Monthly Archives: February 2006

Joy Kogawa: “EMILY KATO” book launch at Vancouver Public Library

Joy Kogawa:  “EMILY KATO” book launch at Vancouver Public Library

February 27th, 2006
Vancouver Public Library
Central Branch

Here's my summary of the Emily Kato book launch… rather longish description…

am still just winding down from a wonderful book launch for Emily
Kato.  Joy said at the launch, that she had never before had a book
launch before.

Due to the library regulations… I could not
arrange to have wine served – but Ellen Crowe-Swords set up tea with
Japanese crackers.

7:00pm – people started wandering in… we
left the doors open.  Artist Raymond Chow was playing piano and setting
up paintings for display.  Katzumi was setting up the paintings and
drawings for the silent auction.  VPL director of programming Janice
Douglas and I look around for urns and try to find hot water for Ellen.

pm – I do a preliminary welcome for aproximately 40 people, and direct
their attention to the paintings and drawings for silent auction.

pm – Janice Douglas welcomes people to the library, invites them to
pick up the library events brochures, and especially invites people to
return for Tuesday night (Feb 28) as Max Wyman will be addressing that
as we move from the Information Age to the Imagination Age, the role of
creative activity is fundamental to the healthy and peaceful
development of human society.

introduces the program by stating that Obasan was the 2005 choice for
One Book One Vancouver, and how pleased the Vancouver Public Library is
to have Joy Kogawa back at the library for Emily Kato book Launch.

of Joy Kogawa with Programs Director Janice Douglas and Chief Librarian
Paul Whitney – at the One Book One Vancouver launch back in May 2005.

Todd Wong introduces Joy Kogawa, by talking about what a pleasure it is
getting to know Joy through the Save Kogawa House campaign.  Todd
explains that  tonight will be celebratory and that Joy had wanted to
ask author Roy Miki and musician Harry Aoki to participate.  There will
also be a dvd animated feature by animator Jeff Chiba Stearns, to help
make Emily Kato come alive by the participation of the guests, to help
address the themes of internment, redress and identity in the book.

pm – Gail Sparrow, former chief of the Musqueam First Nations is
invited to the stage to give a prayer and blessing for the evening.

pm – Musicians Harry Aoki and Alison Nishimara take the stage. 
Actually Alison performs two pieces on the grand piano beside the
stage.  They invoke strong emotions that speak to tragedy and panic of
the evacuation and internment.  After Alisons performance, she
identifies the pieces as a Prelude by Stravinsky and a Tocatta by

Roy Miki (centre) with Rev. Nakayama and Joy Kogawa at the One Book One Vancouver launch in May, 2005.

8:00 pm – Roy Miki is introduced as having been
almost born on an Alberta beet farm after the internment of his family,
from Vancouver.  He is a leader of the JC redress committee of the
1980's, and Todd praises his book “Redress: The inside story of the
Japanese Canadian redress movement,” citing its relevance and parallels
to the current Chinese Canadian  movement for head tax/exclusion act
redress.  Roy is also an english professor at SFU, specializing in
American and Canadian literature and a Governor General's Award winner
for poetry for his collection “Surrender.”

– Roy Miki says he was actually born on a beet farm in Alberta, and
talks about the redress movement and reads from his book Redress.  He
starts with a passage where people quote passages from Joy Kogawa's
then new novel – Obasan.  He tells tales of government misconceptions
and how language is used to euphemize the tragedy and actions to intern
and destroy the Japanese Canadian community.

8:15 – Todd
welcomes Harry and Alison back to the stage.  Todd explains that both
Harry Aoki and Roy Miki had served as inspirations for some of Joy's
characters in her books.

8:20 – Harry and Alison play a duet on
piano and double bass that Harry wrote in 1943.  He explains what it
was like to have to leave Vancouver during the “evacuation”, as he had
to leave behind his beloved violin, and could only take his harmonica.

