Author Tags: Japanese
In 2012, a 380-page study about the Japanese presence in Victoria, Gateway to Promise: Canada’s First Japanese Community (Ti-Jean $14.95), by Gordon and Lee-Ann Switzer, filled a major gap in B.C. history, recalling particulars such as the Japanese Tea Garden in Gorge Park and Japanese baseball (first played in Victoria in 1910), along with dozens of family stories.
It received second prize from the B.C. Historical Federation of the annual Lieutenant Governor's Medal competition for B.C. history.
The couple continued their spadework with Sakura in Stone: Victoria's Japanese legacy (Ti-Jean Press 2015), a three-tiered study provides an updated overview of the Japanese presence in Victoria, identifies the first "true settler" in Victoria from Japan (not a previously cited pioneer named Nagano) and provides biographical stories about some of the Japanese pioneers buried in Ross Bay Cemetery.
As well, Sakura in Stone affords a list of all 160 Japanese pioneers buried in RBC, as well as a cemetery map with instructions for a walking tour of the graves.
According to new research, likely the earliest Japanese pioneeer in Victoria as a resident was Kisuke Mikuni, born in Okayama prefecture in 1855. Having met Charles Gabriel in Yokahama, he came to Victoria to be an employee at Charles Gabriel's Japanese Bazaar, became a British subject, owned property, appeared on the voters' list in 1898 and died in Vancouver in 1909.
The Switzers have unearthed a photo of Gabriel and Mikuni outside of the Bazaar store., as well as a photo of his wife. Mikuni became an independent business man and as a director of the newly-formed Steveston Fishermen's Benevolent Association he negotiated for better prices for their fish in 1901.
In 2016, Charles Gabriel's house in Victoria where Mikuni and other Japanese boarded was still standing at 865 Academy Close.
Starting from the Ross Bay Cemetery, the couple first produced a booklet called Japanese Pioneers of Victoria in 2007, leading to more extensive research in the provincial archives and countless interviews. “A lost world had emerged,” they write. “Pieces of a puzzle had to be assembled.”
Before Ann-Lee and Gordon Switzer joined the Victoria Nikkei Cultural Society and began their research into the history of the Victoria Japanese community for Gateway to Promise, he had lived in Japan from ages three to 20, and she had studied Zen at Hokoku-ji temple in Kamakura. For eight years the Switzers also published a Zen newsletter and they have published a book about gathering seaweed.
As well, Ann-Lee Switzer took over the role played by Carr’s longtime friend and editor Ira Dilworth, preparing 61 of Carr’s short stories for This and That (Victoria: Ti-Jean, $17), touted by publisher Gordon Switzer as the first collection of unpublished Carr stories to appear since 1953. Profits from books sales were allocated towards the erection of Paterson's statue called "Our Emily" by sculptor Barbara Paterson.
[In February of 2007, in the hopes that she would be contracted to produce a bronze statue approximately 1.5 times the life size of B.C.’s best-known artist, Edmonton-based sculptor Barbara Paterson unveiled a 60-pound brass maquette at Emily Carr House depicting Carr with one of her dogs and her pet monkey Woo on her shoulder. “I really think Victoria is missing the boat," she told the Victoria News, “if they don't [get it made]. You’ve got the biggest icon in the world with Emily Carr—she’s world famous and a character. So I’m ready, but I can't wait forever.”
In 2004, the Parks and Recreation Foundation in Victoria created a fund to generate the $200,000 necessary to complete Paterson’s Carr project, which she commenced in 2001. The statue was finally erected across from the Royal Museum in 2010.]
Gordon Switzer writes, "Emily Carr’s This and That has just been published in Victoria, the first collection of her unpublished stories to appear since 1953. Contrary to popular opinion, we have not heard the last of Canada’s beloved artist and author, Emily Carr (1871-1945). During the last two years of her life, ill as she was, Emily Carr continued to churn out story after story, all drawn from the events and emotions of her fully-lived life of 70+ years. The same spring that had fed Klee Wyck, The Book of Small and other books was far from dry. While recovering from a stroke in 1943 at the Royal Jubilee Hospital, artist and writer Emily Carr decided to start a new writing project.
"In a letter to her friend and editor Ira Dilworth in 1943, she wrote: 'My new write is a hodge-podge. It is at present called ‘Hundreds and Thousands’ . . . They are just little isolated incidences told as clean cut & briefly as I can . . . They will be here and there picked from my 70 years.'
"So what happened? Emily Carr died. Then Ira Dilworth died. In the interval and afterwards several posthumous works appeared. Then all of Emily Carr’s manuscripts, notebooks and letters landed in the British Columbia Archives. There they were accessible to researchers but ignored as a body of work.
Sixty-one of Emily Carr’s unpublished stories have now been collected into a book, titled This and That to avoid confusion with her published journals Hundreds and Thousands (1966) which were given a title intended for this collection of stories. For 60 years her last stories (and there are over 70 of them) slipped from view. Now they are available for all to savour, like the little candies the English called Hundreds and Thousands, “too small each to be taken singly but each complete in itself and serving to ornament life ... the little things we don’t even notice or think of at the time but which old age memory magnifies.” (from Emily’s Introduction in This and That ) Drawn from all facets and periods of her life, they will enhance our picture of Emily Carr, full of the unique spirit, humour and colour we have grown to love.
