by Lorene Oikawa
Akemashite Omedetou Gozaimasu! Happy New Year! 明けましておめでとうございます
We hope you had some relaxing times, ate good food, and enjoyed the company of family, friends, and yourself for a little self-care. We wish you happiness, good health, and prosperity in 2019.
As a yonsei – fourth generation Japanese Canadian – I grew up without a lot of Japanese culture except for a connection to food and some traditions on Girls Day, Boys Day, summer festival, and the massive preparation for New Year’s Day. Every year, we eat toshkoshi (year-passing) noodles on New Year’s Eve and then osechi ryori (a special presentation of dishes, such as kuromame, black beans for good health, that welcome the New Year and all the good fortune) on New Year’s Day.
This year for the first time I made mochi, the rice cake made from pounded sweet rice, and anko, sweet red bean filling. It was a laborious process (without an electronic mochi-making machine) which was a lesson in gaman (perseverance and patience). The process also made me feel closer to my grandmother, who made us mochi for New Year’s and other special occasions like our birthdays and Girl’s Day.
The link between family, food, and culture is not limited to Japanese Canadian culture and has always fascinated me. Food is also a bridge between cultures. I think it’s a topic we will explore more this year.
Another Japanese New Year’s tradition is the animal associated with the New Year. 2019 is the year of the Inoshishi, Boar (pig) according to the Japanese zodiac (junishi or eto). There are 12 animals (represented by kanji characters) which are rotated annually. First is Rat (子 Ne) followed by Ox (丑 Ushi), Tiger (寅 Tora), Rabbit (卯 U), Dragon (辰 Tatsu), Snake (巳 Mi), Horse (午 Uma), Sheep (未 Hitsuji), Monkey (申 Saru), Rooster (酉 Tori), Dog (戌 Inu), and ending with Boar (亥 Inoshishi).
If we consider the good traits associated with boars/pigs, resourceful, social, intelligent, and determined, 2019 looks to be a good year. Also, boar is the last animal of the 12 year cycle before we go into the new cycle, so a positive year for wrapping up loose ends.
The NAJC Community Renewal Fund will have its last opening for applications, and member organizations will be working to complete their renewal initiatives. We’ve been hearing about the positive work that is taking place. When the member organizations submit their final reports, we will publish the stories of their work.
Committees such as the Young Leaders and Human Rights are working out their priorities and will be reporting out on their work.
The NEB is continuing our contact with the group who are organizing this year’s 20th biennial COPANI (Pan American Nikkei Convention) which is in San Francisco, September 20-22. They are looking forward to having us participate, including as resources to share stories of our experience in Canada, and it is a unique opportunity to connect with Japanese Americans and Japanese South Americans, and hear their stories. We have offered our support and ideas. We have already heard that there is great interest amongst our membership. As we get more details we will share the information and discuss the level of our participation.
We will be continuing to meet with the BC government for some meaningful follow up to the apology in 2012. We discussed this at our last national membership meeting and will be looking at the feasibility of virtual (such as zoom) guest appearances at your local membership meetings. We will continue to report on it through our e-news, as a regular standing item at the national membership meetings, and other communication channels.
2019 will see the commemoration of one important story of Japanese Canadian history, the story about the Vancouver Asahi. The Japanese Canadian baseball team started in 1914 and despite facing racism, kept playing and then winning, including some championships, until being interned along with the rest of the 22,000 Japanese Canadians. Historica Canada’s heritage minute about the Vancouver Asahi will be on our tv screens in the spring. Also, Canada Post will be issuing a new stamp about the Vancouver Asahi this year.
We have lots to look forward to this year, and more work to share more stories, too. We will employ gaman (perseverance and patience), kaizen (continuous improvement), and kansha (gratitude). We are very grateful for your support and all you do in your communities. Together we can accomplish so much!