8:25 –
Todd introduces the next segment by discussing the names of the Issei,
Nissei and Sensei – first, second and third generations of Japanese
Canadians.  The newest generations had to grow up with a sense of
negative identity, not really knowing the extent of the internment as
many Issei and Nissei refused to talk about it.  Todd tells a story
about how Joy introduced her half-Japanese grand-daughter at the
Canadian Club luncheon, as being the “future of Canada.”

Drawings from “What Are You Anyways?” by Jeff Chiba Stearns

“What Are You Anyways?” an animated short film by Jeff Chiba Stearns is
presented Todd pushes play on the dvd player to present the chapters: 
“Cauc-Asian” introduces the main character as growing up half-Japanese and half-Euro-Mutt in Kelowna BC.
“Ethnic Roulette” explains how challenging it is to be asked “What are you?” all the time.
“Meeting Jenni” explains how the character comes to terms with his half-Japanese
ancestry by meeting another half-Japanese “girl of his dreams”

– Joy Kogawa takes the stage, and explains how when Obasan was first
released, there was never a bad review but lots of praise.  When Itsuka
was released, it was the reverse, like an ugly sibling.  She explains
the challenge of the Emily Kato release – a book that nobody can find
in book stores.  She talks about why she wanted to re-work Itsuka, when
Penguin had announced plans to re-release it as a companion with

Joy reads several passages from Emily Kato including
sections on living in Granton Alberta, the redress movement, and the
older Issei growing old living in small rooms scattered across the
country.  She uses these examples to demonstrate how the Government of
Canada purposely broke up the Japanese Canadian community, and how the
community is still divided and unsupportive of its own culture and
members.  All the while, Joy emphasizes what it means to be Canadian
and the importance to be respectful of different cultures and human
rights issues.  She is an impassioned speaker, and her words walk the
fine balance of moral sermon, a punishing critique, and an
inspirational talk – all in one.  Amazing.

Harry Aoki returns to the stage to comment about the future of the
Japanese Canadian community, how it is disappearing, due to the
negative identity, inter-racial marriage, and being scattered across
the country.  He plays one more song on double bass, with Alison
Nishihara on piano.

9:10 – Conclusion… explanations of Silent
Auctions, Thank yous…  Acknowledgements of artist Raymond Chow and
his painting of Joy Kogawa as a young child, the role of The Land
Conservancy in stepping in to lead fundraising for Save Kogawa House

Joy signs books, and takes people's questions.

is an immediate long line-up to buy books and have them signed by Joy. 
I am asked where Harry Aoki is by Dal Richards, band leader and
musician, who is interviewing Harry for his radio show.  It is a good
audience of about 90 people.  I meet First Nations people from New
Brunswick, I meet poet Sita Caboni of the Pandora poetry collective.
People sign up on the silent auction items. 

I sign up on a collection of Roy Miki books, but I am outbid.
Kato, signs up for the Linda Ohama print, donated by Roy Miki.  It is a
good night.  I recieve lots of compliments for my MC work.  Joy signs
lots of copies of her books.  People are happy, and we feel a good
sense of community.

9:35 – Katzumi announces the last call of the Silent Auction
9:40 – we wrap up and start putting things away.
10:00 – we shut the doors and go home.

Cheers, Todd

Vancouver Sun: Joy Kogawa Story + tonight reading at Vancouver Public Library

Vancouver Sun: Joy Kogawa story + tonight reading at Vancouver Public Library

Today's Vancouver Sun features a
story Joy Kogawa and the plans for the preservation of Kogawa House to
turn it into a Writing Centre.  There is an interview with
Constance Rooke, president of PEN Canada, stating how
excited she is that the proposed writing centre has tremendous cultural
and literary potential.

pitched as refuge for exiled writers

Vancouver Sun, by Kevin Griffin

Turning the Kogawa house into a home for writers in exile would help
cement Canada's international leadership role in helping persecuted
writers from around the world, according to the head of one of the
country's major writers' organizations.

Constance Rooke,
president of PEN Canada, said the history of the house, the childhood
home of writer Joy Kogawa who was interned with 22,000 other Japanese
Canadians during the Second World War, makes it a perfect fit for
writers who have fled imprisonment and restrictions on freedom of
expression in their own countries.

