2012: A Year of Celebration and Change

August 21, 2012 at 8:18 pm

By Terry Watada

December 12, 2012, an important date to anticipate.  The Mayan calendar indicates it is the end-date for a particular cycle.  Many true-believers think it is the end of days, the apocalypse is nigh.  Absurd of course, but I see 2012 as an ending of a sort and definitely a beginning.  The year recognizes many anniversaries, both trivial and important.  2012 in truth is a convergence of celebration and change.

This year, the Beach Boys celebrate their 50th anniversary as a band as do the Rolling Stones.  The “greatest album ever made” (according to many music critics and social commentators), Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band is forty-five years old.  The Beatles broke up in 1970, a not-so-important anniversary, but Sir Paul McCartney (as are Paul Simon and Carole King) is 70 in 2012.  The Queen celebrates her Diamond Jubilee.  Many Sansei approaching or in their senior years must really feel old by now.

Still, it is worth noting the many significant anniversaries for the Nikkei community this year.  The Powell Street Festival, for example, is 35 years old, though it is advertising its 36th version this year.  The Celebration of Japanese Canadian Art and Culture Exhibition (the festival) did commence in 1977.  But I digress, 2012 is the 40th anniversary of the Asian Canadian Experience Conference, a seminal event for Sansei and CBCs (Canadian-born Chinese).  Featured at the Toronto conference was the Asian Canadian Photo Exhibit, which had made its debut earlier that year in Vancouver.  The exhibit brought attention to the internment experience and thus created the underpinning for the Redress Movement of the 1980s.  Let us not forget, the internment itself was 70 years ago.

Vancouver – “We know we’ve got something that is ours, and ours only”, said one Asian Canadian at the history making Asian Canadian Experience – Photo and Art Exhibition.  “Now that we’ve had a taste, we’ll have to make something of it that will last.”

The exhibit took place recently (March 13 – 18, 1972) in the gallery of the Student Union Building on the campus of the University of British Columbia and was open to the general public throughout the week.

Several hundred visitors, mostly Asian Canadians (first, second, third and fourth generation Japanese and Chinese), attended the exhibit.  Young Japanese and Chinese Canadians spent months preparing the exhibition and voluntarily sacrificed usual class time to serve as receptionists and guides for those attending who wanted further explanations about the photographs and art.

 The New Canadian, April 7, 1972

1972 also saw the first Sansei publications: the Powell Street Review and Tora.  2012 is the 35th anniversary of the National Sansei Conference during the Japanese Canadian Centennial Year (1977, another significant anniversary) held at Toronto’s Japanese Canadian Cultural Centre.  It perhaps inspired the Powell Street Festival, the Movement for Reparations (later Redress), many Sansei marriages and Runaway Horses, arguably the first album of Asian Canadian themed music featuring exclusively Sansei musicians and recording engineers.  Besides that personal achievement, of particular interest to me is the 25th anniversary of the Nikkei Voice.

Some may argue that the Voice started as Genki News, a newsletter for Nikkei seniors put together in Toronto but included articles from across the country.  It was a stapled six-page newsletter (with English and Japanese sections) in the mid-1980s.  The editors varied as did the writers.  Some were Lucy Komori, Shinobu Homma, Tomoko Makabe, Kerri Sakamoto, Frank Moritsugu and me.  Others who helped were Toshi Oikawa, Joy Kogawa, Kay Shimizu and David Fujino.  Many of these notables went on to contribute to the Nikkei Voice.

The paper was actually started when efforts to buy The New Canadian proved to be too costly.  The New Canadian and the Canada Times (née the Continental Times) both were on their last legs after redress.  Though if truth be told, redress revitalized both papers with rather incendiary articles both pro and con (though one of the papers was rigidly con).  Once the issue was settled, the papers went back to clipping items out of Japanese papers or reporting curling and bowling results.  Sakura Torizuka of the NC did try her best to make her paper relevant, but interest had really waned by that point.  Thus an ad-hoc committee of concerned Japanese Canadians including Wes Fujiwara, Misao Yoneyama, Joy Kogawa, Tom Shoyama and David Suzuki decided the best alternative solution to an effective national journal was a new publication.





To be continued.