in the passage of time
Roy Kiyooka was the first Japanese Canadian I knew, other than my mother of course, and her family. As a young child growing up in Toronto, I just knew him as Roy, one of my parents’ friends, the one with the big laugh who made the strange fiberglass sculptures that seemed to be everywhere I went. My parents’ friends, mostly artists, were a ragged and unconventional lot – a world removed from the other adults I knew. They were also far more interesting. Even among this unkempt crew, though, Roy stood out. Not a big man, physically, he always seemed larger than life with his distinctive laugh and curious speech mannerisms. Over the years our families stayed close and when Roy moved to Vancouver we followed not long after. As I got older I came to appreciate Roy for his generosity, his intellectual curiosity, his sense of humour and his enthusiasm for whatever project he was working on at the moment. Some memories I have are Roy smoking my cigarettes while I helped him build a darkroom in his basement, him buying me my first donburi at Aki’s on Powell Street, and watching in amazement as he bet everything on a terrible hand while playing poker at Mas Funo’s house, and then laughing when he lost it all.
Roy died in early 1994. I sometimes wonder how he would have filled these past twenty years. The world is a quieter and far less interesting place without him.