My ancestral lineage is rooted for centuries in the lands of Shizuoka and Hiroshima. I’ve visited both of those lands and felt those deep roots in Japan. I felt and can still feel that those roots are ancient, strong and steeped in family, cultural, and religious traditions.
Whereas my families’ attempts to root in Canada were rocky. It is more a story of wanting to root and being uprooted by circumstances beyond their control until they rooted in a place that was not necessarily their choice.
My Grandfathers, Ishigoro Hayakawa, and Hideso Shiraishi, as young men desiring to fulfil their dreams of a better life for themselves as well as to provide a better life for their families in Japan arrived in Vancouver in 1907. Although anti Asian racism had existed since Asians started coming to Canada, Grandfather Hideso’s ship, the Kumeric that arrived on July 24th was one of the catalysts that sparked the anti Asian race riots in September of 1907. I’ve read a range of between 5,000-10,000 people marched and participated
Both my Grandfathers became fishermen. And both eventually returned to Japan to marry. On my father’s side I haven’t yet been able to find yet, what year Grandfather Ishigoro returned to Japan to marry. On my mother’s side of the family, my Grandfather’s brother who had emigrated to the US in 1900, married my Grandmother’s sister in 1916, and my Grandfather Hideso married my Grandmother Kiwano in 1918. Each couple returned to their respective nations.
During the second World War, my father’s side of the family were incarcerated in Sandon. My eldest uncle, Yoshio on my Mother’s side, was the first man to die in a forced labour camp, the week after arriving there. He of course should never have been there in the first place.After waiting for his body to arrive at the train station, my Grandparents held the service at the Buddhist temple and took his ashes with them when they were incarcerated in Slocan. What a sad time.
My American family must have been horrified when the nation they were loyal to dropped the bomb on their family in Hiroshima. My Grandfather’s youngest brother, Minikichi was at work within 500 meters of the hypocentre of the bomb and survived. And his child who was at home playing in the yard, knocked over by the impact of the bomb and his wife survived.
The shock and trauma of my family in Japan, the US and Canada And they must have asked, “What exactly does loyalty to a nation mean when I have family on all sides of the War?”
And I ask, “How did they hold all of that in their bodies, their minds and their hearts?” And as a descendant, born after the War, “How do I hold all of this in mine?”