Monthly Archives: May 2005

Letter from Rev. Tim Nakayama, Joy Kogawa's brother re: Origins of the Nakayama name

Rev. Tim Nakayama and author Joy Kogawa – brother and sister

Dear Todd,

Thank you for posting those photos of us on your website.  That was fairly quick!
David Kogawa, who took the trouble to come down from Surrey to
Seattle to pick me up and bring me back home so that I could attend the
inaugural for OBOV on May 24, sent me  the web-page reference – 
You made a common mistake that occasionally befalls my family name
by calling it “Nakamura” which would mean 'middle village'.  Actually,
it is “Nakayama” which means 'middle mountain'.   I sometimes tell
people that my name has “four aces” to ease the spelling, etc. 
I was a theological student at ATC, the Anglican Theological
College of B.C. (that was associated with Union College of the United
Church of Canada), and these institutions became the Vancouver School
of Theology.  When ATC still existed when I was in Vancouver from 1950
to 1965, I was associated with the Good Sheperd Chinese Anglican
Mission in Chinatown (I think it was on Keefer Street).  I went there
for “field work”, and later  was involved in the re-establishing of the
Japanese Anglican work as the people returned from the East when we
were allowed back into the so-called “protected area”. 
While at Good Shepherd, I received the kindly care of the Rev.
Andrew Lam, and his wife Leatrice, and the parishioners of the Chinese
Mission.  The people took the Japanese ideographs of my name, and read
them in Cantonese, and they remembered and called me, “Chung Saan Jun”
(my phonetic rendition of what I remember hearing rhem say) – of
'middle mountain truth' (Nakayama Makoto). 

The Japanese reading of the
ideographs in “on” reading is “Chu San Shin” or Chuzan Shin”, and in
“kun” reading – which is the poly-syllabic original rendition, it comes
out as “Naka/yama/Makoto”.  Well, the Chinese members associated
“middle mountain” and 'truth” with Sun Yat Sen!  Perhaps you can
decipher the connection of meanings and such an association!  Anyway,
with these associations it was considerably easier to remember my name
in that fashion, than with Na/ka/ya/ma/Ma/ko/to  so many meaningless,
cumbersome syllables, but “Chung Saan Jun” was much easier!

Best wishes and kindest regards,

The Rev. Timothy M. Nakayama, Priest, retired
Diocese of Olympia + The Episcopal Church USA
1991-2000 Missionary, Okinawa & Aomori, Japan
1966-1991 Rector, St. Peter's, Seattle
1956-1966 Diocese of Calgary, Canada

Hello Tim,

I am sorry for the misspelling,
somehow Nakamura got stuck in my brain, not to be confused with a
childhood friend named Nakashima, nor the girl I had a crush on in
Grade 7, then after I moved away after Grade 8, we met after Grade 12,
and finally had a real date – her name was Fujiwara.

I will correct on the website, and
with your permission I will put your reply letter onto the website as I
think it is very interesting.

Diocese of Olympia eh? Former
Governor Gary Locke is a distant relative. His cousin Paul Locke in
Seattle married my Grandmother's cousin Carol. Ever since I was a baby,
we would visit Auntie Carol and Uncle Paul in Seattle once a year. I
don't see them as often anymore, but we do keep in touch.

Now that I have your e-mail, I can
send you the photos as files. I will send them to Roy Miki too. I have
a lot of respect for Roy, and think he does wonderful work.

Peace & Blessings, Todd


Hi Todd,
Thanks for your message.  In my initial message I made an error! 
The time I was in Vancouver was from 1950 to 1956 (not until 1965 –
juxtaposition of two numbers!) 
You have my permission if what I wrote might be 'interesting'.  I
think it is more interesting that you mention our former Governor, Gary
Locke as your relative!  and you mentioned it because I cited the name
of our diocese.  Our “Diocese of Olympia” of the Episcopal Church, USA,
betrays the fact that it was established before Seattle was much of a
place.  The diocese celebrated it's 150th anniversary last year.   The
local church headquarters has been in Seattle, years before I ever came
here.  Olympia was more significant in the early days.
Likewise, the 'Diocese of New Westminster' of the Anglican Church
of Canada was begun before Vancouver was very important, and the
Cathedral was located in New Westminster at the beginning.  Christ
Church Cathedral, at Georgia and Burrard, and the diocesan office is 
in downtown Vancouver.

I have known about Roy Miki for many years, and I met him, I
believe, in 1995, at my Dad's funeral.  But on May 24th it was our
first face to face conversation.  Also, so near and so far —I hadn't
seen my sister, Joy, for the last 10 years!  We had been in Japan for
almost 10 years, and came back to Seattle 5 years ago.  But her
peripatetic life, and my laid back state, now in retirement, our paths
have sometimes been close, but they didn't cross – until Wednesday
night and OBOV !

