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.


President Lorene Oikawa’s Message – April 2017

I come from a line of strong women. The men were bold in their endeavours such as the brothers who came from Japan in the 1800’s, and two of the brothers would settle in Cumberland on Vancouver Island. This was the Canadian beginning of my family on my mother’s side. My maternal grandfather worked in the coal mines, the mills, and as a faller, but his passion was for baseball, and he was recruited to play for the Vancouver Asahi. I have a few newspaper clippings of my grandfather as a Vancouver Asahi baseball player. My grandmother who was skilled in the culinary arts, pattern making, sewing, gardening, and playing the koto, was a woman of many talents, but none that would feature her in the newspaper. She was dedicated to making sure her family would survive and thrive.

Seventy-five years ago, when the government declared all Canadians of Japanese ancestry to be enemy aliens, and forced their uprooting, dispossession, and incarceration, my grandmother was determined to look after her young family. At the time, it was six children, the youngest a baby, and eventually it would be ten children who survived.

I think not enough is written about the women, especially the mothers who struggled to make sure their children had food, clothes, and were protected when the adults had no idea what was to come. My mother as a young girl survived those harsh times, and then had to call upon her resilience again, when many years later, as a young mother, she became a widow. She learned how to drive and got a job at Woodward’s [department store]. She ensured her children had enough to eat, warm clothes, a safe home, and love and support so they could survive and thrive. [Thanks mom.]

We owe so much to our mothers, grandmothers, and the women in our families. When you acknowledge the 75th anniversary of the internment/incarceration this year, take a moment to recognize the women in your lives. We honour those who came before us, and we will continue their work so all will have safe, welcoming, thriving communities.

The GVJCCA is planning a number of events for the 75th anniversary including a walking tour on May 13, reflecting on Japanese Canadian life and work in the Powell Street District, and a sharing stories event on May 20, discovering the stories of Japanese Canadians in Surrey through prose, a play and other creative formats, and learning how to use poetry to share family stories with our special presenter Surrey Poet Laureate Renée Sarojini Saklikar. We are also looking at an intergenerational event, and a forum later in the year. As we firm up details, we will post all information in future editions of The Bulletin / Geppo, and on our website,

In preparation for the May 20th event, we are asking you to share your stories, experiences, and family histories of Japanese Canadians in Surrey. Please email or phone 604.777.5222 for more information. Selected stories will be published in The Bulletin (if received before mid-April), and also on display at the Surrey City Centre Library in the week leading up to May 20th.

By the time you read this, we should have a researcher/writer in place who will be helping us search and find stories from the City of Surrey archives.

Also, we applied for the Canada Summer Jobs Grant for three summer student positions. It has been approved, and the GVJCCA will be hiring for the positions to start in May 2017. We will be looking for an Event Coordinator whose primary responsibility is organizing our major fundraiser, the GVJCCA Wild Salmon BBQ and Musubi food booth, at the 2017 Powell Street Festival, an Archival Assistant who will be helping us go through our historical information and digitize our archives, and a Communications Administrator who will be helping with our communications, producing content for our website, social media, and organizing and maintaining our online community calendar. All three positions will also help with our special events that take place during the summer.

The eligibility requirements include being a full-time student with plans to return to full-time studies in the upcoming academic year and being legally entitled to work in BC. Please see the complete eligibility requirements and job descriptions in the job postings in this edition, and on our website. If you are interested in applying for a position and meet the eligibility requirements, please email a resume and covering letter outlining your suitability for the position to GVJCCA President at


The Annual General Meeting of the Greater Vancouver Japanese Canadian Citizens’ Association (GVJCCA) took place on March 12, 2017. Thank you for your continued support. Our current board members are committed to continue our work, and were acclaimed.

President’s Message – March 2017

More snow is forecast for Vancouver. No, you aren’t seeing things. Hopefully by the time you are reading this, the snow will have melted. I know that isn’t the case for the rest of the province or our country, but we’re just not used to snow in Vancouver. Despite what you saw on the tv news, some of us were prepared. I have proper winter tires on my car, and thanks to my brother a good supply of salt. But, as my brother says, it’s not the salt, it’s the consistent shovelling that will help you clear your driveways and sidewalks.


