Downton Victoria

B.C. is the most British of all the Canadian Provinces and nowhere in B.C. is more British than the capital city of Victoria. ​

Category: Arts and culture

Egypt: The Time of Pharaohs, a new exhibition opening at the British Columbia Royal Museum

From the Nile to the afterworld, discover ancient Egyptian lives!

The new exhibition opens May 18th

Royal BC Museum’s new exhibition, Egypt: The Time of Pharaohs opens this Friday, May 18th. The pyramids, pharaohs, mummies and hieroglyphs… since its rediscovery, we’ve been captivated by the world of ancient Egypt.

This latest exhibition immerses us in walking like and the lives of Egyptians. (So to speak). The exhibition floor is roughly divided into 7 distinct sections: The Nile, The Gods, The Pharaohs,  The Temple, The Words, The Look, and The Afterlife.

You start the exhibition with the great Egyptian life line, the Nile River, and how people lived and worked around it. You will also learn about the Egyptian Gods and the Temples they worshiped in. Then you will meet some of the most impressive of Pharaohs.

Additionally, visitors to the exhibition will also have the opportunity to learn Egyptian culture. What kind of jobs did they have? What was in fashion? The writing! Finally, the exhibition concludes with death. Learn what the ancient Egyptian believed about the afterlife and witness some truly captivating artifacts from their coffins to Egyptian mummies!

This is not the first time RBCM had an Egyptian exhibit. Back in 2004, the museum had an exhibition called Eternal Egypt. I remember the exhibition well but it showed a mere 150 artifacts. The new exhibit, Egypt: The Time of the Pharaoh, boasts more than 300 original artifacts. Some are up to 4,500 years old and borrowed from European museums such as the Egyptian Museum of Berlin, Roemer- und Pelizaeus-Museum Hildesheim, as well as University Museum of Aberdeen. This is the North American debut of this exhibition.

Displays, models, and ancient artifacts make Egypt come alive

At the time of the preview I attended, not everything to be included in the exhibition had yet been made ready for the opening. However, based on what was ready for the exhibition preview, I was intrigued by beautiful displays, intricate models, and of course, the original Egyptian artifacts. (My favourite was the model of a temple where they worshiped the Gods! How cool is that!?) Their “temple” was as large as a city block, with its own bakery inside! An absolutely fascinating journey into the lives of the ancient Egyptians.

There’s something for everyone—even the kids!

For families, there will be a lot of interactive displays where you can touch and play with.

For grown ups, there is an original beer created by Swans Brewery called Pharaoh’s Reserve available later this month, as well as Adults Sleepover on September 1st planned, as part of their popular Night at the Museum series.

Conclusion? An enthusiastic thumbs up!

It is a truly immersive experience and I highly recommend you go see it. The Egypt: The Time of the Pharaohs continues until December 31, 2018. Visit the Royal BC Museum website for details.

16th Annual Japanese Cultural Fair

2015 Final Poster Lo res 60

Japanese Cultural Fair by Victoria Nikkei Cultural Society(VNCS) is back again this year to Esquimalt Rec Center. It’s their 16th year!

It’s a free event for the whole family. Enjoy various performances such as Marshall Arts like Karate and Aiido, Taiko drums by Uminari Taiko and Koto by Satomi Edwars. New this year is Anime presentation by Tsukino-Con. Learn about Bonsai, beautiful Ikebana(flower arrangement), and Tea Ceremony. Lectures on various topics are also available for Kimono, Tea (Daniela Cubelic of Silk Road), and Organic Farming (Uminami Farm).  There will be kids activities including Kamishibai (Paper board storytelling), crafts and games.  There will be great shopping opportunities for Japanese items at Things Japanese table, as well as Silent Auction and door prizes.  Savour the wonderful tastes of Japan such as sushi, bento boxes and manju (sweet dessert). (Food almost always sell out, so get there early.)

I’ll be most likely be there all day as I’m on the board of VNCS – when you see me, come say hi 🙂

Saturday, October 24th, 2015

Esquimalt Recreation Center (527 Fraser Street)


For more info, visit VNCS website.

NAJC AGM and Hiroshima Survivor Lecture


National Association of Japanese Canadians(NAJC) is holding its AGM in Victoria this year on September 25-27. AGM portion will be done by Saturday morning, and Saturday afternoon and Sunday morning conference and also keynote speech on Saturday evening (with or without banquet) are open to the general public. Conference panels are free to attend, however, you need to register as an observer. Register by emailing Registration deadline is September 22, 2015.

