Our Trip to New Denver, BC ブリティッシュコロンビア州ニューデンバーへの旅

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.









え? 中国人の労働者が鉄道工事のために中国から連れてこられたという話は聞いていたけど、日系人も強制労働させられたんだ……全然知らなかった…















1 Comment

We moved! 引っ越しました。

Beautiful Morning Glory flower! 引越しのストレスにも負けず朝顔が咲いたよ❗️
Our new house in Powell River パウエルリバーの新居
Thanks for blooming despite stressful summer….my mother’s cactus from Japan 母のサボテンが今年も綺麗に咲いてくれました。
Ferry boat to Texada Island タクセーダ島へのフェリー
Sunset from our deck 我が家のデッキからの夕焼け
Sea walk in Powell River パウエルリバーの海岸

Never again!

What a stressful summer! Our house is not fully organized yet, but at least I have recovered enough to feel like sitting down to write this blog.

Our July began with never-ending packing. Unbelievable how much junk we had! Then, 2 big fully-loaded 7ton trucks arrived at our new house in Powell River on the 7th. It was the beginning of our endless wrestling with the boxes. We needed to return to our house in Lions Bay where we lived the past 10 years, in order to move in-house. We switched our living spaces with Rutsu. Rutsu’s family moved into the space we used to live (upper 2 floors) and our stuff which didn’t go to Powell River was moved to the ground floor where Rutsu used to live. After the move, we returned swiftly to Powell River, continued our wrestling with the boxes, in the ocean of dripping sweat.

It was a record high temperature this summer. During the heat dome it exceeded 35C-40C in Vancouver which is usually around 25C. A town called Lytton which is 3-4 hours drive in-land from Vancouver experienced incredible 49.5C, and was destroyed by the fire the next day…. Unbelievable worst nightmare….!!

Though nothing like that, I had an exhausting summer, too. Now I can see some light at the end of the tunnel, I’m looking forward to writing my blogs, not long ones but more frequently, hopefully.

Powell River is about 4 hour drive, not including the waiting time for the ferry boats, a coastal town north of Vancouver, with population of about 14,000, a laidback peaceful countryside. Good thing is….I can even walk to the ferry terminal for Texada Island where we have our cottage.

So……to be continued.

The next blog would be…..perhaps, “why we decided to move.”








1 Comment

Happy New Year! あけましておめでとうございます!

Happy New Year!

Every year I write and snail mail my Christmas letter in Japanese and English to our long time friends and families around the world. I started doing it when we moved from Japan to Canada in 1990. So, it is a 30 year tradition now. At first, I was writing to my aunts and uncles how we were doing in Canada, and showing how much my babies have grown. Then, as my children grew up….to grown-ups….to have started their own family…..to making me a grandma…..now with 5 little ones in total and one more on the way….my personal letter became more and more like a newsletter of the family centered around me. Nowadays, what happens every year is that my children send their annual family snap shots to me, and I just organize and lay them out in the letter. Naturally, most of the photos end up to be looking joyous and fun.

However, just because the photos are looking joyous, it doesn’t mean my life is filled with fun. Happy photos seem to give happy impressions. I received feedback from some friends saying something like “your life is always full of happy, interesting, extraordinary, and fantastic things. You must never get bored…”or “you are always surrounded by a large family, your life is full of love and happiness…” or “I am so envious….” or “my life and your life are completely opposite like night and day”…… hummmmm……..I moan. I say to myself “that’s not right….” and wonder if including photos is even a good thing to do…..

Of course, I am grateful of my life. I do have a happy life. I have a warm-hearted loving husband and we get along. We are not rich, but not poor. If we don’t indulge ourselves with luxuries we can have a comfortable life. The small children 30 years ago have grown to have their own careers and families, and thankfully they are all reasonably happy. But, ….my moaning continues…. Just like everybody’s life, my life is not perfect. There are days I feel so depressed and find myself hiding in a room not wanting to interact with anybody. I don’t want my letters to be like some postings on Facebook showing off one’s success or meals and loudly proclaiming how wonderful their lives are. It’s a serious problem for me if my letter makes somebody feel that way…..

