Category Archives: Vancouver Heritage & History

Dragon Boat Festival is happening!

We had the Gung Haggis Chinese parade dragon out & about at the Dragon Boat Festival @ Creekside/Olympic village. We salsa danced, posed with little children and VIP’s, and saluted the Abreast in a Boat ceremony!

Jenny leads a little dragon dance, while a performer sings a special song about dragon boat paddling.

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Todd, Jennifer, Enzo Guerriero (Festival Board), Andrea Reimer (city councilor), Carson, Barry (TSA team), Caroline.

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Raymond Louie (City Councilor) and Todd.  Raymond used to paddle with a Vancouver Sun team
back around 1997.
We met stilt walkers!
We ham it up with the pizza guys…

Italian for a day… in Vancouver

Italian Day, Commercial Drive, June 9

Italian for a day… Italian is actually the third language I learned, while I learned to play accordion. It is the language of music.. Rossini, Puccini… and O Solo Mio. I grew up near Commercial Drive and had lots of Italian-Canadian friends, and later I even had Italian girlfriends. I played accordion for their families. I cook fettucini and linguine noodles with beef stir-fry and Chinese oyster or soy sauce. And maybe… I will organize a dragon boat team for the Italian Cultural Centre.
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These two ladies were dancers in the flash mob that took place in front of the main stage, after the speeches finished.  About 20 dancers with carnivale masks did a synchronized routine – spectacular!  One of their mothers took this picture for me.

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My friend Giulio Recchioni is the Cultural director for Il Centro: Italian Cultural Centre. OMG… I am still wearing my kilt. I had just come from the Dragon Zone Regatta, racing with the Gung Haggis Fat Choy dragon boat team. I think Giuilo would be a good paddler. Maybe we can create a dragon boat team for Il Centro: Italian Cultural Centre.

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Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson reads from the city proclamation to announce “Italian Day in Vancouver”

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After the speeches I chatted with Vancouver councilor Tony Tang (who wants to wear a kilt), Burnaby MLA Richard Lee, and Michael Cuccione – president of the ICC.
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Sardines on the big grill, at the PCOV – Portuguese Club of Vancouver – always a big line up here.

Naomi’s Road at West Vancouver Library is great… looking forward to April 23 at Italian Cultural Centre

Erica Iris and Hiather Darnela-Kadanoga play Obasan and Naomi, in a scene when the family leaves Vancouver on a train.

I saw the production at West Vancouver Library on Friday April 19th, and we both really enjoyed it.  Sam Chung returns as Stephen. The new singers are all good. Hiather Darnel-Kadonaga plays Naomi, Erica Iris plays the 3 roles Mother, Obasan and Mitzie. Henry Chen plays Daddy, Bully, Rough Lock Bill, Trainmaster.

I saw the original production in 2005/06 five times and enjoyed it immensely.  West Vancouver Library isn’t the best place to the performance because lighting was not the best, and the performer’s faces were often in shadows.  Close to 50 people came to the library for the free performance.

The performances by all singers are strong, and the storyline is strong.  Watching the perfomers, we were amazed at both the choreography of the movement on stage, as well as how the small versatile set is used and moved to simulate so many scenes: Powell Street, Living Room, Train, Internment Camp.   There were tears in my eyes as I watched the pinnacle scene of the opera.  It makes a powerful statement against racism and bullying.

Tickets are still on sale for Tuesday’s April 23 performance.

buy tickets on-line here:

http://italianculturalcentre.ca/highlights/naomis-road/

There will be a limited number of tickets available at the door.

Hiather Darnel-Kadonaga (soprano) plays Naomi


Erica Iris (mezzo-soprano) performs as Mother, Mitzi, Obasan

Sam Chung (tenor) plays Stephen
Photographs courtesy of Vancouver Opera, and available from the Naomi’s Road press kit http://www.vancouveropera.ca/2012-13-naomisroad-presskit.html

125 Places That Matter in Vancouver, includes Hastings Park Livestock building that housed detained Japanese-Canadians during WW2

Vancouver Heritage Foundation had a ceremony on Dec 1 to recognize the Livestock Building at Hastings Park, an important part of Japanese Canadian Internment History, as one of Vancouver’s Places that Matter.
At 1pm, everybody met in the Hastings Room, and MC Lorene Oikawa, told people the order of events.  We would do a walk to the Livestock Building for an unveiling, followed by a walk to Momoji Gardens for a Parks Canada unveiling.  Finally we would return to the Hastings Room for formal speeches, personal stories, and presentations in appreciation.
Marta Farevaag, Chair of the Vancouver Heritage Foundation, watches as Mary Kitagawa steps back from unveiling the plaque for the Livestock Building at Hastings Park.
Mary had recently pushed for the University of British Columbia to recognize the Japanese Canadian students that were not allowed to finish their degrees at UBC because they were interned during WW2.  It was an emotional ceremony when 76 students were honoured with degrees at a special tribute 70 years later.  http://japanese-canadian-student-tribute.ubc.ca/
Watch this video of Mary Kitagawa speaking about the detainment and internment of Japanese Canadians during WW2.  Roy Miki, Japanese-Canadian Redress co-leader and author stands at the top of the stairs in long dark coat and white hair.  Chinese-Canadian historian/author Larry Wong stands on the stairs in rust coloured jacket.  Lorene Oikawa, union leader and human rights activist stands on the right in red coat.
The Parks Canada plaque at Momoji Gardens was re-located for better public viewing, and unveiled.

