A Degree of Justice: Japanese Canadian UBC Students of 1942



I could hardly wait from Bretagne high school and I remember like I had joined the Canadian Red Cross during the war years prior to December 7 and I remember telling the girls guess where I'm going the University of British Columbia and I am going to be a university student it was just fabulous we did here from time to time that perhaps we might be wasting our time attending University on the other hand there were other people who encouraged us and and encouraged us to continue with the education at that time there were a few students that were really anti-japanese you know there one day there a good friend you could talk to them next day a whole different ball game that's sort of hurt for a while and I didn't really understand that you know so anyway so that's when I started to grow up fast I guess you know learning how people can and that prejudice we were quite said personally I was quite said I think all of us were quite set on going to war behind for Canada because this was our country and all of a sudden we're toes were kicked out and it was a shock well I've said the University we talked about what's going on this and that and they said well then we were there I think I noticed came that there's no more school I think it's February 25 or something no more school any one of Japanese descent right cannot go to school I was very disciplined disappointed having to leave the soccer team I love soccer you know it's such a wonderful feeling you have classes all day and you nice follow the you go out in the field yeah that was you know that you you have a bond with this fellow soccer players you know you play saw there are very good friends of mine and to leave my teammates and I was captain of the soccer team and that it was it was a big disappointment our interest was initially of course with the Japanese community and the Powell Street was the main active street at that time and Vancouver was right at Burrard Inlet the entrance to the Pacific Ocean it was an exciting area we lived there for several years until I started to go to public school and from the waterfront on Wall Street there we moved up to the Hastings East there were all my school years so I enjoyed every day really I did too I I remember all the good teachers because in Hastings public school the teachers were excellent yeah they they understood our position they knew we were Japanese but there's none of their we were the same it's amazing I don't know how my mother did it but seven of us but somehow we were she kept us together she was a matriarch of our family yeah and if you didn't you didn't miss out on anything no Japanese living around there where we were and for my dad it's quite nice in that he's motive is to get assimilated with the Occidental's and my dad for his business-wise he'd get a chance to learn more English shall we say and my mother wasn't fluent in English over the years but she understood enough to appreciate a Canadian job I think we had a a real intimate connection living in Hastings East as well as much of our involvement it was also at the Powell structure especially with the United Church there mm-hmm Reverend Saburo Shimizu was a minister of that Vancouver Asahi baseball was right across the church the big ships dock down at the pier at the foot of Granville Street Main Street and it was a very I felt very exciting place to live we enjoyed very much oh definitely my father mother was so proud because they were able to afford to send me the first of the Nogales to go to a university here in Canada they were very proud of the fact that I had got into the university because apparently in Japan it's very difficult in the Hastings East District we were had close relationships with a few other families Japanese families as well and one of the members was Tatsu san Mia and amongst our group who went to who were just at the age of attending UBC together Tesla had a car which was unusual but he was a leader in that respect we met in a in tassels car at lunch with her brown bags quite a lot at the time and spent our lunch hours that way so it was probably more than timidity I think we were we were rather bit cautious and just being by ourselves that was a part of the support effect of attending the University of BC but we so Tess was instrumental and in keeping things open and certainly he introduced us to a lot of the kinds of wonderful things about mixing with other people – that's right because having been living in an enclosed compound so to speak at home for me to go to university prints from BIA and then having a university a Japanese Canadian nice a club was wonderful and that's how I got introduced to alumni there and met a few and when you think about it we were the Nisei Students Club always were thankful in that you know Vancouver Vancouver really was not of quiet non-racial City in those days right and to have a Japanese students Club at the University of British Columbia was I think make news I think a lunch break take my lunch with me and take a lunch break and at that time I was quite often sit with some my Japanese Canadian people from The Canadian Students Association well when I started of course I must I love soccer so as soon as I saw the people wearing this I thought I think kind of I gotta play soccer with one of these sweaters so I feel a shocker and I was able to win you know freshman award and the big vote for three years in a row and that was my goal I liked about rugby you could hit somebody no it's a it's a flowing game we as students became members of the COTC which is the officers and training and we had our Enfield rifles and khaki uniforms and leather boots and caps and we paraded up and down in training under Colonels from lieutenant colonel of the canadian army who was at that time professor of physics and he in his booming voice we followed his orders and turned right and left and everything else and practice on the campus I had very good days at the University of British Columbia December 7th my father I was washing my father's car and my father came out and said Yoshiki there you know the Japanese just bombed Pearl Harbor and that's the night and then that night we were having supper at seven o'clock and there was a knock on the door so I went to answer answered and Simon to answered there they were too tall men in their suits there and they show me their badge that they were RCMP and they asked