The first day of the brand new year started with my disappointing “senior moment.” When I was making the traditional rice cakes, I forgot to add water to rice, and of course, the rice burned….. OMG….would this stupidity symbolize my new year? I pray it would not.

My Zen meditation teacher at his Dharma Talk this morning started his talk with the words “Your life is perfect.”

What? When I was just thinking my life was not perfect…..?

“All you have is now.” He said.

Of course, our lives might be a consequence of our choices, or a consequence of some external pressures. However, as he says, we can only deal with “now”. This moment is the only moment we can make difference.

Then, he said. “Let’s lift up this moment to the highest, to be the best moment you can ever have.”

Yes! I thought. That’s what I needed to hear! I should not worry about what happens in the future…..how series of moment to moment could end up bringing somebody some unpleasantness…it’s probably something I need not worry about….

My thoughts of the New Year of 2021.












Organ オルガン

If you want to be proficient in one thing, you must keep at it for at least ten years.  Have you heard that?  I have been studying organ for almost ten years and I am still far away from that level. I am still struggling.

I did play in a concert in May the Chorale No. 3 by Franck.  This Chorale was the last piece Franck wrote.  He was himself an organist and composed many organ pieces.  This is a beautiful piece, indeed, a very cool piece.  Rehearsing on the pipe organ in the large sanctuary of St. Mary’s Kerrisdale with a full organ sound was thrilling.  I loved my solitude.  Giving a concert to myself was overwhelmingly pleasing.  However, a month before the concert I needed to drop everything and fly to my father in Japan.  He was having a kidney operation. When I came back, there was only a week left to the concert. I drove one hour every morning to the Kerrisdale church to practice and by the concert day I got to be pretty confident about my performance.

I don’t really know what happened.  Was I over-excited?  I thought my head was pretty calm….but obviously not.  The beginning of the piece which was like a storm, became uncontrollable.  I started out playing in a killingly fast tempo, and I fell.  Then, slow quiet chorale tune comes.  I breathe.  Thinking in my head, when the next storm comes, I should stay calm and play slower.  The moment later, I began in a killingly fast tempo again.   My head went spinning… uncontrollable. I fell.

I was angry.  I was disappointed at myself.  I was sad that I could not convey the beauty of this wonderful piece.  How I wished I could play it all over again…..

I found myself waking up at 2AM that night, and performing in my head the same piece all over again.  This is just not right…. I cannot stand this any more.  I should stop performing organ.  I don’t dare want to feel this way ever again. Turning right and left, lying on my back, moaning and sighing, I stayed in bed awaken.

Next morning, as I opened my eyes after a bit of dozing, I thought I heard a voice.

“Don’t forget, remember, that what matters is the process, not the result…..”

As my head starting to clear up a little, I thought, yes, that is true.  I really did have a great experience every day of the week rehearsing.  I have not had that level of thrill and passion for a long time.  Sure, if I were much younger, I would have advanced hugely every time I played in a concert.  Now it’s a different story.  However small it was, I had a step forward.   I should be content.

OMG, again, my focus was all on myself, and I had forgotten to feel how blessed I was…..


オルガンを始めてもうかれこれ10年になる。何事も10年は続けなければものにならないというけど、私の場合はまだまだ未だに苦闘を続けている。でも5月末にコンサートでフランクのコラールの3番を弾いた。 オルガニストであり、多くのオルガン曲を作曲したフランクの最後の作品で美しくて何よりとてもカッコイイ曲だ。特に大きな教会で大きなパイプオルガンで大きな音でたった一人で弾きまくったとき、なんとも言えないゾクゾクするようなスリルと満足感がある。何ヶ月も前から練習は続けていたもののコンサートの一ヶ月前から日本に行かなければならなくなって中断。日本から帰国して慌てて、一週間、毎日片道1時間かけてケリスデールの教会に通って練習した。かなり自信があった。絶対うまくいくと思っていた。