Some escaped the winter conditions and shovelling by travelling to sun and warm beaches, and some are still on vacation. Fortunately, we had a good turnout of people to our 3rd annual GVJCCA Japanese Canadian Community Bowl-a-thon at REVS in Burnaby. From young to senior bowlers, and teams of families too, we enjoyed bowling, eating, and a few laughs.


Congratulations to Linda Harris and Curtis for top bowling scores. Team Ian Higginson and Team Ken Yada were lucky team prize draw winners.


For some who attended our 1st and 2nd Community Bowl-a-thons, it was déjà vu, when Ken Yada was presented the prize for collecting the highest value of pledges, with a total of $1,135. Congratulations Ken Yada for your three-peat win! Nikkei Place Foundation and Tonari Gumi are the lucky recipients of his pledges. Thanks also to Perry Nishihata, Taeko Hamakawa, Aiko Hamakawa, June Nishi, Sayaka Iwanaka, Gayle Tamagi, Ken Nishi, and Linda Harris for your pledge contributions. All of the participating organizations benefit from your hard work to collect pledges.


Lucky prize winners include: Kohjun Sato, Henry Tsang, Cara Seccafien, Kenzo Yada, Darlene Hamakawa, Julie Hofer, Darryl Hall, Linda Harris, Lucas Wright, Perry Nishihata, Emiko Morita, Larry Isomura, Leslie Higginson, John Endo Greenaway, and Sylvia Ronahan.


Thanks to our major sponsors: Diamond Sponsor, Dignity Memorial (Forest Lawn and Ocean View); Gold Sponsors, The Listel Hotel, and Hapa Izakaya; and Silver Sponsor, 99 Truck Parts / 99 Industrial Parts. Thanks also to Sorab at Minuteman Press, North Burnaby for providing the Sponsorship Display Sign.


We are very grateful to all who provided prize donations: Meadow Gardens Golf Club, Consul General Asako Okai, White Spot – Kensington, Lavilletta Restaurant, REVS, Earl’s, Canfisco, Fortuna Bakery & Deli, Van Houtte, Safeway – Royal Oak, Hi Genki, Me-n-Ed’s Pizza, David’s Tea – Brentwood Mall, Mr. Ho’s, Cosmos Café.


A special thank you to our volunteers Gail Tamagi and Kamiko, and Karen Ennyu, and my fellow Community Bowl-a-thon committee members, April Shimizu, Perry Nishihata, June Nishi, Ken Nishi, and Yuji Matson.

Thank you to all who participated. It was a great afternoon, and a wonderful event bringing members of our community together. Your support benefits the community, and the GVJCCA so we can continue our work including producing a high quality publication, The Bulletin, which has helped connect people with Japanese Canadian arts, culture, and heritage for 59 years. We’ll be celebrating The Bulletin’s 60th anniversary next year. We’ll also look forward to seeing you at our 4th annual GVJCCA Japanese Canadian Community Bowl-a-thon in 2018.




This year, the GVJCCA is recognizing the 75th anniversary of the forced uprooting, dispossession, and incarceration of Canadians of Japanese ancestry. We will be revamping our community calendar on the website to list not only our activities, but also the events organized by other Japanese Canadian organizations.


As I announced in last month’s Bulletin, the GVJCCA received a grant from the City of Surrey to produce a public event on Saturday, May 20, 2017 to share the stories of Japanese Canadians in Surrey. We are inviting you to share your stories, experiences, and family histories of Japanese Canadians in Surrey. Email Selected submissions will be published in The Bulletin and also on display in the week leading up to the May 20th event. The posting for a researcher/writer to help us to tell some of the stories of Japanese Canadians in Surrey is on our website,


The deadline to apply for the GVCCA administrative assistant position has been extended to April 5. Details on our website.


Find out more about our plans for the rest of the year at our Annual General Meeting on March 12 at 2 p.m. Tsubaki Room at Nikkei Centre.

President Lorene Oikawa

GVJCCA President

President’s Message – February 2017

I’m feeling the urge to knit. No, it’s not because of the freakish cold weather we’ve been having. It’s the amazing photos of women (and men) in pink pussy hats from around the world and in Vancouver, too. Last month’s Women’s March was a fabulous visual of the power we have when we join together. People of all ages were speaking out and waving placards against sexism and racism, and all the –ism behaviours that seek to divide us. The behaviours are not new, but with current events such as the US election of a president who demonstrates these behaviours, and racist flyers being distributed in the Lower Mainland and Fraser Valley, it can sometimes feel overwhelming.

