The family history can be traced back to about the 1500s. Yosh’s father, Kozo Arai, finished middle school and was supposed to go into the navy. His father’s family was a long-time naval family. He convinced his parents that he would be better able to serve in the navy if he could speak English. In about 1904, they sent him to the U.S. to learn with the expectation that he would return to Japan. He first landed in California to study English and studied for few semesters. On his semester breaks, he visited Seattle twice. On his second visit, he decided to visit Canada and came to Vancouver. He never went back to study in California. Kozo had a variety of different jobs in Canada. He travelled as far as Anyox, a mining camp close to Alaska. He shuttled supplies by boat from the ship to the camps.
My dad was pretty good in English. After he came to Canada in between times, he was working all kinds of work because he didn’t need the money. I heard later he would spend all the money he made. He didn’t have to send it to Japan. There were different classes in Japan, and [my father’s family were] one of the top ones. My mother’s was second class.
He spent his money on his education at first and then on cars. He bought a new car every couple of years.
He went back to Japan five times before he got married. It’s about a 3-week boat ride. He wasn’t going to get married.
He did eventually get married to Tomeko Yanagisawa in about 1920. She arrived in Vancouver in 1921 pregnant with Yosh.
My father opened up cleaning outfit [Lion Valet] right on Powell Street and Columbia. There was the Angus Hotel along Alexander Street. It was a big building. And we’re on 95 Powell Street. The longshoremen were living and working around there. Apparently, they treated me very well. [Gave me] suckers.
[We moved to East 10th from Powell Street in] about 1925 or ’26. I can’t remember too much because I was a little kid then. I grew up there. I remember, [my father] bought the building. We were there until we got kicked out of there.