My journey was like a dandelion puff wafting in the breeze.
I landed on the Land of Maple Leaf.
Award Winning Tanka (Abroad Japanese Cultural Festival in 2005)
Canadians always ask me, “Why did you come to Canada?” I often answer, “To learn English.” One day, a gentleman shrugged his shoulders and murmured, “To learn English? You should’ve gone to England.” Is that right!? I couldn’t say anything further.
Who could have imagined that a book I read in my Grade 7 class would guide my path thereafter? Anne of Green Gables is a bestselling book by Canadian author Lucy Maud Montgomery, published in 1908. I read a Japanese version by Hanako Muraoka. It may sound hilarious, but the story inspired me to come to Canada. I came to Canada as a landed immigrant ten years after I met Anne, a fictional character created by a Canadian author.
In 1967, Canada introduced a point system for determining the desirability of individuals applying to immigrate to Canada. It opened the door to individuals like me who probably would have been rejected previously because of discrimination based on race or national origin. Likewise, Canada promoted an immigrant category for skilled workers who were independent immigrants selected to contribute to the county through their education, skills, and trading. I was very fortunate and was granted landed immigrant status as an independent immigrant even though I mistyped Toronto as “Toront” without the “o” in my application.
As the plane approached the Vancouver Airport, I kept gazing at the coastline of British Columbia—dark green forests of pine and spruce, a lace trimming of white waves crashing along the seashore contrasting the blue-green Pacific Ocean. When I landed in the mist, the cold September wind hit my cheeks, and at that moment I knew my pipe dream was over. I never imagined I would stay in Canada for the rest of my life and become a Canadian Citizen. I was young and naïve. I didn’t take my immigration status seriously. I considered it a short-term residency to obtain foreign experience for my career.
I am grateful to those Japanese Canadians who offered kind support, including shelter and job opportunities during my early settlement. It was before the existence of the New Japanese Canadian Association (NJCA) and Japanese Social Services (JSS). Mrs. Kogiku Nishioka, a devoted member of the Japanese Anglican Church, helped me, as well as many other new immigrants during the 1960’s and 70’s through her telephone network and incredible variety of home cooked authentic Japanese dishes. Her son once said, “Mom always brings home anyone who looks Japanese that she runs into on Spadina Avenue.”
I was so fortunate that I was able to find a job within a week of my arrival in Toronto. Mrs. Nishioka’s daughter-in-law referred me to Ku-ichi-san, a Jewish company. Issei called Jewish people “Ku-ichi-san,” because ku(9)+ichi(1)= jyu(10)means Jew. After the war, Japanese Canadians suffered from racial discrimination and only Jewish people kindly hired Japanese Canadians.
I have lived in Canada for decades. Migration helped me to acquire plural perspectives that have deeply enriched my life. I appreciate everyone I have met throughout my life for their support. Without them, I would not have been able to come to this point. Now, it is my turn to assist and encourage newcomers and people in need.
Japanese immigrants’ names were engraved
On memorial benches
The sun set brilliantly over the Steveston Quay
Award Winning Tanka (NHK Tanka Contest in 2013)