It is also disturbing for Japanese Canadians who have experienced similar attacks targeting their ethnicity. 75 years ago, Canadians of Japanese ancestry were singled out. 22,000 children, women, and men, were forcibly removed from their homes, schools, and businesses, dispossessed, and incarcerated. It’s an important part of our Canadian history that must never be forgotten, and must be learned so that we do not repeat the historical injustices. It is even more important right now when we are facing forces that are agitating, and pitting worker against worker, and citizen against citizen.

The Greater Vancouver Japanese Canadian Citizens’ Association is continuing its work to preserve the history of our community, and promoting the lessons for today. We are pleased to announce that we have received a grant from the City of Surrey to produce a public event on Saturday, May 20, 2017 to share the stories of Japanese Canadians in Surrey. We are recognizing the 75th anniversary of the forced uprooting, dispossession, and incarceration of Canadians of Japanese ancestry.

We are inviting you to share your stories, experiences, and family histories of Japanese Canadians in Surrey. Selected submissions will be published in The Bulletin and also on display in the week leading up to the May 20th event. This event will provide an opportunity for artists, poets, writers, musicians, and the community to come together to share and exemplify Japanese Canadian arts, culture, and heritage. Surrey Poet Laureate Renée Sarojini Saklikar will be helping us to host this event, and also present a mini session on using poetry to tell family stories.

The event will be documented to support life-long learning for the Japanese Canadian community, educators, and the public at large.

We will be looking at information in the City of Surrey archives and at the Nikkei National Museum. We will be hiring a researcher/writer who will access some of the information and help us to tell some of the stories of Japanese Canadians in Surrey. If you have the interest and the background in research and writing, and are available for this temporary assignment please check out our job posting in The Bulletin / Geppo and on our website,

If you would like to submit a story and/or volunteer to help out at the May 20th event, please email or phone 604.777.5222. More information will be posted on our website, and stay tuned for updates on other upcoming 75th anniversary events.


Coming up this month is our 3rd annual GVJCCA Japanese Canadian Community Bowl-a-thon on Sunday, February 19 at Rev’s Burnaby Bowling Centre, 5502 Lougheed Highway. Check in at noon and enjoy the full food and bar service. Prizes awarded at 3 p.m.

The registration and pledge forms are on the Please register at check-in on Sunday, February 19. The funds we raise allow us to keep producing the high quality The Bulletin / Geppo magazine, and you can also collect pledges for the GVJCCA or one of the other Japanese Canadian community groups who are participating in the Community Bowl-a-thon.

Your Community Bowl-a-thon committee is busy organizing the event and collecting some fabulous prizes. We are looking forward to a fun afternoon for the whole family.

Thanks from your Community Bowl-a-thon committee and see you on February 19: Yuji Matson, June Nishi, Ken Nishi, Perry Nishihata, Lorene Oikawa, and April Shimizu.


Advance notice that we will be again applying for a grant from the Canada Summer Jobs Program, and next month we will have three job postings for post-secondary students: Event Coordinator, Archival Assistant, and Communications Administrator. We will be starting the application process earlier this year in anticipation of receiving the grant, and to maximize the length of the summer positions. More information will be posted on our website next month.

Women’s March & Pink Pussy Hats

President’s Message – January 2017

Happy New Year! Akemashite omedetou gozaimasu!

I am a yonsei, fourth generation Japanese Canadian, and my family’s Christmas dinner is similar to most Canadians celebrating Christmas. The turkey roasting in the oven for hours. Our feast includes turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, brussels sprouts, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, vegetables, and salads for supper. New Year’s Day is all about Japanese food and traditions my grandmother taught us. It actually starts on New Year’s Eve when we have to eat noodles and soup. My obaachan used to make her own noodles, but I don’t have the time or proficiency to pull that off, yet.

When people ask me why we eat noodles I would say for good luck and long life, but I don’t remember the details and my grandmother is gone so I can’t ask her. I googled the origins of the tradition and found a fascinating history.