Leave a comment

Miracle 奇跡

Yesterday was an amazing day.  In the afternoon, I went to do healing touch for Ms. J who was having a surgery in few days.  When I arrived, there was a woman friend of Ms. J who somehow looked very familiar.  She said “Long time no see, Haruyo” and spoke to me like an old friend.  Although I was responding in the same manner, I kept on thinking…. where did I meet her? She looks so familiar. I must know her from somewhere… Gradually, my memory started to come back.  She could be the wife of my former boss…, but she looks completely different from before.  She used to be a very sharp assertive looking person, but now such a gentle and soft looking woman….

My former boss R was diagnosed as having ALS 12 years ago, and he retired at his early 50s.  For a while we kept in touch meeting for coffee or lunch.  We gradually lost in touch after I had my career change.  I never saw him the last ten years.  The only thread was that I kept on sending my Christmas letter to him once a year.  I thought of him often and hoped he was alright.  ALS is a disease that the muscle starts to deteriorate little by little and soon or later lose capability of breathing and die.  It’s been so long since he had the diagnosis… he must be bound to bed by now…   I just didn’t have the courage to phone him.

Few weeks ago, I was talking about him to my friend A who is a minister.  He said, “Without exception people who have ALS are feeling so lonely as their disease progresses. They suffer the feeling of abandonment as people around them stop talking to them. You should call him.”  “But…what would I say to him? I can’t say ‘how are you?’ It would sound so phony.  It’s like asking how much his disease has progressed.  I don’t want him to think that I am curious about his disease, or I am waiting for him to get worse or die….” I mumbled.  “Ah, Haruyo, you are worrying about your appearance,” A said.  “If you could get over that, and if you could worry about R first, then you must call him right away.”

His words stabbed my heart.  He was right.  I was worried about how people would think of me….by calling him and asking how he was. I was putting my appearance over his suffering. How fool was I…   Yet, I could not actually phone him, and everyday I was promising myself to phone him the next day.

And now, R’s wife is here with me, doing healing touch with me for this lady who is having a surgery this week.  She said to me, “R is in the library reading.  He is waiting for me.  Why don’t you go and surprise him?”

So I did.  I saw him after 10 years.  I was so happy to see him looking so well.  I had no problem saying, “You look so well.  What happened to your ALS?”  R said, “ it’s been 12 years since the diagnosis.  The disease seems to have just stopped.  I’m having a normal life.  The doctor thinks it’s a miracle.”  Yes, what a miracle…..!!

What a blessing… and, thank you A!!!








1 Comment

Mother and Daughter 母と娘

One of the magazines my friend gave me the other day had articles on relationships between mother and daughter.  According to the article, there are four types of mothers that are damaging to the relationship with their daughters.  They are “controlling tyrant mothers”, “nagging jealous mothers”, “bulldozing mothers” and “crying poor me mothers”.  Thank God my mother was not one of them.  However….. how was I as a mother for my daughters? I don’t think I was that controlling, or nagging, or bulldozing, or self pitying…..but really? I might have been like that in some instances.  Just recently, I had conversation with one of my daughters and was surprised.  She remembered things that I don’t remember at all….things like what I said or what I did…  She remembered things or incidents in totally different ways. Things I said many years ago to her when she was a child had been interpreted wrongly, differently from my intentions.  So, I thought…. my children might have never understood what I meant, and I had never known that all these years…..sigh… Raising children is super difficult.  No mother is perfect.  Mothers often have no experience in whatever issues they are facing. Often, I had no clue what to do or what to say.  I had to follow my intuitions, think hard, do or say my best, and hope for the best.  Not surprising if I did say something wrong or hurtful.

