President Lorene Oikawa’s Message – February 2018

2018 JCCA Keirokai

I don’t make New Year’s resolutions. February is usually when people’s interest starts to wane and that impossible regime of a restrictive diet or drill sergeant workout cannot be maintained. Not to say that making better life choices isn’t a good thing, I just think the pressure of a New Year’s resolution is setting up a lot of people for failure. I am also interested in a more holistic approach to well-being.

Have you heard about ikigai? I first heard about it last year. There have been a number of articles and a book published last year. Some are calling it the Japanese secret to a long and happy life. This Japanese concept seems to be taking over in popularity from the Danish concept of hygge, a warm and cozy lifestyle.

From my quick reading of the articles, iki means life and gai means value or worth so ikigai is about your purpose in life. It’s also been described as the reason for getting up in the morning. I would be cautious about literal translations of non-English words into English. There is a tremendous culture and history behind words so there may be something lost in the translation.

Sometimes the articles have Venn diagrams explaining the concept:  Overlapping circles of “what you love” “what you are good at” “what the world needs” and “what you be paid for” with overlapping pairs of circles highlighting passion, mission, profession, and vocation, and your ikigai is at the centre of the overlapping circles.

Ikigai Venn Diagram

The Venn diagram is a simplification of the concept, and may miss the point about self-reflection and your mental outlook on your worth and not on your financial status. Another way of considering your ikigai is by stopping when you’re doing something and asking yourself why you are doing it. Perhaps it’s something you need to stop and say no, so you can spend time doing things that are more meaningful. This is different from a New Year’s resolution, because in the moment you are finding the things that are taking up your time or holding you back from accomplishing the things you dream about.

A lot has been shared about Okinawa with the “longest disability-free life expectancy in the world.” In a TED talk, Dan Buettner, a National Geographic writer and explorer, explores the ideas about living long and healthy, and while he talks about genetics, diet and social constructs, he also refers to ikigai.

Buettner studied different communities around the world and he discovered some common denominators for those who are living a long life. One is having a sense of purpose. Thinking back to a typical New Year’s resolution such as following an exercise program, it is interesting to note that another common denominator that Buettner found is that these elders don’t exercise, but they do have physically active lifestyles.

Although there seem to be a number of factors influencing our capacity for a long life, there is no quick fix for a happy, long life. Ikigai plays a big part of it and I can’t imagine a long life without purpose or a reason for getting out of bed in the morning.

If you have discovered your ikigai, send me a note gvjcca “at” or via Canada Post. I would be interested to learn more.


Join our 4th Annual GVJCCA Community Bowl-a-thon on Sunday, February 25. It will contribute toward your physical activity, your purpose, because the Bowl-a-thon is a fundraiser, and involve you in a social network. It’s an opportunity for members of the Japanese Canadian community and other communities and families and friends to come together and have some fun. Your support is appreciated. We are raising funds to keep producing the high quality, monthly Bulletin magazine for the community. You can also help by collecting pledges for the GVJCCA or one of the other Japanese Canadian community groups who are participating in this community bowl-a-thon. We will have lots of prizes including for the bowler who collects the top amount of $ pledges and also for the bowlers with the top scores. It’s fun for all ages.

See the advertisement for the Bowl-a-thon in The Bulletin and on our website at

Individual bowlers are welcome. We can assign you a team. You will have a choice of 5 pin or 10 pin bowling at our new venue, Lucky 9 Lanes, in Richmond with plenty of free parking. We hope to see you at the Bowl-a-thon.

President Lorene Oikawa’s Message – January 2018

Happy New Year!


We bid farewell to 2017, with our traditional eating of Toshikoshi noodle soup on New Year’s Eve, and then eating Osechi Ryori, special Japanese food, on New Year’s Day. The holidays are a time for gathering and eating with family, friends, and loved ones. It’s also a special time for Japanese Canadians to celebrate their heritage and culture.


Osechi Ryori are traditional Japanese food and dishes symbolizing good luck and wishes for the year. It’s a long held tradition which started in Japan in the Heian Period (794-1185). I remember my mother and my grandmother telling me I had to eat the traditional food to ensure a good new year. The following is a list of some of the traditional food:


Nishime (cooked vegetables – shiitake mushroom, Japanese potato, gobo, lotus root, carrots, snow peas).

Kinpira (Gobo, braised Burdock root and carrots)

Tazukuri (candied sardines) – symbolizes an abundant harvest

Kuromame (sweet black beans) – wish for good health

Kamaboko (fish cake) – representing celebration and festivities.

