Lethbridge Japanese Garden is a pearl

NIKKA YUKO JAPANESE GARDEN

  • A PEARL OF FRIENDSHIP –

The idea of Nikka Yuko (Japan-Canada Friendship) Garden was inspired by Rev. Yutetsu Kawamura of the Buddhist Temple in Raymond. He believed that to heal the pain of injustice was a gesture of friendship for reconciliation not a demand for compensation nor revenge. The following is the story of another Japanese Canadian religious man who lived in Southern Alberta during the Second World War.

Rev. Jun Kabayama was removed from his church in Ocean Falls in the British Columbia in 1942 under War Measures Act which defined all Canadian citizens of Japanese descent as “Enemy Aliens. He was re-assigned by the United Church of Canada to begin a Japanese speaking congregation in Lethbridge. ” However, the law did not allow him to live in Lethbridge. So he and his family lived in Raymond.

My mother, Natsuno Mitsui, married Rev. Jun Kabayama in 1974. He lost his wife a few years previously, and my mother had been a widow for 20 years. When I came to Lethbridge to retire, I found that Rev. Kabayama was the founder of Japanese United Church here. I had run into him from time to time as a fellow United Church minister before. He came to visit us in Geneva in Switzerland as a newly married man to my mother in 1974. That was the only chance I had to get to know him. It was only a few days. By the time I returned to Canada from overseas service in 1980, Rev. Kabayama was recently deceased. So my knowledge of his life in Lethbridge was mainly from historical documents and other material like diaries of other United Church ministers. I only remember him as a stoic man of few words with a straight back; a Samurai from the country of Samurai, Satsuma; the Southern tip of the southmost island of Japanese archipelago, Kyushu.

Canadian Japanese clergy people struggled to begin their ministry in the new locations under difficult conditions. Many of them did not have cars as all cars and radios were confiscated when they were ordered to move out of the B.C. coast. Despite difficult conditions, when I came to Canada in 1957, eight years after they were allowed to return to the coat or to disperse across Canada, I had never sensed bitterness among them. It astonished me. I wondered if it was a manifestation of stoicism Japanese people grew up with. It is expressed in a familiar saying “Shikataganai.” It means, “You can not do anything about it. No use holding a grudge.” It is similar to the prayer of the Alcoholics Anonymous, “Lord, give us serenity to accept what we can not change; and courage to change what we can.”

I heard an amazing story of Rev. Kabayama’s difficult ministry in Southern Alberta, but not from him. He only spoke about good times filled with blessing. I learned about his difficulty, not only lack of mode of transport but also hostility he encountered not allowing him to live in Lethbridge, from a diary of another Japanese Canadian minister, Rev. Dr. Kosaburo Shimizu. In one of the entries about his visit to Alberta, he mentioned Kabayama’s bicycle. He was amazed how Kabayama travelled from Raymond to Lethbridge everyday on a bicycle, through rain, shine, and snow, 38 kilometres one way even in minus 20 degree temperature. He took the picture of Kabayama in his winter outfit. I found a picture of him with the bicycle in the 100th anniversary edition of the commemorative publication for Japanese United Churches. It is a picture of Kabayama all bundled up in layers. Shimizu’s comment was something like, “Strange creature!”

Kabayama covered the area from Coalhurst to Taber, Coaldale to Lethbridge from his home in Raymond. He rented spaces in Lethbridge United Churches to hold services on Sundays at Southminster United Church chapel and others. He visited other towns where people were relocated to work for sugar beat farms as often as he could on the bicycle. In those places he held monthly “Katei-shukai” – house church worship services. There is no record of the time when he was permitted to own a vehicle. But his bicycle ministry must have lasted for a few years. By the time he was reassigned by the Home Mission Board to Kelowna, B.C. he was driving his own car, in 1949.

When I think of Nikka Yuko Japanese Garden, I think of pearl; that beautiful jewel from the sea. Pearl is produced to ease the pain caused by a foreign object accidentally invading the shell fish like mollusk. It keeps excreting mucus to cope with the pain in stead of expelling the offending object. In the end, sticky substance coagulates into a hard object transforming itself into a beautiful jewel. That is Nikka Yuko Japanese Garden.

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