Naomi's Road at Seattle Public Library – seen by Joy Kogawa's brother Rev. Timothy Nakayama


Naomi's Road at Seattle PublicLibrary – seen by Joy Kogawa's brother Rev. Timothy Nakayama
 
The following was sent to me by both Joy Kogawa and her brother
Rev. Timothy Nakayama.  He is now a retired minister living in
Seattle.  The story of Obasan is partly autobiographical, and the
character of Steven Kato is a composite character partially based on
Joy's older brother Tim.

Vancouver Opera Touring Ensemble performs “Naomi's Road” composed by Ramona Leungen, libretto by Ann Hodges, and commissioned by Vancouver Opera.

 – Todd
 
“The Rev. Timothy M. Nakayama”  05/15/06 8:52 PM

Monday night, May 15, 2006 8:40 p.m. –
From the Rev. Timothy Makoto Nakayama, Seattle
 
Hi Joy, Todd, and  fellow Seattlelites:
 
My
wife, Keiko, and I returned last Tuesday from our 3-week trip to
Japan.  We are still in jet-lag that keeps us sleepy during the
daylight hours and awake during much of the night and early morning. 
However, our daughter, Tina,  drove us, and brought her son, Taylor,
and we I managed to get to Bainbridge Island by ferry from Seattle
and got to Woodward Middle School after having dinner at a local
Japanese restaurant 0.6 miles from the ferry dock, and then 1.6 miles
to the school  last Friday evening in time to see and hear “Naomi's
Road”.   As a bonus I met and spoke with Mary Woodward in the school
parking lot after we came outside.
 
When
the young performers were confronted with probing questions about the
Japanese-Canadian “camp” experiences and Canadian governmental
attitudes which prompted the “Relocation”,  As one born and raised in
Canada, and an eye witness of the Japanese Canadian “camps”, I couldn't
contain myself and began a response.  After the question period was
concluded the cast took pictures of me with them.  They were somewhat
interested in meeting me as the brother of the author of the little
children's book, Naomi's Road, whose words inspired the development of
this opera.   What they had been describing by singing, acting and
skillfully moving and inter-changing scenic panels on stage, was a
reflection of the past that had occurred!  It stirred my memories!
 
This was my first experience of this opera, and to say the least it was nostalgic.
 
I intend to go tomorrow night to the Seattle Downtown Public Library by 7 p.m. to hear and see it again.
 
Tim.

Joy and Tim Nakayama
as children before internment at 1450 West 64th Ave. in Marpole
neighborhood in Vancouver.  The house will become a writing centre
and writer's retreat known as Joy Kogawa House. photo courtesy of Joy
Kogawa.
 
Sent: Tuesday, May 16, 2006 11:34 PM
Subject: Re: Naomi's Road
Thank
you, Chris, for bringing the mike to me tonight!  I hope my interloping
intervention during the question period was not too inappropriate!  At
least several people came to speak to me afterwards to express their
thanks.  My wife, Keiko, and I didn't stay too long afterwards; I tend
to run out of steam these days, so we try to pick and choose where we
go and what we do! 
 
The operatic
performance was well done.  I noticed the Ninomiya Kinjiro Statue on
the mobile in-set “piano” during the second time I saw this opera, just
as I found myself musing about the vignette about “Roughlock Bill” (a
Canadian Buffalo Bill as it were), about which I commented briefly.  I
found the question about our schooling while in “camp”  an interesting
question.    
 
Best wishes to you, for you and your work!
 

Tim Nakayama.

 

Rev. Timothy Nakayama and sister Joy Kogawa reunited at the One Book
One Vancouver launch at the Vancouver Public Library Central Branch in
May 2005.  The siblings had not seen each other in 10 years. photo
Todd Wong

 
Wednesday evening, May 17, 2006.  (it's now tomorrow the 18th!)
 
 
Among the questions was one about school during our internment. 
 
I
mentioned that at the beginning there appeared to be no provision for
our education.  Ten women missionaries who came to Slocan City (who had
left Japan for North America because of the war – they had been sent by
missionary organizations from the USA, the UK, and Canada) – now they
were in Slocan City.  They lived in a big house outside the camps but
helped us.  In our gold-mining “ghost town” there was a small St.
Paul's Anglican Church and Parish Hall.  So the women missionaries set
up a school in the Parish Hall for the high school students who were in
their final year whose time in school and opportunity for
graduation was cut off when all of us were sent to “camp”.  So the
women missionaries organized classes in the parish hall to help those
so close to graduation. 
 
