To Endure Under Pressure

Japanese-Canadian War Memorial, Stanley Park, B.C.

The Last Samurai (2003)
(about General Hasegawa)
Nathan Algren: How well does he know this man (Katsumoto)?
Simon Graham: The General and Katsumoto fought together for the Emperor.
Nathan Algren: He fought with the Samurai?
Simon Graham: He IS Samurai.

Oshi shinobu!

As we enter our school we bow, lowering our heads and raising our clenched hands a little more than waist high in respectful acknowledgement of our school and to the others in attendance. It is instinctive, as our mutual greeting “Oss” calls out from us, we leave all behind, the body will flow and the mind will be still. The expression, “Oss” is derived from the phrase Oshi shinobu, which is steeped in deep and skilled traditions, passed on for generations, its genetics and etymology inherent in all of us. One interpretation, “to endure under pressure”, further reminds this writer that when the student is ready, the teacher will appear…

…With the heat of the day we enter into the lush world of Stanley Park, headed towards a column rising near to the Vancouver Aquarium. Some pass by whilst others stop briefly; another image is captured and the photographer moves a few inches to one side. For those who pass their eyes over the embossed and carved words they are, very briefly, told of Canada’s Japanese-Canadian soldiers of the Great War. It is a memorial to their fallen.

Private Tikechi Shichi

On October 8, 1916 near Courcelette, Somme, France Private Tikechi Shichi of the 52nd Battalion C.E.F. was killed in action. Born at Gifu-ken, Japan, this 27 year old Buddhist warrior once resided in British Columbia living and working in Victoria and Vancouver. Tikechi was one of several Japanese-Canadians who enlisted in the C.E.F., joining at Calgary in 1916. His records note Tattoo: English and Japanese flags on upper left arm.

Although Private Shichi was buried by the 51st Highland Division in a grave south-west of Courcelette, his grave was lost to us, vanishing into the earth as the war continued. With no known burial, Private Tikechi Shichi is commemorated on the Vimy Memorial, France. In Victoria, at the Japanese Mission Hall on Pandora Avenue, his friends gathered for a memorial service led by Japanese Methodist minister Reverend A.M. Ozawa.

The Last Samurai (2003)
(Algren learns the way of the bokken)
Yoritomo: Algren-san. Please forgive. Too many mind.
Algren: What?
Yoritomo: Mind sword, mind face, mind people watch, too many mind. No mind.
Algren: No mind?
Yoritomo: Hai! No mind. You try.

As I move around the column I think upon what will be today’s writings and wonder what will we do with this expedition? Though the idea is there, it seems unseated. I watch as an elder offers passers-by Japanese kites, and wander further towards the artist’s easels. Settling into the nearby greenery, I recall earlier postcards of the memorial when the water landscape seemed so prominent. It has all changed and then I think upon the greenery, the foliage around me, and the sounds in the air. The body flows and the mind is still. This is a good place to capture the day, surrounded by elders, artists and teachers.

The Memorial May 2012

Did you know?

Roll of Honour - Japanese Contingent.

Japanese Contingent Roll of Honour 1914 – 1918. (The Gold Stripe, N0. 2, Publication of the Amputation Club of B.C., page 155).

More than 200 Japanese Canadians attempted to join the C.E.F. in British Columbia but were rejected. Private Tikechi Shichi and 195 of his brethren travelled to Alberta where they were accepted. Fifty-four of them gave their lives and ninety-two were wounded. Eleven were awarded the Military Medal and one the Military Medal and Bar for bravery in the field.

The Japanese-Canadian War Memorial, erected by the Canadian Japanese Association, was designed by architect James A. Benzie with stone work by masons Keast and Allan. The work cost $15,000 and was unveiled by Vancouver Mayor Robert Henry Otley Gale April 9, 1920. The top of the 34’ white sandstone column features a marble lantern that contained an eternal flame.

During the Second World War, in protest of the internment of Japanese-Canadians, the flame was extinguished by the Japanese-Canadian community. On August 2, 1985 the memorial was re-lit in honour of Canada’s Great War soldiers of Japanese ancestry. The memorial includes the names of the fallen from the Great War, the Second World War and Korea.

On January 21, 1921 Shigeji Nakata, a Japanese-Canadian veteran who served with the 10th Canadian Infantry Battalion, succumbed to his injuries received in a poison gas attack during the Great War. Nakata’s funeral service included a piper who played the lament.

About The Author

Paul has worked with the Paradigm Motion Picture Company since 2009 as producer, historian and research specialist. Paul first met Casey and Ian WIlliams of Paradigm in April 2007 at Ieper (Ypres), Belgium when ceremonies were being held for the re-dedication of the Vimy Memorial, France. Paul's sensitivity to film was developed at an early age seeing his first films at RCAF Zweibrucken, Germany and Sardinia. Paul returned to Canada in 1967 and was captivated by David Lean's "Lawrence of Arabia" and "Bridge on the River Kwai". Over time Paul became increasingly interested in storytelling, content development, character, direction, cinematography, narration and soundtracks. At the University of Victoria, Paul studied and compared Japanese and Australian film and became interested in Australian film maker Peter Weir and his film "Gallipoli" (1981). Paul was inspired when he learned Weir visited the beaches, ridges and ravines of the peninsula. "Gallipoli", the film, led Paul on many journeys to sites of conflict in England, France, Belgium, Holland, Germany, Malta, Hawaii, Gallipoli, North Macedonia and Salonika. When Paul first watched documentary filmmaker Ken Burns, "The Civil War", Paul understood how his own experience and insight could be effective and perhaps influential in film-making. Combining his knowledge of Museums and Archives, exhibitions and idea strategies with his film interests was a natural progression. Paul thinks like a film-maker. His passion for history and storytelling brings to Paradigm an eye (and ear) to the keen and sensitive interests of; content development, the understanding of successful and relational use of collections, imagery and voice. Like Paul's favorite actor, Peter O'Toole, Paul believes in the adage “To deepen not broaden.” While on this path Paul always remembers his grandmother whose father did not return from the Great War and how his loss shaped her life and how her experience continues to guide him.


2 Responses to “To Endure Under Pressure”

  1. pferguson says:

    The image of Tikechi Shichi is from the Colonist newspaper located in Victoria, B.C. The image appears November 25, 1916, page 5. Another variation of his name is given as Teikichi Shichi. His service number was 228387.

    For further information on Japanese-Canadian war veterans see “We Went To War” by Roy Ito, published by Canada’s Wings Inc., 1984.

  2. pferguson pferguson says:

    Updated 9 September 2018.
    Image of Japanese Contingent Honour Roll added. Does anyone know if this has survived?

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