Delighted to note your signing off with “Peace & Blessings”. 
As it happens I also very often write that before I close with my name!

ExplorWORD May 28th, at Our Town Cafe – featuring Joy Kogawa

l-r Rev. Tim Nakayama, Prof. Roy Miki, Joy Kogawa, ACWW vp Todd Wong

Joy Kogawa was the featured author at ExplorWORD at Our Town cafe, for May 28th.
I MCed the event which featured writers Michelle Wong, Jessica Gin-Jade, Alexis Keinlein and Mishtu Bannerjee.

It was organized by Jim Wong-Chu for the explorASIAN festival, and co-sponsored by Asian Canadian Writers' Workshop and RicePaper Magazine.
Sid Tan of Saltwater City TV, was there to film the evening, which will be broadcast next week hopefully on Shaw Cable.

It was a wonderful reading that featured the insightful writings of
young up and coming writers, and closed with the wise reflections of a
well-respected and honoured literary force. Joy Kogawa used her time to
talk about the recent protests by Chinese descendents in regards to the
selective historial perspective of the Japanese government ommiting WW2
atrocities against China.

Joy told the story of peaceful small island situated between China and
Japan where when China visited, they claimed ownership, and when Japan
visited they claimed ownership. And how the island played host to one
of WW2's bloodiest land battles where the peaceful inhabitants were
almost wiped out. It was the story of Okinawa. On the 50th anniversary
of the Battle of Okinawa, the natives named each of the citizens who
had died, and included the names of Japanese and American soldiers…
honouring every human being that died, in an act of tremendous grace
and forgiveness.
Joy revealed that her ex-husband David Kogawa came from Okinawa, and so
their children are descendents of Okinawan heritage.

Joy closed her time with a reading of a poem “Oh Canada”, from her
novel Obasan. It is a beautiful poem acknowledging the bittersweet
qualities that make up the roots of Canada – both in its physical
environment and the qualities of its people. It's context is that it is
set during the time of internment of Japanese Canadians during WW2.

After Joy's reading, I shared with the Our Town audience, my
conversation with Richard Hopkins, following Joy's reading at the
Vancouver Public Library's One Book One Vancouver
event featuring Joy on May 24th. I had told Richard that Joy inspires
us all to be better Canadians. Richard had corrected me and said that
Joy inspires us all to be better human beings.
In closing, I encouraged everybody to attend the One Book One Vancouver
readings throughout the summer that would be built around the novel
Obasan, and that would continue right to Word On The Street in

I encouraged people to support the drive to save the Kogawa homestead
in Vancouver's Marpole neighborhood, that had been taken from the
Kogawa family during WW2. I recounted that at the VPL reading, I had
asked Joy to name some of her favorite Asian Canadian writers, she had
said “We all love Wayson Choy.”

“But tonight, and for this summer,” I said, “We all love Joy Kogawa.”
pictures of this event by Jim Wong-Chu to follow…. stay tuned….

Women's dragon boat Regatta at False Creek May 28

48 teams of women competed in heats of 4 in the False Creek Women's
dragon boat regatta. This event is the dreamchild of Marina McCready,
and is a fundraiser for the False Creek Women's Dragon Boat team – one of the consistently BEST dragon boat teams in the world, and led by coach Andrea Dillon, one of the most inspiring coaches I have ever been honoured to be on the same boat with.

There is a prize for the best costume. The Lady Bugs were in full
force. There was a team dressed in wedding dresses. One team all wore
black afro wigs, and performed a version of “Stop, in the name of
love… before we beat your boat.”

This event attracts many out of town teams. They came from Victoria,
Nanaimo, Portland, Tacoma, Kelowna, Chilliwack… I got to hang with my
favorite US teams: Tacoma Dragon Boat Association and Wasabi Women Team Huge,
receiving hugs from friends on each team. TDBA invited us to go down to Seattle on July 2nd, for dragon boat
barrel racing on Green Lake in Seattle.  This will be part of
Seattle's Sea Fest.  I have always felt that Green Lake would be
perfect for a dragon boat race.

I also saw many friends from Vancouver teams… Pat and Shelly are now paddling on False Creek Women. I shared with Pat that
this year on Gung Haggis Fat Choy dragon boat team, that I gave a new
paddler the nick name of “The Instigator” – the same nickname that I
gave Pat back in 2001 when we paddled together in San Francisco for the Spirit
of Vancouver team. She laughed as we recounted shared stories of our
wonderful adventures on that trip.