The time
went on the war didn't end and we were in the mountain wilderness
without any school.  The authorities must have decided that some things
ought to happen.  The carpenters in the camps were put to work to build
a two storey structure in “Bayfarm”, a camp between the old hotels and
buildings in Slocan City, North of Bayfarm, and “Popoff”, another
camp South of Bayfarm.  The classrooms had green chalkboards in front
with a teacher's desk, and 2-person desks with bench (I remember having
to sit beside a girl at one of those desks). The school in Bayfarm was
given the name of “Pine Crescent School”.  The School Principal was a
young Buddhist Priest, Takashi Tsuji recently returned from Japan where
he had been educated. 
 
In the meantime
high school graduates were rounded up to be trained in a short course
on how to teach by the retired inspector of schools of the Province of
B.C., and recruitment of various persons with skills, such as a
cosmetologist who taught personal cleanliness and hygiene, a
boat-building carpenter who taught us “manual training” (I remember
learning how to draf, and print letters at 60 degrees, how to read
blueprints, how to hammer nails straight, cut straight with a saw, how
to set the blade of a plane and plane wood, how to carve wood, and use
sandpaper, and varnish, etc.).  We had been out of school for about a
year and a half (we didn't know how long we would continue to be in
camp), and many of us wouldn't “apply” ourselves, and the inexperienced
“greenhorn” teachers had a hard time with us, but during the year and
half we continued to be there we did about three year's school work. 
About 10% of us caught up the lost time and got up to the grade level
we had lost. 
 
The
weather was very cold in winter.  There was a stove in each
classroom and I remember seeing the red hot stove pipes.  If we faced
the stove we would feel the heat which was burning hot, but our
backsides remained freezing.  We needed gloves or mits on our hands to
keep them warm, but we couldn't write or print with them on.
 
The
story of “Naomi's Road” ends with our family going to the sugar beet
farming areas of Southern Alberta because we were not allowed to return
to Vancouver.  During the upheaval about 1/6 of our population had been
“repatriated” — “back” to Japan.  These words didn't apply to me so I
resented “repatriation” and “back” to Japan because Japan is not the
land of my birth, and I had never been to Japan in the first place. 
The plan was to close the “camps” as quickly as possible.  Those of us
who had not been repatriated were to be moved “East of the Rockies”. 
At the end of August 1945 we moved to Coaldale, Alberta..
 
Legislsation
in 1949 made sweeping changes in Canada, opening the opportunity of
immigration from all over the world into Canada, no longer with
preferences only from the UK and Europe, but from varous Asian
countries, and we were finally allowed as Japanese Canadians to return
to the 100-mile area along the Pacific Coast that had been designated
as a “protectect area” from 1942 until 1949 (even for 4
additional years after the war had ended.  Also because all our
property had been auctioned off by government order without our
knowledge while we were still in camp, we had no place where we could
go back.  By the time we were allowed to do so, people didn't have the
resources to make such a move, and most were too weary to do so.  Most
stayed where there were now living.  The centre of Japanese Canadian
population by then was Toronto.
 
I
graduated from high school in 1950, so was able to go to Vancouver to
attend the University of B.C.  After graduating I continued at our
theological college adjacent to the UBC campus.  This was the time when
some Japanese Canadians began to return to the Vancouver area so I
assisted the retired Priest, Canon Willam H. Gale who returned to
Vancouver after having helped many people in their resettlement in
Eastern Canada..  We learned by word of mouth about people who were
returning and began to re-group them into a congregation.  Because our
church buildings had also been sold, we were offered the Chapel of the
Blessed Sacrament at St. James' Church in downtown Vancouver East,
where the Japanese work had first begun in 1904.  Fr. Gale led the
Services in Japanese on Sunday afternoons when the church was not being
used by others, and since I couldn't read Japanese just as most of
Canada-born Japanese couldn't,  he gave me a 1926 Ro-maji
(Romanized) Edition of the Japanese Book of Common Prayer so I could
participate in the Services.  We also used St. George's Church in the
Fairview district – one of the areas where the Japanese had once lived
– (near the Vancouver General Hospital) for our work among the young
people.
 
These memories
were aroused by some of the questions after the performance.  These
written recollections are a little fuller than the verbal presentations
I interjected after the performances of the opera at Bainbridge
Island's Woodward Middle School and in the Auditorium of the new
downtown Seattle Public Library. 
 
Tim.


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