Author Tags: Fiction, Japanese, Kidlit & Young Adult, Literary Landmarks

LITERARY LOCATION: Joy Kogawa House, 1450 West 64th Avenue, Marpole district, Vancouver

This house was confiscated from the Kogawa family under the War Measures Act during World War II. It was later purchased by the Land Conservancy of B.C. in May of 2006 to prevent it from being demolished. The purchase was made possible after several years of fundraising and lobbying by members of the The Historic Joy Kogawa House Society and others. Most significantly, the home was acquired thanks to a $500,000 donation from Senator Nancy Ruth. After most people assumed it was safely held within the TLC, the childhood home of novelist Joy Kogawa was facing foreclosure after TLC declared it could no longer sustain 51 sites around the province, including Abkhazi Garden in Victoria, Madrona Farm in Saanich and Talking Mountain Ranch at Clinton. The Land Conservancy of B.C., essentially declared bankruptcy in October 7, 2013, when it filed for protection under the Companies Creditors Arrangement Act (CCAA). Ownership of the former Kogawa property was transferred to the City of Vancouver on Nov. 1, 2016 for $634,000. Funds from the sale retired the $134,000 mortgage on title and paid off creditors. “The Kogawa board supports the transfer of the Historic Joy Kogawa House from TLC to the City of Vancouver,” said executive director Ann-Marie Metten. [Ownership of Talking Mountain Ranch and some other properties have been transferred to the Nature Conservancy of Canada.]


Joy Kogawa was named the 14th winner of British Columbia's lifetime achievement award for authors. The George Woodcock Award was presented to her at Joy Kogawa House in Vancouver on April 25, 2008.

Daughter of an Anglican minister and a kindergarten teacher, Joy Kogawa was born in Vancouver as Joy Nozomi Nakayama on June 6, 1935. She has spent a lifetime internalizing, understanding and relating the repercussions of racism and internment during World War II. Her response is perhaps best summed up in a line from her award-winning first novel, Obasan. "What this country did to us, it did to itself."

Obasan (1981) is a novel based upon her family's forced relocation from the West Coast during World War II when she was six years old. Many Japanese Canadians were herded into converted barns on the PNE grounds but Kogawa's family was spared this indignity. Joy Kogawa’s family was sent by train to the internment camp at Slocan City, B.C. and lived in "a shack made of newspaper walls"). After the war, in Canada’s Dispersal Policy, they went to Coaldale, Alberta, where the family lived in a one-room shack and she graduated from high school. The fictional memoir of Naomi Nakane, who recalls her early childhood in the Marpole area of Vancouver in 1942, has become a touchstone for the pain and drama and racism associated with the internment of Japanese Canadians during World War II. At age five, Naomi's life is radically altered after the devastating Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour. "We are the silences that speak from stone" Kogawa writes. The novel describes how Naomi Nakane's aunt and uncle, as enemy aliens were forced to provide labour for sugar beet farms while the family lived in a one-room shack "with no water, no heat, no toilet, no electricity, surrounded by gumbo." As a child, Kogawa sent letters to the family's former residence in Vancouver, but these letters were never answered. Her mother dreamed of moving back. "I would have done anything to get it for her," Kogawa said in 1992, "but I couldn't. It's so tragic when I think about my mother's life. She clung to an entirely spiritual life but there was such an underlying sadness."

Kogawa's novel Itsuka (1992) recounts Naomi Nakane's gradual reconciliation with Canada against the backdrop of the Redress movement. More overtly political than Obasan, it takes its title from the Japanese word for someday--Itsuka. It voices the collective expectation that 'someday' Japanese Canadians, who had property confiscated as enemy aliens, would gain compensation from the Canadian government. In 2006, Itsuka was re-released and re-titled as Emily Kato on the 60th anniversary of the bombing that claimed Naomi's young mother in Obasan. In Itsuka and Emily Kato, Naomi suffers when she learns of the death of the dear aunt and uncle who raised her, but her other aunt, "the feisty Emily Kato." convinces her to move to Toronto, where she becomes involved in the Redress Movement.

The Redress Movement in which Kogawa "totally immersed" herself for five years succeeded in Canada prior to the publication of Itsuka. The Redress Agreement was signed in Canada by Prime Minister Brian Mulroney on September 22, 1988, after American President Ronald Reagan set a precedent by signing the Civil Liberties Act of August 4, 1988, allocating $20,000 per Japanese American who had been interned during World War II. [Also see Roy Miki entry.]

