This page last modified August 23, 2023
© Michael Kluckner
Go to Kadonaga House
I have produced a graphic novel – Toshiko –
about this period.
Sketched/written 2003: Obviously a historic house, the Mayne Mast Restaurant on Village Bay Road at Miner's Bay is a good place for a quick beer before joining the ferry lineup a kilometre away at Village Bay. Sadly it is in very shabby condition, with tufts of grass growing enthusiastically in the gutters and on the deteriorated roof shingles, although its eccentric interior decor is worth a visit.
The house dates from about 1910, builder unknown. Kumazo Nagata bought it in 1921, and enlarged it in 1937. [Source: Ovanin, Thomas K. Island Heritage Buildings. Islands Trust, c. 1980.] As seen in the photo below, it has been greatly altered since.
The Konishis were related to the Nagatas by marriage – Kiyono Konishi married Kumazo Nagata. The Konishis also grew tomatoes and strawberries and reestablished themselves in the business in the Shuswap area near Tappen after the war.
Members of the Mayne Island Japanese-Canadian community at the Kumazo Nagata house near Miner's Bay, photographed by Kumajiro Konishi in the spring of 1942, just before the evacuation. The adults forming the back row are Margaret Nagata, John Nagata, Kiyono Nagata, Grandma Sumi and Ei Nagata. The children in front are Masako Sumi, Fiko Konishi, Setsuko Konishi Iwasaki, and Tommy Sumi. The house is now the The Mayne Mast restaurant, located on Village Bay Road near the Mayne Street Mall. [Information from Hatsue Konishi Yoshida]
From Guillermina Coronado Davila, Guadalajara, Mexico, 2021:
Update 2023: the house is now home to the Mayne Island Conservancy.
I'm currently working on my thesis, titled: "An evolving identity: Nikkei Canadians and their approach to Japanese-ness after WWII. The case of Vancouver." My purpose is to look at how the relocation and internment of Japanese and Japanese Canadians during World War II in Canada negatively affected the approach of those communities and their descendants regarding the Japanese side of their identity.
Part of the plan for my research is to interview nikkei Canadians who would be willing to share their families' experiences during WWII. To achieve this goal, I designed a survey focused on requesting information about their families' history living in Canada and whether or not they know of any relatives relocated to Canadian Internment camps during the war. Since the current state of affairs regarding the pandemic has made it virtually impossible for me to travel to British Columbia to apply this survey among the nikkei Canadian community in person, I would like to ask for your help in bridging our geographic gap.
Here you can find the link to the form for the nikkei members to fill.
All data obtained through this exercise will remain confidential. No names or personal data will be published nor shared with any person or institution; they will be used only for statistical purposes and to find possible candidates for further interviews, which would also be voluntary.
I intend to reach the highest number of members possible for this data to be a closer representation of today's Japanese Canadian community in British Columbia.
From Rumiko Kanesaka, 2017: I am a new immigrant from Japan living on Salt Spring Island for twenty some years. I am a member of the Japanese Garden Society of Salt Spring Island that founded in 2007 to create a space for unity and reconciliation. The Society recently received a grant to conduct a research on the historical charcoal pit kilns that were built by the early Japanese Canadian settlers on the Southern Gulf Islands. We just launched the project and the research has begun. You might have heard about historical charcoal kilns on the islands. We are hoping that by peeking through the little window of the charcoal pit kilns, this research will help us learn about the lives of early Japanese Canadian settlers in the Southern Gulf Islands. It is very hard to find anything related to the historical kilns though.
I am wondering if you happen to hear about charcoal kilns and/or charcoal making on Mayne Island in your correspondence with the people who contacted you.
From Robert Anderson, 2016: My mother taught at the
school on Mayne Island and I was in her class, dates about 1959/
60. Looking at a picture of the school [on Google Earth] it
looks very much as it did all those years ago and that in its
self is very interesting. It would be fascinating to see more
photos of the school and past pupils if there are records that
remain. My memory of it is quite vague as I was aged 4/5 years
old at the time. I do however have a photo of a group of
children of that age on a farm, and the name Cliff Staff is on
the reverse of the photograph . Although I now live in England ,
I would one day like to revisit various places that I grew up in
when in Canada (Gibsons, Port Mellon, Texada Island, and
Irving's Landing) hence my interest in your article. I would
therefore be grateful for any other information or direction
that I might enquire to regarding life around those places from
1958 / 1967.
