President Lorene Oikawa’s Message – May 2017

The sakura (Japanese cherry blossoms) started to appear last month. They seemed to be a bit late like much of our Spring weather. Our harsh winter weather is starting to float from our memories just like the cherry blossom petals that filled our skies and then covered our streets.

I hope you were able to enjoy some time outdoors, perhaps with your family and friends at Hanami. Hanami is a traditional Japanese flower viewing party adopted by many cities around the world. It is said to have started in the Nara period (710-794 AD) with ume (plum blossoms) and then by the Heian period (794-1185) it was associated with sakura. Today, many parties are held during the day and night with lots of eating, drinking, and playing and listening to music. The cherry blossoms don’t last long so enjoy them when you can. Good advice for flower viewing and for cherishing your loved ones.

My family experienced deep sadness with the loss of our mother. It was very long nights with visits to the hospital, and getting up early for work, and squeezing in volunteer work and errands. My thoughts are with many of you who are juggling the care of your elderly relatives, your family, and other responsibilities. It also saddens me to think of the elderly who do not have family to assist them, and it is even more critical for the government to take leadership and provide the resources for seniors.

Also, there are other individuals, families, students, workers, those who are unemployed, with disabilities, and in poverty who need a government who will consider their needs as priority. We have a responsibility to choose a government by voting. The provincial election is on May 9th, and you don’t have to wait until Election Day to vote. Find out more on the Elections BC website at Please vote and take the rest of your family too.

Every vote is important, and if you think it doesn’t make a difference, just look south to our neighbours when many chose to stay home for their presidential election. Japanese Canadians were not allowed to vote for years. Even those who bravely fought for Canada at Vimy Ridge were denied franchise, and were uprooted, dispossessed, and incarcerated 75 years ago. Who we elect makes decisions on laws that affect us all.

In 1900 Tomekichi Homma challenged the provincial law banning Japanese Canadians from voting. The trial judge and Supreme Court agreed with Homma. However, the BC government appealed the decision to the Privy Council who upheld the law. In 1936, the Japanese Canadian Citizens League sent S.I. Hayakawa, M. Kobayashi, H. Hyodo and Dr. E.C. Banno to Ottawa to plead for the right to vote. Independent MP A.W. Neill (Comox-Alberni) and Liberal MP Thomas Reid (New Westminster) were anti-Asian zealots who used literature from the White Canada Association to stir up anti-Asian hostilities. In the year before, both the Liberals and Conservatives won votes in the federal election by smearing the CCF (precursor to the NDP) as a pro-Asian political party. The Canadian parliament did not support the Japanese Canadians’ right to vote. It wasn’t until 1949 when Japanese Canadians won franchise. This was four years after the end of the Second World War.

So, if for no other reason than to honour our ancestors, please vote.

To learn more about the history of our ancestors, please attend two upcoming events.

GVJCCA Walking Tour, Reflections on Japanese Canadian Life & Work in the Powell Street District, on May 13th.  Join me and Grace Eiko Thomson, curator of Levelling the Playing Field, the popular Vancouver Asahi Baseball Team exhibit, who will share some fascinating insights into what life was like in the Powell Street District 75 years ago. Grace will also share some personal stories about growing up in the area. We will meet near Chapel Arts at the corner of Dunlevy and East Cordova in Vancouver at 10 a.m. The walk will take approximately 90 minutes. For more information, please check our website at or email or phone 604.777.5222.

GVJCCA Discover the Stories of Japanese Canadians in Surrey and learn how to share your family stories using poetry with Surrey Poet Laureate Renée Sarojini Saklikar on May 20th at Surrey City Centre Library, 10350 University Dr, Surrey, from 1 to 4 p.m. For more information, please check our website at or email or phone 604.777.5222

Keep an eye on The Bulletin and our website for other events this year commemorating the 75th anniversary of the uprooting, dispossession, and incarceration of Japanese Canadians, and the 65th anniversary of the GVJCCA.


Another anniversary this year is the 50th Annual BC Nisei Bonspiel which took place at the Richmond Curling Club. It was my honour and pleasure to attend the bonspiel as the Vice President of the NAJC (National Association of Japanese Canadians) and the President of the GVJCCA. Thank you to Bonspiel Chairperson Roy Murao and all the volunteers and participants. There were over 350 attending from across BC, Canada, and one team from the USA and Japan. It was a great event with wonderful people, and delicious food.