Conference agenda is as follows;

Saturday, September 26: Conference Day 1

Chateau Victoria Hotel

12:00-1:45 pm

Panel: Landscapes of Injustice (LOI) (45 minutes)

Jordan Stranger-Ross, Project Director and Sherri Kajiwara, Director-Curator, Nikkei National Museum

Facilitator: Mike Abe

NAJC/LOI Hide Hyodo-Shimizu Scholarship Recipient Report (15 minutes)

Hikari Rachmat

Facilitator: Sherri Kajiwara

Landscapes of Injustice: Community Council Report (45 minutes)

Susanne Tabata, Eiko Eby, Mary Kitagawa, vivian Wakabayash Rygnestad

Facilitator: Tosh Kitagawa

1:45 – 2:25pm Preserving the Past (Documents, photographs, objects and stories)

Lisa Uyeda, Linda Reid

2:30-3:10pm Retention of Adult Volunteers and Youth

Liz Bean (Inter-Cultural Association of Victoria) and Kyla Fitzgerald

3:30-4:10pm Addressing Issues Related to Aging in the Japanese Canadian Community

Karen Kobayashi (Uvic Centre on Aging), C. Keiko Funahashi and Cathy Makihara (Nikkei Seniors Health care & Housing Society)


NAJC Banquet Saturday, September 26: Ambrosia Center (638 Fisgard Street) 

Keynote speaker: Setsuko Thurlow, Renowned Peace Activist and Hiroshima Bomb Survivor(Hibakusha)

6:00pm Doors open

Art Miki National Leadership Award presentation

Soran Bushi Dance fro Victoria Heritage Japanese Language School

VNCS Lifetime Achievement Award

Buffet dinner

Japanese music entertainment

7:45pm Doors open for lecture only attendees

Keynote Speech

Silent Auction

Banquet and keynote speech: $35 per person (register at

You may also join for the lecture portion only.

Lecture only with coffee/tea and dessert: $5 suggested donation


Sunday, September 27th: Conference Day 2

Chateau Victoria Hotel

9:00-10:00am Youth Engagement & Empowerment/JC Young Leaders Winnipeg Conference Report

Lisa Schoenhofer and Erica Isomura

10:00-10:45am Consul General Okada speech

10:45-11:30am Centre Reports from Regina, Nanaimo, Montreal

11:30am-12:15pm The Victoria Story : History of Japanese Canadians in Victoria

Ann-Lee and Gordon Switzer

12:45pm End of conference



Ikebana workshop by Master Rinkei Nagamine

Rinkei P posterIkebana is Japanese art of flower arrangement. Japanese Ikebana master Rinkei Nagamine is visiting Vancouver island and holding a series of workshops in Duncan this September.

You can participate in any workshop you like. Basics will be taught in the first arrangement of all three workshops.

WORKSHOP ONE: Sept.16th 9am – 2pm
Arranging in a plate with a frog (a kenzan)

WORKSHOP TWO: Sept.17th 9am – 2pm (FULL -Waiting list being taken)
Arranging in a vase

WORKSHOP THREE: Sept.18th 9am – 2pm
Arranging in free style

Fee: $40/day (Flowers and light lunch included)
All the workshops will take place at Studio G Art (7298 Somenos Road, Duncan, BC)

There also will be public presentation on September 19, 2:00 pm – 5:00 pm at Studio G Art with Cowichan Valley Art Council “Word & Vision” writers/artists, a short Japanese tea ceremony, large Ikebana installation by Rinkei Nagamine, kimono display, and much more.

Rinkei Nagamine: Master of Japanese flower arrangement in Ryusei school
“I have been teaching Ikebana for 50 years. I believe that any flower arranged in a vase is not only beautiful but also shows the charm of the person who made the piece. I am looking forward to meeting creative people with whom I will share my knowledge, skills and passion in these two exciting workshops.”
To register, Email Yuko Yamamoto at
For more information, check out Sew Yuzen site.

Victoria/Morioka Twin City 30 Year Anniversary

In May, the city of Victoria welcomed delegation from Morioka, Japan to celebrate 30 year anniversary of the twin city agreement. In case you didn’t know, cities of Morioka and Victoria became sister cities back in 1985, thanks to the connection of  Dr. Inazo Nitobe, who was an agricultural economist, author and educator from Morioka. Dr. Nitobe has passed away at Royal Jubilee Hospital in 1933 during his visit to Canada. Dr. Nitobe is well known in Japan as a pioneer and a leader, and his portrait was once featured in 5,000 yen bank notes.