The Japanese tradition of eating noodles probably originated in the 13th or 14th century when a temple or wealthy ruler would treat the people to noodles on the last day of the year. The tradition of eating Toshikoshi soba on New Year’s Eve became widely established during the 17th to 19th century (Edo period 1603-1868). Apparently the merchants in Edo (present-day Tokyo) developed many customs for good fortune. During this time, soba noodles (made from buckwheat grain) were the preferred noodle in the north from the Kanto region (which includes Tokyo) and udon noodles were more popular in Kyoto. Today, most of Japan uses soba noodles for this ritual although there are variations in different areas and families. Our family likes fishcake, green onion, nori, and a fried egg with our noodles.

Toshikoshi refers to the year crossing, jumping from the old year to the new one. Some say the long noodle symbolizes the year crossing. What may have appealed to the Edo merchants is that fine soba flour was once used by Japanese goldsmiths to gather up leftover gold dust and the connection to gold would be an ideal symbol of good fortune. Also, soba noodles are easily cut so they represent letting go of the old year’s troubles and regrets. Soba is also seen by some as symbolizing strength and resiliency because of the nature of the buckwheat plants to be able to bounce back after being hit by wind and rain. There are also some who attribute the long noodles to a long life.

For me, the food traditions are a way to remember my ancestors and my family. I remember watching my grandmother roll out the dough with a long wooden dowel as she made her noodles. I could smell the broth bubbling on the stove. Eating the delicious noodles and soup made me feel a deep comfort, my grandmother’s love, and that all is right in the world. I think it’s a good way to start the new year.

Food is an important way for our families to share our culture and our personal stories. It’s also a delicious way to connect with other individuals and communities. What are your memories of your obaachan’s (grandmother’s) or other family member’s contributions to your family meals? Share your stories and we may share some in a future edition of The Bulletin and on our Facebook page.

On behalf of the GVJCCA board, we wish you and your loved ones, a very happy, healthy, and prosperous New Year. 2017 is year of the rooster (tori) and in Japanese legend the rooster’s crowing awakened the sun goddess Amaterasu who left her cave and brought light to the world. I hope for more light and peace in the world, and the GVJCCA will continue our work for a just and inclusive society.

2017 is a momentous year. It will be Canada’s 150th anniversary of Confederation and the 75th anniversary of internment/incarceration. We, at the GVJCCA, will be working on a number of projects and events, and some in collaboration with the NAJC and other Japanese Canadian groups. Keep reading The Bulletin / Geppo and checking the website for more information.

Also, this year is our 3rd annual GVJCCA Japanese Canadian Community Bowl-a-thon.

The GVJCCA Community Bowl-a-thon will take place on Sunday, February 19 at Rev’s Burnaby, 5502 Lougheed Highway. It’s the same location as last year and participants found the location very convenient next to the Holdom Skytrain station and plenty of free parking. You will receive a parking pass when you check in at noon. Rev’s also has full food and bar service so you can grab some lunch and drinks while having some fun with your team. Cost covers two hours and shoe rental: $30 per individual and $180 for a team, maximum of 6. Prizes will be awarded at 3 p.m.

The bowl-a-thon is a fundraiser, but it’s also an opportunity for members of the Japanese Canadian community and their families 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 prizes for bowlers who collect the top pledges and also for the bowlers with the top scores. When we have confirmed the Japanese Canadian community groups who will be participating we will have the information along with the registration and pledge forms on the website.

It is fun for the whole family. I hope to see you on February 19.

Last word to Paul Kariya who emailed me and let me know that Dr. George Iwama was the first Japanese Canadian President of a Canadian university, the University of Northern British Columbia. Thanks for the information. I had asked a few people who thought Santa Ono was the first Japanese Canadian university president which led to my speculation.  Japanese Canadians have made many contributions to our country, and it’s not always recognized or known. This inspires me to think about another project to add to our list. In the meantime, the GVJCCA will continue our work to highlight the contributions of Japanese Canadians in The Bulletin / Geppo.


President’s Message December 2016

The results of the presidential election in the USA were shocking to everyone including, I think, the president-elect. The political pundits have been providing their versions of an analysis, but one thing is clear to me, we must stand together and call out the racist attacks and raise our voices against discrimination and hateful behaviour.