Ebi (prawns) – wish for long life

Konbu (seaweed) wrapped with kanpyo (gourd strip) – for perennial youth and long life


The food is served in beautiful lacquered serving boxes that resemble bento boxes and are stacked in layers. The layers represent the layers of happiness and wealth for the New Year.


Our family’s Japanese Canadian tradition also includes chow mein (my mother’s side of the family is from Cumberland on Vancouver Island and my grandmother taught other families how to make chow mein and they called it Cumberland chow mein), teriyaki salmon, teriyaki chicken, sunomono (shrimp, cucumber, and noodle salad), and sushi especially inari sushi, a family favourite that my cousins refer to as bag sushi, because flavoured rice and vegetables are stuffed into deep-fried tofu “bags.”  We serve our food in ojubako (lacquer boxes) and Japanese plates and bowls.


Keeping the food traditions alive is a way to remember our ancestors and our family. Food is also a wonderful way to share our culture and our personal stories, and bridge the gap with other families and communities.


2018 is Year of the Dog, and we will be commemorating the 30th anniversary of Redress, the 60th anniversary of the GVJCCA Bulletin magazine, the 66th anniversary of the GVJCCA, the 90th anniversary of Japan-Canada relations, and working on other events throughout the year.


In January, we will welcome the New Year and launch our The Bulletin / Geppo contest. We will celebrate our Japanese Canadians seniors at Keirokai on January 20. In February we will have the official launch of our film, Discover the Stories of Japanese Canadians in Surrey, tentatively set for February 11. On February 25, we will have our 4th annual GVJCCA Community Bowl-a-thon. In May (dates TBD) we will have our annual walking tour and forum for Asian Heritage Month. On August 4 & 5 we will have our annual salmon BBQ & community booth at Powell Street Festival. On Sept 1 & 2 we will have our Bulletin display at Nikkei Matsuri. In November we will have our annual Film Festival. More events to be announced (in The Bulletin / Geppo and on our website) once details are confirmed.


Be sure to register by February 2nd for the 4th Annual GVJCCA Community Bowl-a-thon and take advantage of the early bird pricing $30 for individual / $180 for a team (maximum 6) which includes two hours of bowling and shoe rental. From February 3 until February 16 (deadline), the cost will be $35 for individual / $210 for a team of 6.


The Bowl-a-thon is a fundraiser, and it’s also an opportunity for members of the Japanese Canadian community and other communities and families and friends to come together and have some fun. We are raising funds to keep producing the high quality, monthly Bulletin magazine for the community. You can also help by collecting pledges for the GVJCCA or one of the other Japanese Canadian community groups who are participating in this community bowl-a-thon. We will have lots of prizes including for the bowler who collects the top amount of $ pledges and also for the bowlers with the top scores. It’s fun for all ages.


You will have a choice of 5 pin or 10 pin bowling at our new venue, Lucky 9 Lanes, in Richmond with plenty of free parking. We hope to see you at the Bowl-a-thon and other events in 2018.


On behalf of the GVJCCA Board, we wish you and your loved ones a very happy, healthy, prosperous New Year. Akemashite omedetou gozaimasu!

President Lorene Oikawa’s Message – December 2017

December is here in a blink of an eye.

2017 was another busy year, especially with our events commemorating the 75th anniversary of the internment of Canadians of Japanese ancestry.

We did our unique walking tour of the Powell Street area, sharing stories of workers and personal connections, including Grace Eiko Thomson’s recollections of growing up in the area, and the story of my grandfather who was one of the Vancouver Asahi baseball players.

In May, we discovered the stories of Japanese Canadian pioneers in Surrey, and through stories, a play, and poetry we learned about the perseverance, resilience, and hard work of our ancestors who settled in the area. The highlights of the event were documented in a short film which will be officially launched in Surrey in the new year.

Last month, we organized another Legacy of Redress forum, which has become an annual event to share the stories of our Japanese Canadian community, the stories of First Peoples, and the connections to what is happening today. We are creating safe spaces for dialogue so that we can plan on what action we need to take as individuals and groups to overcome the hate.

This year we were honoured to have speakers who shared openly and honestly the pain of what families endured. Mary Kitagawa shared how her father was taken away, and how the family survived the internment. Chief Leanne Joe / Sxwpilemaát Siyám shared the heartbreak of residential school. Itrath Syed shared the experience of Canadian Muslims who are being targeted like how the Japanese Canadians were targeted 75 years ago.

Racism, discrimination, xenophobia, and the divisive actions of some, are not new, and we need to know our history to prevent the mistakes of the past. The Canadian Muslim community is the most recent major target for some of the hateful actions from people who have been emboldened by the current US president and his government’s rhetoric. The hate did not start in the US, and it is not limited to south of the border, and it has become more visible lately. Our work in events such as our forum is one of the ways in which we can come together and collaborate to build the welcoming, inclusive society we desire.