A little before my mom suddenly died about three years ago, my dad, sister, and I went to a restaurant to have dinner.  My sister started talking about her “pre-school” memories and told them how awful her pre-school experience was and how sad she felt when our mom was hard on her. “OMG, why now?” I thought, “what difference does it make to bring up those things after so many years?”  My mother looked sad and said to her, “I am sorry.”   When my sister left for washroom, my mom said with a big sigh, “she doesn’t understand how much I had been worrying about her those days.  I really struggled and was worried……”  It must have been so difficult, both mom and my sister.  I really felt sorry.  A child can interpret a situation in some childish manner, misunderstand the mother’s intentions, feel some terrible injustice has been imposed on her/him, drag the injuries all his/her life, and live his/her entire life thinking s/he is a victim. It could happen…..easily…




What is “remembrance”? リメンバランスの意味

November 9 was a remembrance service at the church I work.  It’s a service to remember Canadian soldiers who died in wars.  It is held on the Sunday closest to the Remembrance Day, November 11.

I was busy preparing for this day, organ prelude, choir’s introit, anthem, postlude, and a soprano solo music.  I played a chorale by J. S. Bach and a beautiful composition called “Live in Peace” by a Vancouver composer, Paul Ohannesian.  The choir sang an Introit, a stunning piece called Kontakion by also a Vancouver composer Rupert Lang. The Anthem was Requiem by Eliza Gilkyson, a relatively new composition, simple but powerful music.  Soprano Solo was from Faure’s Requiem “In Paradisum”, and I got the choir to sing  “He Watching Over Israel” from Elijah by Mendelssohn for the Postlude.  It was a very moving service.  Music is powerful, really.  It was a moment I really felt happy to be a music director.

There was a bit of disagreement around the subject of national anthem.  The minister and I both thought we should not sing the Canadian anthem at the service. However, there were several people who strongly protested, and so we did sing.  The remembrance service for me is remembering all the people who died in the war, not just Canadian soldiers.  Not just soldiers, but also innocent civilians who had to die in the stupid fights between peoples and nations.  Not just people who died but their surviving families who were and are devastated by the loss.

I was born only ten years after the World War II. I grew up hearing dreadful, sad, cruel stories from my parents and grandparents. I just cannot agree to glorify any wars.  I don’t feel comfortable in participating anything that seems to be glorifying wars. Why do we have to repeat the tragedy and cruelty over and over? The Remembrance Day should be the day to pray for all who died in the war regardless of which side.  It should be the day to pray for peace in the world, the day to remind us that we will never repeat ever again. I feel it’s a bit odd to sing National Anthem in the church remembrance service.  We are human beings that God created in his image, but so are the people we have fought against.  Before being a citizen of whichever nation, aren’t we a human being?  God has created us with conscience and values.  Do you kill another human being because you are ordered to do so by your nation?  Is it right?  Can you feel proud of that? Is it something you commemorate and glorify every year?  …in church…before God? I don’t know what to think.  It bothers me every year.

11月9日の日曜日は私の働く教会でリメンバランス礼拝があった。日本語でいうと追悼礼拝かな。。。。? つまりは戦死された兵隊さん達を追悼する礼拝で毎年11月11日のリメンバランスデーに一番近い日曜日に行われる。 この日のために私はオルガン前奏曲、聖歌隊のイントロイト、アンセム、ポストリュード、そして声楽ソロの曲と準備に大忙し。オルガンはバッハのコラールに私の友人Paul Ohannesianが作曲したLive in Peaceという美しい曲を弾き、聖歌隊のイントロイトはこれもバンクーバー在住の作曲家Rupert LangのKonntakionというすばらしい曲、アンセムはこれまた作曲されたばかりのEliza Gilkysonのレクイエム、シンプルだけど心に染み透るような美しい曲、ソプラノソロはフォーレのレクリエムからIn Paradisum、そしてポストリュードはメンデルスゾーンのElijahからHe Watching Over Israel 自分で言うのもなんだけど、感動的な礼拝だったと思う。音楽の力ってすごい。この仕事をやっててよかったと思えるひとときだった。


