Family History

Every time I think about my family history, I come to realise just how much I’m missing. What I do know comes largely from questions put to my grandmother when I was an adult, and so much of my grandfather’s life remains a mystery.

My grandmother was born in Vancouver, where her parents owned a jewelry store on Main and Hastings St. She was incarcerated at Roseberry, and walked over 6km to New Denver to teach kindergarten. After release, her family moved to Montreal, where she eventually married my grandfather. They settled in Kamloops and helped found the Kamloops Japanese Canadian Association.

Hannah Kawai walked over 6km to teach her kindergarten class. (Back row, right)

My grandfather was also born in Canada, but his family returned to Japan when he was young. In his teens, he accompanied his uncle to Vancouver where they worked as fishermen until the incarceration. His road building camp was based out of Lemon Creek. Near the end of his life, I recall him mentioning that after the war he “evaded” authorities and remained in BC for a time, but neither my dad nor his sister can confirm that.

The illicit photos that my grandparents managed to take in the camps are some of our most important family possessions.

Harry Tabata worked on a road camp based out of Lemon Creek.


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