plant2 Documenting the west coast Nikkei experience [and beyond] from the viewpoint of a hapa Nikkei graphic designer, editor, photographer, taiko player & teacher.


square2Canadian noun, adj. A person born or living in Canada

Nikkei (nik’kei’) noun, adj. [Nihon “Japan” Keitou “Lineage”] Persons of Japanese descent, and descendants, who have immigrated or are living abroad, creating unique communities and life styles within the context of the societies in which they live.

Remembrance Day Ceremony


One of my favourite Nikkei events every year . . . the sun broke through this year, against all odds!

Tonari Gumi Fall Bazaar

TG Bazaar Poster2009Check out Tonari Gumi’s  annual fall Bazaar on November 7th from 11:30am to 2:20pm. As always there will be lots of homemade Japanese food and crafts made by members and volunteers. You’re advised to come early as all the good stuff sells out by 12:30pm.

Chibi Taiko in Onomichi

IMG_2901There was a moment towards the end of the July 25 performance by Chibi Taiko and Onomichi’s Betcha Taiko that will be forever etched in my memory. The two groups were playing a piece together called Ishizue, an original Betcha composition that Chibi members had learned over the course of the past week. Night was falling as the nearly three dozen drummers filled the small public square in Onomichi’s shotengai (shopping district) with a thick wall of sound. The young Chibi drummers were playing with a ferocity and sense of purpose I had never witnessed before. As the piece drew to a conclusion, the drummers swooped low to the ground, their faces glistening with a combination of sweat and exhilaration. I was surprised at the emotion that welled up in me. A lump came to my throat as I watched the members of Chibi Taiko, including my two daughters, give everything they had to a common purpose in the true spirit of taiko. At that one moment, the members of the two groups—who shared a common heritage but little else—emphatically bridged the cultural divide.

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A Canadian Nikkei In Japan

Japan_0079As our family walked through the international arrivals terminal at YVR on our way home from Japan at the beginning of August, my daughter Kaya looked at me and said, “People are so rude in Canada!” As we’d only been back on Canadian soil for 20 minutes or less, the judgement seemed rather harsh, but I knew what she meant.

I remember arriving home after my first trip to Japan in 1982 and having that same feeling—of standing in the middle of a crowded downtown mall and feeling, not exactly frightened, but uneasy . . . unsafe somehow. Which was strange, considering that I was back on familiar ground. I came to realize that after spending some time in Japan, you become accustomed, if only subconsciously, to a certain way of interacting with others, even if they are only strangers on a crowded street. There is a respect for personal space that is perhaps born out of having to live in such close proximity to one another.

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Katari Taiko 30th Anniversary Concert

KT_30Rekishi (Histories)
30 Years of Katari Taiko
Sunday, November 1, 2009, 2pm
The Cultch, 1895 Venables Street
$20 (general) / $15 (students & seniors) / $10 (12yrs & under)
+ service charges
For tickets call The Cultch box office at 604.251.1363 •
For info call 604.683.8240

When Katari Taiko celebrates its 30th Anniversary with a concert at the newly refurbished Cultch (formerly the Vancouver East Cultural Centre) on November 1, it will mark three decades of dedication to not only the art of drumming, but the community that gave birth to the group.

Katari Taiko rose out of the burgeoning Asian Canadian movement of the mid-seventies, a time when many younger Japanese and Chinese Canadians were beginning to actively question their identities and to explore their Asian heritage. Tonari Gumi was open for business on Hastings Street; Sakura-so, a home for Japanese Canadian seniors, had opened on Powell Street; the Japanese Canadian Centennial Project had published A Dream of Riches, a photographic history of the community; the Japanese Canadian Centennial in 1977 had given rise to the annual Powell Street Festival.

A performance by San Jose Taiko at the 1979 Powell Street Festival was the catalyst for the formation of Katari Taiko, the first group of its kind in Canada. A Japanese group, Ryujin Daiko, had performed at the inaugural Powell Street Festival and the world-renowned ensemble Ondekoza had performed several times in Vancouver, but they were clearly Japanese in both their approach and aesthetic; while they were to be admired, they seemed somehow out of reach. San Jose Taiko, on the other hand, was something else again. As young Asian Americans, they exuded an energy and exuberance that was both inspiring and accessible. The majority of the group were also women, defying the stereotype of the passive Asian female—something that struck a chord with many in the Japanese Canadian community. Following their performance, the members of SJT actively encouraged the formation of a local group and with that, the taiko seed was officially planted on Canadian soil.