私は日本でまだ戦争の記憶の新しい戦後10年目に生まれ、両親や祖父母から想像を絶するような悲しい話を聞かされながら育った。だからどうしても戦争を賛美するような式や歌、音楽には抵抗を感じる。人間ってどうしてこんな残酷で悲しいことを繰り返すのだろう。戦争を賛美したり国のために戦死した兵隊さんを賛美するのではなく、敵味方関係なく、亡くなられた全ての人達と平和への祈りを礼拝する日であってほしいと願うんだけど。。。 国歌を歌うのはなんとなく違う気がする。。。神の前では自分は XX 人である前に人間であるわけで、人間には神様から授けられた良心や価値観がある。。。国の命令で人を殺せと言われたら殺すのか。。。それでいいのか。。。そうしてそれを毎年、賛美するのか。。しかも教会で。。毎年考え込む難しい問題。

Leave a comment

What I felt in Japan 日本で感じたこと

One thing I was disappointed in Japan was that I didn’t feel the vegetables and fruits I had tasted as good as before.  I used to be always looking forward to “eating” in Japan.  Vegetables and fruits were always so pleasing.  They were full of flavour, everything tasted stronger than what I eat in Canada.  Now, things have changed.  They all look beautiful, perfect shape, and big, but with less flavour and less taste. Am I the only one who feels that way?  Where are the tomatoes, peaches, and pears that I loved when I lived there 24 years ago?  When I came back to Vancouver, I really appreciated the fresh vegetables I picked from my backyard and the local organic vegetables and fruits I bought.  They didn’t look as pretty and perfect but tasted way better, I thought.  And, less expensive.  I don’t have to worry about my wallet as I enjoy.

However, there is one thing I am always impressed when I go to Japan.  That is the kindness of people.  People are so nice, sincerely kind, even in such a huge city like Tokyo, even to complete strangers.  This attitude is something fundamentally different from Canada.  Although there are occasionally few people in Japan who seem to be just reading a manual book, most people try very hard to do their best to help strangers.  And that tendency is  stronger as you go to countryside.  I just love this.

Tokyo is too big a city for me, but it might be nice to live in countryside of Japan, in some small town where there is abundant nature.




Leave a comment

Beginning 始まり始まり

Today is the beginning of the Fall semester.  Neil’s class will start at 8:30 this morning.  Yesterday he was writing an email message to everyone in the class.  He is a well-experienced professor, but even so, he apparently feels a bit nervous on the first day.  He was crafting his message carefully using positive words and expressions… and read it to me.  It was a very nice message.

Oh yeah… today, his new students will have the same experience as what I had on January 8, 1997.  It was my first day of his class.  I opened the classroom door with a mixed feeling of fear and hope.  I stepped in the room and stopped breathing for a second.  There was an extraordinarily tall person in the middle of the room.  “OMG, is he the professor?”  The class was very interesting, but very demanding.  I could not catch up in the discussion if I hadn’t done the work beforehand. However, if I had done the work, the class was amazingly interesting.  Time went by so quickly.

Yes, I can see…. this morning, his students will come to the classroom for the first time, and be surprised, then, will enjoy his unique jokes for four hours.  Hey, students, do you know that you are so lucky to be in his class?  Don’t forget to study the case before the class for the next three months!





Happy うれしい。

Neil and I went to the artist couple’s home today. I was so impressed….so many beautiful paintings. They showed us their studios and I became a big fan of both of them. The artwork of Bob Araki is very unique and striking. It hits your eyes and burns into your heart intensely, and would not go away…. that kind of artwork. And Masako Araki’s art is very natural, beautiful colours and contrasts of light and shadow. I can easily imagine it hanging in a room and brightening up the space….

Thank you for your comments and advise. Marlena and Sue, I followed your advise. I happily received the gift. I will treasure it for all my life. You are so right. There is more precious value in art that could not be measured by money. I thought I should become more generous about my music. Although my music might not be worthy to be called art… I will keep practicing and studying.

Neil loved the painting!!! I’m so happy today.

Some links to their artwork.
Bob’s art: http://artists.ca/show/seven/7/saskatchewans_cabin/0
Masako’s art: http://artists.ca/show/works_on_paper_2013/5/fallen_leaves/0