Another way we are getting the message out is through the power of film. For the past few years, we have been working with the Canadian Labour International Film Festival (CLiFF) and hosting film screenings. This year for the 75th anniversary of internment, we were able to have an all Nikkei film festival. As you read in the last month’s Bulletin we screened the Vancouver Asahi, about the baseball team, The Orange Story, about Japanese American internment, and we previewed Discover the Stories of Japanese Canadians in Surrey, highlight our event earlier this year.

We are working with other cultural groups through initiatives such as Anniversaries of Change to work to end discrimination. We are continuing our work on Hasting Park 1942, by collaborating with teachers to develop a resource guide to be used with students, and researching names of detainees for an interpretive exhibit. We are working with other Japanese Canadian individuals and groups on initiatives such as the Legacy Committee, and the 75th Anniversary Sub-Committee which is working on signage for internment camp areas. And our work and the stories from our community are being reported in The Bulletin / Geppo.

In 2018, our work representing and working with the Japanese Canadian community, and initiating and coordinating events and programs will continue.  We are also looking for opportunities to highlight the 30th anniversary of Redress.

Thank you for your continued support and donations so we can continue our work. Also, special thanks to all of our volunteers who help us manage our growing workload.

On behalf of the GVJCCA Board, I wish you and yours the best of the holiday season. We hope that 2018 will bring you good health, happiness, and opportunities to create wonderful memories with your loved ones.


January is fast approaching with our annual New Year’s celebration with our Japanese Canadian seniors at Keirokai, on Saturday, January 20, 2018.

Please mark your calendar, and check our events section on the GVJCCA website for more information. Also, another important event to note on your calendar is our annual Community Bowl-a-thon which we are planning for Sunday, February 25. Stay tuned for more details.


President Lorene Oikawa’s Message – November 2017

It seems like winter is approaching fast with grey days and rain, and Christmas items in the stores since September. I’m not ready for Christmas, but I have put the winter tires on my car. I know the Farmers’ Almanac is predicting a slightly warmer winter. However, it doesn’t mean we won’t get precipitation and snowfall. We have been experiencing extreme weather conditions with climate change. My mom would say, it’s better to be prepared and safe.

Also, if you are driving throughout the province of British Columbia from October 1 to March 31, drivers have to follow the winter tire and chain signs.
Besides preparing for winter road conditions, the GVJCCA is busy working on a few events.

Join us on Sunday, November 19, from 2 p.m. to 4:30 the Vancouver Public Library for the GVJCCA Legacy of Redress. This free public forum will be exploring the history of the Japanese Canadian internment 75 years ago, and the connection to the injustices faced by Indigenous peoples, and the Canadian Muslim community. We will hear directly from representatives from the three communities, and then participants will have the opportunity to discuss what is happening today, and how we can work together to preserve our rights and eliminate discrimination.

On Saturday, November 25, from 3 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. we will be showing three films which share the history of Japanese Canadians and Japanese Americans. We will be hosting this free screening at Tonari Gumi. The films include the feature film, The Vancouver Asahi, and two short films, The Orange Story, and Discover the Stories of Japanese Canadians in Surrey.

The Vancouver Asahi is a period film, which abridges the story of the real-life Vancouver Asahi baseball team which played from 1914 to 1941, and shows how they faced racism and went on to win titles, and the respect of the broader community. This Ishii Yuya film won the People’s Choice Award at the 2014 Vancouver International Film Festival when it had its world premiere. Thanks to Grace Eiko Thomson who is providing the access to this film.

The GVJCCA is pleased to be showing another short film The Orange Story. It’s the story about the Japanese American experience 75 years ago from the perspective of a Japanese American store owner. The GVJCCA is able to screen the film as part of the 2017 Canadian Labour International Film Festival (CLiFF).
We are also launching a GVJCCA film, Discover the Stories of Japanese Canadians in Surrey, which provides highlights of an event we held in Surrey this year to share the history of the Japanese Canadian pioneers in Surrey.

Please join us for the free screening of these powerful films, and we will have popcorn too.

Our month is not done. We will be commemorating Remembrance Day on November 11 at the cenotaph in Stanley Park. This year also marks the 100th anniversary of the Issei volunteers at Vimy Ridge. We hope to see a good turnout of the Japanese Canadian and broader community to pay respect to those who served, and their families who sacrificed.

