How many times did we say it this morning? M whispered ”I love you”. And I responded ”I love you”. Over and over…
Covid regulation is finally over; warm season has arrived; our hectic life in Powell River has calmed down for the moment. We are here in Lions Bay. It’s peaceful. We are taking care of our daughter’s pets while the family is visiting Japan. We went to visit M this morning at her nursing home in West Vancouver. We had not seen her for several months.
I stepped into her room, and was startled. It is certainly M who is lying down in bed. But, OMG she is half the size from before…. She has lost so much weight. “Oh” M saw me and called out and stretched her arms. I ran up to her and embraced her ‘skin and bones’ body.
The care taker person says M does not want to eat and does not drink anything. She is super dehydrated. Oh no, I thought….she must be trying to die by starving herself. She has been invalid and bed bound for many years now. It’s not unimaginable if she wished to die. However, of course, it’s not that easy to die…sadly. She has been lying in bed for years now, her hearing is almost completely gone; because of the stroke her ability to speak, read, and write is seriously compromised. She used to love watching politics on TV, but can’t any more. It’s not unreasonable if she wondered why she is still breathing.
I want M to live, have little happiness here and there….but at the same time, I don’t want her to suffer. I want her to be in peace. What a contradiction. You have suffered so much, M…you can join your beloved husband in heaven….you don’t have to suffer any more…. But, how can I say that?
Agonizing for words….I’m just repeating “I love you”, “I love you”, “I love you”
I came out her room saying…”I’ll come again, soon”, dragging my heavy heart.
I love you, M. I don’t know what else to say….but….seriously, I love you…. I love you so much.
I love you. I love you. I love you.
この言葉を何度繰り返したことか。マレナがI love youとつぶやくと私もI love youと返す。何度も何度も…。
Recently, we watched a program on the Knowledge Network about Japanese gardens in Canada. UBC Nitobe Garden in Vancouver, Japan Canada Yukoo Garden in Lethbridge, Alberta, and Kohan Reflection Garden in New Denver, B.C. were introduced. There were some explanations of who, how, and why these gardens were created. Histories, ideas, and some background behind these gardens were briefly mentioned.
I have to confess that although I have 32 long years of living in Canada, somehow, I never had the chance to learn or even be interested in the history of Japanese Canadians. Watching this program was an eye opening experience for me.
We had a long and beautiful summer this year. Neil and I were thinking of going somewhere on a driving trip with our two dogs before rain arrived. It would be perfect to go to New Denver to visit the garden and learn the history.
When I told our dear friend, Allen, about this idea, he said I must read Obasan by Joy Kogawa before the trip. It was indeed excellent advice!
So a sunny day in mid September, we departed our house in Powell River and started our week-long driving trip to the interior of BC.
New Denver was far. We stayed at a motel in a quiet little village called Fauquier after crossing Arrow Lake by a cable ferry.
We arrived in New Denver the next day. It is a picturesque old little town by Lake Slocan. Nikkei Internment Memorial Centre and Kohan Reflection Garden were on the other side of a river, separated from the town by a bridge.
We saw a big bear in the park near the Kohan Garden, devouring something from a garbage box.
In this quiet old town about 1,400 people live. There are some more small villages and ghost towns in this area surrounded by mountains and lakes. It was hard to believe that in the 1940’s 22,000 Japanese Canadians were squeezed in this small area.
They were all uprooted from their houses and businesses on the west coast of BC. They were first stuffed in the smelly animal sheds in Hasting Park in Vancouver for months, then brought to Slocan by train, then to New Denver area by boats. Amazingly, 75% of those people were Canadian born or naturalized Canadian citizens!! Men between ages 20s to 60s were sent to physical labor camps, forced to construct railroads or highways. Women, children, and older people were sent to these internment camps.
…..What?…. I have heard that many Chinese laborers were brought from China to work on the railroad constructions. I didn’t know Japanese Canadian men were forced to work in such construction sites as well……Many of them were fishermen or farmers. They were removed from their works, properties, and families, and shipped to work in those constructions….and they were all legal Canadians… how terrible….I didn’t know….
Their properties which they had worked so hard to earn …including tools, boats, cars, radios….were taken away, looted, and auctioned off. The government approved to sell their belongings, THEN charged them the handling fees for selling!
They could not return to their houses… ever. They were not even allowed to exist in the west coast of BC for several years even after the war.
People were allowed to take their necessities as much as they could carry by hand. They had to watch from the bus windows as their houses were looted as their buses drove away.