From Cindy Mochizuki, 2014: I'm a visual artist in
Vancouver and I'm doing a research-based project that is ongoing
on the early migration of issei Japanese pioneers to BC from
Yonago, Tottori. Many Japanese families found their way to the
islands of B.C. such as Mayne Island, Pender Island and the Gulf
Islands to work in the lumber industry, hothouse tomatoes or
poultry farms. I came across your website recently when I was
looking into Gon Kadonaga and I will have to pick up your book
as well. I am giving a talk in Japan next week and wanted to get
permission from you to point out your website with regards to
the old heritage house purchased by Kumazo Nagata in 1921.
Nagata was from Yonago, Tottori and I wanted to show a few
images of historic buildings on the island.
Note from Lynne Nagata, 2003: I don't remember much of [the Shuswap] area although I was born in Shuswap Lake hospital; our family moved to Burnaby when I was four years old. We summered on Mayne island, so your depiction of the Georgina Point lighthouse is very heartwarming for me. My father used to polish the reflector in that lighthouse in the late 1920s, his weekend chore as a schoolboy. My paternal grandfather, Kumazo Nagata, owned a house a bit futher south of that around that time. The house is now a restaurant and pub called "The Mayne Mast". My grandfather also grew hothouse tomatoes (in the Campbell Bay area) and founded the hothouse cooperative called Active Pass Grower's Association which grew and packed "Island Brand Tomatoes and Cucumbers". My father, John Nagata, schooled on Mayne and later in Vancouver at King Edward High School, was my grandfather's interpreter with the Association's lawyers in Vancouver. One result of his efforts on behalf of his father was the April 1942 letter to the BC Security Commission that is referenced in the remarks by the Honourable Iona Campagnolo in May 2002 at the dedication ceremony for a Japanese Garden at Dinner Bay on Mayne. This garden has a special place in my heart as my father was a founding donor. We used to visit it in 1994 when it was literally a hole in the ground! (You can see a few photos at http://www.mayneisland.com/places/japan.html, and the Lieutenant Governor's remarks opening it at http://www.ltgov.bc.ca/whatsnew/sp/sp_may29_2002.htm ) My father began building a house on Mayne on Miner's Bay on Maple Drive in 1974. Prior to that we used to camp out there for our summer holidays. My father didn't complete the house by the time he passed away in 1995, so my mother hired a contractor to finish it.
Note from Chris Bardon, 2006: My family has been on Mayne pretty continuously since the end of World War I. Our current house on Dixon Road was built in the 1930's, in part, I believe, with salvaged materials from the much older Mayne Island Hotel which had burned down a few years earlier. This house, which has been in the family for 50 years, was built for Doctor Roberts, a Scot, who retired to Mayne after service to the Empire in the Mesopotamian Campaign in the First War. Wanting a doctor, Mayne Islanders lured a probably tired and reluctant Doctor Roberts back into medical practice soon after his arrival on the island. My father, who lived with his parents in a house built by my grandfather near the Georgina Point light, remembers appointments with Doc Roberts in what is now our kitchen when he was a boy in the 1940's. The house was built by members of the Mayne Island pioneering Bennett family, Fred and Davey among others, likely to contribute to the Doctor's comfort as he aged, and perhaps with a view to extending his time in practice by a few more precious years.
Update from Sean Cauley,
2007: Thought I would give you an update on the
Mayne Mast restaurant, which you captured in Vanishing BC. It
has been for sale for a few months, and has apparently recently
sold; to someone who will restore the old place. We hope.
The Kadonaga house on Horton Bay, spring 2002. Horton Bay is well-protected from the southeasterly storm winds by Curlew Island. The Kadonaga house is further sheltered in a tiny cove, which looks out onto the main bay, where the breeze lays hand-shaped patterns of ripples onto the calm water.
