Letter to the Editor
I was one of four Americans at the Honouring Our People: Stories of the Internment conference, and I learned a lot from being there. It was very well done and informative, and I want to thank Lorene Oikawa and her dedicated committee members for the fine job they did. I was surprised to learn that she is a descendant of Jinsaburo Oikawa of the Suian Maru whose passengers settled on Lion and Don Islands.
There was a good mixture of people at the conference—people from Ontario, Alberta, Winnipeg, small towns in British Columia, The States, a Japanese-speaking man from China, and even someone from The Yukon. My group’s workshop was very interesting, although most of the people were from Tashme and New Denver. I would have liked to have had some people from other places such as Lemon Creek, Kaslo, Greenwood, Angler, the self-supporting sites, road camps, etc., but there were none in my group.
Nevertheless, it was very edifying and I learned a lot more from the group. One woman told of being an expatriate to Japan and all the hardship she faced when she lived there just after the war. Others told of moving from place to place like vagabonds. Many discovered connections with others in the group. When I stated my name, the man seated to my right asked if I was the writer of the article on the Canadian internment camp tour that he had with him, and I told him I was the writer; then the persons to my left, a brother and sister team, said my name sounded familiar and asked if I was the person who wrote an article about their sister in the States, and I told them I was. What a small world!
I think this is a familiar occurrence with Nikkei in Canada as it is in the United States. Frequently when I attend Nikkei conferences, conventions, pilgrimages, reunions, etc. in the States, I run into people who know my relatives, who have mutual friends, who once lived in my hometown, who are indirectly related to people I know, who briefly went to school with my siblings, etc. Since Nisei in both Canada and the United States lived in close-knit communities, mostly associated with their own people, had the same WWII experiences, moved to the same places after the war, moved many times to so many different towns, etc., it’s not surprising that everyone seems to know or has some connection to everyone else in the Nikkei community. This is unique in the Nisei generation but will not be replicated in the Sansei generation because of different circumstances.
One of the listeners in my group was related to the Tasaka family that had 19 children, of whom 17 survived. She showed me a family history book that one of her relatives had printed and said he will be teaching a class on genealogy at Nikkei Place. Another person I met at the conference, Harry Mizuta, said he had printed his memoirs in a booklet and generously offered me a copy.
It’s gratifying to know that Nisei and the younger generation of Canadian Nikkei are doing research on genealogy, family history, etc. and writing their stories, videotaping the elderly Nisei, tape-recording their stories, printing a family history book, etc. This has been going on for quite a while in The States, and it seems to be happening in Canada as well.
A conference like Honouring Our Peole: Stories of the Internment is a good beginning to hear these stories, and they should be recorded in some form as I was told it was. Some are already delving into geneaology; others will interview their parents, grandparents, and relatives to come up with a family story. Some Sansei in the States are flying to Japan to see where their ancestors came from. Whatever form it takes, people should take the initiative to find out about their family’s history because the Nisei are getting older, and once this generation is gone, their stories, if not recorded, will go with them.
Ed Suguro, Seattle, WA