What’s Japanese for Freedom?

again from Mountain Mecca & Hippie Heaven!

Ugh, Ihb uhl stubbed up. Prez and I spent the Victoria Day long weekend not at
all as we intended to. After a long week slaving in the hot sun (i.e. – digging
up rocks) we looked forward to a weekend of low-yet-fun activity. But by Friday
morning I was already in the grips of a cold and Prez would soon join me in
stuffy misery. Still, we couldn’t just sit around all weekend, could we?

BJ, the
Ripster, and grandson “E” were headed out for a camping trip with two other
families and kindly invited us along. Seeing as they were only traveling about
an hour away, and the weather looked sooooo lovely, we joined in. Isn’t there
some law of probability that shows the nicer the weather is leading up to the holiday, the lousier
it’s going to be during the holiday?

fished a little and napped a lot. Sure it was mostly grey and cold (and rainy
and windy) but the company more than compensated for it. I’m sure I’ve never
seen a nicer, more well-balanced group of young boys than E and his four
buddies…even revved up on popsicles, pop, and assorted other goodies! Our
camping spot was not the usual ClubFred, ultra-remote, wilderness retreat; our
group had come to New Denver for the big May Day celebration and activities,
activities and activities. Canoeing, mountain bike riding, fishing, soccer, and
various games kept the munchkins hopping from dawn to dusk – adult activities
included gin sampling, chip eating, and knitting jokes (you had to be there,

Prez reluctantly
became the entertainment highlight of the celebration as Tim II talked him into
teaming with him for the “Canoe Jousting” competition. Now, here you must
understand a) Prez hate, hate, hates cold water, especially on a cold day and
b) Prez was a sick, sniffly puppy. Competitors climbed into canoes – one man
working as the paddler, and one standing up front with a long pole wrapped in
pool noodles – and proceeded to “joust” at each other to the delight of the
happily dry crowd on shore. The object, of course, was to knock the other boat
over and send one or both men into the icy depths (not really as deep as I make
it sound). Tim II and Prez did us proud and we cheered wildly, “Push, push,
push-over!!”, (their team name was “The Pushovers”). In fact they made it all
the way to the final round despite a nasty whack Prez took across the temple
from a pole. Sadly, they did not win – we are still waiting for a slow-mo replay
to determine why – but The Pushovers put on the best show, by far, and we were
a cheering squad to be reckoned with!

But what
I really want to tell you about is the village of New Denver. Picturesque, located
on the shores of beautiful Slocan Lake, and nestled between mountains and glaciers, little New Denver might just have been another old mining town lost
in the wilderness of BC if it weren’t for World War II. Fueled by fear,
following the attack on Pearl Harbor, Japanese Canadians on the coast were rounded up and herded off
to internment camps scattered throughout the interior of BC. One of these
camps, the only camp still standing,
was in New Denver.

It is
hard to fathom, today, such a gross violation of human rights in a country
known (and often criticized) for its pacifism. These were full-fledged Canadian
citizens, some second or third generation, who were part of our communities,
who voted, paid taxes, had businesses and families. They were yanked from their
middle-class lives, taken hundreds of miles away, crammed into tiny cabins with
other families, and treated like criminals. If it were only that, while still detestable, I suppose
I could understand given the mindset of that era, but the worst part is that
the government, after rounding up these Japanese Canadians, took away all of
their land, their homes, their personal belongings and sold them off for
pennies on the dollar.

the war ended, the people in the camps were forced to leave with no home to
return to, some were even sent back to Japan. The government ordered all the
camps to be bulldozed and all records of them destroyed. It wasn’t until
decades later our government admitted to this heinous act and offered redress
to the Japanese Canadians they’d violated.

But how
do you ever truly make up for stealing someone’s life?

consider, for a brief moment, all those times you’ve heard about the soldiers
who fought for our freedom. What irony: One group fighting for our freedom
while we take away the freedom of others.

The past
is behind; hopefully we have learned from our mistakes, and certainly I do not
believe I am responsible for the acts of my ancestors, but standing at the
entrance of the Nikkei Memorial Internment Centre, reading the names of the Japanese etched into a
tree – July 28, 1945 – and staring at
the single spigot which provided water for the camp I felt, for the first time
in my life, ashamed to be Canadian.

everyone who’s every wondered why we need to keep memorials such as the Nikkei
Centre, the Nazi death camps, sites of the Rwandan genocide, the USS Arizona,
and other scars from our brutal past, it is because no words of warning can
ever carry the power of a single water spigot, names carved on a tree, a pile
of shoes, a stack of bleached bones, or a sunken ship. These objects reach out
to us, grasp our hands, they beg us, “Please…never again.”

And they
remind us how lucky we are for the freedom of children, popsicles, camping,
laughter…and even being tipped over in a canoe.


next week, I hope this finds you healthy, happy & lovin’ life.


This entry was posted in Travel. Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to What’s Japanese for Freedom?

  1. Cindy says:

    It seems human beings commit the same atroscities over and over throughout history changing only our victims … crying \’Never Again\’ each time only to find some justification for allowing/enforcing/committing the same atroscities again and again.   If only … never, ever again.
    A bit gloomy … sorry … maybe I need a trip … a trip would be lovely … 

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