Washed away in the rain
As an impressionable teen living in Vancouver’s east side in the late seventies, I learned about Japanese Canadian history at the feet of people like Rick Shiomi, Linda Uyehara Hoffman, Ken Shikaze and other sansei who were at the forefront of a burgeoning Asian-Canadian movement. I had only recently come to identify as Japanese Canadian myself and the story of the internment was new to me—not for lack of information from my Nisei mother, mind you, but for lack of attention on my part.
I was playing in the band Kokuho Rose at the time, with Linda and Rick and several others. Most of our material was American and British folk music, reflective of our North American upbringings but not of our Asian heritage. The exception was two songs by an Asian American trio made up of Chris Ijima, Nobuko Miyamoto and “Charlie” Chin, who had released an album called A Grain of Sand: Music for the Struggle by Asians in America, recognized today as the first album of Asian American music. The two songs, Free the Land and We are the Children, sounded like fierce battle cries to my young ears but I was incapable of writing anything on that level, not even really understanding what it meant to be an Asian living in North America.
Someone had a copy of a new record out of Toronto by a fellow named Terry Watada. Inspired by what was going on in Toronto and Vancouver, he had recorded Runaway Horses centred around a song he had written several years earlier called New Denver.
I still remember hearing the lines, “New Denver is washed away with the rain . . .” for the first time and knowing that Terry had captured something both elusive and real with that one line. The next line, New Denver will never know, never know the pain | It caused was heartbreaking in its matter-of-factness and simplicity.
With this issue we introduce the first of several articles we will be devoting to the 20th Anniversary of the Nikkei Internment Memorial Centre in New Denver, and it’s fitting that we publish the words to the iconic song along with Terry’s recollections of that seminal time in our history.
“You know you’re Japanese Canadian if . . .
Some of your non-JC friends speak better Japanese than you do.”
Identifying as Japanese Canadian is no longer the stigma it once was. Heck, some might even say we’re finally cool. After all, our roots go all the way back to the land of Hello Kitty, anime and sushi.
What makes YOU Japanese Canadian? The Bulletin is compiling a list of the unique charactaristics that make us who we are. Nisei, sansei, yonsei, gosei or hapa, we want to hear from YOU about what makes you Japanese Canadian. Is it the food you eat, the words you know, your relatives and family traditions or something more intangible?
Send us your entries to firstname.lastname@example.org. We will compile them over the next few months and print them in a future issue of The Bulletin. There will be a prize, to be determined, drawn at random from all entries.