Apparently, discriminations towards Japanese Canadians started way before the Pearl Harbour. There were various systematic legal discriminations against them, e.g., taking away and banning their rights to obtain fishing license, not allowing them to engage in certain occupations like lawyer, medical doctor, teacher….etc. As they became successful in their fields, regulations were put on to prevent their success. The systematic discriminations were already escalating and broadening by the time Pearl Harbour happened. Pearl Harbour only provided a good reason for their removal.
They were Canadian citizens whose ancestors came from a country which happened to become an enemy…just like German Canadians or Italian Canadians. Imagine the lives of immigrants; they must work extra hard from zero in the new land, in an unknown environment, with an unfamiliar language, to build up their means of survival. And then everything they had built was taken away…just to make them suffer….just because they were Japanese descendants………..
Older people, children, and women were sent to interior BC like New Denver. They had to live through the first winter in thin canvas tents. Materials and tools to build the camp did not arrive for many months.
How did young mothers with babies live without privacy? How did sick people survive in such poor conditions?
There were voices amongst white Canadians, “Japs deserve to suffer, they should suffer to the maximum”
This is certainly not the Canada I know. How sad…
After the war was ended, Japanese Canadians were uprooted again. They were forced to make a choice of moving further east and work in places like sugar beet farms, or board ships taking them back to Japan.
For most of the Canadian born people, Japan was a foreign country. They didn’t speak the language or have anybody who could help them. Moreover, Japan was in total chaos. Many cities were bombed out heavily, people had lost their places to live, no food to eat….they themselves were struggling to survive.
Despite all that, many Japanese Canadians chose to board the ships out of deep despair. They felt there was no future, no hope for them in Canada.
After people left New Denver, the internment camp was bulldozed over to a bare field, as if nothing had happened… In 1989, the Japanese garden called Kohan (it means Lakeside) Reflection Garden was created. A young garden designer from Japan transformed this land of tears and sorrows to a beautiful garden. It is now a public space, open to everybody.
Beautiful town, beautiful park, with a sad history….
This was such a moving trip. I am still reading more books about the Japanese Canadian history. I would love to go back there again.
I remember the first day of school when Sosuke arrived from Japan to take Grade 2 in Canada.
He was so nervous. He barely endured the few hours of school. And he refused to go to school the next day. I generally don’t believe in “not going”, but Tomoka, his mom, let him stay home. He sat around doing nothing the whole morning. Tomoka phoned the school and talked to the teacher. The teachers and the class pupils discussed together what they could do to cheer up Sosuke and make him feel happier.
“Sosuke has just arrived from Japan. He can’t speak English. Just imagine, if you had to go to school in Japan and you don’t understand a word of Japanese, how would you feel?”
“What can each one of you do to make Sosuke feel happy and comfortable and included as one of your friends?”
That same afternoon, some children in the neighborhood came to the house. “Sosuke, let’s play!”
Sosuke’s face lightened up. He went over to the neighbor’s house and had a great time.
Apparently, it worked! It was just what he needed!
After that day, he never said he didn’t want to go to school. He played with neighbor kids after school. Sosuke was glowing.
His age, 7 years old, and his personality, gentle and authentic, contributed to making friends easily and fast. He learned to communicate without much language and still had fun.
He’s got countless stimulations from them. Scootering, bicycling, creating a basecamp, tree climbing, camping, swimming, releasing salmon babies in a creek, basketball…..I was so happy watching him challenging new things, growing more confident, and enjoying being a child.
He learned English so naturally, having fun with friends and his little cousin, Raiden. I have immense gratitude for everybody around him, including his friends, their parents, neighbours, and the wonderful teachers at the Lions Bay Elementary School. What a wonderful community.
So, what’s going to happen now? What would this one year mean to him in his life? Would he remember all these people who loved him? Would he remember English? Would he come back to Canada? I don’t know….but I know that, life is a series of meetings and farewells.
I think of Michael and Luke, his closest friends, who were crying, “why is Sosuke going back to Japan?”
Thank you for being such good friends.
Rutsu, Dustin, and Raiden, thank you for being so nice and supportive of Sosuke.
Surprising how time flew. A year zoomed by and my 12 year old granddaughter, Sumire, graduated from Grade 7.
A year ago, when she came from Japan and started her Grade 7 at the Gleneagles elementary school, in West Vancouver, it seemed rather impossible. She had such a big dream and so much hope, but imagine, with no English, coming from totally different culture at the age 12, it was incredibly challenging. She struggled. She felt lost, lonely, disappointed at herself. It was hard to watch that process knowing how she would be feeling, what thoughts would go through her head.