I had a privilege to meet the people from Morioka back in March 2014, when they came to thank us for the support for 2011 earthquake and tsunami. It was wonderful to see some of the familiar faces again this time.

Their visit coincided with the Victoria Day long weekend, and a group from Morioka participated in the parade and performed Sansa Dance, which is their traditional folk dance. After the parade, there was the official renewal of the twinning at the city hall. Mayor Lisa Helps and several other city councillors welcomed the delegation, and the city of Victoria presented the city of Morioka with an artwork by local artist, Barbara Weaver-Bosson.

There also was a reception hosted by the city. It was great to see Misaki Usuzawa, a young singer who herself was affected by the earthquake and tsunami, again and hear her beautiful voice. We were also honoured to have Consul General Okada from Vancouver. What was particularly memorable to me was Mayor Helps’ speech, now that she met all the people from Morioka, she understands the importance of twin cities, and learning from each other.

The following day, there was a ceremony to reveal the Bell of Friendship, a gift from Morioka at Centennial Park. The Bell was disgned in Morioka, but the stand was designed by former Mayor Alan Lowe. He said he was thinking of the “Bridge across the Pacific”, like Dr. Nitobe’s famous quote.

IMG_1857 (1)

I feel privileged to be a part of this great friendship. My sincere thank you goes to the city staff who tirelessly organized all the celebrations, and the generosity of people of Morioka. I hope to visit the beautiful city myself one day.

Special Noh performance featuring Jazz piano

Noh performance by Tsunao Yamai and Pianist Kentaro Kihara

We have a one night only special Noh performance coming up next week. Noh Actor Tsunao Yamai is performing with pianist Kentaro Kihara.

Noh is a classical Japanese musical drama that has been originated in the 14th century.  It is the oldest major theatre art still regularly performed today. Noh is often based on tales from traditional literature with a supernatural being transformed into human form as a hero narrating a story. Noh integrates masks, costumes and various props in a dance-based performance, requiring highly trained actors and musicians. (from Wikipedia)

Over 1400 years ago, the KOMPARU School of Noh theatre existed in the ancient Japanese capital of Nara, and was performed as a ritual to bring about peace and happiness. Today, Yamai Tsunao maintains the Komparu Noh tradition, and uses the depth of practice to bring a level of strength and sophistication to new, innovative artistic collaborations. Read more at

Tsunao Yamai

Mr. Yamai is coming back to Victoria after 2 years, this time, he is visiting Victoria as part of his world tour as Japan Cultural Envoy appointed by Agency of Cultural Affairs of Government of Japan. On this special evening, he is accompanied by Portland-based Jazz pianist Kentaro Kihara.

Kentaro Kihara is a jazz pianist and composer who has released eight albums and performs internationally.  He works with Tsunao Yamai as a duo called 「縁 ~enishi~」 Read more at


Continuity & Connection —Japanese Noh Performance and Jazz Piano

Traditional and innovative Noh performance with Jazz piano featuring master Noh actor Tsunao Yamai and Kentaro Kihara

Date & Time: Friday, February 27 7:00pm

Location: Gérald-Henriette Moreau Theatre (École Victor-Brodeur, 637 Head Street)

Tickets: $24/$18(Students/Seniors)/$12(12 and younger) At the door: $28/$22/$15(Cash Only)

Buy Tickets online at Ticket Rocket



Kimono- Japanese Culture in its Art Form at AGGV

kimono8My love affair with Kimono started about 7 years ago.

I used to belong to a local Japanese Chado (Way of Tea) circle. Although I knew NOTHING about Chado when I started, I was fascinated and truly loved the way of tea. Almost every lesson, I wanted to gush how beautiful everything was – flowers (supposed to be simple, not gaudy), Chawan (my Sensei had an exquisite collection of tea bowls), sweets (students often brought real traditional sweets from Japan, or we made them ourselves), and of course, Kimonos.

I have heard the real tea ceremony classes in Japan usually costs hundreds of dollars per month to take, and there are strict rules and traditions to follow. My Sensei, although she was a strict teacher when it comes to Chado and manners- she was very relaxed about some of the stuffy rules, and she allowed us to come to practice in regular clothes.

