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  • Writer's pictureRuth Mcbride


We were amazed that the sun was out all day today and it certainly was “striking and worthy of our attention!”

Yesterday the washer/dryer in Newman didn’t dry our clothes. We came home to a soggy pile of wet whites in the washer/dryer combo. Richard hung up our clothes on our mini clothes line, and they spent the night drying in the living room, while we went to bed. Today we had our fingers crossed that the dryer would work. We put a small load in the machine and off we went to Comox for my osteopathy appointment.

The hour I spent getting my treatment allowed Richard the time to run some shopping errands in Comox. We don’t have anything close to us in Fanny Bay, so when we are in town, we shop!

The day was so beautiful we had to pinch ourselves that we were allowed to enjoy it! +8C and sunny. Richard was out without a jacket for most of the day.

We could very clearly see the Comox glacier on our drive back to Courtenay, so I had Richard pull over, so I could take some photos.

The Comox Glacier is just to the left of the cloud cover in the photo. The glacier is located 30km southwest of Courtenay and 1 km west of Argus Mountain. The highest elevation on the glacier is 6,430 ft. Lacking an official name, it is simply known as the Comox Glacier summit and is a member of the Vancouver Island Ranges, which in turn forms part of the Insular Mountains. The name of the glacier comes from the name of the K’omocks First Nation who refer to the mountain by the name KWENIS, which means “whale”. This name comes from a traditional account of the Great Flood: a whale was said to be trapped up on the mountain when the flood receded.

We decided that since we had spent a lot of yesterday in Courtenay, that this afternoon we would head to Cumberland for lunch, the bakery (yum yum) and a hike around #1 Japanese Town and learn about the history of the mine workers.

We loved eating at Biblio Taco so much last time we were in Cumberland, we decided to try it out again and while we were waiting outside for our food, we walked down to the amazing Cumberland Village Bakery for more yummy goodies!

Biblio Taco in Cumberland. You order. You leave. You come back 10min later. They have it figured out!

Cumberland Village Baker and yes that donut has wings, because it is the most angelic thing you could eat! We spent $40 there today!

Chicken Enchiladas. Last time Richard had the tacos.

Chicken taco salad. Same as last time for me, as it was so yummy! The absolute best taco salad I have ever eaten!

We drove to the bike park in the sunshine to eat our salad, although we still ate in Jerry. Jerry yesterday smelled like Chinese food and today he smells like Mexican food. We really must get some deodorant for Jerry!

I had to take a call and Richard went exploring while I was on the phone. He usually takes pictures of all of the historical signs with his iPhone so I can spend my time on the more interesting shots and then we both can learn about the history of the area, just at different times.

The area we were exploring today was called No. 1. Japanese Town. Besides No. 1 Japanese Town there were Japanese miners who also formed communities at No. 5. Japanese Town, Bevan, Union Bay & Royston Lumber Mill. The area now is officially called “Coal Creek Historic Park” at the request of the descendants of the former Japanese residents of No. 1 Japanese Town. The Park now encompasses 40 hectares, just west of the Village of Cumberland on Comox Lake Road.

The remains of what had been No. 1 Japanese town. It would appear whatever the locals have found they prefer to leave it out for everyone to see.

A tin of cooked beef special.

Remains of the No. 1. Japanese Town.

An old kettle preserved on a stump

An old mason jar up in a tree.

This looks like the top of an old milk jug.

There was a lot of history to take in on our hike, but there really wasn’t much to see of the remains of the town. The buildings which had formed No. 1. Japanese town were demolished by order of the mayor of Cumberland in 1969 due to the old buildings being occupied by squatters and no money to rejuvenate the town.

No. 1. Japanese town was formed to accommodate the Japanese miners who arrived in December 1891 and August 1892. By May of 1893, all but 1 person had left to return to Japan because of depression, lack of work, and malnutrition, but other Japanese families continued to arrive in search of new opportunities. The Japanese workers were allowed to bring their families along with them as opposed to some other countries miners, who could not bring their families with them. Prior to 1942, there were 403 Japanese living in No. 1. Japanese town. In 1923, a new law was passed in B.C. called: The Oriental Exclusion Act, prohibiting Asians from working in the mines, which meant a great many of those living in No. 1 Japanese town lost their jobs. Some of these men turned to logging, fishing or they became entrepreneurs and started their own businesses. In Cumberland the Japanese owned tailoring shops, a hardware store, a photo studio and a jewellery shop.

A map of No. 1. Japanese Town.