I am deeply concerned about the dark landscape unfolding for our American family and friends. We have also seen the darkness creeping into Canada: News reports of racist graffiti, racist posters in Toronto, a racist confrontation aboard Calgary Transit, and racist flyers being distributed in Richmond. The election results have emboldened some who believe that their hate, and (misplaced) blame for their complaints and fears are now sanctioned.

For most Canadians, we share our values of kindness, caring, politeness, and wanting a welcoming, inclusive country for all.

For Japanese Canadians who have endured many racist incidents from individual attacks to historical injustices such as the 1907 anti-Asian riots (which included attacks on Chinese Canadians) , and the forced uprooting, dispossession, and incarceration during the Second World War, we share the stories so we may learn. We did not suffer in isolation. There are also the stories of Residential School where Indigenous children were not only taken from their families, they endured physical, emotional and sometimes sexual abuse. The exclusionary policies of the Canadian government who denied the Komagata Maru from docking in Vancouver, and prevented British subjects of Indian descent from entering the country, and there are many more stories.

When we fail to know or learn our history, the suffering continues not only for ethnic communities, but for all us when hate has us turning on each other and destroying all communities.

Nearly 75 years after internment, Americans and Canadians who are Muslim appear to be one of the targets of choice today. We saw it after 9-11 and Americans and Canadians of Japanese ancestry spoke out. The injustice is being repeated despite the historic government apologies and the pledge that it would never happen again. It’s 2016 and we hear the Trump Administration citing the need for national security suggesting the justification for lack of due process and the stripping of rights.

Trump’s security plans include a registration process for Muslims. Muslims are presumed guilty and just as the government did with anyone of Japanese ancestry, they are targeting Muslims.  And just to be clear, a Trump surrogate referred to the Japanese American internment as a model, a precedent, for attacking Americans who are Muslim.

It’s déjà vu for Japanese Canadians. The injustice started with registration cards. My grandparents and their children had to have the cards on them at all times in case they were ever questioned. This was before the incarceration. Carding was also put in place for Indigenous people. South Africa’s apartheid was based on the Canadian Indian Act and what the Canadian government did to Indigenous people.

Read more . . .

President’s Message November 2016

I was putting the first tray of lemon meringue tarts into the oven when I glanced at my phone. There was a voice mail message. I checked it and it was from April Shimizu, one of the GVJCCA Board Directors. April is the amazing organizer of our volunteer appreciation party. Her message said that the power was out at Nikkei Centre, the location of our party. After a few text messages back and forth, we determined the party was going ahead.

Thankfully the BC storm did not knock out my power and I was able to complete my baking and then make my way to the party. The drive from Surrey to Burnaby wasn’t bad except for a few traffic lights which were out and I had to do some quick manoeuvering to get around some trees and other items blown by the wind onto the road. I can’t complain, because earlier in the day it took me over two hours to drive from Surrey to Vancouver.

When I got to Nikkei Centre, the garage and the building, and even the seniors’ home next door were in darkness. Our volunteer appreciation dinner was shifted to take place in the lobby. Tables and chairs were arranged. One of the volunteers, Carol Yamamoto, had bought some candles and supplies, and arranged the candles on each table. We appreciate Carol’s help. April had picked up the food, a delicious combination of sushi, karaage chicken, chow mein, calamari, sweet and sour, and other popular dishes. The GVJCCA board of directors contributed some desserts including manju, and I brought three dozen lemon meringue tarts. One of our long time salmon barbeque volunteers, Kathy Mukuyama, brought a delicious home-made chocolate cake.

We enjoyed some wonderful food and shared lots of laughs. We passed around a few borrowed flashlights and used the light on our smartphones to get around. Despite the lack of light, there was an abundance of good spirited conversations, and we felt the warmth wrap around us, just like a large family get together. It was a night we won’t forget. Thank you to all those who were able to get to us during the storm, and to all of our volunteers. We can’t do it without you.

Read more . . .

President’s Message October 2016

By Lorene Oikawa

And the award for outstanding volunteers goes to…

Our GVJCCA volunteers. Yes, we really appreciate you!

Thank you again for all your talents and time to support the GVJCCA including helping with the monthly mail out of The Bulletin Geppo magazine and translation, all your work at our annual wild salmon barbeque and musubi food booth, and our annual community bowl-a-thon. Your efforts make our events and our magazine very successful.