However, when we had the actual tea ceremony, we were required to wear kimono. It is true that in this modern day, not many people, myself included, are not familiar with kimono at all, and don’t even know how to put it on. On my first tea ceremony, I think I borrowed a kimono from a fellow tea circle member. Sensei helped me put it on. It is around this time my fascination with Kimono started. I’ve always loved it, even when I was growing up in Japan, but something about being in a different country make me appreciate it even more these days.

I always looked forward to a tea ceremony as I get to see everybody else’s kimonos. Eventually, my sensei brought me one on one of her frequent trips back to Japan. I’ve also managed to bring one kimono back to Victoria that belonged to my grandmother.

I had to quit my tea circle when I had my second child. I still see sensei and other members time to time in Japanese-culture related events. But my kimonos sat in my drawers for well over 3 years.

Last month, the Victoria Nikkei Cultural Society (VNCS), where I sit on the board, celebrated its 20th anniversary. The ticket to the banquet said “Yukatas and Kimonos Welcome” as its dress code.  (Yukata is a casual version of the kimono and usually worn in summertime.)

I thought about my kimonos that’s been sitting in my drawers. Last time I wore kimono was at Hope Love Japan fundraiser we had right after Japan’s earthquake and tsunami back in 2011.

I wanted to wear my kimono again. But I don’t know how to. What to do?

I love how opportunity presents itself when needed.
One day, I was at this social event put by VNCS and happened to talk to this lady who is also interested in kimono. She told me about this Japanese lady in Victoria who teaches how to wear kimono(Kitsuke). Immediately I asked for her contact information, and this is how I met Hitomi Harama.

Hitomi and I exchanged several emails and she agreed to help me on the day of the anniversary dinner. My friend Daniela who owns Silk Road, was receiving an honorary recognition at the banquet and she was also wearing kimono, so three of us got together at Silk Road before the banquet. Here’s the photo from that day.

Hitomi Harama

I LOVED what Hitomi was wearing that day. Isn’t it absolutely stunning?

Hitomi is the curator of Kimono: Japanese Culture in its Art Form, an exhibit currently on at the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria until October. She and I had coffee the other day to talk more about her exhibit and of course, kimonos.
Hitomi’s family owns a kimono business in Nagoya, Japan, so obviously she has a keen eye for them. Kimono world is so vast and deep, which is one of the reasons I love learning about it. For example, there is a rule on as to what type of kimono is acceptable for certain occasions. If you are a family member of a bride, you are to wear Kuro Tomesode, (pictured below) in black with family crests.  Also, you are to coordinate your kimono with patterns and motifs in a season a little ahead. In June you might wear something with lighter fabric and perhaps with water motifs. In late summer you might wear something with Japanese maple, and so on. Unless you grew up in a situation like Hitomi, it is not easy to understand well the world of Kimono. I am still very much a beginner, and I have so much to learn, but it is so great to have someone like her where I can ask anything.

The AGGV is also showing From Geisha to Diva: The Kimono of Ichimaru. Ichimaru was a very well known Geisha who passed away in 1997. The world of Geisha is also something I find extremely fascinating, too. You can see an Ichimaru’s extravagant kimono collection as well as some artifacts that belonged to her. These black kimonos with design only at the hem are called Kuro-Tomesode and it’s a formal wear equivalent to Western evening dress.


What looks like dots in the photo above  on the shoulders and back of the collar are family crest called Mon.

kimono4 Kimono2


Ichimaru’s kimonos and her musical instruments. A geisha is a high class entertainer and they practice dance, singing and also different musical instruments. Ichimaru was discovered while working as a popular Geisha, and eventually became a superstar on radio, TV and films. This one below with peacocks was my favourite.


And then in the Founders Gallery you will see Kimono: Japanese Culture in its Art Form. These are traditional wedding kimonos.

This one with a flower cart dyed in Kaga Yuzen style is so beautiful. This is also Kuro Tomesode and this belongs to Hitomi’s mother.


Hitomi works as a kimono teacher and consultant, educating people about kimonos and its history. She also rents her collection out for people who wish to wear kimono but don’t own one. We are talking about “lesson and lunch” (or dinner) classes where everyone gets to learn how to wear kimono and we’d all go out for a nice meal. If any of you are interested, please let me know. You can check out her website here.

There will be a curator’s tour on Thursday, July 10th at 7pm and I plan to be there.

Both exhibit continues until October 19. For more information, check the AGGV website.

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