Photo: George Chohei Endo and Tomie Endo with their first daughter, Doreen Fumiko Endo, my paternal grandmother, circa 1931, Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan
I will start with my grandmother. She was a nisei – her parents moved to Canada from a small town near Sendai in Miyagi-ken, and they settled in Saskatchewan. My grandmother was the first one in the family to leave Moose Jaw, leaving for Regina to pursue art school. She ended up meeting my grandfather there (his roots were English-Irish), and the pair of them embarked on a European adventure for the next several years. My dad and his sister were later born in London, before the family moved back to Canada to live in Montreal and Toronto. It was when my grandparents and their young children moved to Vancouver that my grandmother had the chance to connect with the Japanese Canadian community, meet other nisei, and rediscover her roots.
Living east of the Rockies in Moose Jaw, my family was fortunate to have avoided internment during the war. Even so, my grandmother described experiencing racism: having difficulty finding employment, for instance. When Japan entered the war, her father lost his job. Despite not being interned, I wonder how the wartime trauma and discrimination affected my great-grandparents, and my grandmother as she moved throughout Canada and Europe.
Of course, this history describes only one side of my family. My Jewish side has roots in Hungary, Russia, and Poland. That history is a story of incarceration for another blog post.
For a more in-depth description of my Japanese Canadian family history, check out this interview between my dad and his mother.