A third Kogawa novel, The Rain Ascends, deals with the painful and complicated subject of molestation in early childhood and the importance of mercy. Kogawa has published numerous collections of poetry since 1967, plus a children's novel, Naomi's Road, about the internment of a girl named Naomi and her brother Stephen, both separated from their parents during World War II. A revised and illustrated 2005 edition, based on an expanded version published in Japan, includes added historical information and new information on the fate of Naomi's mother. A Vancouver Opera version of Naomi's Road premiered in 2005. Her latest book is Naomi’s Tree (Toronto: Fitzhenry & Whiteside, 2008).

Joy Kogawa has lived primarily in Toronto but has maintained an apartment in Vancouver. Divorced, she has two children and has become a grandmother. A member of the Order of Canada, she has received seven honourary doctorates from Canadian universities. Next to Alice Munro, the highest ranked living B.C. author in Quill & Quire’s 1999 survey of English Canadian literature was Joy Kogawa, ranked at number 13, for Obasan. [Also in the Top Twenty were Sheila Watson for The Double Hook, Malcolm Lowry for Under the Volcano and Elizabeth Smart for By Grand Central Station I Sat Down And Wept. Tops was Margaret Laurence for The Stone Angel.]

The City of Vancouver proclaimed November 6 as Joy Kogawa Day in 2004 and passed a motion to plant a cherry tree, propagated from one growing in the backyard of the former Kogawa home, on the grounds of City Hall. An effort to purchase and preserve the Kogawa's former residence at 1450 West 64th Avenue in Vancouver was instigated in 2004 by the Save the Kogawa Homestead Committee consisting of Margaret Steffler, Roy Miki, Sook C. Kong, Keiko Miki, Lois Wilson, Daphne Marlatt, Steve Turnbull, Tracy Matsuo, David Kogawa, Timothy Nakayama, Linda Ohama, Stephanie Gould, Ann-Marie Metten, Anton Wagner and Chris Kurata. New Kogawa Homestead committee member Todd Wong told CBC's Mark Forsythe in October of 2005, "It's not just a Japanese Canadian issue." Kogawa remained philosophical about the efforts to save the house from demolition by an offshore owner, one of a series of owners of the house. "I don't want to be aggressive, I don't want to fight," she once said. "We'll see what friendship can do."

In 2005, Vancouver city council formally consented to preserve the house as a heritage site if sufficient funds could be raised for its purchase from the owner. On November 3, 2005. the City of Vancouver granted a 120-day delay on the demolition permit for the house, effective November 30. In early December, the Land Conservancy of British Columbia announced they would spearhead the campaign to raise the $1.25 million needed to acquire the house, restore it and set up an endowment to secure its protection in perpetuity as a symbol of Canada’s cultural heritage. The original deadline for funding was March 30, 2006. It was extended to the end of April. In late April the Land Conservancy of British Columbia announced it was moving forward with the purchase of the house to prevent demolition. “While we still need to raise more funds to purchase and operate the house, our ‘option to purchase’ expires this weekend,” explained TLC Executive Director Bill Turner. “We are out of time. So TLC has decided to step forward, and take out a mortgage if necessary, to make sure that this important piece of our country’s heritage will not be lost.”

By this juncture, some 500 donors had raised $230,000 but the TLC needed nearly $700,000 specifically to purchase the house. An anonymous donor [later identified as Nancy Ruth; see press release below] contributed $500,000. The conservancy effort was seeking $1.25 million overall to operate the house as an educational site addressing the issue of the internment of Canadians of Japanese heritage during the Second World War and as a site for a Writers-in-Residence program. “The future of the Historic Joy Kogawa House is now completely in the hands of the TLC, and we are proud of what we were able to accomplish with such a short deadline,” said TLC Deputy Executive Director Ian Fawcett. "This is one huge hurdle cleared. The next challenge is to continue raising the rest of the funds necessary to complete this project, to restore the house ($200,000) and to set up an endowment to offset the costs of long-term maintenance and programming ($300,000)."

