President Lorene Oikawa’s Message – May 2018

Sakura (my cherry blossom tree) in Surrey

Sakura (my cherry blossom tree) in Surrey

Kanpai! I am sipping pink sake as I write and look at my photos of cherry blossoms. My attempt at Hanami. Hanami is a traditional Japanese custom of taking time to view and enjoy the exquisite beauty of sakura (cherry tree) blossoms. The tradition is believed to have started in the late 8th century, Nara Period, when people would welcome the beginning of the rice planting season. In present day Japan they celebrate the beginning of the school year and fiscal year. They also track the blossoms which begin in January in Okinawa and work their way up to Kyoto and Tokyo at the end of March and beginning of April and ending a few weeks later in the north, Hokkaido. In Metro Vancouver, I track the blossoms by my social media feed of photos and events, and also view the online blooming maps. Last month’s Bulletin highlighted Sakura Days Japan Fair and many of the events.

Whether you took part in the formal events or viewed the blossoms on your own, you do have to take the time or else you will miss the brief appearance of the flowers and instead view the petals on the ground.

I am lucky to enjoy an extended period of Hanami with the early blooming trees around Metro Vancouver and then another viewing with my late blooming sakura in my backyard in Surrey. My apologies to our readers in northern and eastern parts of the province and country who are still dealing with winter conditions.

Wherever you are, I hope you will be enjoying Asian Heritage Month events in your community during the month of May. It’s an opportunity to learn more about the diverse Asian heritage of Canadians and the contributions of Asian Canadians. For too long, the history of Canada has been limited to one perspective neglecting the stories of racialized settlers and Indigenous peoples.

In May 2002, the Government of Canada officially declared May as Asian Heritage Month. Six years earlier, the Vancouver Asian Heritage Month Society was formed. One of our board directors, Grace Eiko Thomson was one of the founders. At the 20th anniversary in 2016, the GVJCCA was on a special advisory group to help plan the events which highlighted Japanese Canadian culture.

Our annual GVJCCA walking tour will take place on Sunday May 20 from 10 a.m. to noon. This year we are expanding beyond Japanese Canadian stories and following the theme of this year’s festival with a focus on Pan-Asian history. We will be including a South Asian Canadian and Chinese Canadian perspective. To reserve a spot, please email or phone 604.777.5222

Our National Association (NAJC) will be doing a speaking series on Saturday, May 12 at 10 a.m. It’s a free online interactive chat on human rights, 30 years after Redress when the federal government acknowledged its racist act of uprooting, dispossession and internment of Japanese Canadians.

See these events and more in the Vancouver Asian Heritage Month programme in this month’s Bulletin magazine.

Next month, we have an opportunity to honour First Peoples on National Aboriginal Day on June 21st. Please take some time to check out the Aboriginal Day events in your communities.

Commemorative days offer some interesting gatherings and learning. Also, people, usually volunteers, have taken some time and trouble to put together these events. Take advantage of these opportunities, and let’s not limit our learning and respect to one day.


On Saturday, June 16th, we are hosting the 6th Annual Tonari Gumi & GVJCCA Charity Classic Golf Tournament. It’s a 1 p.m. shotgun start. Meadow Gardens is a beautiful golf course and a fabulous buffet dinner with lots of prizes and silent auction items. Register now for early bird entry fees by May 11. We look forward to seeing you. Thank you for your support.