President’s Message August 2016

by Lorene Oikawa

Long summer days mean feasting on the local crops of fruit and vegetables. I’ve been enjoying blueberries and am hoping to get out to a local farm for some blackberries, sweet corn, and maybe some late strawberries. It’s also about this time of year when I start to experience intense cravings for fresh grilled, wild, salmon and musubi (grilled SPAM – fried pork with soy sauce and honey that tastes a little sweet and salty on top of rice, and wrapped with nori. Isn’t your mouth watering?). I hope you get a chance to try our comfort food at our annual GVJCCA wild salmon barbeque and food booth at Powell Street Festival on July 30 and 31. If you drop by to say hi at our food booth and our community booth, my apologies if you catch me with my mouth full. Mmmmm…

Thank you for supporting us at our wild salmon barbeque. It’s a major fundraiser for us, and we can’t thank you enough, and to all of our amazing volunteers and donors. Eat great food and support the work of the GVJCCA. It’s a wonderful way to spend a couple days of
your summer.

It’s the 40th anniversary of the Powell Street Festival and congratulations to the Powell Street Festival Society for their longevity and organizing an event that celebrates our Japanese Canadian culture and history in the area. It’s important to know and remember the history of our Japanese Canadian community. It’s about respecting previous generations, and understanding the true history of our country, and it’s also about the relevance to today’s society.

As one of my colleagues was leaving work for the day, she said she was almost afraid to watch the news tonight, wondering if there would be more events highlighting the hate and violence in the world. One thing that links so many of the events is the hate targeting people based on discrimination and racism. Also, the response to the events is very disturbing. Violence does not stop the violence.

Japanese Canadians continue to be shocked to see the constant targeting of Muslims, who are labelled terrorists just as Japanese Canadians were once labelled enemy aliens. I have had quite a few conversations about the work of the GVJCCA and the history of the incarceration of Japanese Canadians. What is missing in our society are the lessons of history.

The British Columbia Ministry of International Trade and the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations recently announced that they “are seeking nominations from the public for historic places in British Columbia that they believe are significant or important to the history and development of the Japanese community in B.C. From the sites nominated a selection of historic places will be officially recognized by the Government of British Columbia and placed on both the B.C. Register of Historic Places and the Canadian Register of Historic Places (www.historicplaces.ca).”

We encourage members of the Japanese Canadian community to make sure their voice is being heard and to nominate a place that is significant to our community. Japanese Canadians have been a part of British Columbia since the 1800s and our history is part of the history of this province and must be recognized.

The deadline for nominations is September 9, 2016, and you must complete the online form to nominate a place.

It’s a step forward and there is more work to be done.

Read more . . .

President’s Message July 2016

by Lorene Oikawa

The Asian Canadian community came out to the 20th Anniversary explorASIAN gala on June 11th to celebrate the success of this year’s Vancouver Asian Heritage Month events. The Vancouver Asian Heritage Month Society which is the organization behind explorASIAN hosted a wonderful evening to honour the Japanese Canadian community. Three of the leaders in our community received special acknowledgement: Grace Eiko Thomson, and Mary and Tosh Kitagawa. They are a part of the GVJCCA family and their names are well-known to The Bulletin – Geppo readers. Thanks to Grace who curated important exhibits such as Levelling the Playing Field: Legacy of Vancouver’s Asahi Baseball Team, and is a co-founder of the Vancouver Asian Heritage Month Society. Thanks to Mary and Tosh’s work, the Japanese Canadian UBC students who were forced to leave in 1942 finally got their degrees. These are only a few highlights of their many accomplishments.

The GVJCCA was also recognized with a Community Builder Award. I was honoured to receive the award on behalf of the Greater Vancouver Japanese Canadian Citizens’ Association.

I posed the question, who is the GVJCCA? I pointed to the board, our human rights committee, our young leaders committee, our volunteers, our members, our supporters, and the Japanese Canadian community including many Nikkei groups we work with. We are a big extended family.

