Internment Camp Bus Tour 2013
A group of 31 keen community members participated in the recent five-day Internment Camp Bus Tour 2013 hosted by the Nikkei National Museum. We had a diverse group, with different ages (nisei, sansei and yonsei) who travelled to join the tour from Japan, Toronto, Ottawa, Vancouver Island and the US. Participants were searching for insights into personal family history, following long-time friendships, and exploring Nikkei history in general.
The tour was a moving experience and gave everyone a chance to follow in the footsteps of Japanese Canadians who were uprooted during the dark days of 1942. We all came away with a much deeper understanding of the hardships and emotional turmoil endured by the Nikkei community. One person said: “I was fearful about taking this trip – I thought I might cry the whole way, but it was very freeing for me.”
On Day One we spent several hours exploring the four remaining buildings at Hastings Park and visiting the beautiful Momiji Gardens. From March until September 1942, over 8000 Japanese Canadians were detained within the confines of the exhibition grounds at Hastings Park before being sent to internment camps in the BC interior or to work locations across Canada. Unfortunately, the Livestock Building is currently being renovated, but we were able to visit inside the Forum (which was used as a men’s dorm) and the Garden Auditorium. Back on the bus, the group enjoyed a delicious bento box lunch during the trip to Hope and Tashme. The large barn (used for apartments), the former kindergarten, the soy sauce factory and several other buildings still stand in this remote but beautiful valley. We spent the first night at a hotel overlooking the lake in Osoyoos.
On our second day, we were lucky to have local historian Chuck Tasaka lead the tour through Midway and Greenwood. Chuck shared wonderful stories of growing up in the area, and really brought the towns alive. After visiting the museum and courthouse (where the movie Snow Falling on Cedars was filmed), we enjoyed another bento lunch prepared by three lovely community members.
After a short drive, the group toured the site at Christina Lake where 100 Japanese Canadians were housed in a resort community. Nobby Hamagami is the only Nikkei still living at the lake and shared her story with us. We all enjoyed the amazing tea and sweets provided by Kathleen from the Sunflower Inn.
Although hampered by rainy weather, our third day was both exciting and emotional as we travelled up the Slocan Valley. Although the camp at Lemon Creek was one of the largest, it is now only a large field. We enjoyed the new information sign and were thrilled to meet up with the tour group from Lethbridge. We continued on to Popoff and then drove through Bay Farm on our way to Slocan City.
The Nikkei Internment Memorial Centre in New Denver hosted us for a wonderful lunch prepared by the Kyowakai Society. The group had plenty of time to explore the excellent exhibits, chat with local community members and meet new manager, Momoko Ito. We also wandered around town, visited the charming Kohun Garden on the shores of the lake, and had a tour through the former Sanatorium, which is now a care facility.
Even though the roads were wet and slippery, the bus successfully made it up the winding route to Sandon. Sometimes known as the “Sunless City,” Sandon is situated in a narrow, deep valley complete with a rushing river. Although the town was very large during the silver mining days, only a few buildings now remain. We enjoyed an engaging tour of the local museum and wondered why so many old trolley buses were parked in town?
Day Four started out well, with a fun visit to Kaslo to view the United Church, Dr. Shimotakahara’s old house, and an impromptu tour around town with Norm Shuto, who told stories about his youth. The lakeside setting of Kaslo was stunning. We really enjoyed our visit to the Langham Cultural Centre. The stairs may be steep, but they are worth the climb! Unfortunately, we learned that the heavy rains had washed out parts of the road, so we were forced to backtrack through Nelson. This added several hours to our trip, but everyone stayed in good spirits. We caught a later ferry to Shelter Bay, then drove along the Trans Canada Highway, past several former road camp sites. After a brief stop at Craigellachie, the site of the Last Spike in the CPR railway, we reached Kamloops. Our long travels were rewarded with an amazing meal at the Kamloops Japanese Canadian Cultural Centre, where we met Roy and Betty Inouye, Kaye Kamanishi and other community members. We were impressed by their new museum exhibits.
The weather improved for our final day. We travelled to East Lillooet and then visited the beautiful Miyazaki House. After admiring the jade sculptures throughout town, and a visit to the local museum, we travelled across the winding Duffy Lake Road, through Pemberton and home to Burnaby.
The tour was organized by the Museum Programmer, Nichola Ogiwara, with Linda Kawamoto Reid and Beth Carter providing running commentary. Greg Masuda filmed our visits, stories and recollections for an upcoming film. Thank you to Bob, our very capable bus driver, and to all the participants who shared their stories past and present. It was great to spend the week with you!