Annex Reunion – Toronto, September 27, 2014

October 21, 2014 at 10:41 pm

by Randy Sakauye and Ron Shimizu.  Photos by Yosh Inouye                

annex-reunion4We could not ask for a nicer day – warm, sunny, cloudless with light breezes.  The gorgeous  weather made the Annex Reunion all the more pleasant as 30 patrons and a few friends of the former Japanese Canadian drop-in center gathered to reacquaint and catch up with each other after 37 years.

The Annex was a shared idea by a group of young Japanese Canadians who were involved in the 1977 Japanese Canadian Centennial Celebration.  Groups of primarily Sansei people were stimulated and enthused by a renewed interest in JC community development.  The Annex vision was to have an easily accessible drop-in centre that would provide programs and activities targeted to meet specific needs of JCs at the time, with an aim to strengthen and reinforce JC identity individually and collectively.

 annex-reunion3Armed with much enthusiasm, modest government grants and donations, a storefront location was rented on the Danforth Avenue subway line, just west of Coxwell Avenue.  Coordinators were hired and a variety of volunteer-led projects were initiated, including language classes, arts and crafts workshops, children events, legal counselling and a community referral service.  Other activities, such as a speaker series of prominent JCs, and seminars on interracial marriage and human rights were held, as well as coffee house-style jam sessions and concerts, art/photo exhibits by up-and-coming JC artists, as well as a monthly newsletter, rounded out the Annex programs.   

annex-reunion2Later on, a group of JC seniors expressed interest in participating in specific activities such as Go competitions, day outings, crafts and social meetings.  So the Annex Seniors group led by Margaret Nagai, was formed, and it carried on a few more years after the main Annex closed in 1983.  Most of all, the Annex was a place where JCs could drop in, have a coffee and connect with other JCs.

Just as the Annex had attracted JCs from across Toronto and beyond the GTA, the Reunion was attended by former patrons who came from Toronto, Richmond Hill, Oakville, Hamilton, and Cambridge.  The Reunion was held at Ron Shimizu/Edy Goto’s home on Linnsmore Crescent, just around the corner from the old Annex storefront location at 1568 Danforth Avenue.  Over thirty attendees enjoyed the good conversations and the time to catch up with each other’s lives.  Reminiscing was helped by displays of old Annex posters, newsletters and photos of key events and even a few preserved Walkathon T-shirts.

Reunion highlights included having Margaret and six former members of the Annex Seniors attend.  They were delighted to see photos of the activities they took part in and some craft items they had made which were brought by Janet (Ogaki) Sakauye who was one of the full time Annex coordinators.

annex-reunionAnother highlight was a delicious assortment of Japanese style dishes, including regular homemade and Cumberland chow meins, a variety of tsukemono pickles, kamaboko, sushi, mochi/manju, several salads and, in particular, the roasted salmon and grilled beef, chicken, ika and vegetable yakitori skewers by chef Randy Sakauye.

A full afternoon and evening of renewing friendships, good food, much laughter and memories ended late at night with an rendition of “oldies but goodies” by Ray Nakano on the guitar accompanied by Yonsei Aja Shimizu  – a little reminiscent of the Friday Annex Coffee house nights.

Thank you to all those who contributed to the Reunion with good food and cheer.  In particular, a thank you to the Momiji Seniors Health Care Society for transporting some of the Annex Seniors to and from the event, and a thank you to GTC-Toronto-NAJC  for its support of the Reunion.