Kaz Takahashi

It’s interesting, I remember Victoria more than I do Hastings Park. I was born in 1931 in Vancouver. I moved to Victoria as a preschooler with my family. My father had taken over a dry cleaning establishment that my uncle started. There were six kids in our family.

In 1942, when we were told that we were moving, I was really excited cause I thought “ahh great! We’re going to travel!” and then you know, it’s going to be a great vacation … the parents would not speak to us about their fears, or anxieties or anything…

I know that people later on said, “well, why didn’t you go object? In those days?” you couldn’t, you just couldn’t unless you wanted to go to jail, you know, or be shipped out.

We all had to go on a boat… and when we landed in Hastings Park, I think the most significant thing was the smell, and the people! I was curious to know about all these young people who had come from all over… That was fun for me, but my mom, along with other women, must have had quite a shock to find that they had to stay within these four walls, or their beds, you know. We had two sets of beds and linens, a little space to sort of eat if we want to eat something there, but it would always be on the bunk beds, but the separation was using anything that they can cover themselves. We were not allowed to take much in the way of clothing or, material things, only things we could carry, is about all I can remember. Everyone had colourful things, you know, to distinguish which stall was theirs, otherwise you might go into the wrong spot! The mattresses! Mine was so lumpy. Ohh I really complained about that. I think we all complained about them and they were itchy because the straw would stick up!

The food was horrible, because we were used to Japanese food, and we did not like what we were served, like rice pudding! I’m not untypical, we were used to eating rice, basically. We were given a lot of other things and it was not easy to adjust to that. I’m not sure how many times but we would occasionally have terrible diarrhea, and the diarrhea was horrible, because we would all have to line up, all night and day. And the latrine, they had running water through… we would just go in there and do it quickly and get out as fast as possible. It was pretty primitive, the washing facilities there at Hastings Park.

My Dad was sick with cancer. He might have gone to hospital there, but you know, I’m not aware of that because I didn’t see him. He died the following year in Tashme. He was 42 or 43. I thought it was odd that we didn’t have a chance to see him… my mom must have been worried about it, but of course she didn’t speak about that kind of thing. So many of the women tend not to burden their children with anything, they just keep quiet and just do the best they can.

Outside, on sunny days it was really lovely because the women would be out here chatting amongst themselves and we’d be by the gate looking at the golfers and we would try to talk to them and they would kind of look at us through the chain-link fencing…

After awhile we had some schooling over here, in this winter garden. It was interesting – each corner would have different years, classes and it was a makeshift school. All the classes were run by volunteers. It was very minimalistic but it was very well organized, I remember we had sports day and we would have running and all that kind of thing. For activities, we read books, or magazines or whatever there was around that people had and then we’d play card games. There wasn’t an awful lot you could do outside of that, just talk and wander around. I guess that’s what we did. There weren’t a lot of places you could go. I met people that I would not normally have met anywhere else, like Robert Ito. I don’t know if you know him but, you know, he was in Hastings Park, and we went to school together and we used to play with him for a bit.

Through the school or whatever, we got to know the people around you. I remember that my mom, and so many of mothers who had been working an awful lot when they were home before, were suddenly left with nothing to do, and that was an interesting thing, it was like a vacation or something I suppose. My mom for the first time in her life in Canada had free time. She took advantage of that by taking up sewing, she learned how to sew properly then.

The livestock building was noisy, but you get used to it, like anything else. With all the people around you, it’s a buzz you know. We tried to get used to the smell as well, but you can’t take that smell away. They tried cleaning and it was very difficult to get it out.

At the end, there were certainly much fewer people than when we first arrived. When we arrived in Hastings Park there were a lot of people there already from up north. People were leaving to go anywhere and everywhere and, you know as children we didn’t ask where you’re going. You just knew they were going and that was it. You accept that. I think a number of us were going to go to Tashme so we just went along with it. The adventure was there, as far as I was concerned [laughter] and I quite welcomed it. I didn’t know whether we would ever go back to Victoria, I didn’t think too much about it. All we knew was that there was a war. I suppose it was really quite simply being a child and not kind of wanting to take on a lot of the adult worries that you protect yourself from a lot of things.

Mom just let us be and we were able to do what we wanted to do, mainly because she didn’t have any idea what to do. I’m really grateful about my mother not having a lot of things imposed on us… As children we all spoke English. To speak to our parents, we would speak in our broken Japanese, but by and large it was pretty much English. Most of us I think at our age did not feel that we were anything but Canadians. I can’t imagine the women feeling very happy because the separation of the family, the women from the men and the dependency there of the women, you know, toward the men, must have been very hard on them. But I’ll never know. Mom never spoke to us about that.

Excerpt from an interview, April 17, 2013. Complete interview at www.nikkeimuseum.org