I also responded by sharing our mandate, a non-profit organization that builds communities and advocates for social justice primarily for people in Canada of Japanese heritage and their families. We were founded in 1952 and in 1958 we started publishing The Bulletin – Geppo, a journal of Japanese Canadian community, history and culture. We represent Japanese Canadians in the Metro Vancouver region and we represent the “home and heart” of Japanese Canadians because of the strong historical ties to this area. We were here when Japanese Canadians returned home.

To know us you also need to know the history of Japanese Canadians. I provided some of the highlights of Japanese Canadians in British Columbia with a reminder that not all Japanese Canadians were fishers. For example, my mother’s side of the family came from Japan in the 1800s and worked in the mines in Cumberland. From the Oikawa journal I shared the story of the 1907 anti-Asian riots. I also shared the story of the forced removal of 22,000 Japanese Canadians and their incarceration, and the confiscation of their homes, businesses, farms, land, vehicles, fishing boats, and possessions. The injustice was compounded when Japanese Canadians were not allowed to return to the west coast until April 1, 1949, four years after the war ended, and also not allowed to vote in BC until that year.

Japanese Canadian history is BC history. The GVJCCA organizes forums, workshops, conferences, walking tours, and just launched a book, Honouring Our People: Breaking the Silence, to help people understand how historical injustice relates to today and the important lesson of not repeating the racist acts. We look forward to working with our community and the provincial government to gather and implement ideas about preserving and using our stories for education. We will also be taking the opportunity to engage with people during the 75th anniversary of internment in 2017.

Read more . . .

President’s Message June 2016

by Lorene Oikawa

I flip through the pages of the book and some quotes catch my eye.

“Mom worked tirelessly well into the wee hours of the night and we would all be fast asleep. In the winter she would ensure that there was enough wood in the heater to last till the morning.”

“Working below the highway by the lake I found a few matsutake. I went back the next day for another but it snowed during the night and I could not find anymore.”

“We weren’t told to dress warm. We weren’t told it was cold in the country.”

The quotes are from our new book, Honouring Our People: Breaking the Silence. The book shares the stories of Japanese Canadian survivors who along with their families were forcibly removed from the west coast and incarcerated in 1942.

We heard some of the stories during three days in September, 2009, when survivors, their families and friends came together for the Honouring Our People: Stories of the Internment conference in Burnaby, BC. The conference paid tribute to the Japanese Canadians who experienced racism, alienation, betrayal, restrictions, uprooting and loss during and after WWII. We also acknowledged the resilience and perseverance shown by Japanese Canadians who not only endured, but often prospered after the war. We created a safe space for a dialogue between generations, and descendants of survivors had the opportunity to learn more about their family’s history.

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President’s Message May 2016

by Lorene Oikawa

As we publish this edition of The Bulletin/Geppo, we are preparing for Asian Heritage Month, the annual celebration of Asian Canadian arts, culture, and heritage.

The April 16th opening event at the Djavad Mowafaghian World Art Centre, the SFU campus at the old Woodward’s building, provided a great sampling of dance, music, art, and poetry that we will get to experience during the month of May. The beating of taiko drums, and the plucking of the strings of the koto was a wonderful prelude to this year’s tribute to the Japanese Canadian community.

I shared with the audience that I am a yonsei, a fourth generation Canadian. The roots of my family in British Columbia go back to the 1800s when my family made an arduous two-month-long journey from Japan. My family’s journey to Canada is similar to many immigrants who seek a better life in this country. There are many stories that aren’t well known even to their families, of the men who arrived to work in the mines in places like Cumberland on Vancouver Island, and to work in the fishing industry.

By the 1900s there were about 5,000 Japanese Canadians, men and women, many in Steveston, and about four blocks west of the old Woodward’s building there was a growing and thriving community around Powell Street near what we know as Oppenheimer Park. In that park some baseball history was being made. A team called the Vancouver Asahi played smart and won against their larger opponents. My grandfather was a pitcher for the Asahi.Read more . . .

President’s Message April 2016

by Lorene Oikawa

Time flies and I don’t just mean the one hour we moved forward. A year has passed since I was elected to be president of the Greater Vancouver Japanese Canadian Citizens’ Association (GVJCCA), and I am honoured now, as I was then, to have your support and to be able to have the opportunity to work with an amazing group of people including the board, the committees, The Bulletin-Geppo editors, and all of our volunteers. I also appreciate the opportunity to work for all of you, our members.