TDBA competed as the
Draco Koa Wahines -translated as dragons with Warrior Spirit Women. It
is the TDBA club that last year reated the world's first ever dragon boat barrel racing event
The Draco Koa Wahines made the 2nd tier finals, amongst the top 8 teams
out of 48. Very good results for a team with 50% brand new paddlers.

Wow! Roli Women
came first in that race. Louise Lamb drummed Roli to a strong finish…
Louise is one of my favorite drummers ever. I raced with her in Roli's
previous incarnation as GM Turbo Dragons in 2001 for races in Victoria, Kelowna and San Francisco. 
Louise was the featured guest drummer for the False Creek Women's Team in the Thalassa dragon boat documentary that also featured our Gung Haggis Fat Choy dragon boat team as the documentary's multicultural component.

Wasabi Women Team Huge finished
2nd to hosts False Creek Women. These are two of the best Women's teams
in the world. Both medaled at the 2001 World championships in
Philadelphia and have continued their consistency. Suzi Cloutier
of Wasabi is a good friend of mine and wrote me a story about Wasabi's 2004 trip to the World Club Crew Championships in Cape Town South Africa.

Suzi and I love to surprise each other with special gifts.  This time she honoured me with a belated
birthday card + huge chocolate truffle from her favorite chocolateria
in Portland Oregon. My gift to her and her team mate Carey – both of whom I
have known since 1990/91, were Canada Post stamps that featured the 2002 Wasabi team issued in 2003. Carey was very excited to finally have the stamp.

After the races, my girlfriend Deb and I took Suzi and her room mates Kristen and Margie over to Mario's Gelati
for a special treat of Italian gelato and/or sorbetto. Of course Suzi tells
everybody about the time I brought her a litre of wasabi flavoured
gelato from Casa Gelato,
and says it was torture, because it had too much wasabi to eat. 
ACK!   Anyways this time around we all had double scoops on
waffle cones. Suzi and I both picked lichee sorbetto. Of course Deb had
to tell Suzi about my recent obsession with lichee martinis and Soho
lichee liqeur.

Encouraging Women in Politics: Singing “The Ballad of Ellen Woodsworth”

Encouraging Women in Politics: Singing “The Ballad of Ellen Woodsworth”
Very fun evening.
It opened with Ellen Woodsworth and Libby Davies speaking about their
experiences in politics, and wanting to encourage more women in

I was a featured guest performer too!
I joked that I was the token male.
…that the qualifications were a male had to wear a “skirt”, have
attended a women's studies course, and spoke about women's health
issues on the CBC Radio. Thankfully I qualified for all of the above
(cheers and applause).

As an Asian male, I could relate to the challenges that women faced in
politics. Afterall politics is dominated by white males… and Asian
males are a minority. And like women, Asian males are taken less
seriously than White males. Asian males, like women, also are slightly
smaller than white males. We also have less body hair too!

I performed “The Ballad of Ellen Woodsworth” in honour of her birthday.
Earlier in the month, I had talked with Ellen about the importance for
Vancouver to have its own Poet Laureate – someone who could imortalize
the current events, or mark special events for Vancouver history for

So… for her birthday celebration I volunteered to write something
special for Ellen. I scoured the internet for biographical material and
asked her questions about her values and her life. Then I carefully
documented the significant achievements of her life, identified her
values, her goals and her dreams… and crafted the words to fit the
rhythm of my chosen form.
Basically, I took the tune of “Every Little Thing She Does is Magic”
and added my own verses. It was fun.
I will add it here tomorrow… so stay tuned.

Events for Asian Heritage Month May 29 to 31, 2005

Check out for details of the following events.

Roundhouse Community Centre

Chinese Folk, Minority, Classical and Modern Dance

CBC Radio Studio One, 700 Hamilton Street, Vancouver

The Vancouver Inter-Cultural Orchestra

Pacific Cinemateque

Short Works Telling Asian Stories

Curated by Yasmin Karim

Alliance Française de Vancouver

Indonesian Evening

Toddish McWong guest performance at “Encouraging Women in Politics Fundraiser & Dance”

How did this happen?

I volunteered to perform for a special fundraiser for Vancouver city
councillor Ellen Woodsworth and to help celebrated her birthday.

Anyways… the theme is clear. More skirts are needed in Politics,
More Human beings in touch with both their masculine and their feminie.
More Balance… Toddish McWong will be wearing his kilt, and releasing
his inner creative talents with a special song for Women in Politics,
and acknowledgement to Ellen Woodsworth.