GVJCCA, along with other members of the Hastings Park 1942 Committee, will be at a meet and greet on November 16 with the cast and crew after the performance of Japanese Problem at the Nikkei National Museum & Cultural Centre. The performance allows a glimpse of what life was like for the Japanese Canadian women and children who were held at Hastings Park in 1942, before being shipped to internment camps. The committee will be there to talk about our work to preserve and share the history and stories at Hastings Park. Also, we will be discussing the development of educational resources for teachers which is a project sponsored by the National Association of Japanese Canadians (NAJC).

The work of the GVJCCA to represent the interests of the Japanese Canadian community, and to initiate and coordinate community-related activities and programs continues.

One of our recent activities is to re-establish the Anniversaries of Change network. The Anniversaries of Change is a group that came together in 2006, from community, labour, and academia to provide support, and work on issues of racism and discrimination. We organized and planned events to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the 1907 anti-Asian riots in Vancouver, and also, the anniversaries of 1947, 1967, and 1997. Each of the years marked a watershed moment in Canada’s migrant history and connect us to the struggles today in our continued fight against discrimination. We are looking forward to building on those relationships, and working to create the welcoming, inclusive, thriving society we desire for all.

For more information, check for the Anniversaries of Change group on Facebook.

President Lorene Oikawa’s Message – October 2017

The rain has arrived, and there is a chill in the morning. Now, we start the transition from summer to fall. It’s also the time for giving thanks. I am thankful for the love of family, and cherish the time I had with those who are gone. The good memories are what will comfort us, and a reminder to enjoy the time you have now, and with family and friends.
I am also thankful for all of our volunteers who appear every year, and to new folks too, who help us with our events and initiatives. We appreciate their hard work. This year at the Wild Salmon Barbeque and SPAM Musubi booth, they had to keep up with the huge demand, and we sold out around 4pm on Sunday. Everyone seemed to be following the come early, come often mantra.
We give thanks for all of our members, donors, and supporters. You help us keep going, with inspiration, and the financial means to continue publishing The Bulletin – Geppo magazine, and continue our leadership role to follow up on issues of concern to the community, and speak out for the community, and to take on the political role when necessary. We are also dedicated to working to preserve the stories of our families, our communities, and to protect the integrity of community projects and the work of Japanese Canadians.
The GVJCCA’s work is also supported by our National Association, and we are thankful to the NAJC for the connection to Japanese Canadian communities across Canada. We met in September at the Annual General Meeting and Conference in Ottawa. We commemorated the 75th Anniversary of Internment / Incarceration of Japanese Canadians. One of the special guest presenters Dr. John Price, University of Victoria, is a respected scholar and social activist. He talked about his working paper, Seventy Five Years is Long Enough. We discussed the unilateral apology delivered by the Government of British Columbia inside the Legislature on May 7, 2012 which did not acknowledge the fact that the provincial government instigated the incarceration and the subsequent diaspora of the Japanese Canadian community. Dr. Price’s paper is posted on the Centre for Asia-Pacific Initiatives Migration and Mobility Program website, and can be found here:
We are also thankful to be able to have opportunities to work with the community and organize events and support initiatives.
Save the following dates/events in your calendar. More information including special guests will be posted at the website soon.

The GVJCCA will be hosting a free public forum on the Legacy of Redress at the Vancouver Public Library on Sunday, November 19, 2017 from 2 p.m.
22,000 Canadians of Japanese ancestry were labelled enemy aliens and forcibly removed from the B.C. coast in 1942. With rumours and fear mongering, the federal government used the War Measures Act to unjustly incarcerate Japanese Canadians and take their property including land, businesses, vehicles, fishing boats, and personal property. In 1988, the federal government apologized. It could never happen again. Or could it?

Join an interactive discussion about the historical injustice that happened 75 years ago, and how other communities are facing a fight for their rights today. More information will be posted at