Kadonaga house, 1930s. The women are from top left and clockwise: Some Kadonaga, Mrs. Sasaki, Mrs. Saga, and Some's daughter Miya. Note from Marie, Joyce and Margaret Sakon in Saskatchewan: Some Kadonaga was our grandmother and Miya was our mother. After her relocation to Magrath, Alberta with the rest of her family, Miya married Matsuji Sakon in Picture Butte and farmed at Lethbridge until 1986. She retired to Surrey, BC with her husband and passed away in 2002.
The Saga family and 2 of the Kadonaga daughters, standing on a dock at Horton Bay. Note Mr. Saga's catch of salmon sitting on the dock.
Photos collection of Glen Teramoto
The other Japanese-Canadian enclave on Mayne Island was at Horton Bay, at the southeast corner of the island. The surviving house illustrated here, seen from the Horton Bay dock, was built about 1920 for the Kadonaga family. Together with the Sagas, the Sasakis and other families, they farmed in the area, concentrating in the 1920s on chickens but also becoming part of the Active Pass Growers Association and erecting greenhouses for growing tomatoes and cucumbers.
Note from Dennis Emmett, current owner of the property: "There were two large double greenhouses that were used for tomatoes. I have seen pictures showing the northern shore along Robson Channel bare of trees that had been used to fire the furnaces in the greenhouses to start the tomatoes early. We have found a few artifacts but there was very little remaining other than the buildings when my grandfather arrived in 1948. There is a gravesite on the hill to the left of the boathouse. Members of the Kadonaga family return to visit and tend the graves at least every couple of years. They were last there this spring for the opening of the Japanese Garden at Dinner Bay. They held a reunion at the property about eight years ago which some 30-40 descendents and their families attended. We invited some long term island residents to come as well and they seemed to have a wonderful time reliving the past. My mother has kept in contact with some of the Kadonaga family and is able to contact them if that is helpful. The property has been in my family since 1948. My grandfather left it to his two daughters and it is presently owned by myself, four cousins and my mother. We are now into the fifth generation using the property. The boatshed you mentioned does date from the Kadonagas. It has been repaired at various times but we hope to keep it for as long as possible. I do not know where the family went during the internment period but am sure my mother would know."
Notes from Glen Teramoto: "Mr. Saga was my Grandfather's older brother. They relocated to Alberta after the war. The Sasakis relocated to Toronto, near our family. The Kadonagas for the most part remained in B.C. and Alberta. But only my father's generation, or Nisei, remain today. My grandparent's generation have all passed on now.
"Unfortunately, my family's time on Mayne Island as well as the wartime internment experience has really left a dark spot on our family history. So much so, that to pry any information from my father and aunts would be a great achievement. To this day, it is still very difficult for them to speak of this era. . . . My grandparents immigrated to Canada around 1927. They first lived in Port Alice, on Vancouver Island, and then settled on Mayne around 1930. My father was born in 1933 on Mayne Island. Gontaro Kadonaga was a cousin of my grandmother, thus our relations to them. The Teramoto house has since been torn down. My father went back to Mayne for the first time in 1975, and then again this past summer. But he said that even the roads have all changed, so he was really disoriented. As for photos, my aunts said that they were for the richer families, so there are very few pictures of my family on Mayne. Mr. Konishi was the photographer on the island, so any pictures that existed were taken by him."
Update 2023: the Kadonaga House now. Its property along the shoreline appears to have become a bare-land strata: there are "Private Property" signs at the road at the foot of the bay.
Note from Richard Kawasaki, Rancho Palos Verdes, CA, 2009: My sister and I have been trying to contact Ida Saga who might be related to some of the folks talked about in your web site. We recall that Ida worked in an embassy.
We are related to Ida through my mother’s family (Ashimoto) but because of dementia and her eventual passing, we have lost touch with our relatives in Canada. We are also related to the Sasaki family but we do not know a first name. My mother corresponded with them until a few years before her death.
