Life after the war

[One day] when I went home from school to get my snack, I heard my father saying to my mom: “Nihon senso ni maketa.” Japan lost the war. But at that time it didn’t ding on me what it meant.

Later, my mom signed to go back to Japan. And my dad said, “No.”  He wasn’t going to go back. He said to his parents when he left Japan: “I’ll see you up there.” Pointing to the sky.  “I’m not coming back.” Then he said: “Why go back in Japan? There nothing there now. They’ve lost the war.” He didn’t have a house to go back to because he’s not the oldest. So, my dad said: “No. We’ll starve. Koko de bimbo shitemo, taberu mono aru.” [We may be poor here, but there’s always food to eat here.]

My mother said: “Kyodai aru kara shimpai sen demo ee.” [We have siblings so we don’t need to worry.] But my dad said: “They’re having a tough time too after the war. They are starting over again so we can’t go to their house. We’ll be a burden to them.” But my mom kept saying: “I have brothers there. Kyodai tasukeru.” My dad said: “No, we can’t depend on them. Uchi irete kuren. They won’t let us in the house.” He said that many times. They’re not gonna let us in because they have enough trouble.

My father was willing to go back east because he wasn’t going back to Japan. But then my aunt wrote that unless a family had older children who could work, it’s really hard living in Toronto. So, my dad was up a creek I guess. He didn’t know what to do. So he just stayed working in Greenwood.

In 1949, he was able to come to Vancouver to fish. He used to come every March to get ready for fishing and then he would go up to Skeena River to fish and work his way down to Fraser River. He did that for about 10 years. He would fish for half a year and spend the other half year in Greenwood.

He didn’t work after fishing season. Life was simple. We ate, played, went to school.  When we returned to Vancouver, my father continued to fish. We bought a house on East 34th Avenue, and that’s why my younger siblings went to Gladstone. My dad continued to fish until he died in 1972 at age 72. He went out fishing and came back sick. He died soon after he returned. He died of lung cancer. He was a smoker. He said: “When you’re fishing you’re by yourself, you’re waiting, waiting, waiting.” I guess that’s a poor excuse because many fishermen didn’t smoke.

Because my mom planned on going to go back to Japan, I was sent to Japanese school in Greenwood. She didn’t want me to be behind. The Japanese school in Greenwood was private. Mrs. Nakano, the teacher, was from Japan. She married someone who immigrated to Vancouver. And she had a class so I went there.

My mother stayed in Canada. She would have had to go to Japan with just the kids because my father was not going to go. She was happy that she didn’t move to Japan. [Later] when she visited Japan with Margaret and Christine, she said: “I don’t know how people can live in Japan.” Before she left for her trip she said to Margaret and Christine: “When we go back to Japan, I’ll show you the wide street we had.” When she went back, she went to this wide street. She said it was just wide enough to walk single file. My mom said: “I’ll take you places,” when they were getting ready to visit Japan. When she went back, it was so different that she couldn’t. Margaret was the one who took them everywhere.

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