To show our appreciation, we would like to invite you, our volunteers, to an appreciation evening on Friday, October 14th from 7-9 p.m. at the Nikkei Centre, Room 105, 6688 Southoaks Crescent, Burnaby. Please RSVP by October 10 to April at 604.421.36322 or email

The board of directors and I are looking forward to meeting with you and catching up. We do have lots of news to share, and we won’t make you wait.

I am honoured to announce that I was elected Vice President of the National Association of Japanese Canadians (NAJC) at the 2016 AGM in Calgary in September. I am excited to be working with new NAJC President David Mitsui, and a very accomplished board including our own GVJCCA Board Director, Susanne Tabata, and GVJCCA Human Rights Committee member, Lisa Uyeda.

We will be furthering the aims of the national organization to strengthen our communities and work to eliminate racial discrimination. Next year is an important anniversary, it will be 75 years since Japanese Canadians were forcibly uprooted from the west coast, and unjustly incarcerated and dispossessed. We must continue to work on ensuring the historical injustice is remembered so that people learn and we do not repeat the mistakes of the past. When we see the news today, and hear some commentaries, you could be forgiven for thinking we have not made many advances towards equity and an inclusive society.

There is much work to be done, and I will also continue as President of the GVJCCA. The GVJCCA is a member organization of the NAJC, and the GVJCCA has an important role representing the historic homeland of Japanese Canadians. The NAJC is the only national organization representing Japanese Canadians, and negotiated the historic Redress agreement with the Government of Canada on behalf of all Canadians of Japanese ancestry who suffered injustice from the racist government policies during the Second World War. For more information about the NAJC, please see their website at

The NAJC and GVJCCA have a history of defending the rights of people and expressing the concerns of our communities. Speaking out about our collective concern about the short timeline for the nominations for Japanese Canadian historical places has been effective. On September 8, 2016, Heritage BC announced an extended deadline to November 30, 2016.

On July 7, 2016, the Province of BC announced a call for nominations for historically significant Japanese Canadian places in British Columbia to be officially recognized. The deadline was set for September 9, 2016. The NAJC and GVJCCA along with other Japanese Canadian groups and individuals were concerned and spoke up about the short timeline. We want to ensure as many people as possible have the opportunity to hear about the call and submit nominations. We have created a Facebook page, JC Sites BC, to provide a forum for discussion and sharing information about the nominations process. We have also set up a document so we can try to track nominations made and in progress. Seeing where there are gaps may encourage people to submit nominations and help each other so that important historical sites are not being missed. This is only the first step towards ensuring the contributions of Japanese Canadians are not forgotten and to help prevent anyone else’s suffering from racism and injustice. Please see the September edition of The Bulletin for more information and JC Sites BC on Facebook. [Links are posted on]


Please join us for another GVJCCA Legacy of Redress Forum on October 15, 2-5 p.m., at Tonari Gumi. We will have special Muslim speakers who will share their perspective of being Muslim in Canada. Why did Japanese Canadians experience a horrible déjà vu after 9-1-1? Let’s have some conversations and discuss how we can work together for a safe, welcoming, inclusive society. See the event posting for more information.

President’s Message September 2016

by Lorene Oikawa

The long, hot days of summer are transitioning into preparation for back-to-school and the routine of fall. We say it every year, but it does seem as if time is flying by.

We were fortunate to have three wonderful, talented summer students, Xavier Bryant, Eleanor Panno, and Nathan Yeo, who put a lot of effort into our summer events such as our wild salmon barbeque and musubi food booth, and community booth at Powell Street Festival. The barbeque is our main fundraiser for the year, and requires a tremendous amount of planning and preparation. In addition to our barbeque, we also had a full schedule of events this summer including the launch of our book, Honouring Our People: Breaking the Silence, and the Hiroshima-Vancouver Peace Concert.

Most of the year, we depend upon volunteer help which means our office doesn’t have regular hours. With your donations and support, we are looking to get part-time administrative help. Starting in September, we are very pleased, one of our summer students, Xavier, who was our event coordinator, will be helping us on a limited part-time basis until we can get a permanent position in place.