A free film screening will be hosted by the Greater Vancouver Japanese Canadian Citizens’ Association on Saturday, November 25, 2017 at 2 p.m. The first film is The Orange Story, a short film from the 2017 Canadian Labour International Film Festival (CLiFF). The film is a drama about the Japanese American experience 75 years ago and the story of one Japanese American store owner. Our second film is a short documentary of the GVJCCA event held earlier this year, called Discover the Stories of Japanese Canadians in Surrey. If you are a subscriber to The Bulletin – Geppo, then you will have seen our monthly stories about Japanese Canadian pioneers, part of the research, emanating from our project. Did you know: “By the late 1930s, there were more than 45 Japanese Canadian families with farms in the [Strawberry Hill – Surrey] area owning a total of more than 245 acres of land. In 2017, Strawberry Hill was one of 56 sites officially recognized by Heritage BC’s Japanese Canadian Historic Places Project and listed on the BC Register of Historic Places.” Thanks to Grace Eiko Thomson, we are pleased to be showing as our third film, The Vancouver Asahi, which is a period drama about the Vancouver Asahi baseball team and how they faced racism and persevered to win multiple league titles. They also won the respect of those outside of the Japanese Canadian community. In 2003, the real-life Vancouver Asahi baseball players were inducted into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame and then in 2005, the BC Sports Hall of Fame. I have a personal connection, my grandfather was a pitcher for the Vancouver Asahi.
I hope we will see you at one or both events. It’s a thank you to our ancestors for their resiliency, remembering 75 years ago, and it’s also part of our important work to ensure that people know the stories of our Japanese Canadian communities, and that the injustices are not repeated.
Last but not least, special thanks to the GVJCCA Board who are also volunteers, our human rights committee, our editors, translators, and everyone who works to produce and deliver the Bulletin Geppo, and our past summer students, and our new admin assistant. It’s truly a team effort and for that I am very thankful.

President Lorene Oikawa’s Message – September 2017

I’m scrolling through Facebook posts, and a photo catches my eye. My friend has posted a photo of crayons, from pale pink to dark brown, and each is marked “flesh.”

A great visual, and reminder that we are all human even though we may look different.

Unfortunately, it’s a lesson that is lost on some who want to push a racist, anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim, anti-Jew, and anti-people of colour agenda.

We are getting used to the almost daily barrage of divisive tweets and statements from President Trump and his supporters. We sit back and say, only in America, and pat ourselves on the back for our multiculturalism in Canada.

We had a bit of a wake-up call in August when a group called the Worldwide Coalition Against Islam (WCAI) Canada organized a racist rally at Vancouver City Hall. An ad hoc group organized a counter rally, over 4,000 people showed up to send a strong message that Islamophobia and racism is not welcome.

There were five individuals who tried to engage the crowd in separate incidents and were arrested by the police, but the WCAI did not show up. Their facebook attendance appeared to be quite small, but racism is not limited to social media.

It was gratifying to see this overwhelming response and we do need to speak up when racist views are being promoted. I am also concerned that many consider showing up to a counter rally is all that is needed, and racism is vanquished.

I am a fourth generation Canadian, and I love my country. However, that is not to say we live in a country without blemish. For indigenous peoples, and people of colour (those who were born here, from multiple generation Canadian families, and new immigrants) the experience can be a world apart from your neighbour, friend, colleague, and in some cases your family.
Racism did not start with the election of President Trump, and it will not disappear when he is gone.

From dealing with racism in the workplace, schools, neighbourhoods to the people who are demanding a white Canada, and everything in between, that’s the usual experience of a person of colour. Indigenous peoples also experience discrimination, and also have to listen to settlers saying they were here first and immigrants don’t belong here. Fact check: Indigenous peoples were here before any settlers. Unless you’re indigenous, we’re all from settler backgrounds.

Using religion, immigration, attacks against Indigenous peoples or people of colour to divide people appears to be a common tactic by white supremacists and any group who wants to promote hate. We need to be wary of people who use hot button topics to create divisions in our communities. Let’s not get drawn into their games.

Allies can provide support by standing up to racism, and also check their privilege. We need all voices, and we need to support those who have been denied their voice. We also need to be careful that stories of a community are not being taken and used. For example, Japanese Canadian survivors of the incarceration should have the opportunity to tell their stories and be heard. Their stories must not be appropriated.

75 years ago, 22,000 innocent Canadian children, women, and men of Japanese ancestry were unfairly labelled “enemy aliens” and forcibly uprooted, dispossessed, and incarcerated. We must know our Canadian history and ensure the stories of Indigenous peoples and people of colour are included. And we must not let the historical injustices be repeated. There is no place for racism in the society we desire, one that is equitable, diverse and inclusive.

