Japanese Canadian War Memorial – Celebrating 100 Years
The Japanese Canadian War Memorial in Stanley Park was unveiled to the public on April 9, 1920, an event that was noted on the front page of the Vancouver Sun the next day. The dedication of the cenotaph was presided over by Matsunoshin Abe, president of the Canadian Japanese Association (CJA). The CJA had much to do with facilitating the initial 1916 training of the soldiers in Vancouver under Colonel Colquhoun, funding their passage to Alberta to enlist, and fundraising for the monument itself.
Originally built to honour the Japanese-Canadian soldiers who had fought for Canada in the First World War, and to commemorate the incredible contribution of Japanese Canadians at Vimy and Hill 70, the limestone, granite, marble, and terracotta cenotaph has seen many visitors and ceremonies of the years. It has also been updated over time to honour those who fought in the Second World War, Korean War, and the Afghan War.
In the anti-Japanese atmosphere that preceeded Second World War and came to a head following Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor, the lantern was extinguished and only relit decades later in 1985 by Sergeant Masumi Mitsui, the last surviving First World War veteran. Sergeant Mitsui was among those who sucessfully lobbied for the franchise for veterans in 1931, but this did not prevent the veterans from being stripped of their rights and posessions and being interned along with nearly 22,00 other members of the Japanese-Canadian community in 1942.
The iconic cenotaph has been lovingly restored and taken care of by the Japanese Canadian War Memorial Committee in partnership with the City of Vancouver and Vancouver Parks Board with funding from Veteran’s Affairs Canada. The cenotaph is a National Historic Monument and on Heritage BC’s Register of Japanese Canadian Historic Places.
A planned series of events on April 9 has had to be postponed due to the COVID-19 crisis, so we present here a tribute to the Cenotaph that holds so much meaning in our community.
I have asked Linda Kawamoto Reid, Chair of the Japanese Canadian War Memorial Committee to share some thoughts with our readers.
by Linda Kawamoto Reid, Chair JCWMC
Reflecting on the 18 years I have been going to the cenotaph with my son Cam, I have very fond memories of the people I have met, the celebrations we have had, and the trust given to me by the community. It all started with honouring my second cousin Henry Tanaka, a Korean War Veteran, on Remembrance Day each year. It was a family affair at first, helping out his wife Chic, who organized the reception.
For the past nine years, as Chair, I have been fortunate enough to receive support from Veteran’s Affairs Canada, the NAJC, and the NNMCC throughout several centenary celebrations between 2014 and 2020, making it possible to have some fun while carrying the torch at the same time.
Some of my favourite moments
• The outstanding support from the community to restore the cenotaph and have a great reception in the Pavilion.
• The attendance swelling to 500 for Remembrance Day
• Frank Moritsugu playing harmonica, doing a jig, and sharing his war time experiences all at the same time!
• Tim Tamashiro (CBC Jazz) laying a wreath for his grandfather.
• Inspiring the Warrior Spirit exhibit, and an online exhibit at
• Meeting and honouring many veterans including the recent young Afghanistan veterans, and those who served in peacetime.
• Susanne Tabata’s video tribute to the Second World War Veterans to the song “Smile”, it made me cry!
• An opportunity to pay tribute to some of the heavy hitters in our history such as Tom Shoyama, George Tanaka, Roger Obata, Harold Hirose, Buck Suzuki, and others who were also veterans.
• Dedicated volunteers who come every year and bring cheer
• Chris Yamauchi making it into the reserves!
• Meeting and knowing Roy Kawamoto (no relation), the go-to guy for military history.
• Toasting the gyuhei (brave soldiers) with sake with cherry trees in full bloom.
Finally, besides being a bonding event for me and Cam, who has turned out to be my right-hand man, it’s a great honour to hold in such esteem the Japanese Canadian War Memorial in Stanley Park. To me, it represents justice, civil liberties, equality, leadership, fearlessness, gaman, giri, gambare, and a hundred years of pilgrimage. I appreciate the First Nations people for allowing us to continue to congregate on their unceded territory each Remembrance Day.
The current pandemic will not squash the marking of the centenary (which was planned for April 9th), please look forward to another community celebration on Remembrance Day 2020, where hopefully another favourite moment will emerge – taiko by John Endo Greenaway & his daughter Emiko!
– Minasan ki o tsukete