We are in contact with a branch of the Kadonaga family here in California but they are not closely related to Gontaro’s family.
Our maternal grandfather came from the same town in Japan and probably visited the Kadonaga, Saga and Sasaki families when he passed through Vancouver on his way to California.
I have tried unsuccessfully to find her through a public records search in Ancestry.com.
Correspondence from Victor Kadonaga, Hamilton, 2003:
In the wake of the first immigrant, Gontarô Kadonaga, a number of Japanese families came and settled there. They set to work, felling trees, digging out stumps, removing large rocks, and generally experiencing all the hardships of early pioneers everywhere in this new country. Only then could the land be made suitable for farming. They proved to be an enterprising lot, for there is reference to various projects being started such as cattle-breeding, poultry farming, and even a sawmill operation. Some became involved in fishing. Greenhouses were built, and proved to be a boon, for fresh produce could be brought to markets weeks earlier than before. Tomatoes and cucumbers grew well and showed every promise of becoming profitable commodities much in demand. It was reported that their contribution to the economy of that island was considerable. Then came 1942, and the forced mass evacuation, incarceration, and loss of land and property, which shattered the hopes and dreams of these inhabitants of Mayne Island. Furthermore, once removed, they were declared to be 'enemy aliens,' unwanted back.
* * *
The family of Tôru and Somè Kadonaga was among the earliest casualties resulting from federal government edicts. As the first-born son of pioneer Gontarô Kadonaga, Tôru had taken over the operation of the family farm, after the family patriarch retired and returned to his birthplace in Japan. But suddenly, and summarily, Tôru and his family were ordered out of their home and property and placed in a mass-evacuation centre on the mainland [Hastings Park]. Shortly thereafter, the family left Vancouver to work on a sugar beet farm in southern Alberta. This was one option offered by the authorities for people wishing to leave the Hastings Park staging depot.
The field work was known to be extremely back-breaking, but accepted in order to keep the family together. Somehow, in that strange new environment, so different from the Pacific west coast, they managed to start lives for themselves, seeking and finding opportunities in various enterprises there.
A half century later, this writer happened to meet the widow of Keitarô, Tôru's eldest son. Grace Kadonaga was then still living in Magrath, Alberta. That was in 1992. It is reported she may now be living in Vancouver. As for the other family members, Minoru is thought to be in Lethbridge, and Tomiko, in Vancouver.
Among the others who are thought to have gone to the Alberta sugar beet farms were the two Minamide families and the Saga family. Hideo Saga [lives in Milk River, Alberta (according to Marie Sakon)]; Sumiko Saga is said to be back in British Columbia.
* * *
Shintarô and Toyo Sasaki were neighbours of the Kadonagas. Shintarô was Gontarô's nephew. One day in early December, 1941, the RCMP came to the home and took the father away. Some anxious days passed before the family learned he had been sent, first to Petawawa, which was a prisoner-of-war camp in northern Ontario, then to a work camp in Schreiber, Ontario. After a period of time in Hastings Park, this family opted for placement in Slocan, one of several relocation centres set up by the BC Security Commission outside the so-called 'protected area' of the Pacific Coast in 1942. This was the second option. Slocan was a long-abandoned mining site, i.e., a ghost town, located deep in southeastern British Columbia. The family spent 3 years there, while the father was confined in Schreiber. In 1945 the federal government announced to all evacuees the policy of dispersal and relocation east of the Rockies. It was either that, or 'repatriation' to Japan, a country unknown to many of the affected evacuees, having been born in Canada. The Sasaki family chose to move to Ontario, first to Brampton, and eventually to Toronto. And family reunification was made possible with the father's release from the camp. Both parents have passed on, but all the children are alive, well, and settled. Most have families.
In 2001 Yukio Sasaki paid a nostalgic visit to Mayne Island. He was able to locate the old home, although the area around the property was overgrown. His brother Shiro wrote: 'At the time of the evacuation, mother and the children buried dishes and other items around the property and these items were never recovered by our family.'