President Lorene Oikawa’s Message – August 2017

I am trying to write, but I am distracted by the night sky. It has an odd brown pink tinge. My windows are open and it doesn’t smell smoky, but something is tickling my throat, and I am starting to cough.
Even though I am about 400 kilometers from the wildfires, the smoke has made its way to the Lower Mainland. We have a reception centre at a Cloverdale arena in Surrey. Some of those who left the wildfires are making their way here, although, many are in Kamloops.
I have family and friends in Kamloops, and the Cariboo. Even though they are safe, I feel a bit anxious when I hear the news and see the posts on Facebook. The province of BC has declared a state of emergency.
I feel for those who have fled their homes, and those who are worried they are next. I thank all the firefighters, responders, and everyone who is helping out. What is inspiring are the stories of people who are volunteering and offering their homes for people and/or animals. One young boy is making up goody bags for children who have had to leave their homes.
The news reports talk about the evacuation. They describe the plight of families who, with little notice, have had to pack up and leave their homes. One family talks about how little time they had, and that they only had time to pack a few suitcases.
It’s strange to hear something familiar, but in a different context. Evacuation has a different meaning for Japanese Canadians. The term was the euphemism used by the government, to describe the forced uprooting of 22,000 innocent children, women, and men. Canadians of Japanese ancestry were targeted 75 years ago, and were forced from their homes and communities, dispossessed, and incarcerated.
I am hoping by the time you read this, the conditions will have changed, bringing much needed relief to the over 45,000 (number is increasing as I write) people who have had to flee their homes, and the nearly 3,000 firefighters who are battling over 150 fires, and countless others who are helping out.
Any contribution you can make would be greatly appreciated.
Slices of pork, grilled to sweet and salty perfection, layered with Japanese rice, and wrapped with a strip of nori (seaweed). It’s that time of year when I get intense cravings for Musubi, SPAM sushi. It’s a very popular snack in Hawaii, and it’s become a favourite of GVJCCA and NAJC (National Association of Japanese Canadian) foodies across the country.
Once again, we will have Musubi available along with our wild salmon BBQ dinner at the 41st annual Powell Street Festival on Saturday, August 5, and Sunday, August 6. For those of you reading The Bulletin early, this is your reminder to drop by the GVJCCA food booth and barbecue on Jackson Avenue, by the Vancouver Buddhist Temple, and also our community booth in Oppenheimer Park.
Our community booth will have free copies of The Bulletin, a photo display of our events for the past year, and great information about some of the work we are doing for the community.
Since it is summer, it’s also the time of year when many families visit Hastings Park for entertainment and the Pacific National Exhibition (PNE). Make sure you check out the bright green Hastings Park 1942 signage by the Forum, Rollerland, and Livestock Building, telling the stories of the 8,000 Japanese Canadians who were detained there until being shipped out to camps.
Thanks to the NAJC for their support so that we can continue our work on the Hastings Park 1942 project and develop a teacher’s resource so that the stories will be shared in classrooms. This work is being developed with teachers so that it will be a valuable and useful resource for teachers.
We had a great time at the 5th Annual Tonari Gumi GVJCCA Charity Classic Golf Tournament at Meadow Gardens. Thanks to David Iwaasa for heading up the committee (and thanks to our GVJCCA Board Director Susanne Tabata on the committee), and special thanks to all of the volunteers, sponsors, and the golfers who helped to make this happen.
Congratulations to Premier John Horgan and the new provincial government in British Columbia. We look forward to meeting with you.

President Lorene Oikawa’s Message – July 2017

I was asked what I love about Canada. I adore our home and native land, majestic mountains, rain forest, pristine water, and northern lights, but we are more than our amazing nature. My love for our country is really about the people. From First Peoples to Settlers, our diversity is what defines us and makes us strong. Our history is not without blemish. We must remember the historical injustices along with the good. We need to learn from our history so that we become resistant to hateful messages and we do not repeat the mistakes of the past. Embracing diversity and creating an inclusive history of Canada will make us even stronger, and we will be a more resilient country.

On this Canada Day and throughout the year, especially since it is the 150th anniversary of Confederation and the 75th anniversary of the uprooting, dispossession, and internment/incarceration of Japanese Canadians, we must remember our ancestors. The first documented arrival from Japan was 140 years ago, but there are stories of earlier contact.

Some indigenous oral history told to me by a friend, recalls visitors who were from far away, and yet, bore a resemblance to First Peoples. She thinks it was travellers from Japan. The history of First Peoples is a lot longer than settlers’ history, and we have much to learn.

During the festivities of Canada Day, 150 is being highlighted, but we must acknowledge it’s only a small part of the true history of Canada which is closer to 15,000 years. Indigenous peoples had their own communities and culture long before settlers arrived. 150 years has a very different meaning for them, because colonization has meant the destruction of their way of life.

We are using the hashtags #Canada150 #Canada150plus and #Canada15000 to show respect and acknowledge the history before Confederation. Just as we are calling out for people to remember our Japanese Canadian ancestors and other racialized settlers, we share the call from indigenous peoples for reconciliation.

Some Japanese Canadian pioneer stories were featured in our Discover the Stories of Japanese Canadians in Surrey event in May. We also encouraged the documenting of your family stories. We are profiling some of the Surrey stories in upcoming issues of The Bulletin. You can read Part 2 in this edition of The Bulletin.

