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


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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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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A Canadian Nikkei in New Denver

Nikkei INternment Memorial Centre, New Denver, BC

Nikkei Internment Memorial Centre, New Denver, BC

Talk about culture shock. Several weeks after returning from Japan, Amy, the girls and I jumped into our new Mazda5 (with roof rack and carrier added at the last second to accommodate all the gear the four of us need when “roughing it”) and headed for the Kootenays to visit my mum and sister (et al) and do some long-overdue camping. I had driven out to Nelson a number of times over the past year when my father was in the processing of dying but this was the first time in some years that the whole family had made the trek east along Highway 3.

Inevitably, the road trip turned into a mini-history lesson for Emiko and Kaya as they are finally at an age (15 & 13 respectively) where they can conceptualize history and their relationship to it. In Japan they got a taste of their Japanese roots (more about that next month) but on this trip they were able to experience a different part of their heritage as we followed the dispersal route that Japanese Canadians took on their exodus from the coast.

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A Canadian Nikkei in Hawaii – Day 2

For the first time in many years, your humble blog-master is missing Vancouver’s Powell Street Festival. It was time for a badly-needed family vacation and circumstances dictated the timing. So here we are. In Kona, on the big Island of Hawaii. We travelled yesterday from Seattle, landing at our rented home last night–the Newman/Greenaway clan (Amy, Emiko, Kaya and me) along with Amy’s folks Bonnie and Joel. So maybe today is Day One, but I’m going to call it Day Two anyway. That’s me at breakfast this morning. On the beach.

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Hapa Saint Patrick’s Day

john_ireland.jpgOne of the side benefits of being mixed race is being able to swim in both ends of the parental gene pool. While much of my adult life has been spent in and around the Japanese Canadian community (thanks mom), I have spent some time in Ireland while on tour with Uzume Taiko, getting a taste of the culture there. Like Japan, Ireland is a country of contrasts and contradictions. I won’t pretend to be an expert by any means, I can only go on my observations during my short time there. To paraphrase Dickens (who was not Irish) we had the best of times, and we had the worst of times.

The best included some amazing venues. Glendalough is a town in County Wicklow founded in the 6th Century. The photo above was taken in the graveyard there. In the background is a tower in which the monks used to barricade themselves whenever they were being invaded (which was fairly often, apparently). They had enough food and water stored in there to last a long time. According to the locals, Glendalough is one of Van Morrison’s favourite haunts, and indeed, his music came readily to mind while there. I am not a religious man, but I could see how one might find God in those rolling hills, with the light coming through the clouds as if to presage a band of angels. We played our concert in the little church there. The Minister told us that his Bishop frowned upon his use of the church for secular concerts but he ignored him as he believed the church should be for the people. It was a bit unnerving to change in the little ante-room off the chapel with a very realistic crucifix hanging directly over my head.

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Hapa Animator Wins ELAN Award for Yellow Sticky Notes

Kelowna animation filmmaker Jeff Chiba Stearns has won another ELAN award. The first time, in 2006, was for his hapa short What Are You Anyways. This time around it is for his new short, Yellow Sticky Notes, a film animated on, yes, yellow sticky notes.

Yellow Sticky Notes, created on a budget of $100, [...]

Hapa Singer-Songwriter Up for JUNO, Tours Canada

Born in New York to a Japanese father and a Caucasian mother, Justin Nozuka and his six siblings were raised in Toronto by their mother. All four boys followed careers in the arts, with Justin and his brother George becoming musicians. At 19 years of age, Justin is already carving out a reputation [...]

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