As I start my second term, we are looking forward to completing a number of projects including the publication of a book, based on the internment stories from our Honouring Our People conference with survivors and their families, an updated human rights guide, and a new website for the GVJCCA.

At a visioning session held earlier this year, the board reviewed the work we do including on education; sharing Japanese Canadian history; producing The Bulletin-Geppo; providing social supports and advocacy; working on human rights and social justice; speaking out for Japanese Canadians and being a lead for other organizations; and being an ally to Aboriginal peoples. Our work which emanates from our purpose, goals, and vision informed our mission statement. “The GVJCCA is a non-profit organization that builds communities, and advocates for social justice primarily for people in Canada of Japanese heritage, and their families.”

Leading a non-profit society provides a unique opportunity to contribute to the community and work with the community. There is also the unique challenge of fundraising to keep our work going.

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President’s Message March 2016

by Lorene Oikawa

I pulled out my phone today and took another peek at the short video I shot at the 2nd Annual GVJCCA Japanese Canadian Community Bowl-a-thon on February 21st. Music blaring, smiling faces, and the thunder of pins being knocked down. The camera pans across the venue, and I see the bowling lanes full, with familiar and not so familiar faces, and teams of families, friends, and colleagues, who came out for a fun afternoon of bowling in Burnaby.

It was fun, and for a good cause. The Bowl-a-thon is a unique Japanese Canadian community fundraising event supporting the GVJCCA, Nikkei Place Foundation, Tonari Gumi, Powell Street Festival Society, Vancouver Japanese Language School & Japanese Hall, and the Vancouver Buddhist Temple.

From young to senior, all ages participated, and we saw about 110 bowlers work their “armswing” to avoid a gutter ball and to achieve a strike. Kat Hisanaga showed us how it’s done and had the top score of 212 for male bowlers. Bowl-a-thon committee member June Nishi showed good follow-through and scored 170, the highest for the female bowlers. Congratulations to the winners, and thanks to all the bowlers for your participation and your pledges. Special congratulations goes to Ken Yada who repeats his win from the first Bowl-a-thon by raising the highest amount of pledges.

This successful second Bowl-a-thon is the result of great team work which includes our fabulous sponsors, donors, and volunteers. Thank you! The Bowl-a-thon committee put in countless hours meeting at the JCCA office, emailing, making phone calls, and running around to ensure the event would run smoothly. Thank you April Shimizu, Perry Nishihata, June Nishi, May Hamanishi, Yuji Matson, Rutsu Shikano, and Ken Nishi. It’s been great working with this team, and we’re already making plans for next year’s Bowl-a-thon.

Please check out the list of all the contributors, and some photos from the Bowl-a-thon HERE.

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President’s Message February 2016

by Lorene Oikawa

Opening up the GVJCCA mail is always interesting to me. There is an assortment of newspapers, magazines, flyers, advertising, bills (okay, we could use less bills), and cheques from you, our members. I always get a bit excited to pull out the membership and donation slips. I see the names and wonder about the connections to our community. A special thank you to those signing up or renewing your membership, and also, for the donations! Your continued support allows us to continue our good work for our members, and for the Japanese Canadian and Japanese community, and includes producing The Bulletin magazine.

Our January was very busy with our work to organize Shinnekai, New Year’s Celebration, and Keirokai, celebrating our valued seniors and New Year’s. Thank you to GVJCCA Board Director Yuji Matson for his work on the Shinnekai Organizing Committee, along with the Nikkei National Museum and Cultural Centre, Nikkei Seniors Health Care and Housing Society. Thank you to GVJCCA Board Director April Shimizu for her work organizing Keirokai and thank you to Tonari Gumi for their assistance with the registration. Both events were enjoyed by the participants, and it was great to see so many attend from our Japanese Canadian community. We did thank the volunteers at the events, but I would like to give another big shout out to all the volunteers. Some of the volunteers have been helping us for years. We can’t put on the events without your help so thank you so much.

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