If you are spending time with family during the summer, make a special effort to seek out your family stories especially from the older generations, and record them. Don’t wait for the perfect time, just do it now, because you may not get another opportunity. You can use your smart phone and film their responses. Ask them about their childhood. Ask them about their parents, and grandparents. Do it for your family and do it for our community. Too many times we regret not recording the story and we say we thought we had more time with them.

Sharing our stories can help people to understand the long history of Japanese Canadians and their contributions to our province and country, and the historical injustices against Japanese Canadians and why it must not be repeated.

In June, Statistics Canada released alarming data about a 60% increase in hate crimes against Muslims in Canada. Overall, hate crimes have increased about 5% and violent hate crime offenses have increased 15% in 2015. Although the number of incidents against Jewish Canadians decreased for the same period, Jewish Canadians are the most targeted group based on religion. With the reports of increasing incidents in the past year, it is very disturbing to think that what was shocking for 2015 will probably be eclipsed by the next set of numbers.

We need to speak up when we hear the kind of fear mongering that encourages the hateful attacks against a group of people. Recently, a former Canadian ambassador, Martin Collacott, penned an opinion column in the Vancouver Sun lamenting the numbers of non-white immigrants and how they will replace the white population.

I tweeted a response “An opinion that reminds me of the anti-Asian rhetoric in 1942” and a reminder that it’s the 75th anniversary of Internment, and I was quoted in one news article. There were others who also responded and pointed out that the author, who is a senior fellow at the right wing Fraser Institute, was misleading the public by expressing sentiments of a particular group rather than factual evidence. For example, he is trying to blame increased traffic on non-white immigration. One SFU professor posed the question, if the immigrants were white then would there be the same reaction.

If you know our stories, then you would recognize sentiments such as “Whites are being outnumbered” and “Non-white immigrants are taking our jobs, draining our services,” are lines that could have been lifted from 1942.

In the US, President Trump has tried to perpetuate racism with an attempted banning of Muslims from six countries. An appeals court has ruled against the ban. Trump is fighting the ruling citing concerns about terrorism. It’s the rationale that was used for the incarceration of Japanese Americans and Canadians. Except back then it was said that they were enemy aliens which was refuted (although not publicly) by the head of the RCMP and Canadian military. In 1942, 22,000 innocent Canadians, children, women and men, were uprooted, dispossessed, and incarcerated based on fear mongering and not any evidence.

So when someone says to you, “why do we need to know the stories of Japanese Canadians, it’s all in the past,” you can let them know that the ugly racist rhetoric is being used in 2017 and unless we speak out now, it will be too late to stop it.


I had the honour of addressing and congratulating the students at their graduation ceremony at the Vancouver Japanese Language School last month. I would also like to reiterate thanks to the parents and teachers who have been guiding the students on their journey. I took the opportunity to remind the students to learn their history and share the stories so they can effect positive change in the world.


We are grateful for receiving Canada Summer Job funding and we will have three students who will be working for the GVJCCA during the summer. They will be a big help with our annual Wild Salmon BBQ and Musubi Food Booth and Community Booth at the Powell Street Festival on August 5 & 6. Please drop by. It’s our major fundraiser for the year so not only will you enjoy delicious fresh salmon and SPAM sushi, you are helping us with our important work such as producing The Bulletin and working to stop racism.


Our work is as important today as when we formally started this iteration of the organization 65 years ago. I was looking at some old Bulletin magazines from 1977, the centennial year recognizing the 100th anniversary of the first documented Japanese immigrant to Canada, and I came across the description of the work of the JCCA. It talks about first forming to look at the “many legal injustices prevailing against the Japanese Canadians and of combatting widespread racial discrimination.” In 1977, “the Association continues today to function as a watchdog of minority-rights, as a voice representing the Japanese Canadian community and as a central organization initiating and coordinating community-related activities and programs.” It’s a good reminder of the work we must continue to do especially during these uncertain political times.


President Lorene Oikawa’s Message – June 2017

Asian Heritage Month events filled up our calendar for May. It was especially significant this year, because it is the 75th anniversary of the internment or as some of us are calling it, the incarceration. Words are powerful, and the government used many euphemisms to soften the harsh reality faced by 22,000 children, women, and men who were forcibly uprooted, dispossessed, and incarcerated.

We shared some of those stories at our Discover the Stories of Japanese Canadians in Surrey event, and we also shared the stories of the pioneers, the Japanese Canadians who came to Surrey and their contributions.

What is particularly disturbing about the incarceration is that the Canadian government acted against their own citizens. Most of those incarcerated were Canadian born, and Japanese Canadians arrived in Canada long before 1942. 2017 marks the 140th anniversary of the first documented Japanese arrival to Canada, but we now know there are accounts of earlier arrivals and indigenous oral history that appears to refer to even earlier contact.