I had the same experience when I was 13. I know so well how hard it is.
I felt helpless and sad that I couldn’t really help her, no matter how much I wanted. She had to live through it herself and overcome. After all, I can’t live Sumire’s life.
‘However, my sincere congratulations to you, Sumire! You worked really hard. In only one year, you have made great friends with whom you had so much fun, in English! That is truly a great accomplishment, Sumire.’
‘I felt so proud watching you at your graduation.
After the ceremony we went to see your teacher to thank her personally. It was a deeply emotional moment for the teacher too, and tears moved to our eyes.’
‘Sumire, your hard work and your precious experience will definitely guide you through your future endeavors. You are one big step closer to your dream. Keep moving forward, and hold onto your dream.’
Sumire is returning to Japan at the end of July. She is now a different person, much stronger and more confident.
‘I’m sure there will be struggles and challenges waiting for you, remember what you have accomplished in the year. Work hard, keep smiling, and never give up.’
‘I will always support you, Sumi. Come to me when you need a big hug.’
I had been bogged down with various events, visits, errands, and couldn’t write my blog for a long time. One day in early July we finally came to our cottage on Texada Island to slow down, calm our minds, relax… I was hoping I could write something. Instead, this shocking news appeared on my phone screen….
Japan’s former prime minister, Shinzo Abe was assassinated.
Such a shocking news…. My heart sank heavily. My mind was flying all over. I couldn’t focus on anything. I couldn’t write.
I was always proud of my motherland, a super peaceful country and gentle polite people. And in such a beautiful ancient capital of Nara….? Who and why?
How could you hate anybody to the point of killing that person? Apparently there was no personal connection between the shooter and Mr. Abe… Then, why ….?
When your life is not going well do you blame it on others? Is it because of the damn society? Cunning and devious politicians? Your uncaring parents? Your family’s poor money situations? The evil religious organization that sucked your family’s money?
Why is it not your own responsibility? If you had the brain to make your homemade gun, couldn’t you use your intelligence, creativity and talents for something that could have helped to improve your life?
My thoughts and emotions are boiling up. My heart is so heavy. What a waste! The life of an influential politician and the life someone who was young and smart but headed the wrong way, had been wasted and can’t be reversed……how sad.
I read a column in the online Asahi News, and was utterly moved. My best attempt of translating its last paragraph…
“One era is gone. Nevertheless, people and cars come and go as if nothing happened. This humongous city Tokyo is still pulsing as if nothing had happened. I thought of a poem written a thousand years ago. ‘The flow of the river is incessant, yet its water is never the same.’”
There was a music festival called PRISMA (Pacific Region International Summer Music Association) in my little home town, Powell River, from June 13 to 26.
To tell you honestly, I had very little expectation for the quality of music. It is after all, such a small town. Nevertheless, I bought two passes for Neil and myself and looked forward to the concerts.
I was blown away. Oh, how wrong I was!
The morning of the first day, I saw young people carrying instruments and hanging a pass from their neck at many corners of our town. ‘Oh they must be the musicians participating the festival’ I thought. I remember attending music festivals when I was younger. ‘Did I look like that?…young…nervous…hopeful…’ I wondered, with a bit of nostalgia.
Concerts by guest professional musicians, concerto competition, master classes, symphony concerts, outdoor concerts…many variety of events were planned.
This festival was founded and conducted by a Dutch conductor named Arthur Arnold who now lives in Powell River and also conducting various orchestras around the world….so I heard. He is a down-to-earth, friendly, and super charismatic leader.
The two weeks went by so fast. We very much enjoyed the six concerts. The music performed by young energetic musicians was refreshing, powerful, and beautiful.
On the final day, at the final concert, the MC person thanked the musicians. “There are many music festivals in the world. Thank you so much for choosing this festival at this little Canadian town of Powell River. Thank you for coming all the way from 21 countries all over the world to this little town, two ferries away from Vancouver. Thank you for bringing your wonderful music and talent to the people in Powell River.” ….I was so moved. It brought tears to my eyes.
Many volunteers and many audiences, the whole town welcomed and supported this festival.
Listening to the beautiful violin of Scheherazade by Rimsky-Korsakov at the final concert, I couldn’t stop my tears.
Music is amazing. It’s so wonderful to share the love and joy of music.