Rooke said if the campaign
to raise $1.25 million to save the house is successful, it would become
the only residence in the country dedicated to housing writers in exile.

initial response to the campaign to save the Kogawa house was that this
was a house that ought to be saved because this is a very important
part of our history and literature,” Rooke said from Victoria.

“I've become increasingly excited about the house becoming a home for writers in exile.”

“I cannot think of any Canadian
writer's house whose destruction would pain me more,” Rooke said in a
letter to Vancouver council urging them to save the house.

Read more of  Kevin Griffin's article in the Vancouver Sun

pitched as refuge for exiled writers

Sun (subscription) – Vancouver,British Columbia,Canada

the Kogawa house into a home for writers in exile would
help cement Canada's international leadership role in helping persecuted
writers from around

Tonight is the Joy Kogawa book reading at Vancouver Public Library

Joy Kogawa's Emily Kato Book Launch

Vancouver Public Library
Central Branch, Alice McKay Room
February 27th, 7:30pm


Celebration of Emily Kato”

featuring author Joy Kogawa
with special surprise literary and musical guests + silent auction  to help raise funds for the preservation of Kogawa House.

I feel very honoured that Joy has asked me to MC tonight's event. 
It was just over a week ago, that she decided she wanted to do
something more celebratory for the Emily Kato book launch.  We had
just had a wonderful reading of “Joy Kogawa and Friends” at Chapters
bookstore on Robson St. featuring Roy Miki, Daphne Marlatt and Ellen
Crowe-Swords.  Joy asked if Roy and musician Harry Aoki would be
able to present something.  I also looked into asking Vancouver
Opera if they could participate, since their production of Naomi's Road
is currently touring BC schools and is still in the Vancouver Lower

Emily Kato was originally planned for a 2005 launch at VPL
during One Book One Vancouver, but was turned into a preview reading
because the book wasn't ready for printing by Penguin yet.

Tonight will be something special:
We have created a program that will hopefully bring “Emily Kato”
alive.  It was originally written in 1992 under the title of
“Itsuka” which means “someday.”  Itsuka fictionalizes the
emotional upheavals, personal challenges and the political drama of the
Japanese Canadian redress movement of the 1980's. 

Harry with Dal Richards at Feb 15th “Order of Canada / Flag Day luncheon”

Musician Harry Aoki will perform and bring some musical guests. 
Harry Aoki, as a young twenty-something young man, left the Vancouver
area in 1942 voluntarily, before being forced to “evacuate.”  He
had to leave behind his prized violin, and only took his harmonica, so
he could carry more belongings.

Roy Miki (Centre) with Rev. Tim Nakayama (Joy's brother) and Joy Kogawa.

Professor Roy Miki, will perhaps read something from his book Redress: Inside the Japanese Canadian Call for Justice which
documents the redress process that he and Joy shared with other redress
leaders such as Cassandra Kobayashi and Roy's brother Art Miki. 
Roy was born after internment, when his parents were assigned to work
on a beet farm in Alberta.

Jeni Kato (Save Kogawa House committee member) and Jeff Chiba Stearns,  film maker.

Jeff Chiba Stearns is a third generation (Sensei) internment
descendent, who has struggled with his identity of being
half-Japanese.  He grew up in in Kelowna and made an animated film
about his experience.  Jeff is currently in Manchester England for
a Film Festival, but we will show clips from his film and his girl
friend Jeni will be present.

And a silent auction!  With books donated by Raincoast publishing,
a Linda Ohama print donated by Roy Miki, Vancouver Opera tickets to
Faust, and tickets for Vancouver Asian Canadian Theatre.

How it unfolds, will hopefully allow readers will appreciate Joy's
“Emily Kato”all the more, as both Roy Miki and Harry Aoki helped to
inspire the composite characters in the book.

Sex in Vancouver – the Final Episode: Great show on Opening Night

Sex in Vancouver – the Final Episode:

Great Show on Opening Night

Vancouver Asian Canadian Theatre
opened their latest installment of the theatrical soap opera “Sex in
Vancouver on Friday night.  It was a lot of fun, and I will post
my review here later today.

