Author Tags: Art, Japanese

Interned in New Denver in 1942, Henry Shimizu and his teenage friends spent their winter nights around illegal radios listening to the raspy voice of Foster Hewitt. Most of the Japanese Canadians pulled for the Leafs, but one of his friends sported a Montreal jersey during the play-by-play broadcasts of Hockey Night in Canada.

“The pond above Harris Ranch was our natural hockey rink,” he recalls, “the scene of many pick-up scrums and organized games.... It is amazing that humble beginnings such as these would culminate in Japanese Canadians particpating as members of the Canadian Olympic hockey teams at Salt Lake in 2002. In those games both men's (Paul Kariya) and women's (Vicky Sunohara) hockey teams won Olympic Gold.”

Raised in Prince Rupert prior to the Internment of Japanese Canadians, Dr. Henry Shimizu of Victoria is a retired Plastic Surgeon who was an Associate Clinical Professor of Plastic Surgery at the University of Alberta. In 2004, he was awarded the Order of Canada and, in 2005, the Distinguished Alumni Award from the University of Alberta. One of the first Japanese Canadians to receive an MD and practice medicine in Canada after World War II, he co-founded western Canada's first Burn Treatment Centre and served as chair of the Japanese Canadian Redress Foundation from 1989-2001.

At age 13, Henry Shimizu was with his family to live in the New Denver internment camp from 1942 to 1946. More than fifty years later he recalled his experiences as one of 22,000 deportees sent inland from the coast with Images of Internment: A Bitter-Sweet Memoir in Words and Images (Ti-Jean Press $22.95).

He recalls: “In 1999, 12 friends met for dinner at my sister Grace Sakamoto’s home in Toronto. After dinner we had a frank discussion about our experiences in the New Denver Internment Camp, during 1942-1946.The consensus was a bitter-sweet episode in our lives, but with a major influence on our future career and live style. Following this meeting, I painted 27 oil paintings about my impressions of the lifestyle of teenagers in the Internment Camp in New Denver, 1942-1946. The paintings were completed in 2002.”

An Opening exhibit of the paintings with explanatory panels was held at the Edmonton Japanese Canadian Cultural Center on March 23, 2002--exactly 60 years from the day Shimizu left Prince Rupert to begin his internment--and later it was remounted at Nikkei Place in 2006. The book appeared in the summer of 2008, with stories, a prologue and an epilogue.

“One would have thought that this experience would have embittered this group and led to widespread despair and depression,” he writes. “Instead we came away from this experience more determined to be successful Canadians, contrary to the intention of those who promoted and carried out this injustice of internment and exile.”