The Land Conservancy of British Columbia (TLC) became the owners of the house on May 31, 2006. In response to the news that her family's former home would be preserved, Joy Kogawa wrote: "What the house means to me -- these days it's a sense of miracle that surrounds me. The fact of The Land Conservancy coming along and taking this on, the fact that it just happened to be that Naomi's Road was made into an opera at this time, that Vancouver Public Library chose Obasan as the One Book for Vancouver--these were miracles enough, without it all happening at this particular time. And the amazing miracle of the particular people who were drawn to the work of saving the house -- Anton Wagner, Ann-Marie Metten, Todd Wong. So the house and the cherry tree and all these happenings and people are signs of miracles and fill me with hope. When we look at the uncaring in our planet, here is evidence that relationships can be rehabilitated, the formerly despised can be embraced. The dream that writers who are presently among the despised of the world, can come and write their stories here, fills me with even more hope. Racism is a present tragedy in the world, as it has been in the past. Here is one small way that we can say in Canada, that racism can be overcome."

A review of Joy Kogawa's multi-faceted non-fiction book Gently to Nagasaki (Caitlin 2016) is provided below.

In May of 2006, Joy Kogawa was named as a recipient of the Order of British Columbia.


Gently to Nagasaki (Caitlin 2016) $24.95 978-1-987915-15-0
Naomi’s Tree (Toronto: Fitzhenry & Whiteside, 2008).
The Rain Ascends. (Knopf Canada, 1995).
Itsuka. (Penguin Books, 1993). (Retitled Emily Kato, 2006)
Naomi's Road. (Oxford University Press, 1986; Stoddart 1994; Fitzhenry & Whiteside, 2005).
Woman in the Woods. (Mosaic Press, 1985).
Obasan. (Lester & Orpen, Dennys, 1981; Penguin Books, 1983; Puffin Classics, 2014).
Jericho Road. (McClelland & Stewart, 1977).
A Choice of Dreams. (McClelland & Stewart, 1974).
The Splintered Moon. (Fiddlehead, 1967).


For Obasan: Books in Canada, First Novel Award. Canadian Authors Association, Book of the Year Award. Periodical Distributors of Canada, Best Paperback Fiction Award. Before Columbus Foundation's American Book Award. American Library Association, Notable Book Award.

Order of Canada, 1986
Honorary Doctorate, SFU, 1993
Order of British Columbia, 2006.
George Woodcock Lifetime Achievement Award, 2008

[Alan Twigg / BCBW 2017] "Fiction" "Classic" "Japanese" "Kidlit"

Review of the author's work by BC Studies:
Gently to Nagasaki

House of Obasan Up for Sale (2003)
Press Release

On Saturday, September 27, 2-3 pm, author Joy Kogawa will return to her childhood house at 1450 West 64th Avenue. She will meet with friends, teachers, fellow writers, and interested readers of her work. She will share her memories and read from her award-winning novel, Obasan. Since its publication in 1981, Obasan has become one of the most endearing novels of our time. Countless readers were first introduced to the wartime mass uprooting and internment of Japanese Canadians through the eyes of its central character, Naomi Nakane. As Naomi invokes her personal memory of this catastrophic event, she takes readers back to her childhood in the Marpole area of Vancouver - and back to 1450 West 64th Avenue in 1942. Then six years old, she recalls the moments when her tightly knit family life was violated and then torn apart by the actions of the Canadian government.

While recently visiting Vancouver, sixty-one years later, Kogawa came across the very house that she remembered in her novel - still close to its original form inside and out. The house is empty and up for sale. Kogawa was especially struck by the cherry tree in the back yard, propped up and bandaged, yet still very much alive. As she writes after being invited to return to West 64th Avenue: "I always always wanted to go back home. It was such a splendid house in my mind, a castle, compared to everything afterwards. The old old cherry tree is still there in the back yard - terribly wounded and weeping sap - but miraculously alive." West Coast Line and the Japanese Canadian Studies Society, with the assistance of Joy Kogawa's friend, Roy Miki, are pleased to sponsor a literary event to commemorate Kogawa's return to this historically important site. The media is especially invited to attend this unique literary and cultural event in Vancouver. -- West Coast Line, 2003

Save Kogawa House Committee (2005)
Press Release

November 3, 2005

This afternoon Vancouver City Council voted
unanimously to grant an unprecedented 120-day delay of
demolition for 1450 West 64th Avenue, the childhood
home of author Joy Kogawa.

