Terumi Kuwada, a Past President of the National Association of Japanese Canadians, shares her family story for the 80th Anniversary of Internment.
As we reflect on the 80th Anniversary of the Japanese Canadian Internment, I think of my father, Hisao (Henry) Kuwada, who was born in Japan and considered a higher risk in the name of “security”. This resulted in my father together with other “Japanese Nationals”, being sent off to the Alberta Road Camps, to build the highways. After six months in the road camps, the men were allowed to join their families in the internment camps. My family spent the war years in Tashme.
Life in the internment camps was fraught with hardship, uncertainty and worry. The community persevered and continued their lives as best as they could. My father loved performing in Japanese plays (shibai). In the camps, they held various forms of entertainment to keep up their spirits. My father was a big fan of Toshiro Mifune, a popular Japanese actor and continued his love of shibai when my family settled in Winnipeg. Later, he loved to watch Japanese videos, especially the ones with Toshiro Mifune. My sister, Atsumi, who was 2 years old in 1942, recalls her life in the camp, with positive memories of undivided attention from my parents, freedom to wander the camps with her friends and exploring the nearby vistas. It was to the testament of families to live their lives as normal as possible, for the sake of the children. This character of the Japanese Canadians has often been referred to as gaman, a Buddhist term, meaning "enduring the seemingly unbearable with patience and dignity."
My parents taught us the important values of family and community life. I am forever grateful.