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Journey from a room with large bay windows (4)

by tetsu95jp | 2007-11-05 10:18 | 2.Richmond
Journey from a room with large bay windows (3)
Knowing I was taking pictures related with Japanese footsteps in Richmond, Vincent drove me to the Britannia Heritage Shipyard where the old buildings of Japanese fishermen was preserved. Surprisingly enough, almost all of the facilities in the yard were the Japanese related things and a young white lady sitting in front of computer in an old Japanese cottage couldn't answer to my questions about it.
At the end of the yard, there stood a weathered but huge workshop. Over the wire fence doors before the entrance, a white plump bearded guy was talking with the other white guy. Finding me, he said, "What can I help you?" "I am taking pictures. Visitors are not allowed to enter here?" "Well, come on in," saying he unlocked it.
"I'm searching for the footsteps of the Japanese fishermen. I'm from Japan." "Great! Come on, come on," he stepped forward putting off his tobacco abruptly. "Say, can you see a boat over there?," pointing at a farthest pier on Fraser River beside, "We restored that boat originally made by the Japanese. How cute!" Among aged wooden boats, it was sitting calmly with good old days' atmosphere.
Inside of the workshop was another old boat, several white people being absorbed in restoring it. "This is another Japanese boat. Do you want to see the engine?" He was so excited that I couldn't decline his offer. "Well, I'm impressed with your enthusiasm, but what is the aim of your preserving Japanese boats?" "Because we love it, we love old boats! That's all. You know, we are not working here, we're volunteering for our pleasure having our own jobs in different places."
I wondered if they knew the Japanese had been deprived of these boats by BC government. The Britannia Heritage Shipyard was consisted by the Japanese properties which were deprived by BC government; yes, they didn't return them to the owners after World War Two. Consequently, despite the fact that it is the Japanese Heritage Shipyard it has been being called the Britannia Heritage Shipyard and run by presumably British descendants; I've never seen Japanese descendants among them for several visits. Just out side of the yard, I only found a Japanese fisherman's statue, which praises the Japanese' contribution for BC, constructed not by BC government but by the descendants of the Japanese themselves!


I wanted to search for what a Canadian identity is. Having called an Irish pub nearby, apparently an Irish descendant head said "this is a Canadian pub." However, I couldn't find anything original of Canada but Fish & Chips. At a so-called sport bar, I found people were so enthusiastic at a hockey game on huge TV screens. There were Curry restaurants, Greece, Korean, Chinese and kind of Japanese, and so on. As far as food was concerned, I could find no Canadian.
People say "We eat to live, not to live to eat." But this may not be true of Chinese people; you can easily tell they are living to eat when you accompanied them for eating out and watched the portion of the dishes used every ingredients available. Each Chinese in Richmond has each favourite restaurant and food shop, and Vincent once brought me a dim sum for breakfast. I thought there's no one enjoys good food more than he does. And then, when Tony's mother visited from Bangladesh he invited me to dinner at another Vincent's favourite restaurant. The scene of Indian people eating Chinese dishes with Chinese looked something symbolic of Richmond.


by tetsu95jp | 2007-11-04 10:00 | 2.Richmond
Journey from a room with large bay windows (2)

by tetsu95jp | 2007-11-03 11:17 | 2.Richmond
Journey from a room with large bay windows (1)
When I stepped out of a doorway of Vancouver airport, a stranger approached and accosted me in Japanese, "Are you Mr. Endo?" That was Tony. He was not a white guy, but an Asian. He immediately took my stuff from my shoulder and hand, walking ahead of me without looking back without word.
"Where are we heading?" He replied in fluent Japanese, "For my car in employees' parking lot, it's a little bit far though. I'm working at the airport." There were several differences in level and I had difficulty to carry my heavy wheel luggage with another stuff on my shoulder.
He was supposed to drive me to a B&B, which my immigration consultant told in Japan. "It is my baby-sitter's house. We keep company with since I got a child," said Tony. The B&B appeared to be an ordinary home. Pushing doorbell, seemingly a Chinese lady opened the door. "Can you speak English?" "A little," I replied with thinking this lady must speak English well.
Tony's home was near the centre of Richmond. Just the same as Shirley's (the B&B lady's), there was an artificial fireplace in the wall of roomy living. Sitting in a sofa, the town landscape with large sky spread out through large bay windows over a fancy round table. Here and there among up-to date supplies were toys of his son, still the room was well maintained.
If I lived in this environment, I might well be satisfied with everything and not feel wanting to improve myself. It looked like perfect happiness with family there. Tony spoke about his wife who was absent at that time, though with the distant spectacle outside I turned a deaf ear.
The first dinner I ate was at a seafood restaurant in Steveston by walk from the B&B. The port town of fishermen was said to have developed thanks to Japanese immigrants. I expected some remains of them in restaurants, but there were no authentic Japanese restaurants or pubs (Izakaya).
"Something very Canadian seafood, please," I ordered a Caucasian waiter. The "Halibut Creation" was fried with a lot of salad. I wondered if this dish was a good taste here. "I had dinner at Steveston Seafood House and it costed $40 with a beer, but I didn't feel tasty," I reported to the husband of Shelly, Vincent. "It has a good atmosphere and rich people prefer there, but that is everything," Vincent, a Hong Kong Canadian gourmet, agreed.