The present home owner bought the house in 2003,
unaware that the Save Kogawa Homestead committee was
trying to raise funds to turn the house into a
writers’ retreat. The owner has now decided to
demolish and rebuild on the site, prompting the now
renamed Save Kogawa House committee to action,
soliciting support from writing and arts organizations
across the country.

Gerry McGeough, senior heritage planner in the
Vancouver City Planning Department, was instrumental
in bringing the motion before city council. He stated
that the 1915 house could be registered as Class A
heritage because of its cultural value and local and
national prominence.

Todd Wong and Ann-Marie Metten led the committee’s
presentation to council, with additional presentations
from Diane Switzer of the Vancouver Heritage
Foundation, Heather Redfern of the Alliance for Arts
and Culture, and Marion Quednau of the Writers’ Union
of Canada, demonstrating the wide local and national
support across Canada to preserve the house,

Kogawa, received the Order of Canada in 1986 and her
novel Obasan is school curriculum across Canada and
studied around the world. The novel was also chosen as
the Vancouver Public Library’s One Book One Vancouver
selection for 2005. An operatic adaptation of the
children’s story, Naomi’s Road, is now touring BC
schools with the Vancouver Opera in the Schools

Joy Kogawa arrived via car and ferry from a
performance of Naomi’s Road in Ucuelet, BC, just in
time to read from her novel Obasan. Kogawa had only
left City Hall on Tuesday, November 1st, which had
been proclaimed “Obasan Cherry Tree Day”, as a graft
from the cherry tree from Kogawa’s childhood home was
planted at City Hall.

Council was so moved by the presentation that
Councillor Raymond Louie immediately challenged other
councillors to pull out their wallets and match his
$100 donation. Councillor Ellen Woodsworth wrote an
equivalent cheque and said council would challenge
other city councils to match their donations as well.
At the end of the meeting, the committee walked out of
council chambers $540 richer.

An estimated $750,000 is needed to purchase the house
from the owner at “fair market value.” McGeough has
been mediating with the house owner and the Save
Kogawa House committee, and the 120-day delay will
give the committee time to fundraise this amount.

Charitable donations can be made online through the
Vancouver Heritage Foundation website at

To celebrate this milestone in the Save Kogawa House
campaign, a performance of the opera Naomi’s Road by
the Vancouver Opera Touring Ensemble will be presented
free to the public on November 12 at 2 pm. It will
take place in the Alice MacKay Room of the Vancouver
Public Library downtown. Special guest musician is
Harry Aoki, who was interned at age 20.

Kogawa Open House

Prior to renovations that will turn the former Kogawa family residence in the Marpole neighborhood of Vancouver into a writers’ retreat, an Open House was held on September 17, 2006 to celebrate the purchase and preservation of Joy Kogawa House at 1450 West 64th by The Land Conservancy. The organization purchased the property aided by donations from 550 individuals. Best known for her novel about the internment of Japanese Canadians during World War II, Obasan, Joy Kogawa was in attendance. Information regarding the process that saved the house from demolition can be found on The Land Conservancy website at www.conservancy.bc.ca.

[BCBW 2006]

Donor thanked; tree planted
Press Release (2008)

from Land Conservancy of BC
April 9, 2008

VANCOUVER, B.C. - Joy Kogawa, award-winning Canadian author and Bill Turner, Executive Director at TLC The Land Conservancy of British Columbia will join to thank the significant donor who helped to complete the purchase of Historic Joy Kogawa House on Friday, April 25, at 3 p.m., Historic Joy Kogawa House, 1450 West 6th Avenue.

The donor, who is a prominent Canadian dedicated to women’s rights and the environment, will be on hand to speak about their special contribution to this cultural landmark.

Following the press conference, guest speakers (with special appearance by Iona Campagnolo, former B.C. Lieutenant Governor and TLC’s Honourary President) will participate in a cherry tree planting to celebrate second life at the Historic Joy Kogawa House. The cherry tree cutting is from the tree in the backyard at the house which was highlighted in Joy Kogawa’s children’s books: Naomi’s Road and her latest novel, Naomi’s Tree.