me does your father live here and I said yes and then they walked in and they went through our whole house top to bottom open every dresser everything and took all my father's insurance papers passport etc and they took my father away immediately even our friends in Hastings East especially if they were involved in business of one sort or another the RCMP was visiting at that time and taking them over to the immigration building and I was I kind of smile to myself the next day I looked in the daily province and he says British Columbia citizens can rest in peace because the most dangerous Japanese nationals have been taken into custody and they're so rest assured my father a knock came on the door and somebody said they wanted to see my father so I went to see my father went to answer the door never they said they're gonna because I never saw him again do you know what happened that's a started like what happened what's going on told my mother and my sister went found out that he was taken by the RCMP somewhere detained within Vancouver and then from there they sent him somewhere and then so what's going to happen with the advent of Pearl Harbor of course we had to hand in our uniforms and that was to us we felt unfair at least I felt unfair immediately after Pearl Harbor curfew was in place for Japanese Canadian so we were supposed to stay in the house between dusk and dawn now as I said hid until University took hour and a half sometimes two hours no way I can get there in time and here again each professor that I had individually came to me and told me he says we have a standing order when the classicist doors closed class is in session nobody breaks in he says you could take in all right whenever you get here you could come in and if you find that Kofi was gonna create a problem you could leave when you have to and this was every professor that I had came and told me that we had to evacuate Vancouver all shipped out and I forgot the exact dates but when curfew was on for us and practice would always end up before something just before sunset we take a shower and by the time we finished our shower I started to come down the hill to where we lived the Sun has set and of course I'm filthy at home but if I got caught out they just put me on a train and shipped me out so Jack named Bill or had a model I don't know what wobbly Ford whether the Ford or a Chevy I go I don't remember but anyways I used to line the aisle in the back of the car and the boys will put their legs over me then he driving before he got to the house he sort of slowed down and look around see there's no one hanging around and then they said okay Tom so they lift her legs and I'd screwed up the door and run up the stairs and my mother aware of this thing that type of things so she left the door open for me and I go right into the to the house so that's how we did our last games with the UBC then I told my professor Morel they had a commerce department you know professor you know I'm a Japanese national and I have to get out so I know I'm in my final year of the Commerce GP wonder what am I going to do you know I know I can't finish my course and professor Morel was a very very sympathetic he says Fred well that's he thought but he he didn't they right away but he thought about it for a night or so in a serious way he came to me as a friend I've instructed all my professors to saying.you their course material by correspondence I guess I guess I was a study hard because I graduated their first class honours that's quite you know so I got my degree thanks to professor Morel he was very very good and also my Chinese friend says you want me to get your badge because the Chinese had this Chinese badge which allowed them to get out during the curfew and won't be questioned because they for most of the afternoon they couldn't tell the difference that Chinese and Japanese so he said I'll get your bed if you want one I said no I'm gonna break curfew so I always broke her shoe nobody bothered me I was always there on time you know I had I didn't what I told you there's Kenji catamaran he took a mining engineering course he's completed the four years and fifth year he graduated but in the summer between fourth and fifth year to get your degree he had to work under the mine but in those days it was a law against Orientals working in mines to underground no oriental could go for work in the mine so the UBC wouldn't didn't give him a degree he was shocked but I we were all sympathetic when he went back to Japan but you be sure to given degree know what what rookie hunter crowd well what you know when you look back you know he was devastated but that's how it was in those days people given notices of evacuating from their homes and making their way towards Hastings Park became part of the unsettlement of what was going on in art and art life it was hard to understand for us as we were just youngsters but I think our parents felt the brunt of that quite severely well my mother was devastated you know because you know we were all you know I was the oldest and I was around 23 24 at that time and I had all these younger sisters you know what you know everything happened on December 7th everything is related to December 7th for me when the tomb are saying officers came to my door and asked for my father they wanted to speak to him when my father came the two men asked just said mr. Nagata we would like you to come with us we would like to ask you just a few questions I wanted to know why what were the reasons for him to go where was he going when was he coming back where to I am why couldn't they ask the questions there you know they answered nothing but that moment that moment is something that I had a close for a long long time I was not a go to talk about it but I can't know because I had to understand what happened to me at that time when I saw my father mark taken away between two police officers to take a man who is respectable I love my father so much honest hard-working I knew the Canadian ways and then here is a man being whisked away without any questions I was afraid I was supposed to be respectful I was supposed to understand this is the Canadian way where we were allowed to be questioned and then at that moment I could see my mother crying wandering and then I'm the mines my stomach was so upside down I think I was anxious frightened I couldn't say I was angry there was no room for me to be angry I didn't have time to