My first thoughts are that this is really FUN!  And I am very
sorry that this will be the last episode.  I had a good chat with
director Peter Leung, who shared with me some of the ins and outs of
transfering the original scripts into a more multi-media presentation.

This group of dedicated theatre creators have definitely matured into
something special.  The productions are slicker and more
professional, the actors have matured, and most importantly… VACT has
created COMMUNITY for Asian Canadian theatre…. a wonderful

There are some tickets for Tuesday nights performance up for SILENT
AUCTION for the Joy Kogawa reading at the Vancouver Public Library,
7:30pm Feb 27th.  Come bid and help raise money for Save Kogawa
House campaign, and see a wonderful energetic theatrical performance by


Destiny is Revealed!


Tickets are
now on sale for Sex In
finale episode: Doin
at the Waterfront Theatre on Granville Island, February 23rd to March 5th.Tell
all your friends and mark your calendars!

The alluring
female foursome of
Jenna and Tess are back – hotter, funnier, and more conflicted than

In previous
episodes, you
ve seen them
struggle with fidelity, betrayal, catfights, pregnancy woes, disapproving
in-laws and bi-curious affairs. What if they traveled back in time to re-live
their lives? Knowing everything they know now, would they do anything

miss this final episode that reveals their destiny. Purchase your tickets now
online to avoid disappointment.

For more information, visit:
Waterfront Theatre on

Cartwright Street

February 23

March 5,

(no show on February 27)
Show Times:
Nightly: 8 pm
Matinees: 2 pm






Wednesday, Thursday,













All prices include service charge fees
Tickets online at

Group tickets available
For more info, call:

Check out these past reviews!

Sex Exploits A Success In Vancouver (The Source Review)

Sex in Vancouver Ends on August 20! (ricepaper Review)


Sex in the City, Asian style
(Metro article) [PDF 102kb]

Joann Liu plays an outspoken young woman in the urban soap opera Sex in Vancouver (Vancouver Sun article)

[PDF 184kb]

Vancouver Mayor Sam Sullivan accepting Olympic Flag and Closing Ceremonies

Vancouver Mayor Sam Sullivan accepting Olympic Flag, and closing ceremonies

Todd Wong with Mayor Sam Sullivan addressing the 2006 Gung Haggis Fat Choy dinner audience – photo Ray Shum

Great!  Just watched Vancouver Mayor Sam Sullivan accept the
Olympic Flag, on CBC TV.  Wonderful to see a quadripelic in a wheelchair
waving the flag.  Chiefs from the Squamish Nation also have now welcomed
the world to come to Vancouver Olympics.  Here's a story highlighting Sam's participation.

There are many times when I have bumped into Sam Sullivan just
travelling down the streets of Yaletown on his wheelchair.  His
presence will hopefully spark more people thinking about how
disabilities are percieved and overcome, especially since he will be back for the paralympics.  As the first paraplegic mayor for Vancouver, he has recieved some good air time being interviewed by the Olympics media.

In 1991, I worked on a
provincial election campaign for disability issues with the BC
Coalition for People with Disabilities, Community Living Association,
as I was representing the Canadian Mental Health Association BC/Yukon

Now back to the show….
Great… Igloos, salmon and eskimos… being presented as part of
Canada's theme “Come Play With Us.”  At least Avril Lavigne isn't
dressed up in a parka, or a Mountie uniform.

I was thinking earlier that I might go to Library Square to see the
turnover ceremonies on the BIG Screen – and bring a load of ice to
build an igloo to help reinforce the perception that Canada is a land
of ice and snow.  Strange that with all the ice and snow in
Canada… the tiny Southwest corner of Vancouver – perpetual city of
rain gets to host the Winter Olympics.  But… omigod…. it was
snowing last night at my home in North Vancouver!

Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival: a new event for March about friendship

Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival: a new event for March about friendship

Vancouver has a new festival centred on friendship.  The Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival is
the brain child of Linda Poole who was originally struck by how
beautiful the cherry blossoms in Vancouver are, and wondered why they
weren't celebrated the way they are in Japan…. (go see the movie
Memoirs of a Geisha for an example).

I first met Linda, when a new cherry tree was being planted on
Novemeber 1st, at Vancouver City Hall.  It was “Obasan Cherry Tree
” in recognition of the achievements of Joy Kogawa, and the efforts
to save and preserve “Kogawa House” and to plant a tree for continuing
friendship and harmony for future generations of Vancouver to
share.  Joy even wrote a poem for the festival:

A window opens

Cherry Blossom Festival

Look! Friendship growing
             –  Joy Kogawa

Some of the planned events are:

Blossom Picnic

Origami Workshop
March 16th, Thursday at Vancouver Public Library

NHK Japan Screening

March 12th

Haiku poetry contest

Joy Kogawa's Emily Kato Book Launch – Monday, Feb 27 Vancouver Public Library

Joy Kogawa's Emily Kato Book Launch
– Monday, Feb 27 Vancouver Public Library

I am MC for the Vancouver book launch,
 I hope you can attend.

Joy Kogawa's Emily Kato Book Launch

Vancouver Public Library
Central Branch, Alice McKay Room
February 27th, 7:30pm

Celebration of Emily Kato”

featuring author Joy Kogawa
with special surprise literary and musical guests + silent auction  to help raise funds for the preservation of Kogawa House.

sequel to Obasan was Itsuka – it has now been reworked and re-released
as Emily Kato.  This special celebratory evening will help make “Emily
Kato” come alive for the audience. 

On the 60th anniversary of the bombing that claimed Naomi's young mother in Obasan, Joy Kogawa revisits her second novel �Itsuka�now retitled Emily Kato. In Obasan,
Naomi's childhood was torn apart by Canada's betrayal of Japanese
Canadian citizens during the 1940s. Years later, living quietly as a
schoolteacher in the prairies, Naomi suffers the passing of the dear
aunt and uncle who raised her, and her wounds are reopened. But Naomi's
other aunt �the feisty Emily
Kato�convinces her to move to Toronto and encourages her to become
involved in the Japanese Canadian fight for redress. Politically
charged and intimately poetic,
Emily Kato tells the story of one community's struggle for justice, extraordinary commitment, and profound hope.

for more information
contact Save Kogawa House Committee
Todd Wong – 604-240-7090
The Land Conservancy
Heather Skydt ph: 604-733-2313

Asian Canadian Olympic Athletes: Women's Ice Skaters mix cultural themes just like Canada's interculturalism

Asian Canadian Olympic Athletes: Women's Ice Skaters mix cultural themes

Watching the Women's figure skating is one of my favorite Olympic
events.  It was a special treat to watch Michelle Kwan skate (if
only in practice) during the World Championships in Vancouver back in
2001.  There is a special balance of grace and power, beauty and

But most of all, today I was struck by the intermixing of ethnic
musical themes…  American Sasha Cohen skated to the Russian folk
theme of “Dark Eyes” for her short program, then to the Italian
composer Nino Rota's score for the movie “Romeo & Juliet” for her
long program.  Russian Irina Slutskaya skated to a Spanish
flamenco soundtrack, and Japanese gold medal winner Shizuka Arakawa
skated to Italian Puccini's Turandot opera music, which was set in

I have always enjoyed watching atheletes such as Kristi Yamaguchi, Michelle Kwan and pairs skater Megan Wing
because they represent Asian-North Americans, that have been accepted
to represent their country.  It has taken a long time for Asian-Canadians
to be more accepted in professional and amateur sports.  Size
doesn't seem to be as much of an issue as it is in hockey or
football.  But football hall-of-famer Normie Kwong and hockey star Paul Kariya,
certainly have given little Asian-Canadian boys sports heros to look up
to, where they can go out and compete and feel like they too can
accomplish, compete and belong. 