In May 2006, TLC became the proud owner of the Historic Joy Kogawa House. The purchase would not have been complete without the generous donation of $500,000. After a hard-fought effort by TLC and the Save Kogawa House Committee to save the house from demolition, it is being restored, and beginning in the spring of 2009, will host a writer-in-residence program.

The Historic Joy Kogawa House is a place that commemorates both the brightest hopes and the darkest hours of Canadian history. The house, representative of many properties owned by Canadians of Japanese descent, was confiscated during the Second World War when its occupants and 20,000 other Japanese-Canadians were interned.

Woodcock Award Presentation
Press Release (2008)

The Language of Music, The Music of Words
A Musical Evening with Joy Kogawa and Friends

When: Friday, April 25, 8:00 to 9:30 p.m.

Where: Historic Joy Kogawa House, 1450 West 64th Avenue, Vancouver

Cost: By donation. Space is limited. To secure a seat, please RSVP by emailing kogawahouse@yahoo.ca. Wine and cheese will be served.

Vancouver composer Leslie Uyeda presents two song cycles written to accompany five of Joy Kogawa's most exquisite poems. "Stations of Angels" will be performed by soprano Heather Pawsey and flutist Kathryn Cernauskas and "Offerings," by Heather Pawsey and pianist Rachel Kiyo Iwaasa. These performances are the world premiere of both song cycles, which were composed especially for these three artists. To complement the musical performance, poets Joy Kogawa, Heidi Greco, Marion Quednau, and Vancouver's poet laureate George McWhirter will read. The evening will close with a stellar presentation: the Vancouver Public Library will award Joy the George Woodcock Lifetime Achievement Award for an outstanding literary career related to British Columbia.

This National Poetry Month event takes place in Joy Kogawa's childhood home-a place that is representative of the many properties owned by Canadians of Japanese descent that were confiscated during the Second World War when their occupants were interned. After a hard-fought effort to save the house from demolition, the tiny bungalow is being restored and will host a writer-in-residence program. Proceeds from this musical event will fund the honorarium for the first writer to live and work at the house, beginning in March 2009.

Press Release (2008)

from Vancouver Public Library
(Vancouver, B.C.) – Joy Kogawa is the next name to be inscribed onto a commemorative plaque in the Writers' Walk at Vancouver’s Library Square honouring recipients of the George Woodcock Lifetime Achievement Award.

Kogawa is the 14th established writer to be honoured for an outstanding literary career related to British Columbia. She will receive the award on April 25 at the newly preserved Historic Joy Kogawa House owned by The Land Conservancy of British Columbia during a national poetry event of original music and poetry.

In addition to being commemorated in the Writer’s Walk, Vancouver Mayor Sam Sullivan will issue a proclamation honouring Kogawa, who also receives a $3,000 award.

Upon learning she was to receive the George Woodcock Lifetime Achievement Award, Kogawa said, “I think it's probably not possible to be more rewarded, more blessed, than I have been. It's bewilderingly, amazingly incomprehensible.”

Kogawa, who lives primarily in Toronto but has maintained a residence in Vancouver, is much honoured both for her writing and civic involvement, particularly in the Japanese-Canadian Redress Movement.

She is a recipient of the Order of British Columbia, a member of the Order of Canada and holds an honorary doctorate from Simon Fraser University.

For her seminal novel Obasan, Kogawa won the Books in Canada First Novel Award, Canadian Authors Association Book of the Year Award and the American Library Association Notable Book Award. Vancouver Public Library chose Obasan as its 2005 One Book, One Vancouver title. Next to Alice Munro, the highest-ranked BC author in Quill & Quire’s 1999 survey of English Canadian literature was Kogawa who was ranked 13th for Obasan.

“Joy Kogawa is truly a national literary treasure,” said Alan Twigg, publisher of BC BookWorld and member of the Woodcock Award committee.

“Obasan is an extremely influential book because it captures and poignantly reflects a painful and damaging event in Canadian history while being truly poetic in its sensibility. And while it is the book that firmly placed Joy Kogawa on Canada’s literary landscape, it represents only one aspect of her work. Her full body of work, including two other novels, five books of poetry and two children’s books, confirms why she is so deserving of the George Woodcock Lifetime Achievement Award,” he added.