6月13日から26日まで私の住む町パウエルリバーでPRISMAという音楽祭があった。(Pacific Region International Summer Music Association)
My two daughters and four grandchildren (ages 12, 7, 3, and 9 months) were here visiting us in Powell River for the spring break. They went back home a few days ago.
All day long, our house was filled with voices of children playing, fighting, crying, shouting, and sounds of toys running, wooden blocks falling, piano pounding….and more and more. The noise was incredible.
After the bye bye chorus, our house suddenly sunk into silence. It felt a bit odd, a bit lonely, a bit sad, a bit happy, a lot relieved…kind of mixed feeling. “Oi vay…” might be the most honest expression.
I, myself, visited my parents with my three young children for a minimum of a few days to a maximum of several weeks. My parents at the time were about my current age. I wonder ..….did my mother feel like how I am feeling now? They used to take us out often to this and that restaurants for dinner. When I think of it, was it an attempt to give my mother some break from caring for such a big family? It must have been really hard for her. She must have had, just like I’m having now, back pains, and dimming eye sights…there are certainly a lot of physical imperfections manifesting at this age.
I had not seen my daughters for six months. When they arrived at the door, I noticed right away that their energy levels were low. Big letters “S T R E S S” were written on their faces. They must be standing at the edge, carrying heavy burdens, I thought.
My older daughter has turned 40. It’s the age one’s body starts to go downhill. She is based in Japan, but is living in Canada for one year in order to let her children of 12 and 7 years old experience lives in Canada. All kinds of worries related to schools and language, having to live in inconvenient Lions Bay without being able to drive, having to keep peace with her little sister and the family….must be giving her so much stress.
My younger daughter is 35 and she also has a hard life. She is responsible for a big mortgage, raising two little children, and she has just returned to her work from maternity leave. Her three year old boy is very cute but a big handful. He is at a stage of loud “no!” for everything. Her nine month old girl is like an angel, but her curiosity has no end. She crawls everywhere, puts everything in her mouth. She is almost walking, too. I was amazed to hear that a full time daycare costs $1,900 per child per month!! That explains why I see many grandparents at parks taking care of little ones. If daycare costs that much, what can you do when young parents have/want to work? Something is terribly wrong. You cannot afford anything if you don’t work….don’t daycares exist in order to provide decent care to children so that parents can work? …children are the future of our society, aren’t they? People work, pay taxes, and that becomes the basis of governments and societies managing to function….right? Something is terribly wrong.
I am seriously worried about my daughters’ well being. They have big responsibilities for the wellness and happiness of their children. They have long years to go. I pray that they can stay healthy.
Please, my sons-in-law, take good care of your families. Think, what is the most important, most precious, in your life now, and make that your priority. Together with your wife, create a happy family. Rather than living for your own accomplishments, please take care of each other, and live for today❣️
Recently, I watched the movie that everybody is talking about, “Don’t Look Up” at our friend’s home here in Powell River.
A girl who is a PhD candidate discovered a comet which is rapidly approaching planet earth, and calculated that there is a high probability of colliding with earth in approximately 6 months time.
The story was utterly and depressingly realistic. In fact, I have heard that dinosaurs went extinct because of collision of a comet, which created the Ice Age by a huge volume of ash covering the earth blocking the Sun for a long time. How can you be sure it could never happen again? The PhD student and her professor reported this news to the world, and people’s reactions, when they heard this, were amazing. Most of them didn’t believe it. They didn’t take it seriously and laughed. Some business people used the story to make money. Some politicians used the story for their own political gains. Most people just did nothing….even when it became clear that this was truly going to happen. People are unbelievably short sighted and self centered….so depressing and sickening.
I have a tendency to take things on a personal level. My thinking somehow doesn’t easily engage in the direction of social justice or political reformation when I watch movies, dramas, or read novels. I’d rather take the story personally, and think in relation to myself and my life. This movie was not an exception. I started thinking seriously what I would do if I got to know that every being on the earth go extinct in 6 months. I will die, and everybody dies, and everything will be destroyed in 6 months.
Since I don’t have any social status anyway, I wouldn’t be caring what people would think of me. Since everybody dies in 6 months and there will be no life anyway, what would be the use of having money? If I die in 6 months, my health wouldn’t mean much, as long as I would keep myself reasonably healthy for 6 months….might as well eat everything I love as much as I want, do/get everything I want as much as I want….