Canada's first Member of Parliament of Chinese descent was Douglas Jung,
born in Canada and a WW 2 veteran.  He told a story about becoming
Canada's representative to the United Nations and being told that he
was in the wrong seat (marked Canada) and that the seat for China was
elsewhere.  This is not dissimilar to Kristi Yamguchi being
misidentified by media broadcasters as “skating for Japan”, or Michelle
Kwan being misidentified as “a Chinese skater.”

As a young Asian Canadian, I grew up not being encouraged to go for
sports, even though I did fairly well on my highschool wrestling and
badminton teams.  I do believe that my brother and I missed our
athletic calling in the then-new sport of freestyle skiing as we easily
out-moguled and performed ski ballet tricks better than our friends,
and generally most other people on the mountain.  It helped that we had pictures of premier freestyle skier Wayne Wong on our walls. 

For any ethnic minority, sometimes just feeling like you fit in, is the
hardest thing to find.  This is one of the positives of having
government supported and endorsed multicultural programs.  It has
filtered into many aspects of society.  More immigrants to Canada
have also broadened our concepts of multiculturalism, and inter-racial
and inter-cultural marriages have produced younger generations of
children who can claim many ancestral ethnic heritages – but still have challenges
feeling like they fit in.

And now there is a new generation of Olympic Asian-Canadians that include medal winning Women's hocky player Vicky Sunohara, figure skater Mira Leung, and hopefully soon… snowboarder Alexa Loo.  As well as American speed skater Apollo Ohno.  Seeing athletes like Indo-Italian-Canadian figure skater Emanuel Sandhu
and the half-Japanese Karyia hockey brothers, speaks to our sense of a
nation that can value all races and cultures equally. 
Inter-racial marriage is accepted especially in a city like Vancouver,
which has the highest ratio of inter-racial couples in Canada. 
This is the message of racial and cultural harmony that Vancouver 2010
can give to the world at the next winter Olympics.  The World is
Welcome in Vancouver!





RELEASE:  February 23, 2006




Grades 3 and 4 children of Richmond’s Tomsett Elementary School will join
principal Sabina Harpe and their teacher Joan Young in asking Vancouver Mayor
Sam Sullivan and members of the public for help to save author Joy Kogawa’s
childhood home. The children will present drawings of the Kogawa house and
letters of support to the Mayor during a visit at Vancouver City Hall on to be announced.

Prior to
their trip to city hall, the children visited Kogawa’s childhood home at
1450 West 64th
Avenue and toured it with the author. For months the
students have studied Kogawa’s children’s novel Naomi’s Road and they understand the story
of forgiveness in the face of
prejudice that Kogawa tells in her work. During the tour, the children
stood under the cherry tree or “friendship” tree that Kogawa spoke
of in Naomi’s Road. At city hall
they will also visit the “baby” cherry tree planted there on November 1,


“I am
deeply moved that these young children, responding to a book and the opera
Naomi’s Road, have gathered
donations to save the house and the cherry tree in the backyard. I wish to thank
them and so many others for their action,” says Kogawa. “These children are the
future and it is important for them to understand our past to ensure it doesn’t
happen again.”


children at Tomsett Elementary
School represent many different ethnic groups yet
they all understand the forgiveness themes of Naomi’s Road. “One of the greatest joys to
date has been to hear that—after they have read Naomi’s Road and seen the opera—some
Chinese Canadian children told some Japanese Canadian children, ‘I don’t hate
you anymore’, ” says Kogawa. These are the lessons of healing that Kogawa hopes
the house will continue to teach as other school children tour the house once it
is saved.

Turner, Executive Director of TLC
The Land Conservancy of British Columbia, the non-profit land trust spearheading
the fundraising drive, will be on hand at Vancouver City
Hall to join the children in their appeal and to
thank them for their action.

Donations can be made to
TLC through their website at or by calling (604)
733-2313. Donation forms can also be picked up at select bookstores throughout


Tomsett Elementary
: Sabina Harpe (604) 668-6448; TLC The Land
Bill Turner (250) 213-1090; Heather Skydt (604) 733-2313;
Kogawa House Committee: Ann-Marie
Metten (604)