In the late 1800s, the first Japanese immigrants arrived in Surrey. For our event, we highlighted some of their stories. Some young men came to work in sawmills that were located in present-day White Rock, South Surrey, Crescent Beach, and Hazelmere. Some started boat building in Brownsville, the north shore of Surrey, directly across from New Westminster. Others settled in the Cloverdale area where they eventually purchased land. Japanese Canadians also had farms in other parts of Surrey including where we held the event at Surrey City Centre Library. One of the major stories is about the Strawberry Hill area.

I’ve lived my entire life, so far, in Surrey and I studied the history of our city in elementary school and I do not remember any stories about Japanese Canadians. I didn’t know that Strawberry Hill referred to the strawberry farms that used to be owned by Japanese Canadians. I also don’t remember any history of Japanese Canadians in our high school studies. This was the reason why I started this GVJCCA project. I was curious about the history of this city I live in, and I want to have the history of Japanese Canadians made accessible at community events and in our education system. Our history is BC and Canada’s history.

It was an inspiring afternoon that started off with recognition of the traditional and unceded Coast Salish land (Kwantlen, Katzie, Musqueam & Semiahmoo) and a warm, indigenous welcome from Roxanne Feeney, and then a rousing performance by Chibi Taiko at the Surrey City Centre Library. I was explaining to Shinobu Homma that his group would be performing in the plaza just outside of the library and as I was trying to point it out to him he said, “I know the design well, I looked after it, I am with Bing Thom Architects.” The Japanese Canadian community is always surprising me. There are so many talented individuals and we don’t always hear about their accomplishments. Another reason why sharing our stories is so important.

GVJCCA is thankful to have received a grant from the City of Surrey (thanks Sean Bindra) so we could carry out this project. The GVJCCA is a non-profit organization that depends upon our membership and donations. The grant helped us to do more including hiring a researcher/writer, Christine Kondo, who has over 10 years of experience including her time on the editorial committee for Nikkei Images, a publication of the Nikkei National Museum & Cultural Centre.

Christine provided some highlights of stories of Japanese Canadians in Surrey which we shared at the event, and will be shared in The Bulletin and on the GVJCCA website. Sumi Kinoshita attended and shared her family story. Art Miki emailed and let me know about his father who was born in Surrey. It’s not too late, if you have a story of your Japanese Canadian family in Surrey, please let us know.

We also had a special guest from the Yukon, Lillian Nakamura Maguire, and we did a reading of a few scenes from her play, Hidden Memories. The play is the story of a Japanese Canadian family who was once in Surrey, inspired by her family’s story. Thanks to our volunteer readers Yoriko Gillard, May Hamanishi, Ron Nishimura, and Garin Fahlman.

A special note of thanks to Surrey’s Poet Laureate Renée Sarojini Saklikar who co-hosted the event and also did a session inspiring us with some ideas on how we can write, and use poetry to tell our family stories.

Thanks to all who participated, our wonderful speakers/presenters including Renée, Lillian, Roxanne, Chibi Taiko, Bruce Ralston who is a great supporter of our events and is the MLA for Surrey Whalley in which our venue was located, our project assistants, Christine Kondo research/writing, Kayla Isomura photography, Matt, Kevan and Jake film crew, and our volunteers, May Hamanishi, Ron Nishimura, Perry Nishihata, and Susanne Tabata. Thanks also to Surrey Libraries who were a wonderful support for the event (Carolyn, Ellen and Meghan for their help during the planning), Surrey Archives, and Nikkei National Museum (Linda for her help with the photos). The event is over, but the sharing of our stories will continue.

We also held a walking tour of the Powell Street area for Asian Heritage Month. Thank you to Grace Eiko Thomson who shared her stories of the Vancouver Asahi, and her personal remembrances of living in the area. I shared some stories from my family and from Vancouver City Councillor Geoff Meggs who has partnered with me on previous walks. Geoff was unable to join us this time, but he kindly helped me with the handouts and map for the walk.

Thank you to Jeff Chiba Stearns for his support to show his film One Big Hapa Family at a community and labour Asian Heritage Month event the GVJCCA helped organize. The film really resonates with Japanese Canadian families as we see our families experience the highest rate of mixed unions (Statistics Canada term for a couple where one spouse or partner belongs to a visible minority group and the other does not or both belong to different visible minority groups).

We had lots to be thankful for during May, the month of celebration and remembrance of our Asian heritage. It’s only one opportunity to share our stories and work towards eliminating racism. Let’s make sure it continues throughout the year.

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.