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2009 Road to Asia Festival

Japanese Canadian Cultural Centre
showcases the best of Asian culture at ninth annual
Road to Asia Festival

Saturday, November 7, 11am – 5pm
Sunday, November 8, 11am – 5pm
The Japanese Canadian Cultural Centre
6 Garamond Court , Toronto , Ontario

(Don Mills and Eglinton, north east of the Ontario Science Centre), 416-441-2345
Admission:  Adults $5, Seniors and Students $3, Children 12 years and under – Free with adult accompaniment
Free onsite parking

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Gauche, the Cellist by Kenji Miyazawa

Public Performance of Gauche, the Cellist by Kenji Miyazawa
(Translated and Adapted for Double Bass by Ron Hadley)

Gauche, the Cellist, a short story written in the 1920s by the well-known Japanese poet and author Kenji Miyazawa (1896-1933) will be presented as a multi-disciplinary (narration, mime, dance and music) performance

GaucheMonday, October 5, 7:00 PM
The Old School House Arts Centre
122 Fern Road West, Qualicum Beach, BC

part of that organization’s 5th annual Harvest of Music (October 2nd – 7th) festival (

Although this story is most often categorized as children’s literature, it has exhibited lasting, worldwide charm and appeal to people of all ages.  Gauche, the Cellist is about a frustrated cellist in a semi-professional small town orchestra that is rehearsing for its upcoming performance of Beethoven’s Sixth Symphony (the Pastoral Symphony). Each night when Gauche returns home to his shabby, little shack next to an old watermill to practice and practice into the wee hours after another day of being scolded for his incompetence by the conductor, the cellist is visited by various local animals. These strange and enchanting dreamlike visitations gradually transform Gauche’s frustration into a more constructive and beneficial awareness of how music and compassion can bring contentment and good health to all beings in the world.

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Japanese Cultural Fair in Victoria

culturalfairThe Victoria Nikkei Cultural Society

Japanese Cultural Fair
Saturday October 24
Esquimalt Recreation Centre

527 Fraser Street
Free Admission
Enjoy traditional and non-traditional food, arts and crafts, Japanese tea and live entertainment: Japanese Tea Ceremony, Delicious Sushi and Manju, Ikebana Demonstration, Bonsai Display, Traditional Arts & Crafts, Children’s Activity Area, Taiko Drumming, Japanese Calligraphy, Koto Music . . . and more!

Japanese Garden Grand Reopening Ceremony

Japanese Garden in Esquimalt Gorge Park

teahouseGorge Park is located on the Gorge Waterway in historic Esquimalt, British Columbia. When the park was developed more than 100 years ago, a key attraction was the establishment of North America’s first Japanese Gardens. The Garden was originally designed by Isaburo Kishida in 1907. The Takata family operated a very successful Tea House in the gardens for many years. Sadly, few elements of this great Japanese garden remain today. The Township of Esquimalt has taken the first steps in recreating Canada’s oldest Japanese Garden, the original Takata Gardens. The refurbishing of the ornamental stream and the construction of a traditional Japanese bridge over it is now complete. A traditional Japanese entry gate is now being installed. These are small but very important steps in returning the spirit and soul of this important historical garden back to the community.

Japanese Garden Grand Reopening Ceremony
Esquimalt Gorge Park
Sunday October 25, 1pm
Come celebrate the return of this very special place.

JCNM Exhibit Opening

Komori_Speier_Postcardopening night reception
Friday, September 25, 6-8pm


Japanese Canadian National Museum
6688 Southoaks Crescent in Burnaby
604 777-7000

The show runs from Sept 18th – mid Nov.

This is a wonderful exhibit–two exhibits, actually. I saw them a few years back at the Powell Street Festival, but felt they got lost a bit in the outdoor context. They both really come alive in the museum setting. Check it out!


My Interview with Leslie Komori

I’ve been to Lemon Creek, or the site of where it was anyway, and it’s just a big field now. Yet at one time it was the largest internment camp, when you count Bayfarm and Rosebury. How did you come up with the concept of the Lemon Creek Map Project?
I went up to Lemon Creek with my mom and visited that same field. As you saw, there really is nothing much there, nothing to mark four years of thousands of peoples’ lives. There are depressions that mark the former locations of outhouses and metal spigots. But that’s about it. I was hoping that my mom could locate the location of her house but the lack of landmarks disoriented her.

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