On February 24, 1942 male Japanese Canadians ages 18-45 were removed from a 100 mile wide zone along the B.C. coast. In March 1942 the property of Japanese Canadians was seized by Custodian of Alien Enemy Property Act. In 1943 the Federal government gave the right to dispose of Japanese Canadian property without the owners’ consent. April 16, 1943 - 586 Japanese residents from the Comox Valley were transported from Union Bay to Vancouver’s Hasting Park and then shipped to interment camps. From 1944-1945 the Canadian government announced a program for the Japanese in interment camps which allowed them to move East of the Rockies or be repatriated to Japan. In 1949, the BC government passed a bill to allow Japanese to have full Canadian Citizenship rights such as the right to own property and vote. In 1983 Sigeru & Utako Kiyono retired to the Comox Valley and became the only Japanese family to return to the area Post WWII. In 1988 the Canadian government under Brian Mulroney formally apologized to the Japanese Canadians for shipping them to internment camps during WWII, and provided $21,000 to each survivor who was interned, $12million for a Japanese community fund and $24million to create a Canadian race relationships foundation, to ensure such discrimination never happens again. In total 22,000 Japanese Canadians were uprooted from their homes, separated from their families and sent to camps.

In 2019 former residents and descendants of No. 1. Japanese Town returned to the now named “Coal Creek Historic Park” to view the trails and the historical installation and plaques, which are distributed throughout where the No. 1. Japanese Town was formerly located.

Saying that today was ”Remarkable” from a weather standpoint, made me think about the remarkable resilience of the Japanese people who lived through: immigration to a foreign country, mine explosions, legislation against them working in the mines, internment and eventually reconciliation. There were some very remarkable people that lived and were born in the No. 1. Japanese Town including:

Aiko Saita (1909-1954) who became an opera singer having studied at the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto and then signed with Japan Victor company in Japan, in 1935.

Reverend Yoshia Ono (1904-1984) who came to B.C. to attend theological school and was the minister of the Japanese Mission of Cumberland of the United Church of Canada. His letters of protest and his humble polite spirit helped the former Japanese internment camp occupiers get justice for their plight.

Harry Hiro-o Aoki (1921-2013) was living in Vancouver in 1942 when he was forced to move to an internment camp. He took a harmonica with him and he became a virtuoso harmonica and stand up base player playing in a duo called Moods of Man.

Masami Tsuruoka (1929-2014) was born at No. 1. Japanese Town and after WWII moved back to Japan, where he studied karate. He came back to Canada in 1956 and established Tsuruoka Karate, the 1st Karate School in Canada and is seen as the father of Karate in Canada.

In 2009 to symbolize the 31 families who were forcibly removed to internment camps, the equivalent number of Mt. Fuji flowering cheery trees were planted at Coal Creek Historic Park. The tree planting project was made possible through the generous support of the National Association of Japanese Canadians and donations of former residents and their families. The project exists to bridge cultures, to honour a community that was integral to the development of Cumberland, and to acknowledge a history that includes racism, fear and injustice. The planting of the trees ensures that the important stories and lessons are not forgotten and, as part of an ongoing process of reconciliation and healing, that these types of actions are not repeated. I definitely want to see the cherry trees in bloom in the spring if we are still here!

After visiting Coal Creek Historic Park, we wandered down Wellington Colliery Trail On a beautiful sunny day, we only encountered 2 other people on the trail today.

It is hard to describe how green the forest is. Stunning with the sun shining through today.

No hiking boots today. They hurt my toe. Trying to recover!

Forest floor, returning to nature.

We wondered what had caused the hatch work pattern on this fallen log.

Old growth trees which had been cut down, but which new living trees are growing out of them.

We hiked for about an hour and the trail was fairly easy, other than having to go off the trail because of fallen logs from time to time.

Since the sun was still out I asked Richard to stop at Union Bay on our way home. I thought it was very fitting today to stop at Union Bay, where the Japanese were shipped over to Vancouver, as part of the interment process in 1942 and take some photos.

I liked this shot because the seagull decided to stop on the Inukshuk in Union Bay wharf.

Mount Arrowsmith taken from Union Bay. The mount is in all of its glory today at blue hour. Mount Arrowsmith is the highest mountain south of Port Alberni on Vancouver Island at 5,968 feet. Today was the clearest we have seen this mountain which looks like 2 arrowheads at the top of the mountain. The mountain is named after two cartographers Aaron Arrowsmith and his nephew John Arrowsmith in 1853. The Coast Salish language calls the mountain Kulth-ka-choolth meaning “jagged face”.

What a remarkable day! We learned so much and experienced a truly wonderful sunny winter day in Vancouver Island! If only we could see more days like this in a row. It truly lifts our spirits and energizes us to see and feel the sunshine! 100% chance of showers tomorrow....ugh!

And today surprisingly the washer/dryer in Newman did its job and we came home to nice dry clothes!

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1 Comment

Jan 09, 2021

Nice writing and stories! You are way too organized! Lol

Love the Mcgiver Clothes Dryer!

Enjoy 😎

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