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Being Japanese Canadian

I recently attended the opening of the Being Japanese Canadian exhibit at the Royal Ontario Museum.

The exhibit featured photographs of and art by Japanese-Canadians, and included a focus on the World War Two internment camp experience and its aftermath.

I found it surprisingly emotional.

All the internment photos look like Dad and my aunts and uncles...because this is our history.

My father was Nisei--second generation Japanese, born to parents who emigrated from Japan to Canada.

He was born here in Canada, and was interned with his family when he was a little boy. I grew up with the internment camps in living memory.

It was really interesting being in a large room filled with Japanese-Canadians of different generations--Nisei, Sansei, Yonsei. (Second-, third- and fourth-generation).

I seem to be fairly young for my Sansei generation.

Being surrounded by people who look very much like I do--I'm not accustomed to that.

In Toronto there are ethnic enclaves of pretty much any culture--lots and lots. There’s even a Little Malta. But there are no Japanese Canadian streets or neighbourhoods, and it’s because of the internment. People who looked like me were taken away, and many never came back.

The community was shattered, and the fear that shattering caused never left.

And so, I am very rarely with a bunch of people who look like me. And until now, I hardly ever thought to think about it. How very strange, and affecting.


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