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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



Obon at Ross Bay Cemetery


obon2014-4In Japan, Obon is a pretty prominent festival usually held around August 15th. It is a festival/holiday to honour your ancestors. It is believed your ancestors return to the family during Obon.

Obon is a Japanese Buddhist custom to honour the spirit’s of one’s ancestors. This Buddhist-Confucian custom has evolved into a family reunion holiday during which people return to ancestral family places and visit and clean their graves. It is when the spirits of ancestors are supposed to revisit the household altars. It has been celebrated in Japan for more than 500 years and traditionally includes a dance, known as Bon-Odori.” – from Wikipedia


Vegetable horse and cow made from cucumber and eggplant, so that our ancestors spirits will ride on a horse to rush home to us, and take the time on their way home riding a cow.

In modern Japan, Obon holiday is as important as Christmas or Thanksgiving holidays in North America. Two of the most important holidays in Japan are the new year and Obon, and people often take time off from work to go visit the families.  This is the time everyone is back at your parents’ (and often grandparents’) house and it’s a time for a reunion. I, too, have some fond memories of going to wash the family graves with my family, and also attending Bon-Odori (Neighbourhood festival with food vendors and dances)

Unfortunately, I don’t have my family’s grave here in Victoria. However, we have Ross Bay Cemetery.


One of the first Japanese people arrived at Victoria as early as 1880, and during the Second World War, many Japanese people were interned to interior BC. After the war, very few returned to Victoria and many graves are abandoned.   You can read more about the history of Japanese graves in Ross Bay cemetery here. (Scroll down for English)

Ross Bay Cemetery houses more than 100 Japanese graves now, but most of them don’t have families any more to care for. Every year, Victoria Nikkel Cultural Society, Old Cemeteries Society, and Victoria Friendship Society jointly hold Obon ceremony and festival at Ross Bay Villa. This year, it will be held on Sunday, August 9th.

This is a time for us to get in touch with our past, expressing our true joy and gratitude to not only our immediate ancestors, but to all past causes and conditions that have allowed us to be here today. It is the ultimate recognition and celebration of the oneness of life that has existed in the past and that we continue to be a part of today. -VNCS Website

This is a free event open to the public. Please come help clean and honour the graves.


12:30pm : Grave Washing (Cleaning supplies will be provided, but if you have gloves/buckets etc, they are always welcome)

Flower donations welcome. Please bring them at this time.

Photo credit: VNCS

Photo credit: VNCS

2:30pm:  Obon Service

Reverent Ikuta from Steveston will provide service

3:30pm: Obon Matsuri (Festival) at Ross Bay Villa

Enterianment (Uminari Taiko, Furusato Dancers and Minyo by Rina El-Nahas), light refreshment (including Kakigoori-shaved ice),

and Suika-Wari (Japanese watermelon smashing game)



You can read more about Obon Ceremony and Festival at Ross Bay here at VNCS website.

Kiri’s Piano


Today at Victoria Nikkei Cultural Society‘s AGM, I had a privilege of watching the BC premiere of Kiri’s Piano, a short film by Yellowknife filmmaker France Benoit.

Kiri’s Piano originally is a folk song by James Keelaghan from 1988. The song is based on a true story of Kiri Ito, a Japanese Canadian woman who lived in West coast of BC back in the ’40s. Like many people of Japanese descent, Kiri was forced to relocate to an internment camp during the war. The song is about her piano, her defiance and dignity. You can listen to the song here.

Of all of Kiri Ito’s joys, the thing she loved the best
Was to play her prized piano when the sun had gone to rest

Kiri lived a quiet life with her husband and three children. She loved playing her piano, but because of the war, all their possessions were confiscated and they were forced to relocate. When the neighbour went into their house after the eviction, there was one thing missing from their house.

So many years have come and gone since Kiri’s relocation
I look back now upon that time with shame and resignation
For Kiri knew what I did not that if we must be free
Then sometimes we must sacrifice to gain our dignity

We were fortunate to have filmmaker France Banoit herself with us today.  She said the film subject pretty much sought her. She initially found out about Kiri through a talk with her late husband after they saw David Suzuki, where he broke down crying talking about internment camp. Her husband said it reminded him of James Keelaghan’s song, Kiri’s Piano. She shared many coincidences she encountered while in production of this film, and she was convinced that she was meant to do this. “And if we are very lucky, we get to find out why.”

Kiri's story also inspired artist Claire Kujundzic to paint this piece too

Kiri’s story also inspired artist Claire Kujundzic to paint this piece too


It’s a very short film, about 11 minutes, shot entirely in Yellowknife, where France lives. It is a poignant story to illustrate the struggle and defiance of Japanese Canadians during the WW II. She said the support from Japanese Canadian communities have been enormous in making this film.

One thing France said that struck me today was this:

“People say these things (Internment and relocation of Japanese Canadians) will never happen again. But looking at what’s going on out there in the world, I’m not so sure. History has tendency to repeat itself.”

“Kiri’s Piano” trailer

There is one more free public screening at Uvic while France is in Victoria.

Landscapes of Injustice and the Centre for Asia-Pacific Initiatives are pleased to present

Lunch and Learn- Kiri’s Piano   A Japanese Canadian film presentation with filmmaker France Benoit

Monday, February 2, 2015

12:30 – 1:30 pm

Harry Hickman Bldg. Rm. 116

University of Victoria

Free and open to the public

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