Isaburo Tasaka’s 100-Year Old Kiln Official Opening
The kiln is located in Mouat Park and its restoration was carried out by the Capital Region District’s Salt Spring Island Parks and Recreation Commission (PARC) and the Japanese Garden Society of Salt Spring Island (JGS). With the help of mason Andrew Curry and supervisor Stephen Nemtin, the kiln was re-constructed in the way Isaburo would have built it in the early 1900s. A rustic fence was built and three interpretive panels were installed at the site. A large sketch of a Wakayama-style kiln on one of the panels is very graphic and informative. The third panel shows the history of the kiln and the historical use of charcoal.
What makes the kiln unique is its provenance connecting the Isaburo and Yorie’s family to this historical site. The Tasaka homestead is no longer standing, but one can see fuki (bog rhubarb) still growing on the corner of the property right behind Embe Bakery. The two apple trees that are still there must be over 100 years old; as a metaphor, one has fallen over but the other is still standing. Mouat Park is just a short way up the road from the homestead site on Seaview Avenue.
Rumiko Kanesaka, President of the JGS, emceed the event and she explained the struggles of the early pioneers trying to make a living in a new land. Society member Rose Murakami talked about how she initiated the project, saying that it was on the dream list of her mother Kimiko, that she inherited. Kimiko wanted to leave a record of the Nikkei pioneer legacy on Salt Spring Island. The Murakami family restored the Japanese Canadian section at the local cemetery. They planted sakura and ume (plum) trees in the town park with a plaque commemorating the Nikkei pioneers. The Heiwa Garden was built in 2009 by the Japanese Garden Society that was founded by a group of people who were inspired by the Murakami family.
Kirk Harris of PARC explained the challenging task of restoring the charcoal pit that was covered with debris for over 100 years. He was so proud of his crew’s hard work to make this project come to fruition.
Chuck Tasaka thanked the organizing committee on behalf of the Tasaka families. He gave a brief history of his grandfather’s journey from Portland, Oregon to Steveston, and finally to Salt Spring Island.
Stephen Nemtin is the local expert on charcoal kiln restoration. His passion and enthusiasm for this project was infectious. His animated explanation of the history of charcoal making and the restoration of other kilns on the Gulf Islands had everyone smiling. Stephen brought out his harmonica and played a lively piece he wrote, The Charcoal Kiln Jig, full of the Islanders’ spirit.
I would like to express my appreciation to the Salt Spring Island Foundation, National Association of Japanese Canadians, Victoria Nikkei Cultural Society and the many donors who made this project possible.
If you wish to visit the site, take a ferry to Salt Spring Island, drive into the town of Ganges and look for the Embe Bakery. Mouat Park is located behind the Artspring Centre and the Heiwa Garden.
For more information, please visit Japanese Garden Society’s website: www.saltspringjapanesegarden.com