This portion of the interview is about Toki Miyashita’s family’s internment during WWII, and her Oikawa grandparent’s immigration to BC and settlement on Lion and Don Islands at the mouth of the Fraser River. She describes how the family was moved to the internment camp “The Orchard” in New Denver,…
This portion of the interview is about Toki Miyashita’s family’s internment during WWII, and her Oikawa grandparent’s immigration to BC and settlement on Lion and Don Islands at the mouth of the Fraser River. She describes how the family was moved to the internment camp “The Orchard” in New Denver, but managed to find a place to live outside the camp where her grandmother grew a large garden from seeds brought in the seams of her clothing. She notes that the Lion Islands were named Oikawa-shima by the Japanese settlers.
Recording is of an interview with Toki Miyashita, conducted by Rod Fowler. Toki Miyashita was one of eleven participants interviewed as part of the SFU/Burnaby Centennial Committee's oral history series titled, "Voices of Burnaby". The interview is about Toki Miyashita’s family’s internment during WWII, her awakening interest in Japanese culture after the war, her subsequent interest in teaching others about Japanese crafts and arts, and becoming a helpful intermediary between Burnaby and visitors from Japan. The interview explores her interest in the Ainu of Japan and their possible link to the aboriginals of BC, her impressions of the Ainu carver Nuburi Toko, and her involvement in the events surrounding the creation of the sculpture “Playground of the Gods” for Burnaby Mountain. The interview also contains interesting details about the art of Japanese flower-arranging. To view “Narrow By” terms for each track expand this description and see “Notes”.
Toki Miyashita was born in Richmond B.C., ca. 1935, at the Nelson Brothers “fishery”, a second generation Canadian descended from the Oikawa family who settled on Don and Lion Islands (Oikawa-shima). In 1942 the Japanese Canadians in BC were forcibly moved from the coast and their belongings confiscated. Toki Miyashita, her parents, two brothers, and grandparents were first taken to Hastings Park where her father was separated from the family to work in road camps, and the rest of the family were interned in New Denver. Her resourceful grandmother moved the family to land outside the internment camp, growing a large garden from seeds brought with her. In 1946 the family moved to Kamloops and in 1958, after finishing high school, Toki Miyashita moved to Montreal to be with relatives and a small Japanese community. At this time she became interested in Japanese culture and took a Japanese language course at age 22. She learned about Japanese flower-arranging (Ikebana), paper folding (Origami), silk doll making (from a Russian Jew), and how to wear a kimono. She began demonstrating these arts in schools and to other groups, which she continued doing when she, her husband and two young children moved to Burnaby in 1969. Toki Miyashita has been called an unpaid “ambassador” of Japanese culture to the Lower Mainland. She has acted as liaison between Burnaby and her sister city Kushiro in Japan, which involved her in the creation of the Ainu sculpture “Playground of the Gods” on Burnaby Mountain for Burnaby’s Centennial. Toki Miyashita is a recognized Master in Ikebana Sogetsu, a school of flower-arranging, and has served on the board of the Vancouver Ikebana Association. She also served on Burnaby’s Family Court in the 1980s.
Rod Fowler returned to university as a mature student in the 1980s after working about twenty years in the field of economics and computerization in business in England, Europe and Western Canada. He graduated with a BA from SFU in both History and Sociology in 1987, his MA degree in Geography in 1989, and his PhD in Cultural Geography at SFU. He taught courses in Geography, Sociology, History and Canadian Studies at several Lower Mainland colleges, before becoming a full time member of the Geography Department at Kwantlen University College.
Interviews were digitized in 2015 allowing them to be accessible on Heritage Burnaby. The digitization project was initiated by the Community Heritage Commission with support from City of Burnaby Council.