Encouraging Women In Politics Fundraiser & Dance

Friday, May 27, 2005 at 20:00 to 1:00 at


1882 Adanac St., Vancouver, BC

Join Councillor Ellen Woodsworth and friends at the Wise Hall for food,
dance, good conversation and great fun! With special guests, the Joni
Miller / Eastman Band, No Shit Shirleys, and Sara Kendall!

The Joni Miller / Eastman Band is one great dance band, No Shit
Shirleys is an all women acapella group, and Sara Kendall is a hip rap
artist. This will be one great event, so hurry and get your tickets

Tickets are on a sliding scale, $25.00 – $100.00 (No one turned
away). Call or email the COPE office today to reserve your tickets!
604-255-0400 or

Joy Kogawa's novel Obasan is the book for all of Vancouver to read

Joy Kogawa sharing her happiness with the audience that her novel “Obasan” at the premiere event for One Book One Vancouver – photo Todd Wong

A very HAPPY Joy Kogawa shared her pleasure with the audience at the opening event for One Book One Vancouver
at VPL's Central Branch on Tuesday, May 24th.  Obasan is the
novel written about a young girl's journey through the Japanese
Canadian internment camps of WW2, when the Canadian government branded
all Canadians of Japanese descent as aliens, in its misguided efforts
to ensure homeland security.

The title, Obasan, actually means “aunt” in Japanese, and it is to her
aunt that the young character Naomi looks up to.  Obasan is
considered one of the most important Canadin books of the last 30
years, according to Prof. Roy Miki, who along with Kogawa and his
brother Art, worked to secure redress for Japanese Canadians from the
Canadian government.

“I am very happy today,” said Kogawa, as she tried to describe what it
meant to her to have Obasan chosen as the book all Vancouverites should
read.  Kogawa described her conversation earlier in the day with
her friend fellow author Alice Munro who had recieved the Terasen Life
Time Achievment award as part of the VPL Central Library's 10th
Anniverasay celebrations.  “It just keeps getting better and
better, she told me – the recognition and awards.  I guess I will
have to accept it,” Kogawa smiled.

Kogawa said that when she first heard about the Redress settlement from
the Canadian government, she was very happy.  “But it was over so
quickly – the moment passed.  I'm going to savour this one.” 
Throughout the summer, VPL will hold many events based on the themes of
Obasan.  One Book One Vancouver is described as a book club for
the entire city.  The closing event will be at Word On the Street
Festival September 25th.

Kogawa answered many questions after her all too brief talk.  When
I asked her which Asian Canadian writers that she liked personally she
said, “Oh, there are so many now.  When Roy and I started there
weren't very many…. of course we all love Wayson Choy.” she said.

When asked what was happening with the Kogawa homestead
in Vancouver's Marpole neighborhood, Joy replied: “When we rediscovered
it was still there, Tim and I tried to buy it but we didn't have enough
money, so I let the idea go.  When Roy Miki organized the reading
at the house, it was very special.  I was very excited to see the
cheerry tree again.”  Then Joy held up a little plastic bag and
said “
Seeds from the cherry tree,” as she smiled broadly.

Joy speaks very clearly, patiently and perceptively.  She shares
with the audience that Obasan was also just chosen for the One Book
program in Medicine Hat.  She answers questions about what it was
like living in internment camps, as she describes that some readers
have felt that the condtions were so inconcievable that it must have
been fiction.  Joy counted the members of her family, plus her
father's friends that all lived in a chicken coop filled with fleas and
chicken smell. 

“12 of us… after she names each person.”

At the end of the evening many people thank Joy for such an inspiring
talk.  She shared her buddhist philosophy of “letting go” when
asked about dealing with the pain and suffering.  She shared her
perception of American Christians creating a Christian bomb that landed
on the most important Christian Cathedral in Japan. 

“Joy Kogawa teaches us to be better Canadians,” I shared with Richard
Hopkins, professor at the University of BC Library School. 
Richard smiled and said succintly, “Joy Kogawa teaches us to be better
human beings.”

The next Joy Kogawa events are:
Thursday night at the Vancouver Museum for a sampling of the songs from
Vancouver Opera's forthcoming production of Naomi's Road, based on Joy
Kogawa's children's book.

Saturday night at Our Town Cafe for a sampling of Asian Canadian
writers featuring Kogawa, Alexis Keinlein and Gleen Deer. organized by Asian Canadian Writers' Workshop.

Joy Kogawa signing books
with Janice Douglas (VPL Director of Community Programs) and Paul
Whitney (VPL City Librarian) – photo Todd Wong

Joy Kogawa signs a book for VPL Board Member Chrissy George – photo Todd Wong

Relaxing after the reading: Rev. Tim Nakamura (Joy's brother), Prof. Roy Miki, Joy Kogawa, and Todd Wong – photo by David Kogawa