Wait…. but there are 6 months. I’m not dying right now. Maybe I can spend my money on making my loved ones happy….? I would fly to Hawaii, Lions Bay, and Japan to hold my children, grandchildren, and my dad and my sister as tight as I can…? I would fly to Japan and invite all my family to stay just one last night in a heavenly beautiful hot spring inn…? I would write letters after letters like crazy, letting people know how much I appreciate them, how much I love them…? I would definitely treasure and mindfully live every moment I would be with Neil and our dogs.
As I’m writing this, I have noticed something so stunningly disturbing. I am just as self centered as everybody in the movie. I am thinking of my own beloved family and friends, treasuring my own beloved life and time…..what about all the people who are not directly connected to me and to my life?
It made me re-realize how wonderful my friend “A” is, tirelessly working and actually doing things to improve lives of people who are living in poverty, and “H” who is actually doing so much to bring awareness to people and lobbying to protect vulnerable lives of animals.
つい最近、ここパウエルリバーの友人宅で、今話題になっているドント・ルック・アップ Don’t Look Up という映画を観た。
I had a dream. Some bitterness lingered after waking up for quite a while into the morning. What does this dream mean? Is it giving me some kind of message? I wasn’t sure if I should write about it. Neil encouraged me to write….so I’m trying.
I don’t remember many details of the dream, but I’m trying to recover as much as I can. It was something like this….
“ A room somewhere. A cloth couch in the room. I can see a thread of smoke. Why smoke? Where is it coming from? Looks like it’s coming from the couch. Why? What is burning? Oh…the smoke has now disappeared. I have to tell Neil about this when he comes home. He might have idea what was burning. There might be a cinder somewhere on the couch…
A telephone call…. What? Neil passed away? So suddenly? So Unexpectedly?
……But I haven’t yet told him about the smoke from the couch. I was going to, but I haven’t, and I can’t any more. It’s too late…”
What a weird dream. I opened my eyes. Neil was next to me, sleeping and snoring. What a relief.
A thought came to my mind. Yes, all that mundane everyday stuff, boring stuff, some unimportant thoughts, complaints of this and that….it’s kind of important to be able to talk about these things without worrying, without thinking through. It’s kind of precious because talking about these things helps me to be me, authentic me. If the person I talk to suddenly disappears…a chill ran through my spine. I never thought of it before….. I am lucky to have Neil, indeed, someone I can talk to and someone who would listen…
But, everyone will have a farewell sometime. There are many people who live alone. We will, for sure, have a day we have to say good bye. We must prepare for that day, enjoy each other’s presence to the fullest today, now, and forever in this moment. For, tomorrow might already be too late.
My thoughts on the second morning of 2022. What a dream….!
I am looking out the window from our house in Powell River. It is a pure white snowland…
Although our plan was to be in Lions Bay and spend the time with our grandchildren, we decided to cancel the trip, because of the Omicron variant of Covid and the exceptionally freezing weather predicted. It was too bad, I needed to go to special stores in Vancouver and purchase some ingredients for the New Years feast. We were looking forward to go dining at our favorite restaurants in Vancouver area.
However, the white snow land in Powell River is so beautiful. We are enjoying the house we love, and having a quiet, intimate, and cozy time with my beloved husband and our adorable dogs. They are just such precious moments and I am so grateful.
I was planning to go swimming this morning, but it was snowing with the temperature of minus 14℃. I happily decided to chill out at home.
So nice to have a day like this.
I was looking forward to start a new life in Powell River, partly because I wanted to run away from my fully booked calendar in Vancouver. However, this November and December turned out just the same or worse… it was more than full.
I sang in four choir concerts, I am now a music volunteer person (organ, piano, and choir) at the Anglican Church here, I am exercising 3 days a week, fitness and swimming, I am walking 4+ kilometers a day with Neil and the dogs, and I am poking my head so hard twice a week studying French…… you know…. they are all my own choices….all my fault…..I know. Where is the simple life that I aspired and dreamed of? ….. somehow dissipated into somewhere far far away.
However, there were some positives in my life the last two months. I am not an extroverted person at all, but I was able to make some new friends. Friends who love music, who come to the church, who say hello at the swimming pool, who sweat at the rec center together….. It’s exciting to imagine and look forward to the possible friendship cultivating with the new friends.
And, I have to tell you about the heavenly moments that I cherish. I open the rec center door after exercising, and breathe into my lung to the fullest, the freshest and cleanest air emanated from the tall beautiful trees in the woods surrounding me. A truly heavenly moment….
Many many thanks to all of you for 2021, and have a happy and healthy new year.