This summer, we had a new communications summer student position, in addition to our event organizer, and archival assistant, and in that role, Eleanor took a lot of photos and regularly posted to social media. We have some great new photos that we will continue to share throughout the year.

Speaking of new, we hosted the first Hiroshima-Vancouver Peace Concert and welcomed performers from Japan. The concert was well received, and the delegation of 16 were very pleased with the response and our support. There was some talk about making a return trip in a year or two, and if they do return, the GVJCCA would be happy to host again. Thank you to everyone who attended and supported the concert.

The Hiroshima Goodwill Cultural Mission is a group of citizens who organized this whirlwind trip, travelling to Montreal for a concert on Sunday, August 7, which had a simultaneous performance in Hiroshima to share the connection between the sister cities. The next day they hopped on a plane, arriving in Vancouver on August 8, and I had the opportunity to spend a bit of time with some members of the delegation. For some, it was their first time to Canada, and unfortunately they did not have much time to see the city, because the concert was the next day, August 9, and then they flew home on August 10.

The concert presented the amazing talents of nationally known Japanese dancers, singers, a koto player, and an Aikido master. By sharing their traditional culture and music, it brought us together, and even if we didn’t understand the language, we understood and appreciated the art and beauty underscoring the message of peace.

Thanks to David Iwaasa for his help including providing some interpretation at the concert, Takeo Yamashiro and the Hiroshima Kenjin-kai for their support, locally based Chibi Taiko for a rousing welcome at the start, speakers, City of Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan for his welcome, Consul General Asako Okai, and former Canadian Ambassador to Japan, Joseph Caron. Thanks to Vancouver Shinpo and The Bulletin / Geppo for the special promotion of the event. Thanks to the facilities staff of the Nikkei National Museum & Cultural Centre for their assistance. A very special thanks to the performers and the delegation leader, Yasumaro Yoshinaka, who also brought messages of peace from the Mayor of Hiroshima.  Thanks also to Katsukuni Tanaka, one of the delegation organizers, who was instrumental in making the connections to make this concert happen.

From the culture of Japan to the culture of Japanese Canadians, the GVJCCA is now helping organize our community on another initiative. In the last Bulletin we provided information from the provincial government announcement calling for nominations of Japanese Canadian historic places, but we didn’t have any other information. We do have one major concern which is the short timeline. The deadline to submit nominations is September 9. A group of Japanese Canadian organizations including the GVJCCA and Japanese Canadian individuals met on August 11 and we shared similar concerns. A letter was quickly drafted outlining our concerns, and sent to Heritage BC.

On August 18, we found out a bit more at an information session with Heritage BC, who has been contracted to do the work, and some government representatives. Individuals from our community, and people who met on August 11, reiterated concerns about the timeline. It was pointed out that because of the racist act of internment, our Japanese Canadian community was forcibly dispersed and many are no longer living in BC, and it will take time to get information to them.

On behalf of the National Association of Japanese Canadians (NAJC) and the GVJCCA, I also expressed concerns not only about the restrictive timeline, and potential for missing Japanese Canadian voices and important sites, but also about the care and attention given to the language used to describe Japanese Canadians.

In one of the promotional materials, “Japanese community” caught my eye and the eyes of some of our seniors. The omission of “Canadian” brings back bad memories. During World War II, the government labelled Japanese Canadians as enemy aliens, stripping their citizens of their Canadian identity, subjecting children, women, and men to forced removal, dispossession and incarceration. Canadians of Japanese ancestry were not allowed to move back to BC nor vote until four years after the war ended. Our Japanese Canadian ancestors were determined to rebuild and successfully fought for Redress. We must continue their work and not let others use language that removes our citizenship.

A Facebook group, JC Sites BC, has been set up to share information and provide a place where we can post nominations as we hear about them. This informal tracking will help the community to spot any missing important sites. Please also see the media release posted in the Facebook group, in The Bulletin, and on the GVJCCA website. At the time the media release was produced, we received word that the government will be extending the deadline to the fall, but we have not been given a date so it’s best to nominate as many places as possible and as quickly as possible. You can also help by getting the word out. Japanese Canadian history is BC history, and recognition of Japanese Canadian sites is one step towards ensuring the contributions of Japanese Canadians are not forgotten.