SEDAI: The Japanese Canadian Legacy Project

Sharing the unique history and experiences of Canadians of Japanese ancestry

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Transcript

SEDAI: Could you please state your full name and date and place of birth?

Fred: It's Fred **********. I was born on **********, 1918 in Hiroshima, Japan.

SEDAI: Could you please tell us a little about your parents?

Fred: My father came to Canada when he was 16 in the year 1907 and he told me that at that time, his mother was heartbroken when he left for Canada because she had lost a few of his brothers because they all had died in their 30's and she was, ahh, and when he told me this, he had tears in his eyes and he was quite emotional about this when he told me.

SEDAI:And how old was he when he came to Canada?

Fred: He came when he was 17.

SEDAI: And why did he come?

Fred: He came because he said he came because one day, he had dreams of promoting trade between Canada and Japan and that's why he came to Canada.

SEDAI: And he was the only sibling who came?

Fred: Yes, he was the only one that came to Canada.

SEDAI: And what about your mother?

Fred: Oh, my mother, my mother was more or less, their wedding was arranged quite early because the two families knew each other and what I remember about my mother was she told me that she was quite athletic in her youth at school. She entered a lot of the track events and she always did well. And , well, my father went back to Japan in 1917 to get married to my mother and while I was there, while he was there, I was conceived and my mother's mother said that, don't take the baby back, don't go back until the baby is born. So my mother stayed back and in 1919 when I was nine months old, she brought me to Canada.

SEDAI: So the rest of the siblings were born in Canada?

Fred: Yes, they were all born in Canada.

SEDAI: And where did they settle?

Fred: My father settled in Vancouver. He told me that the year they came in 1907, there was quite a anti-Japanese feeling and when he disembarked from the boat and that there were people at the pier throwing rocks at them and he remembered that quite distinctly and a few months later, gangs of whites would raid the Japanese sections and there would be fights between the whites and Japanese in Vancouver.

SEDAI: And what year would this be?

Fred: Oh, this would be 1907, 1908. At that time, there was very anti-Japanese feelings at that time. I read later on, 1907 was the year that were quite a few immigrants came from Japan.

SEDAI: So if it was so difficult, was he able to find work?

Fred: No, what his first, he was very fortunate that he was taken in by the Fire Chief of Vancouver and as a house boy, he did little errands around the house and he was allowed to go to learn English and he told me that an Anglican priest befriended him and that he was very good to him and taught him English.

SEDAI: Were you still at University when the war started?

Fred: Yes, I was at University when the war started and at that time, at that time, there was a lot of discrimination news in the papers and usually it was from two politicians and I guess it was because the Japanese did not have the franchise in those days. One was Alf, Alderman Al Fred Wilson in the City Council and he was always saying something anti-Japanese and the other was Howard Green, he was a Conservative M.P. in Ottawa and the reason I remember was that he was a prominent United Church member and very prominent in the news for church things and then in the paper, he was always saying something in the papers about anti-Japanese in Ottawa in Parliament so but counteracting that, not many people, politicians spoke up for the Japanese. But when I was going to University, there was a professor named Henry Angus and he was the, in his very thoughtful way, he encouraged the students to ignore the anti-Japanese feelings in those days and he really encouraged the Nisei students at the University to go about their studies and try to not get too discouraged over the discrimination.

SEDAI: What do you remember about the start of the war?

Fred: At the start of the war, I remember that we were all expected to go into the Canadian Officers Training Corps at the University and that we were handed uniforms and every two or three times a week, we went on marches and different exercises that we had to do and did what we call some military training. There was a Colonel Schrum, he was a Physics Professor. He was a colonel and he was head of the Canadian COTC training at the University of British Columbia.

SEDAI: How was your family affected?

Fred: Oh, the night of Pearl Harbour on December 7, 1941, we were having supper and there was a knock on the door and I went to answer it and much to my surprise, there was three tall RCMP officers at the door and they asked if a Suichi ********** lived here and I said, yes. They came in, they went through all, every room in the house and every dresser and after they went, I remember that all my father's personal papers were gone, insurance policies, birth certificate, passport. They took it all away and that very night, they took my father away. For about two weeks, we did not know where he was. Finally they told us he was in the Immigration Detention Place down by the waterfront of Vancouver and they were there. My father was kept there and there were forty Japanese rounded up that night, I heard and they were there for about a month and then my father and the forty people that were interned were sent to Seebee prisoner of war camp in Alberta, in northern Alberta and my father wrote me that it was full of German prisoners of war that they had brought from Germany that they had captured, all the way from Germany. They were kept there and then from Seebee, Alberta, he was transferred to Petawawa in Ontario and then to Acee, the final internment war camp at Angler.

SEDAI: Why did you think your father was targeted?

Fred: Oh, why father was targeted? I assume that because he was a doing trade with, promoting trade between Japan and Canada and he was exporting logs and lumber to Mitsui Company limited. They had an office in Seattle and my father took frequent trips there to arrange shipments to Japan and I remember accompanying him to Seattle as a boy and some trips when he went to the office. What I remember most was the Japanese business men from Mitsui when they came to Vancouver, my father entertained them and they were avid golfers and I caddied for them when my father took them out golfing.

SEDAI: What was your mother's experience?

Fred: Oh, my mother, my mother had a hard time because when I look back, January following Pearl Harbour, there was a order-in- council by, issued by Ottawa that all Japanese nationals had to be out of the 100 mile radius of the West coast by the middle of January and since I was born in Japan and I was classified as an enemy, a Japanese national enemy alien, so I had to leave University and out of that radius. Fortunately, my sister had married a year earlier and her in-laws in Calgary, so they said that Fred could come and live with us when he had to move out. So I left Vancouver, the curfew was on, you remember. There were two other students in the same boat, Sab, Saburo Takahashi and Roy Nishio. They were all classed as Japanese nationals. They went to Edmonton, Alberta and I went to Calgary. So, my mother was left with my six sisters all by herself because my father was interned and I had to leave for Calgary and it was a very, very hard time for her.

SEDAI: And where did the women end up?

Fred: Fortunately, in, one day, I think it was around March 1942, Tommy Shoyama, of the New Canadian, the editor of the New Canadian, phoned and said that if my mother and my sisters left in the next two or three days, that they could go to Kaslo because of the group from the United Church in Vancouver that was leaving for Kaslo, there was an opening for my mother. So the New Canadian staff came and my mother told me they came and helped the family pack in a hurry and they left for Kaslo.

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