Looking back / looking forward
As the year of the dragon prepares to pounce on an unsuspecting world, we look back in this issue of The Bulletin—not over the past year, but over the past seventy years and more.
The decision by the University of British Columbia’s Senate Tributes Committee to grant honourary degrees to former students who were unable to complete their degrees, while largely symbolic, is important in that it ties off a loose end left by the wartime injustices that saw Canadian citizens stripped of their rights seventy years ago. What makes initiatives like this all the more urgent is that those directly affected by the wartime displacement are getting fewer by the year. At the September 18 Asahi Tribute game held at Oppenheimer Park, two of the three remaining Asahi players were in attendance. Within a few weeks of the game, one of them, Jim Fukui, was gone—a poignant reminder that our links to the past are more and more tenuous and all the more precious for it.
My phone interview with the forward-thinking Dr. Nori Nishio reminded me that the nisei are a special breed unto themselves—a generation that had to make the best of challenging times. How many of us can imagine taking a sitting Prime Minister, let alone a Prince, fly fishing?
Dr. Gordon Hirabayashi is another case in point—a nisei who not only refused to bow down in the face of injustice, but later fought to clear his name, and won. He has now had a human rights award created in his name.
In this issue we spotlight two books that have long been unavailable but have now deservedly been reprinted. The first, My Sixty Years in Canada, was written by the late Dr. M. Miyazaki. It’s a remarkable recounting of life as seen through the eyes of a country doctor, through the war years and beyond.
The second book, Opening Doors in Vancouver’s East End: Strathcona, has a personal connection for me. My father, Tod Greenaway, took many of the photographs in the book and as his darkroom technician at the time, I made the original prints. I was too young at the time to fully recognize or appreciate the immense scope and value of the book that collected interviews with 45 Strathcona residents, including a half dozen Japanese Canadians. What is fascinating from a Nikkei perspective is to see the stories of the Japanese Canadians within the greater context of the neighbourhood and to be reminded that the prewar Japanese community did not live within a sealed vacuum, but were in fact part of a larger community. To read their stories side by side with those of Italian, Jewish, Black, Chinese, Polish, British and other residents is to remember that times were tough all over in the prewar years, at least for those on the “wrong side” of the tracks and that an indomitable spirit ran through the entire downtown eastside community.
I was pleased to see this valuable resource reprinted by Harbour Publishing as a Vancouver 125 Legacy Book.
For those of you who prefer to get their community news online, the Bulletin website has undergone a makeover in the past month and is now more user-friendly (and just plain usable). In addition to a new interface, we will be posting stories as we receive them, rather than having to wait until the print edition goes to press. This way we are able to share breaking news more quickly and keep our readers better informed. It also allows us to share our stories with the world at large in a way that was unimaginable not that long ago. Check us out at jccabulletin-geppo.ca. And feel free to leave comments!
The Bulletin has been an indelible part of the west coast (and beyond) Nikkei experience since 1958, not long after Japanese Canadians began returning to the coast. Over the years the community has undergone significant changes and The Bulletin has changed along with it. We strive to serve as a link between generations and to keep our widely dispersed community informed. It is a never-ending but gratifying challenge.
This holiday season, why not give the gift of a JCCA membership to someone in your family who does not get their own copy of The Bulletin delivered to their door each month? As a not-for-profit publication, we rely on memberships/subscriptions along with your generous donations and advertising revenue to keep publishing in the face of challenging economic times. Each paid membership/subscription goes towards funding the activities of the JCCA and the publication costs of The Bulletin. A membership/subscription form can be found HERE.
On behalf of the small but mighty staff at The Bulletin I’d like to wish each and every one of our readers the very best for the holiday season and the New Year. A special thank you must go to our dedicated volunteers who show up every month filled with good cheer, regardless of the season, to prepare The Bulletin for mailing and to our loyal advertisers who help keep us going through thick and thin. May the year of the dragon bring you health, happiness and prosperity.