Posted on May 24th, 2016 by pajamapress
Raymond Nakamura is a Vancouver-based educational consultant, avid science blogger and the author of Peach Girl. He explored his Japanese heritage while spending time at a marine station and teaching ESL in Southern Japan. To celebrate Asian Heritage Month, we asked him if he’d be interested in writing a short piece for us about his family’s experiences as Japanese-Canadians.
Peach Girl is my reimagining of a well-known Japanese folk tale about a girl born from a peach, who is here to make the world a better place, one ogre at a time. Recently, a librarian at Strathcona Elementary in Vancouver invited me to read it at her school, as part of their multicultural festival. By coincidence, my mother went to that school as a young girl in the 30s and 40s. I asked the librarian if she’d be interested in my mother’s story and she encouraged me to include it.
My mother was born a few blocks from the school, around Powell Street, the largest Japanese Canadian community in Canada at that time. Her parents had come from Japan to make a new life for themselves. They ran a taxi company and an electrical appliance store.
Monday to Friday, my mom, her younger sister, and friends walked to Strathcona. After school, they walked to the Japanese school on Alexander street to study some more. And twice a week, she went to Japanese dancing lessons.
Soon after Japan bombed Pearl Harbor in December 1941, the Canadian government forced the relocation of everyone of Japanese descent on the coast of British Columbia, including my mother and her family.
While telling the story of my mother and then of Peach Girl to students at Strathcona, another librarian dug up the archived attendance cards of my mother, uncle and aunt. The last entry on each index card in May of 1942, indicated in pencil that they had moved to Minto. That was the ghost town where my mother and her family lived during World War II.
The world is now a different place from when my mother grew up. This opportunity helped me better appreciate the connection between my mother’s story and that of Peach Girl, which deals with overcoming fear and facing the unknown with hope.