One of the event attendees shares a personal moment, as she stands beside the plaque with photos of family members.

Naomi Yamamoto MLA, is the first Japanese-Canadian to be elected to the BC Legislature.  She shared a story how her father had spent 5 months living as a detainee at the Livestock Building.  Naomi explained that because her father was an older teen-aged boy, he was separated from his mother.  His father had already been separated from their family and sent to a labour work camp.  Unfortunately, her father could not attend the ceremonies on Saturday, due to not feeling up to it.
My friend Ann-Marie Metten was deeply touched by some of the personal stories.  She wrote:
“Mary Ohara’s story resounded. She told of her incarceration in March 1942 in the livestock barns at Hastings Park, still reeking with manure and infested with bugs. Birds flew overhead and fouled their blankets. Bedbugs bit at night, and the administrators brought in DDT and sprayed the bedding, including the blankets under which the children would sleep at night.

“At age twelve, Mary developed mumps and had to be isolated from others so as not to sprea the highly communicable disease. She and other children were moved to the coal-storage area under the livestock barns, where only a small hole high in one of the walls let in daylight. In the darkness, other young children cried for their families. She was held there for ten days.”
My friends: Ellen Crowe-Swords, Ann-Marie Metten (executive director of Historic Joy Kogawa House), and Joy Kogawa – author of Obasan, the first novel to address the issues of the internment of Japanese Canadians.  Roy Miki, Simon Fraser University Professor Emeritus and 2003 Governor General’s Award Winner for Poetry, had called Obasan, “A novel that I believe is the most important literary work of the past 30 years for understanding Canadian history.”
My friend Inger Iwaasa and my accordion.  Inger married a Japanese Canadian, and her daughter is pianist Rachel Iwaasa, who performed at Kogawa House for the presentation when Joy Kogawa was named recipient of the George Woodcock Lifetime Achievement Award.  Inger said she recognized each of the songs that I performed: Sakura, Mo Li Hua (Jasmine Flower), O Solo Mio, Neil Gow’s Lament, Hungarian Dance No.5, Dark Eyes.  I wanted to perform a mixed repertoire that would represent many of the ethnic groups that had come to settle in Vancouver: Japanese, Chinese, Italian, Irish, Hungarian and Russian.
Todd Wong, Judy Hanazawa, Jessica Quan – special projects coordinator VHF, Mary Kitagawa, Lorene Oikawa, Tosh Kitagawa.

Daylight Savings at Vancouver Asian Film Festival 2012 – Opening Day

Kudos to Barbara Lee, Grace Chin, Kathy Leung, and the Vancouver Asian Film Festival (VAFF) gang on putting on such a wonderful show on opening night.    It’s risky business to follow up with a hugely successful Surrogate Valentine, which brought audiences to their feet last November 2011 in applause and cheer, with a sequel which might or might not live up to expectations.  Rest assured, VAFF wisely selected a winner for an opener.  It was eerie, as Daylight Savings brought the same smiles to the faces of audiences.   What a great way to open a festival.

Goh Nakamura and Yea-ming Chen gives a remarkably funny and touching performance in Daylight Savings as two hurt lovers in search of themselves.  Just as Goh gives up all hope for love after breaking up his girlfriend,The Professor, he is instantly captivated by Yea-Ming at a house party.  Chasing after destiny, Goh begins his  journey on a wing and a prayer to find her Las Vegas with the help of his screwball cousin Mike and junkie Will.     They meet, they fall in love, they make love – Yea-Ming is everything Goh believes he wants in life.   Yet he is never quite able to leave his baggage behind as he still holds onto his girlfriend’s plant.  Leaving us to wonder at the age old adage of love is all about timing.

The second feature film, Bleached, was a surprisingly witty but heart-wrenching film about a love-struck Filipino-American teenager, Lenny who gives in to becoming a guinea pig model to skin-lightening cream given to her by her vain, image-obsessed mother.   Only to discover a shocking twist.

VAFF’s founder and President Barbara Lee was on hand at the opening to welcome friends and supporters of VAFF.  The after-party at the Kentizen was rocking with celebrities, friends, and community supporters.  

We caught up with our good friends over the years, including Grace Chin, who has become this year’s Festival Director, Kathy Leung (author of Red Letters, Mark Oh (VAFF 2012’s Volunteer Director), Iven Tse (VAFF board member), Peter Leung, Winnie Tam, Patricia Lim (Ricepaper Magazine) Callan Tay, Gavin Hee (MAMM Sponsor), Mark Lee.

The party began with a celebration of the sweet-16 celebration cake cutting at the Kentizen Fusion Lounge, followed by a beautiful night of musical performances by Goh Nakamura and Yea-Ming Chen.

Barbara Lee has been a bastion of strength and perseverance in the sixteen years of VAFF’s history.

Starting off with a dream to start a small film festival, VAFF has grown to become a cultural mainstay, featuring the who’s who in the Vancouver community, and has spawned offshoot festivals across the city.  Congratulations to you, well done!


Reporting for Gung Haggis, this is Allan Cho