Asian Heritage Month

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Asian Heritage Month

Posted on May 24 by Jennifer Maruno
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Many Japanese left their Asian world to find a different kind of life in Canada. The first wave of Issei (first generation) began in 1877. They sought a life that brought both satisfaction and financial success. Once they mastered the language of their new country, the Japanese knew employment opportunities beyond labour and servitude would arise.

My father-in-law left the palm trees of the island of Kyushu for the pine trees of British Columbia, May 14, 1923. Hiroo Maruno entered Canada at the age of sixteen. Like many others he took up residence on Powell Street in Vancouver where people understood him and could help him settle. Hiroo worked in a fish market during the day while attending English school at night. He played baseball on the weekends and earned extra dollars at night by playing his trumpet with a local band.

The Imperial Tobacco Company employed Hiroo as a sales representative. He married, bought a car and life with his two young children was good until the bombing of Pearl Harbour.

The books of The Cherry Blossom Series follow the fate of my husband's family when the Canadian government declared all people of Japanese descent enemies of the country and forced them into internment. They lost their house, their car and all of their special possessions.  After a long and painful journey of relocation and loss, apology and retribution, Japanese Canadians are now finally recognized as having contributed to the development of our great nation.

For some, this contribution  is a simple as sushi. Others look to cultural forms of martial arts, taiko drumming, ikebana or manga.  I see their greatest contribution as their display of dignity and exemplary behaviour.

Throughout all of their hardships, the Japanese -Canadians  held their heads high.  Mothers raised their children without bitterness. Acts of retaliation and destruction were not even considered. They turned their inner turbulence to chopping wood, playing baseball and other physical expressions.

The Japanese remained silent about their past in order to maintain harmony. I  told their story for others to know Asian Heritage month is more than just origami.

Jennifer Maruno

Posted by Kendra on October 30, 2014
Jennifer Maruno photo

Jennifer Maruno

Jennifer Maruno is a long-time educator and author. Her debut novel, When the Cherry Blossoms Fell, was shortlisted for the Hackmatack Award and the Pacific Northwest Library Association Young Readers Choice Award. She lives in Burlington, Ontario.