Passing on Japanese Canadian history

The older generation have been taught not to say anything. To be quiet. Just go on with your life. My mom’s favourite expression was “you shouldn’t be saying that.” I think that’s quite common with the older issei from Japan. Don’t rock the boat. She would always say: “It’s okay to say that at home, but when you go outside, don’t say things like that.” It’s okay to complain at home but not outside.

We got $21,000 a long time ago [from the redress settlement]. I wondered if it were left to the nisei, the older nisei, if they would have gone through with it. Fought for it. It was the third generation and younger nisei who fought for it. The older Japanese were happy to get the money. Some of them were saying, my mom included: “If only we have gotten this money 10 years earlier, we would have been able to buy a house much sooner.”

I’ve never thought about the importance of passing the experience of Japanese Canadians on to younger people. Actually nobody talks about it right now. People my age, don’t talk about it. When I went back to teach in Greenwood, the girls who were working in the sawmill office or the school never talked about it. I think it’s because they had the same experience I had. Their parents saying don’t worry about it.  My parents would say: shoganai. It’s past. I don’t think that was good because we missed a lot. We should know.

If someone remembers, it’s important for the Japanese Canadian story to be told to younger people. It’s part of their life, isn’t it? Because their grandparents or great grandparents went through it. And even though they are many years away, it’s history. It’s Japanese history. Part of Canadian history, too.

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