be angry because what behind me after that I did not go to UBC I had a job at home to do I had to find my father so University for me ended University of British Columbia and that tore my mother's heart really she thought that our education was finished but then with her spirit no she wasn't letting us in think that we must Percy he either had to my mother's decision was to take the family and go as the others to taste his spark and to wherever development they were going to say my mother was not going to do that my mother wanted us to go to school she wanted us to find morning me to find a place where my brothers and sisters could go to school and I really as I speak now I can't I I can't thank my excuse me I can't thank my mother ever if she could hear me today I would say see if it wasn't for her toughness her dedication none of us would be here today she had a purpose in her life and she gave that purpose to us nevermind shown on I proceed and we did and when I was in the Train there were moments that I just I guess that's why I closed the whole incident of December 7th for me because in the Train I thought this is not right this is not Canada this is not what I'm learning it's not right but then things happen right things happen we must accept it showing an eye and and with that courage I guess that's what kept me going to today till today yes I'm sorry I'm sorry but I can't forget my father I for the first time I'm able to see my father again walking away and my mother because when my father came home he was not the same no no he never everything but it see from his eyes you know no yeah no they changed him but I did say goodbye to my friends whom I knew and we signed each other's autograph so when this conference came along I was thinking all these people I certainly am happy to see that I'm feeling very that the other students are deserving of having an honorary degree I I think it's wonderful and it's really the the first real indication official indication of the university recognizing that we students were there and in the subsequent journeys that we've had we've made a fantastic contribution I think to the two Canadian living they didn't kick their students out like they did in some university in the states where they were told to go I picked out the student just couldn't come back because the government took them all and shipped them out okay so technically if I was looking at that I say yeah you really can't say that the university kicked us out but I can say that University kicked us out of the OTC cotc because they told me us not to stock us off the roster and made us turn on our uniform okay and one of the requirements of the National Resources Act was that the University campus had to have military training to be a student part of the student body so they kicked us out which meant that indirectly were no longer part of the normal University student courses because this was part a university course requirement so therein I say lies some culpability I was fortunate through four veteran world that I've been able to complete my course and we get my degree but the others through no fault of their own you know they have to get out and now the for the university to recognize that it's great I think is wonderful that would mean to be a tribute to my mother because she believed education was so important and so if I was ever would have got the degree right for me it's a closure to an open ended situation because here I was going to university I was going to get my degree I was going to start my life that way and it was disrupted now and having not completed the university degree I said I'm not sure whether I'm father's alma mater or not okay for me this gesture because I said professionally and and economically does absolutely nothing for me you know I'm 90 it doesn't mean anything it doesn't do anything for me both either as a profession or as a financial because I'm out of that now I'm retired 25 years but what it does mean to me is that the university is open as an arm and said come back you're part of our group our alma mater and in that way I'm very grateful when I first heard of it you know it took about five ten minutes thinking and I was really ecstatic about it because finally University is saying irrespective of what the conditions are circumstances you know we are now prepared to make sure that you are part of our mother you're part of our University organization related possibly under pressure maybe but still those effects they've now welcomed me back into their arms that's the way I feel about it well you know my father mother I know I wish I could give them the piece of paper to say look as Japanese Canadians we were able to graduate from the University of British Columbia and proudly handed to my father or mother because it was such a rare opportunity for Japanese Canadian students to go to university it was expensive it meant sacrifices and also we were bucking a trend so that piece of paper yes I honor the University of British Columbia Center for this stand of course Vancouver being an inlet city the Pacific boats and fishing and clam looking for clams and so on and so forth were were part of our growing up activities in the morning the Sun would shine on Sleeping Beauty dog mountain upon the the Lions up across from the Rocky Mountains and in the evening the Sun would to go down and they would blaze orange and to red and then the darkness and that was a companion to that I have never forgotten it was beautiful Stanley Park on the other hand was right near the entrance abroad and that we used to go down there on our bicycles and travel around when we were high school kids and come back home Kitsilano Beach was right at the foot of that and we used to go down there to swim and then come home after a little treat of fish and chips so that's just part of the story they I have fond memories of Vancouver and we were sorry to leave that place you you

3 Comments

  1. As a Japanese American, I was proud of what the University of British Columbia did. The American colleges and universities had already done this, so I was wondering when UBC was planning to do something similar. I was glad to have lived to see this day.

  2. Amazing. As a fourth-year UBC student preparing to graduate in the spring, this made me tear up. I think I'm more ecstatic for them to receive their degrees than I am to receive mine.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *