continues to publish on a more or less regular basis with support from members and the business community. A glance through early issues reveals ads from Kami Insurance, Pender Florists, Maison Lawrence Coiffures (where artistry in hairstyling begins), Regent Television, Mikado Enterprises (Gift Items, Japanese Medicines, Sporting Goods, Groceries), Murakami Studio, Kay’s Seafoods, Japan Airlines (Direct Flight to Tokyo from Seattle), Dave Koby Collision and many others. Amazingly, a number of the above-mentioned companies continue to exist today.
A COMMON THREAD RUNNING through the early writing, apart from the questions of the JCCA’s relevance, is the issue of citizenship, and what that means to the Nikkei community. (I should point out, that while I use the term Nikkei throughout this article, it was not a term that was in usage back then.) Exhortations to vote in upcoming federal elections (along with coverage of the candidates and their platforms) run regularly, as do articles discussing the responsibilities of Japanese Canadians as members of a democracy. These are, one supposes, issues nearer and dearer to the heart of a community that until recently, had no such rights.
As JCCA Board member Arthur Hara writes in the September 1962 issue, Whenever the subject of the JCCA is discussed, inevitably the question is raised, ‘Now that we have complete equality, is the JCCA necessary?’ Let us for a moment examine this question.
It is an elementary proposition that whatever rights are given to a person, those rights may be taken away from him a person who is activated by prejudice and greed. It is up to each person to take adequate measures to ensure that his rights and privileges are not taken from him. The ultimate duty, responsibility, and necessity of providing adequate safeguards against the denial of his rights, rests upon his shoulders, and his shoulders alone. These who shirk this duty and responsibility are only shirking the very duty and responsibility that he inherits as his birthright as a citizen in the free world.
Hara goes on to make a case for the continuing relevance of the JCCA to the community.
This tendency towards self-examination is not confined to the Vancouver JCCA, as frequent articles in The Bulletin show a similar pattern across Canada, extending to the national level. A JCCA National Conference on the 1961 Labour Day weekend is called to look at the future of the JCCA.
Still, for the most part, the early Bulletin tends towards lighter fare. A 1960 issue announces the opening of the Nitobe Gardens at UBC. In October 1960, it is announced that founding Editor Mickey Nakashima is stepping down to marry Min Tanaka. Mickey, without a shade of a doubt, has accomplished a “par excellence’ task for the JCCA ever since she returned to BC in 1950. Thus the Bulletin editorial torch is passed on for the first, but certainly not the last, time. Feature writer Gordon Kadota takes over as Editor, a post he would hold for a number of years.
Under Kadota, The Bulletin content continues to reflect the current preoccupations of the day. Regular notices include information on JCCA picnics (held at various parks throughout the lower mainland), bowling clubs (including the Nisei Mixed 10 Pin Bowling League and 5 Pin League), Nisei Badminton Club, Nisei Varsity Club, miscellaneous sports news, news on visiting Japanese training ships, regular reports from the Vancouver United Church and Anglican Church, the Vancouver Buddhist Church, classified ads, consulate news and reports, JCCA Scholarship recipients, membership drives, Canadian citizenship examinations, and the annual keirokai. In the July 1962 issue, an announcement is posted, notifying members of the inaugural JCCA Golf Tournament, to be held in Chilliwack. News from outside the immediate community makes the odd appearance, such as the assassination of John F. Kennedy in 1963.
During the mid 1960s, the debate over the usefulness of the JCCA, coupled with the struggle to attract members continues. Still, there seems room for hope. In the March 1965 issue, Tom Hara writes: Today the Japanese Canadian enjoys all of the rights and most of the privileges of this democratic country. In fact, they enjoy a better than average standard of living founded on hard work and perseverance in the pursuit of their employment and business. Japanese culture is in vogue and considered ‘the thing’ among high society and to a lesser degree among the average public. Japanese cooking and flower arranging classic (sic) abound with interest and activity. Modern architectural designs reflect the simplicity and beauty of Japan. The volume of Japanese business, particularly in mining and logging, is most vital to the continued economic boom in Canada. Almost everyone has a transistor radio or camera made in Japan and many are buying Japanese cars.
A November 1966 headline by Gordon Kadota (now President of the JCCA) announces, So We Shall Continue.
WITH 1967, AND THE CANADIAN CENTENNIAL in full swing, a sense of optimism seems to grip the country and the tone of The Bulletin begins to shift with it. The June 1967 issue kicks of with this upbeat statement: Looking at all the current events and planned projects of the JCCA, this year appears to be one of the more if not the most active year of the recent JCCA. The Nisei council members, with welcomed support from the Isseis, are exerting a genuine effort to serve both the community and society.
The priority project for the Vancouver Japanese Canadian community during the Expo year is the donation of a crocodile pool to the Vancouver Aquarium. That same June issue features this report on the front page: The B.C. Japanese Canadians’ Centennial Project to donate a Crocodile Pool to the Aquarium has surpassed the $7,500 goal in a short six months after it started last December.
As of May 31st when the campaign was officially ended, 263 pledges of $30.00 each totalling $7,890.00 was received. Although pledges were accepted for payments over a period of two years, the actual cash received is $7,226.00, an amazing 91% of the pledges.
ANOTHER SIGNIFICANT OCCURRENCE in 1967 is the new immigration policies put in place by the Trudeau government, using a point system, rather than race, to determine eligibility of new immigrants to come to Canada. With this new policy in place a new wave of immigrants from Japan begins, bringing new faces into the Nikkei community.
These two short notices from the Japanese United Church News section of January 1967 Bulletin show the increasing part that new immigrants are starting to play in the community.
Niseis Welcome New Comers:
The Nisei group of the Renfrew United Church has undertaken a project to make the recent immigrants from Japan feel at home. Approximately forty Niseis got together at two social gatherings in the holiday season. Already a warm relationship is developing between these two groups. We are hoping to have these young people as an integral part of our regular Nisei group.
Nobody Fails in English Class:
Classes designed for New Canadians and Immigrants are being Held every Wednesday evening, 7:30 P.M. at First United Church, Gore and Hastings. This class is especially beneficial to those find the Vancouver School Board’s New Canadian Classes difficult to follow. Instructions are given in both English and Japanese. There is also a club for those who are preparing for their Canadian Citizenship examination; Japanese Nationals who have been here more than five years and wives of Canadians more than one year. About 30 pupils have gone through this class and we are proud of the fact that no one has failed to pass the Citizenship test. If any Niseis are interested in volunteering as teachers, please contact Miss Grace Namba.
IN 1968, THE BULLETIN CELEBRATES its tenth birthday. By this time the format has evolved from a collection of type-written sheets to a more standard magazine format, although the Japanese section continues to be written out by hand. The Bulletin is on its eighth editor by this point.
The Anniversary editorial concludes with this statement: Less and less emphasis should be placed on the immigrants and older generation and more and more upon the vital and policy moulding citizens of today and tomorrow. It should express the thoughts and ambitions of the people of our race within the context of the Canadian society.
We must partake in the emergence of nationhood; in the political, social and economic forces that are part and parcel of ‘Canada after Expo 67.’
Over the next ten years, The Bulletin, having survived its infancy, continues to provide a forum for Japanese Canadians in the Greater Vancouver area and beyond, growing from an initial readership of 200 families to over 4,000 by 1977. The tendency towards inward-looking reflection has given away for the most part to a more outward, proactive stance. This is reflected in the involvement of Japanese Canadians, specifically Nisei, in Expo 70 in Osaka, Japan, with Canadians like Frank Moritsugu and Norman Takeuchi involved in the Canadian Pavilion there.
In January, 1969, an article by Richard Kazuta brings up the subject of building a Japanese Cultural Centre in Vancouver. He announces that an interim Cultural Centre committee has been struck to contact other Japanese Canadian organizations to collect their views. This is the first mention of what would eventually become the National Nikkei Heritage Centre, some 30 years after it is first proposed. Although the initial meetings are informal, they set the scene for a push by the Vancouver Japanese Canadian community to not only provide a legacy for future generations, but to take ownership of their own history and culture. By the early 70s, it became clear that a seniors housing component should be included in the plans for a cultural centre.
OVER THE NEXT SEVERAL YEARS, the JCCA engages in a research project, funded by the Central Mortgage and Housing Corporation, to look at the feasibility of building a seniors home. Questionnaires are sent out to thousands of homes with three stated purposes: to obtain a picture of the Japanese Canadian community in BC; to solicit response for a Japanese Canadian community centre; and to solicit response for a Japanese Canadian seniors citizens home.
The responses to the survey, published in The Bulletin, provide a fascinating overview of the state of the community and are used to help plan future projects, including the creation of Sakura-so on Powell Street and, years down the road, the Nikkei Place complex in Burnaby.
In April, 1972, the JCCA presents a brief to a conference on the Role of Cultural Minorities in Bilingual Society.
The brief reads, in part, The Japanese Canadian experience is unique in recent Canadian history and we would be remiss in our duties if we do not warn others that even in this relatively enlightened nation, citizenship cannot be taken for granted, and that full participation as citizens is possible only after such time that all ethnic groups, majorities and minorities, recognize and respect as valid those special racial qualities inherent in all peoples and the proposition that these qualities cannot but help enrich our society.
Of the conference, Board member Harry Aoki writes, The existence of racial discrimination was attested to by all the non-European minorities but the saddest plight in Canada appears to be that of non-status Indians whose-economic status is at a lower than acceptable level.
The conference revealed that the collective power of minorities is considerable and that co-operation between groups could develop a potent political force (30%) while the smaller groups such as the Japanese Canadians (0.1%) standing by themselves could be ignored with impunity by those in power.
The cultural emphasis also underlines the important role of our new immigrants, but it also shows that those who arrive with “Americanized” attitudes would need to seriously re-evaluate the rationale behind the trend to deliberately discard their natural heritage.
The JCCA needs to support the efforts of our serious-minded Sansei in their first attempts to actively help our society, and their deep and sincere concern for the Issei gives all of us cause to re-examine the priorities within our community.
IN 1975, THE BULLETIN ANNOUNCES THAT author Ken Adachi has neared completion of a book, The History of the Japanese Canadians. The book, eventually titled The Enemy that Never Was, is the first comprehensive look at the history of the Nikkei in Canada.
Around the same time, former New Canadian Editor Toyo Takata, identifies Manzo Nagano as the first known Japanese immigrant to Canada. He pinpints 1877 as the year of Nagano’s arrival and begins to make a case for the celebration of the Centennial in 1977.
Writing in the June 1976 Bulletin, he makes his case: According to a relative, Manzo Nagano stowed aboard a British ship sailing out of Yokohama in March 1877. While steam-powered ships were in existence at that time, the ship he boarded was most likely under sail. Assuming that this is correct, he would then have reached the West Coast likely in May.
To expedite Centennial planning, therefore, the Centennial Organizing Committee in Toronto has designated Saturday, May 14th as Centennial Day, the day commemorating Manzo Nagano’s first historic step ashore 100 years ago. Ideally, it is the most appropriate time of the year almost anywhere in Canada to open the 1977 Japanese Canadian Centennial Celebrations, continuing on during the spring, summer and early fall, possibly closing around the end of October.
Everything has a beginning. Japanese presence in Canada began nearly 100 years ago when the brash young Manzo Nagano set foot on Canadian soil. To everyone in Canada who traces ancestral ties to Japan, Centennial in ‘77 is a significant milestone.
The Japanese Canadian community takes up the idea and 1977 is declared the Centennial Year. If the 1967 Canadian Centennial provided a shot in the arm to the Japanese Canadian community, renewing their commitment to their adopted home, the Japanese Canadian Centennial completes the process, signifying a maturation of attitude and a greater sense of self-confidence. Events are held across the country in centres small and large.
In Vancouver, a new festival is announced. The Powell Street Festival will be held in Oppenheimer Park, known to most Nikkei as the Powell Grounds, the home of the legendary prewar Asahi baseball team.
to be continued . . .
Next month: The Redress Years and Beyond