After we met by chance on a mountain top and talked to Tomo Fujimura, a Japanese resident in Revelstoke and a mountain guide as well as an avalanche specialist, I got really interested in visiting the Nikkei Internment Memorial Center to find out more about the history of Japanese-Canadians. Fujimura-san told us passionately about the history of Japanese-Canadians and how important it is to communicate this part of the history to other Japanese.
The history of Japanese immigrants is something I have been interested in since I visited the Japanese Immigration Museum in Sao Paulo ten years ago. Since then I have read about this relatively unknown part of the modern Japanese history. It is a sad and crazy part and the story of Japanese Canadians was not different…
After the Pearl Harbor Attack 22,000 Japanese-Canadians living in Vancouver were labelled “enemy aliens” by the Canadian authorities, deprived of their possession such as houses, shops, cars and others, and sent to the internment centers. Families were separated and many men were sent to labor camps to work on roads and fields. They had to pack up their limited personal belongings in 24 hours and were forced to move to “relocation” camps in the Rockies, which was considered to be “remote wildness”. It saddens me when I think how desperate, angry and confused Japanese Canadians felt. They are second or 3rd generation of Japanese-Canadians and they have been living as Canadians for their life, some of them not even speaking proper Japanese anymore. Just because of their Japanese ancestors and their crazy war which they had nothing to do with, they were thrown out of their lives all of a sudden.
The Nikkei Memorial Center in New Denver maintains original buildings of the internment camp and keeps its history. I did not know anything about the history of Japanese-Canadians so the exhibition and the history was “disturbingly interesting” (as Philippe said).
The war, as any war, created only misery to individuals. It is simply maddening that the war game is still continuing and we humans seem not to learn anything from the past. In Japan we are heading into a scary ultra-conservative direction again…
The Nikkei Internment Memorial Center is located in a small town called New Denver. Apparently there are still 20 Japanese-Canadians living in this town, who are now in their 70s to 90s.
After the museum, we visited a zen garden at the lake-side, Kohanso 湖畔荘. It was almost sadly serene because it is so peaceful despite the history of this town. We sat there for a while, looking at the mirror-like lake and thought about our crazy world….