The City of Vancouver proclaimed November 6, 2004 as Joy Kogawa Day and planted a cherry tree, propagated from one growing in the backyard of the former Kogawa home, on the grounds of City Hall. The effort to purchase and preserve the Kogawa family's former residence at 1450 West 64th Avenue began in 2004 by the Save the Kogawa Homestead Committee and was achieved in April 2006 when the Land Conservancy of British Columbia announced it would purchase the house to prevent demolition and ensure an important piece of Canada’s heritage was not lost.

Kogawa’s family was among 22,000 Japanese Canadians who were forcibly relocated from the West Coast during World War ll when she was six years old. The family was herded into converted barns on Vancouver’s Pacific National Exhibition grounds then sent by train to internment camps in the Slocan area of southeast British Columbia, then to Coaldale, Alberta and later to Saskatchewan and Ontario. Kogawa immersed herself in a major campaign launched by the Japanese-Canadian Redress Movement in the early 1980s. On Sept. 22, 1988, Prime Minister Brian Mulroney signed the Redress Agreement and issued a long-awaited formal apology.

Obasan is a fictionalized account of her family's forced relocation from British Columbia, a theme that recurs in her work including Itsuka that was retitled Emily Kato and a children’s book Naomi’s Tree.

In 1994, in the aftermath of civic events held to recognize the literary career of celebrated Vancouver writer George Woodcock, BC BookWorld, the City of Vancouver, Vancouver Public Library and the non-profit Pacific BookWorld News Society jointly sponsored and presented an annual prize to a senior BC author whose enduring contribution to the literary arts spans several decades. The initial corporate sponsor was BC Gas, later renamed Terasen. In 2007, the Terasen Lifetime Achievement Award was renamed the George Woodcock Lifetime Achievement Award.

Nancy Ruth Steps Forward
Press Release (2008)

from The Land Conservancy
April 25, 2008:

VANCOUVER, BC – Senator Nancy Ruth has moved into the limelight as the anonymous donor who helped saved the childhood home of friend and Canadian author, Joy Kogawa. Given her strong advocacy work for women’s rights in Canada and abroad, it was a natural fit for her to support a place that represents hope, healing, and reconciliation.

“This house reminds me of Joy Kogawa’s creativity, her passion, her reconciliation with foes, and her hope for the world. I wanted to help save Joy’s family home to preserve Joy’s spirit and the spirituality that I experience in association with her and the communities she nurtures,” says Hon. Nancy Ruth.

In May 2006, TLC The Land Conservancy of British Columbia became the proud owner of the Historic Joy Kogawa House in the Marpole community of Vancouver. The purchase was made possible because of a $500,000 donation from Hon. Nancy Ruth. After a hard-fought effort by TLC and the Save Kogawa House Committee to save the house from demolition, it is being restored, and plans are in the works to host a writer-in-residence program in Spring 2009.

“Hon. Nancy Ruth’s gift to the Historic Joy Kogawa House made our vision for the house come true. The purchase could have not happened without her generosity. Future children will now have a place to visit to learn about the Japanese Canadian internment, and Joy Kogawa’s literary works. The house has a second life, and we are happy to be part of it,” says TLC Executive Director, Bill Turner.

A native of Toronto, Hon. Nancy Ruth has won a series of prestigious awards such as the South African Women for Women Friendship Award in 2004; the Government of Ontario’s Award for Outstanding Achievement in Human Rights in 1998; and Membership in the Order of Canada in 1994. Recently she received the 2007 Charles Sauriol Greenspace Award from the Conservation Fund of Greater Toronto.

Throughout her working life, she has played an active role in various religious, professional, political, educational and non-profit organizations in Canada, Britain and the United States. She has also been instrumental in co-founding organizations that work for women’s social change like LEAF (The Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund), the Canadian Women’s Foundation, www.section15.ca, Toronto’s The Linden School, The Women’s Future Fund and the Charter of Rights Coalition.

“I believe Senator Nancy Ruth’s action was more than one of generosity or friendship. It was an act of faith - a faith that all who laboured to save this house have shared. The world can be a kinder place. What winds blew us all together - The Land Conservancy, Nancy Ruth, Save Kogawa House Committee, school children and people great and small - I do not know. But it is more astonishing to me than words can say. I dream that the ways of reconciliation can radiate forth from this little house that survives,” says award-winning Canadian author, Joy Kogawa.

As a celebration to one woman’s commitment to woman and culture, TLC is hosting a private recognition ceremony for Senator Nancy Ruth this evening. Guest speakers will include: Bill Turner, TLC Executive Director, Ujjal Dosanjh, MP for Vancouver South, Joy Kogawa, award-winning Canadian author and Hon. Iona Campagnolo, former Lieutenant Governor of B.C. and TLC Honorary President. Following the ceremony, the general public are welcome to attend a national poetry month event entitled: The Language of Music, The Music of Words – A Musical Evening with Joy Kogawa and Friends at the Historic Joy Kogawa House, 1450 West 64th Avenue from 8 to 9:30 p.m. To secure a seat, please email: kogawahouse@yahoo.ca. Admission by donation.

The Historic Joy Kogawa House is a place that commemorates both the brightest hopes and the darkest hours of Canadian history. The house, representative of many properties owned by Canadians of Japanese descent, was confiscated during the Second World War when its occupants and 20,000 other Japanese-Canadians were interned.

TLC is a registered charity and land trust protecting wilderness areas, cultural landmarks, and agricultural lands in B.C. Since 1997, TLC has protected over 120,000 acres of sensitive and threatened lands around B.C., involving more than 300 projects. TLC has grown to include over 7,000 members, and is now part of an international network of National Trusts with over 7 million members.

Court Approves Sale of Kogawa House
Press Release (2016)

Nov 3, 2016

Vancouver, BC – The Land Conservancy of B.C. (TLC) on Friday, October 28, received Supreme Court of B.C. approval to transfer the Historic Joy Kogawa House to the City of Vancouver.

Located in Vancouver’s Marpole neighbourhood, the house is the childhood home of Canadian author Joy Kogawa. Joy is best known as the author of the novel Obasan (1981), based on her forced relocation as a child during World War II. Joy and her family lived in the house until 1942, when they were sent to an internment camp along with thousands of other Canadians of Japanese descent. The Government of Canada authorized the confiscation of the house under the War Measures Act.

With support from around the world, TLC purchased the property in 2006 to protect the home from being demolished. The house is currently managed by the Historic Joy Kogawa House Society as a heritage and cultural centre, and as a site of healing and reconciliation. The Society facilitates literary events and programming at the house including a writers-in-residence program for visiting authors.

“The Kogawa board supports the transfer of the Historic Joy Kogawa House from TLC to the City of Vancouver,” said Ann-Marie Metten, executive director of the Historic Joy Kogawa House Society. “We are satisfied by our discussions with the City to date, confirmed by a letter from Patrick Murphy of the City’s Real Estate and Facilities Management Department dated October 24, 2016, that the City will enter into a lease with the Historic Joy Kogawa House Society at a nominal rent to permit the continued use of the Historic Joy Kogawa House as a cultural and education centre, as Joy Kogawa has envisioned.”

The property was transferred for $634,000 on November 1, 2016. Funds from the sale will retire the $134,000 mortgage on title and pay TLC’s creditors as per the organization’s Plan of Arrangement and Compromise (POA).

“The Board of Directors and I are thrilled to have this agreement for Kogawa House approved by the Court today,” said Cathy Armstrong, TLC’s executive director. “The Board of Directors and I are looking forward to the conclusion of the CCAA process in the near future.”

The sale of the Historic Joy Kogawa House was included in the organization’s original POA which was sanctioned by the Supreme Court of British Columbia on April 2, 2015. The Plan recognized TLC’s commitment to pay creditors to the greatest extent possible and ensure that properties remain protected.

Having completed all but three of the transactions contemplated in the POA, TLC has submitted a revised POA to Court for approval to complete the creditor process. Sanctioned today by the Court, the revised POA will require a vote by creditors in early December. The completion of TLC’s revised POA will require the sale of densities zoned on Abkhazi Garden, 6% undivided interest in Maltby Lake and the transfer of Wildwood Ecoforest.

Upon conclusion of the CCAA process TLC will continue to protect sensitive ecosystems throughout B.C. through the monitoring and enforcement of more than 230 conservation covenants.

