NAJC President’s Message – November 2021

by Lorene Oikawa

People have started posting photos of matsutake (pine mushrooms). Just looking at the photos brings back memories of time spent with my grandparents in Slocan. My grandfather would go out into the mountains to his secret place and gather matsutake.  My obaachan (grandmother) would sort the mushrooms and clean them. She would make different dishes. My favourite was matsutake gohan (cooked rice with mushrooms) and grilled matsutake. Just writing about matsutake makes me salivate and I can imagine I smell the fragrant mushrooms. 

The colder weather makes me think about other Japanese comfort food that my obaachan and my mother would make. I regret I didn’t learn how to make their dishes. For those of you who are fortunate to have your moms and grandmothers, please learn from them. I have collected various recipes, but it’s never quite the same. 

One of the cookbooks I am looking forward to trying out is From the Sea and Shore: Steveston’s Favourite Japanese Canadian Recipes. It’s the brainchild of Kelvin Higo who collected the recipes, and a collaboration with Tonari Gumi. Kelvin is very active with many projects in the JC community. We hope to have him as a guest in a NAJC online session once he has a break in his schedule. 

In the meantime I had a quick chat with Kelvin and asked him about his memories of his family’s dishes. He laughs. “Jibu, salmon with vegetables and we just had it.” He said it’s like sukiyaki except with spring salmon and vegetables. He remembers when the fathers would come back from fishing with their catch of spring salmon. 

I told him that I am not familiar with my father’s fishing family’s recipes because my grandmother on my dad’s side died before I was born and my father died when I was little. I am looking forward to connecting to my fishing family through the recipes. He said, “[the recipes] will evoke the memories of growing up in Steveston.” 

Our family food is about our history, traditions, and culture. It reminds us of where we come from and our loved ones. Do you have any family food stories to share, let the NAJC know via

We are also looking to share stories of JC families, and NAJC events and initiatives. In 2022, we will be marking the 75th anniversary of the founding of the NAJC and the 80th anniversary of the internment. Please let us know about your reflections on internment and the development of the NAJC. Email

Another way you can contribute to the JC community is as a volunteer for the NAJC. The deadline for the applications to volunteer for the NAJC Endowment Committee is November 30, 2021. The NAJC Endowment Committee reviews the applications for projects that promote and develop Japanese Canadian culture and heritage and applications for specialized studies, training, and skills.

Some of the events and days we are highlighting this month. For more information about United Nations International Days and Weeks see

November 11 Remembrance Day – Ceremony at the Japanese Canadian War Memorial in Stanley Park in Vancouver will be live streamed. Because of the pandemic’s fourth wave, a small invitation-only gathering will take place. We will be acknowledging the 80th Anniversary of the Second World War, 105th Anniversary since the JC Soldiers enlisted in the First World War, and the 90th Anniversary of those men acquiring the vote for veterans. Watch it live on YouTube:

November 16 International Day for Tolerance

November 19 NAJC hosts Canadian Labour International Film Festival (CLiFF). Our annual participation in the festival that presents films about the world of work and those who do it, around the world. See films for free. 5:30 PT 7:30 CT 8:30 ET Pre-register at More information at

November 25 International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women

November 25 – December 10 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence. Every year, from November 25 (International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women) to December 10 (World Human Rights Day), Canadians observe the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence. It is an opportunity to come together to call out, speak up and renew our commitment to end gender-based violence. 

Make sure you are getting updates and news by signing up at for NAJC e-news. Also, please continue to connect with NAJC member organizations and support local events. The list of member organizations is on the NAJC website 

The NAJC National Executive Board wishes you a wonderful, safe November filled with good food and time with loved ones.  

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