"This collection will round out our view of Emily Carr’s personality and will fill in the characters of her family members such as her mother and brother, who were not prominent in her other books. The stories will be of interest to Emily Carr devotees and historians alike, illuminating a world that time has passed by. These stories zoom in on all facets of Carr’s life. We see her father walking hand in hand with his little girl, talking about the moon. Emily complains about her birthday being too close to Christmas, but tells us about a tasty birthday tradition she cherished. She discovers her brother Dick’s clear blue eyes and his dreams for a future he never got to experience. The little gardens tended by the Carr children are as different as their personalities. The adventures of Emily’s trips to Nootka and other places off the beaten track and her reflections about religion, old age and death are all grist for the pen of a woman unique in her time and in ours.
"Because the stories were left by Carr in draft form — most are typed with hand corrections — it has long been obvious to the researchers that they needed work before they could be published. Carr scholars are aware, as was Emily herself, that spelling was not her strong point, nor was syntax. In the recently published letters between her and her editor Ira Dilworth (Linda Morra, Corresponding Influence, University of Toronto Press 2006, from which the above quotation was taken), Emily often discusses this point, and she relied on and trusted Dilworth in this matter. Most of all she did not want her stories prettied up and reading like grammar-school exercises. Dilworth responded with respect and judicious guidance, which she continued to appreciate, and that is why she left to him the remainder of her writings. In this collection published this month, editor Ann-Lee Switzer has been guided by the spirit of Ira Dilworth, to check for clarity and mechanics but not to alter the essence of Emily’s voice. In a few cases, two versions of a story have been combined, wording has been condensed. Also footnotes are added when meaning is obscure, as in archaic usage and historic references.
"This and That at 232 pages, has a soft glossy cover showing Emily Carr’s painting B.C. Forest (ca. 1938), and retails for $17. Emily Carr’s own introduction and dedication are followed by an essay by Victoria historian and writer Ann-Lee Switzer, who edited the stories."
Review of the author's work by BC Studies:
Gateway to Promise: Canada's First Japanese Community
This and That: The Lost Stories of Emily Carr (Touchwood 2007) $17.95 9781894898614
Gateway to Promise: Canada’s First Japanese Community (Ti-Jean 2012) $29.95 978-1-896627-21-2
Sakura in Stone: Victoria's Japanese legacy (Ti-Jean Press 2015) $14.95 978-1-896627-22-9
GATEWAY TO PROMISE: CANADA'S FIRST JAPANESE COMMUNITY
Times Colonist, Sunday July 15, 2012
GATEWAY TO PROMISE: CANADA'S FIRST JAPANESE COMMUNITY
By Ann-Lee and Gordon Switzer
Ti-Jean Press, 396 pp., $29.95
For Canadians of Japanese descent, Victoria is really where it all began. Our city was the first in the country to welcome new arrivals from Japan, and they quickly became a respected part of our community.
Even after these Japanese Canadians were forced out in April 1942, a few months after the attack on Pearl Harbor, their influence remained. And today, more than 60 years after they were allowed to return, our Japanese connection has been examined in Gateway to Promise.
Ann-Lee and Gordon Switzer - both historians, writers and editors - spent about five years working on this book, and it shows. This is a well-researched and well-written account that opens the door to a vital part of our history.
And yes, it matters, even to those of us who are not of Japanese descent. A community is a sum of its parts; to ignore some of the groups that helped shape Victoria would mean that we miss the full story.
Not much is missed in this comprehensive book. The Switzers start their story earlier than one might expect, telling of crippled Japanese ships drifting to our shores.
It's not just idle speculation; there have been several documented cases of this happening. In 1834, for example, three survivors from a Japanese boat made it to shore and were captured by the local First Nations. A boat with two survivors made it to Washington state in 1927.
So with these recent examples, it's not hard to imagine that there might have been earlier incidents as well. That might help explain why some coastal First Nations languages have words similar to Japanese words.
By the 1860s, Japanese items such as paper and household goods were being imported to Victoria. By the 1880s, Japanese men were reported to be working for Charles Gabriel's store here.
By 1890, the city directory included Japanese people for the first time. The next year, the federal census listed Japanese men in Victoria.
In researching the earliest arrivals, the authors had to cope with a shortage of hard facts. Passenger lists for ship arrivals in Quebec started in 1865, but arrivals in Victoria and Vancouver were not recorded until 1905. That delay means additional challenges for anyone digging for stories about people who came from any country on the other side of the Pacific Ocean.
The Switzers devote a chapter to Manzo Nagano, who has been identified over the years as the first Japanese immigrant to Canada. They uncovered a lot of information about the man, and the chapter is a good example of the way they sought out every possible source in their quest for the truth.
In the end, they did not find conclusive proof that Nagano was indeed the first - but the story of his life is interesting nonetheless.
And there is still a mountain bearing his name, in recognition of his not-quiteproven achievement, so it might be too late to turn back now.
The first phase of Japanese history in Victoria came to an end at about noon on April 22, 1942, when 273 people aged seven months to 70 years were loaded onto the Princess Joan and taken to the mainland. With the outbreak of the Pacific war, they could no longer live within 100 miles of the coast.
"They shook hands, kissed their Canadian friends," the Victoria Daily Times reported that day. "A few broke down and with tears in their eyes were escorted aboard ship."
Seven years later, they were allowed to return, but few did. Their possessions had been sold and they had new lives elsewhere, so what was the point?
The people were gone, but Victoria was left with a living reminder: The flowering trees that line our streets.
Gateway to Promise includes 10 chapters on the various Japanese influences in Victoria, a section filled with family stories, about 200 photographs, and much more.
This is a definitive, important work that provides a long-overdue insight into Victoria's history.
The reviewer is the author of The Library Book: A History of Service to British Columbia.
© Copyright (c) The Victoria Times Colonist. Reprinted by permission of Dave Obee.