This year marks the 94th annual Remembrance Day ceremonies, and about 400 people attended the service, in spite of the threat of rain. It was heartening to see the veterans, families, friends, and supporters huddled together to pay tribute to those Japanese Canadians who made the supreme sacrifice for our country, our community, and our civil liberties. In the crowd were many active service men and women who attended in uniform. It was a lovely addition.
Moderator Justin Ault gave tribute to the fighting tenth Battalion of which his great grandfather Masajiro Shisido was a soldier. This year, on the centenary of the Canadians taking Vimy Ridge, the fighting tenth deserve much praise. Many Japanese Canadians merged into that Battalion and proved to be fearless warriors on the front. For the full story of the First World War Veteran contribution please visit the online exhibit at www.warriorspirit1916.ca. It wasn’t until 1985 that Sergeant Masumi Mitsui, Military Medal recipient re-lit the lantern atop the cenotaph, in his last act of Remembrance of his comrades on Remembrance Day. Lest we forget.
Familiar and appreciated piper Edward McIlwaine began the ceremony, piping around the cenotaph in full regalia. Bombardier Geneveive Schwartzbach gave a powerful rendition of Reveille that was much-commented on following the ceremony. Councilor Kerry Jang, Commissioner Stuart Mackinnon, Consul General Asako Okai and Superintendent Mike Porteous have become familiar and welcome attendees. The talented NAV chorus singing O Canada and God Save the Queen paid tribute to our own history and also the connection to Britain. The recitations of In Flanders Fields by Eileen Kitamura and the Act of Remembrance by David Mitsui were moving as usual. Reverend Yutaka Zama of the Vancouver Christian Churches, reminded us why it is important to remember and reflect on this day. As usual, the Air Force planes flew over the cenotaph in formation, and there was a long list of wreath placements.
The reception returned to the Rowing Club this year after a three year hiatus in the luxurious Stanley Park Pavilion. We were fortunate to have extra funding these past years for the 2014 restoration of the cenotaph, the 2015 repair of the lantern atop the cenotaph, and the 2016 Warrior Spirit centenary to be able to afford the Pavilion facilities. Funding sources came from Veterans Affairs, Canadian Heritage, Heritage BC, NAJC, the Poppy Fund, the Howard Green Foundation, and many other private donors over the years. Thank you!
The newly-renovated Rowing Club hosted 177 guests plus our volunteers. The displays and artefacts on display in the Trophy room allowed for more tables and chairs in the Harbour room, and much-needed space to chat, move around and wiggle room for the gosei in the Trophy room. A simple and light lunch of sandwiches, maki sushi & daifuku (mochi around sweet bean) dessert has been a standby for years.
The highlights of the reception were a slide show by Susanne Tabata and a presentation by David Mitsui. Susanne painstakingly put together a slide show of photos from the Nikkei National Museum collection highlighting the contribution of the men from the Second World War who were able to enlist as soldiers (about 30) either outside of BC or before the war started. It started with a snippit of Yosh Hyodo (brother of Hide Hyodo) when interviewed by Bill Good on his radio show, about the determination to be ‘one of the boys’. Then the photos were set to Nat King Cole’s tune Smile. It evoked much emotion and was a lovely teaser for next year’s full video tribute. This year’s program also included photos of the recruits in Brantford in 1945, then a Nisei & S-20 Veteran reunion in 1967, and then a recent photo taken in Toronto of the veterans who are left in 2017. Lest we forget.
David Mitsui presented a slideshow of his trip to Ottawa on April 9 for commemorative events which were held at the National Vimy Memorial in France and at Ottawa’s National War Memorial, to mark the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge. One of the highlights of the events in France will be the unveiling of the new Vimy Visitor Education Centre, a project from Veterans Affairs in partnership with the Vimy Foundation. The Vimy Exhibit at the War Museum honours his grandfather, Sgt Masumi Mitsui MM and others who fought the battle of Vimy Ridge . He attended this event with Tim Tamashiro, a former Tonic host on CBC, who’s grandfather, Masuro Tamashiro, was also one of the over 222 men who took part in the First World War. It was a moving experience for both Tim and David. Lest we forget.
Ray Ota, a long-time volunteer for the Remembrance Day ceremonies and the Nikkei National Museum, who sadly passed away recently, was remembered for his contributions. A photo board of his service over the years was on display, and he is sorely missed.