Tony occasionally came to my place and took me in his car about Richmond. I usually went along shopping with him, and having meals. It is said 60% of Richmond's residents are from Hong Kong since the government of Canada allowed them to settle when Hong kong was returned from the UK to China Some people say the standard of Chinese restaurants in Richmond is superior to that of Hong Kong now. The price as well. Whenever Tony brought me food courts in huge shopping centres, I was surprised at far cheaper but far bigger portion of the dishes. When Tony and I managed to eat up a huge Yang chow and Salt fish chk fried rice sharing for lunch, I felt I wouldn't need supper that day and it reminded me of visiting Hong Kong.
As I wanted to take pictures of Japanese immigrants in Steveston, I asked Vincent and Shirley for the information. "They are always taking a walk around along No,1 road in the morning. You can't miss them because they are small and old and something different from Chinese. If you speak to them that you came from Japan, they will be happy to talk with you," Vincent said, "As far as I observed, Japanese immigrants are quiet and usually go to Japanese restaurants together."
I met several Asians on No,1 road to the harbour afterwards, but I couldn't figure out if they were Japanese. Surely they were small and quiet, but wearing baseball caps them on I couldn't tell Japanese from Chinese there. Finally, I reached the fishermen's wharf again. There seemed no remains of Japanese fishermen, even in a historical museum with post office there were a few things without understood for the clerk.
Why? The pioneers of old Japanese must have contributed to the fishery here, therefore it should have been praised to a certain degree. The residents seemed indifferent to Japanese. And then, hearing that there was a coffee shop by the wharf where Japanese fishermen got together, I dropped by. Soon after pushing the door, two old men with baseball caps on glanced at me and one caught eyes with me each other. "Do you speak Japanese?" I asked in English, with expectation of an ordinary Japanese words.
However, their Japanese were broken in that it was half English and half Japanese. As an English their words sounded no base, while as Japanese seemed no sensibilities. They looked not so much happy with me. "We catch every fish for canning here quite different from Japan. These days, however, since the government's permission for fishing became more and more strict we can do our business only countable days a year." They seemed to live on the compensation or something from the government. Their figures and atmosphere were apart from my image of fishermen, which I have been accustomed to in the coast lines of Japan.
"We came from Wakayama-prefecture. If you want to meet Japanese more, you should go to the Japanese temple where the Wakayamakenjinkai (the organisation for residents from Wakayama-prefecture) is held today," said a man in grinning.
Wow, this is the only Japanese Buddhist temple in Richmond! The concrete building, which type is prevailing in Japan recently too, invited me to feel free to enter. With my camera hung on neck, I found a nostalgic scene that old mothers were cooperating with each other cooking Japanese traditional food for a meeting. Shown as appearance, their way of speaking in Japanese was quite Japanese. I felt like relieved.
On the walls of the passage were exhibited a lot of old black & white photos, seemingly many of them were their ancestor's fishermen boats. "Why aren't there many things which commemorate Japanese fishermen's contributions in town?" "Well, that's because of the war," answered the president with mustache in fluent Japanese. "During World War Ⅱ, Japanese immigrants were persecuted and it remains until now."
In one of the pictures, a great many boats gathered together used to be their ancestors' only to hand in Canadian government for almost free. There were no figures of young people except children clearly mix-blooded with Caucasian. "Our kenjinkai is in the grip of crisis, as you see. Our sons and daughters aren't willing to participate in the activities. Probably our generation will be the last to keep," the president and old villagers looked sad.
I began feeling a gap between the Canadian society and Japanese immigrants. They don't speak out their history so much, or they merely don't know it as many Japanese do not know the war? I wanted to know why they haven't been proud of coming from Japan.
Vincent introduced me to an old principal of Richmond Japanese Language School. He knew him because his daughter and Tony's kid were the students there. Soon after greetings, the Japanese gentleman showed me the Japanese text books, "I made these myself to keep the beauty of Japanese language." Those must be said, bringing to Japan, that out of date; nevertheless, the language itself was definitely Japanese keeping its grace. It was something like a right posture of the people much like that of the principal himself. Rather in a foreign country, I found a genuine Japanese spirituality.
"My daughter," he said, "insists that 'my content is White even though my appearance is Yellow.' I am saying 'you may well not throw away Japanese virtue,' though." Mr Yokoyama, the principal, was also a clergyman of Baptist Church. Seeing the other side of his business card written in vertical Japanese, there was an English name, Rev. Jonathan, in front of his Japanese name like Vincent and Shirley.
"The influence of World War Ⅱ on old Japanese immigrants was significant," he seemed the most honest among those I had met so far about the history of Japanese immigrants. "Steveston or Vancouver used to be definitely the home of Japanese Canadians; you know, our age we came by vessels across the Pacific Ocean. However, after BC government deprived our properties and confined into far interiors without any reasonable reasons, we wanted to forget that trauma and wanted to assimilate Canadian society more; some people moved towards East never to return.
This person was different from the old Japanese fishermen, who I couldn't respect for their greed. "The first Japanese immigrants were fishermen, sure. But they don't want to succeed to next generations but to be respected in Canadian society. Thus many of their children became teachers, lowers and doctors and what not. Also, they preferred to get married Caucasians." Fishermen shouldn't be respected in Canadian society? Then what is the Canadian society?
From the very first age of famous Japanese came to Canada, Mr Manzo, all of the Japanese pursued their own success to bring it back to Japan. Originally the pioneers of Japanese immigrants suffered from poverty in Japan all right, but they didn't intend to stay here for the rest of their lives. In a sense, they were not immigrants literally; so it is possible that they behaved in very selfish ways. That might have invited their tragedy. Meanwhile, it is also possible other countries' immigrants behaved in the same way. If the Canadians came here not for constructing a new country but for their own gains, the highly-rated professions in Canada shouldn't make any sense for their greed.


by tetsu95jp | 2007-11-02 10:40 | 2.Richmond