* * *
The Teramoto family of Bennett Bay had a similar experience, the father also having been taken away to Petawawa camp. From Hastings Park, the rest of the family was sent to Lemon Creek, which was another camp for the uprooted evacuees. In 1945 the family was reunited in Ontario and established themselves near the town of Brampton, where the surviving members of this family may be found today.
* * *
The Koyama family took the third option, which was to move out of the 'protected area' and, at their own expense, live as 'self-supporting' families. This plan was supposed to afford them some degree of independence and freedom. In truth, most families saw this as a means of keeping together. And, more importantly, it was hoped that educational needs for the children could be met. These projects were set up in the interior of British Columbia in such places as Minto, Bridge River, Lillooet and Christina Lake. Others were located in Chase, Taylor Lake and Salmon Arm. The family is believed to have gone to one of those communities.
* * *
Speaking as a retired teacher, I have a special interest in educational matters. I read in one report that, after those families left Mayne Island in '42, there was such a steep drop in student enrolment that the school--the Island had only one--had to be closed for at least two years for lack of pupils. Traditionally, parents in Japanese culture have placed educaton at a high level of expectations for their children. It was particularly challenging to maintain some level of formal education during those hectic days of the Evacuation and Relocation, whether the families found themselves in a temporary shelter like Hastings Park, a self-supporting project, or a ghost town. Looking back through the past decades, it would appear that this faith in the importance of education has borne fruit. For among that generation of evacuees forced out of the Island, and their children and children's children, will be found today people serving in the medical and health-care fields, finance and commerce, agriculture, education, indeed, in all kinds of services industries, including, in one case, the Canadian Armed Forces. It is safe to say that many have gone on to post-secondary education and to university degrees. All are contributing members of society.
I am indebted to Yukio Eddie Sasaki of Scarborough, Ontario for much of the information above with respect to the former residents of Mayne Island. As well, I appreciate the assistance of Mrs. Hannah Hamada of Norval, Ontario, from whom I was able to get the names of several of the island's settlers from long ago. This nonagenarian, despite failing health, displayed a remarkable ability to recall the names of friends and their interrelationships, which I found most helpful in preparing this report.
* * *
Correspondence from Jason Kadonaga: I am now 25 and have been to Mayne once, for the reunion you mentioned. I was 13 or 14 at the time and the folks that now own the property were very gracious hosts. That was the only time our family has gotten together at that scale before. Now one thing I noticed in your narrative that is missing is that my great-great-grandfather had two families. I do not know the details of this and I may be off on some of them, but I will do my best.
I am a descendant of the second family that consisted of three brothers, Yoshi, Ed and Setts as I know them. I do not know their full Japanese names. My grandfather was Yoshi and he married my grandmother Candy. They had 3 daughters and one son, my father. Of the other brothers, my great uncle Ed had 2 daughters and Uncle Setts had no children. Of these kids that were born to my grandfather and my great uncles, only 2 were born on Mayne Island, both were my aunts. One was very young and does not remember any of it, the other was a little older and has some vague memories.
During WWII the entire family went to Lethbridge, Alberta. After the war my family stayed there. Later both of my great uncles moved to the Lower Mainland, but my grandfather stayed in Alberta working on a dairy. Presently, I live in Prince George, as do two of my aunts. My other aunt, as well as their 2 cousins live in Vancouver. Both of my great uncles have passed on as well as my grandfather and grandmother, but uncle Ed's wife, Aunt Tosh, is still alive, living in Surrey. My parents joined the Salvation Army a few years ago and now live in Kingston, Ontario with my sister and my adopted brother.
***Update from Dennis Emmett, 2007: On July 18 this year the Kadonaga family exhumed the graves of four of their ancestors (1912 & 1914) and reburied in the local cemetary. One of the Kadonagas attending had spent the first fifteen years of her life on the property. She remembered ( and I recall from years ago) that there were two apple trees, now gone, just below the four graves. She recalls that one was a Gravenstein and the other was a Winter Banana.
One of the prettiest lighthouses on the coast, in my opinion, guards the eastern entrance to Active Pass at Georgina Point on Mayne Island. In the distance looms Mount Baker.