Gently to Nagasaki
Review 2017

REVIEW: Gently to Nagasaki: A Spiritual Pilgrimage, an Exploration Both Communal and Intensely Personal

By Joy Kogawa

Halfmoon Bay: Caitlin Press, 2016. $24.95 / 978-1-987915-15-0

Reviewed by Patricia E. Roy


The librarian who provided the Cataloguing in Publication information gave Joy Kogawa’s Gently to Nagasaki a call number in the 800s in Dewey Decimal system. That would shelve it with literature. Given Kogawa’s fine reputation as a writer of fiction and as a poet, this is an understandable choice especially since some of the prose reads like poetry and a number of comments explain how Kogawa created the characters in her much-praised novel, Obasan (1981), her subsequent reflections on its messages, and the origins of her novel, The Rain Ascends (1995).

This book, however, is much more than a literary exegesis. Many other call numbers are plausible. A case could be made for putting it in the 100s for it deals with the psychological effects of having a paedophile as a father. It could sit in the 200s beside other books about religion for the book has Biblical allusions, references to Christian feast days, and a discussion of issues within the Anglican Church in which Kogawa’s father was an ordained minister.

Another possibility would be the 300s since there is much about the Japanese Canadians, particularly during the time of their forced removal from the coast in 1942, the loss of their property, and the aftermath. As Kogawa expresses it, “We were tossed as pearls in a broken necklace and as scraps for the dogs of labour, a few here, a few there, over the vast Canadian landscape” (p. 12).

One could even consider putting the book in the 500 or 600s, where its discussions of atomic energy could be related to medicine or technology. Had I been the cataloguer, I would have assigned 921 to it, the number for autobiography for, though episodic and incomplete, this is very much a memoir. The subtitle accurately describes the subject and theme. Running through the book, beginning with the prelude, is the theme of Mercy.

Why Nagasaki? Nagasaki was the second Japanese city to suffer from the Atomic bomb. Ironically, as Kogawa emphasizes, it was “the pre-eminent spot of Christendom in East Asia” (p. 16), yet Christians dropped the bomb. “Somewhere in Nagasaki in August [1945], is God seeking mercy from us” (p. 30).

While she had no direct connection with the city until a visit in 2010, earlier she had been impressed by the story of Dr. Takashi Nagai, a Christian radiologist who, though injured and ailing, tended to victims of the bomb. As a scientist he carefully recorded the progress of radiation disease and the treatments applied, but still wrote that atomic energy could also be used for the betterment of humanity (p. 33). That leads to Kogawa’s debates with her friends, the anti-nuclear power sociologist Metta Spencer and the physicist Erich Voght who supported the peaceful use of nuclear energy.

The book then jumps back to Japan, to Kyoto. While there, accompanying her adored and elderly father who was on a speaking tour, Kogawa finally confronted him with what she had long known, that although “a visionary and charismatic priest,” he was a paedophile (p. 52). Telling him, and later telling the world through her writing, provided her with a release, a mercy. Nevertheless, even after his death she continued to wonder “how my blithe light-hearted father could be the epitome of evil” (p. 158).

Kogawa’s memoir also reveals tensions within the Japanese Canadian community as some would not forgive her father and opposed the turning of the family’s pre-war home in Vancouver’s Marpole district into an artists’ residence since it would also, indirectly, honour him.

Kogawa was not the only descendant to be troubled by the actions of an ancestor. Two granddaughters of Howard Green, one of the British Columbia Members of Parliament who called for the removal of the Japanese Canadians from the province, came to Kogawa when members of the Japanese Canadian community successfully campaigned against naming a new federal building in Vancouver after Green.

Kogawa was shocked to discover that her friend Stuart Philpott was the son of Elmore Philpott, a Vancouver journalist who, in 1942, also wanted the Japanese removed from the coast.

Despite the efforts of Green’s granddaughters to point out his many virtues, and of Philpott to explain the context of the time in which his father wrote, Kogawa could not extend mercy until the descendants admitted that their ancestors were racists.

Kogawa and her brother publicly admitted the “heinous sexual attacks” (p. 178) of their father, but the rage against him continued and Kogawa remained “the daughter of a paedophile” (p. 204). Yet, in a closing poem, Kogawa suggests the Goddess of Mercy listens.

Gently to Nagasaki is an intensely personal story and a tantalizing one. One hopes that Joy Kogawa will write a full autobiography that will clearly be catalogued as a “921.”


Patricia E. Roy is professor emeritus of History at the University of Victoria. Her latest book is Boundless Optimism: Richard McBride’s British Columbia (UBC Press, 2012).


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