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Autobiography of Matsunosuke Shibuya

Editor’s note: This autobiography was translated from Japanese and includes notes from Mr. Shibuya’s eldest daughter, Machiko.)


Born: March 15, 1906 (39th year of Meiji Era)
Birthplace: Matsuda-machi, Ashigarakami-gun, Kanagawa-ken, Japan

Father: Saijiro Shibuya
Mother: Ryu Shibuya
Elder sister: Eiko
Elder brother: Hisamatsu (86 years old in 1986)


Shortly after I was born, my father decided to go to Canada after talking it over with my mother. He came to this decision without talking it over with his relatives or getting their permission. He crossed the Pacific Ocean on the boat belonging to Jinzaburo Oikawa who was a smuggler. I believe that my mother had a hard life alone with three children. This was my first introduction and my first relationship to Canada.

My father Saijiro worked at Brown Sawmill, which is a mile upstream from Balmoral River, a branch of the Skeena River. In 1912, after six years of working in Canada, he returned temporarily to Japan. On July 30th of the year that Meiji Era changed to Taisho Era, he returned to Canada and he worked in a fishery in Port Essington.

On September 1, 1923 the twelfth year of the Taisho Era there was a big earthquake in Tokyo. In October, Saijiro returned to Japan with a visa for my mother and me. However my mother had to give up going to Canada because she was reluctant to leave my older brother on his own. My sister, Eiko, was married and had left home and there would be no one to look after Hisamatsu.

On April 14, 1924 I left Japan on the ship Empress of Australia and stepped on Canadian soil for the first time on May 17, 1924.

My life had three major phases. The first is from my birth until the age of eighteen when I came to Canada. The second was from the age of eighteen to my 40’s, which was an unsettling time. The third was from mid-forty until now which is at a stage of fulfillment and satisfaction.

During the first phase of my life I finished high school and vocational school and worked for Kokutetsu Railways (re-named Japan National Railway) for two years.

During the second phase I went to Port Essington. From July 1924 I began work as a fisherman with my father. However I did not like fishing on a ship so we left and went to work at Pacific Mills near Prince Rupert in mid-January 1925. Ten months later the sawmill had two huge fires. The sawmill was closed down.

In January 1926 my father and I went our separate ways. From this point I was totally independent in Canada. My father went back to fishing and I visited Ocean Falls with an acquaintance.

My life was changed in Ocean Falls. I discovered Christianity. At the beginning I just followed a Japanese friend who was a Christian to the evening bible school. While I was beginning to understand the Christian religion I tried to attend as many fellowships and bible studies as I could. Mr. Kosaburo Shimizu was a student minister during this time of my life. Then in August 1926 he became an ordained minister and he left our church. (Machiko’s note: On Sunday, January 31st. 1926, Rev. Shimizu wrote in his diary that Shibuya-kun gave a talk at a meeting, titled “So long as we have zeal.”)

Mr. Yoshio Takakita, the next student minister, took over the church. He also had a big effect on me.

We organized a group “Hachiku kai (which means “breaking bamboo”)” led by Mr. Takakita. There were eight single men in the group. We got together whenever we had time, cooking and eating together and encouraging one another to be leaders of various church activities. I was highly motivated and energized.

In late February 1928, I decided to visit Japan. I also made a big decision to be baptized before returning to Japan. I visited Rev. Shimizu who introduced me to Christianity of my decision. On the first Sunday of March, I was baptized at Fairview Church.

On March 10, I returned to Japan on the American ship, “Victoria”. I registered myself as a returning Japanese citizen. In April, I took an examination for conscription and had passed it. From December 1, 1928 to January 1929 I was enlisted in the Japanese military service. It was an unforgettable experience in my life.

In March 1929 I returned to Canada with renewed resolve to lead a Christian life. With the help and guidance of Mitsuru Go and Manzo Seto I found a job at Westminster. At that time I met Rev. and Mrs. Akagawa. Since then my faith had been deepened. In mid-August I received a letter from Mr. Machida and so I visited him in Thaimill in Langley Prairie. For a while I worked for Mr. Machida. I attended more Sunday worship and joined a Christian organization for the youth.

In early March 1936 I went back to Japan to visit and to meet Chie, the daughter of Mr. Chiaki Yamaguchi. On April 15th we were married. I came back to Canada alone because Chie didn’t have an immigration visa. In May 1937 she entered Canada.

In 1936 Mr. Machida asked me to build a small factory that would produce small wooden baskets for strawberries and tomatoes. I did almost all of it on my own. However, two years later I quit because Mr. Machida and I had a difference of opinion. I moved back to Ocean Falls with my family and worked there for two years until the outbreak of World War ll.

In January 1942 I had to leave my family for Princeton Road Concentration Camp. I was sent there with other men in early-February. In early May, we were moved to “Fourteen-mile ranch” (known later as Tashme) to build family houses. My family was eventually moved there. We were overjoyed to see each other again.

A year after the war ended in August 1946 we were told the camp would be shut down. Our family was sent to a hostel in Transcona, Manitoba (Machiko’s note: a German prisoner of war camp according to Shizuko Kamimura). During our sojourn in the hostel we were visited by Rev. Akagawa, Mr. Hikida, Mr. and Mrs. Kakumasu and Mr. and Mrs. Hamade and shared many nostalgic stories. Mr. Akagawa honoured us with a prayer of encouragement. In September, we were told that the hostel would be closed at the end of the month. We were now free to go anywhere except B.C. All those, including my family who did not have a house, were to move to Angora Shelter in Ontario with all their belongings. Mr. Hikida came to tell us that he had a house that we could have. As soon as we got permission to leave we took our belongings and left.

On October 1st, 1946 when I was 40 years old the third phase of my life began on Alexander Avenue in Winnipeg. We had a home.

I met Rev. Akagawa again and he led me to a church. I felt blessed by God. In 1947 at the general meeting of the church I was chosen as an officer of the church. I felt really fulfilled that I could work for God. At first morning services were held at Knox Church and Robertson House for other meetings. Also, we met at Grace Church (at the corner of Ellice and Notre Dame which is now a parking lot) or at Clergyman hall or its parsonage.

After Rev. Akagawa retired, the church was led by Ms. Bates and aided by Mr. Ogura. Normally the ministers wrote his or her articles in Japanese. However although Ms. Bates could speak Japanese she could not read or write in Japanese. We had a hard time deciding how to issue weekly and monthly church newsletter. In the end we decided that we would translate what Ms. Bates wrote in English. Chie and I tried our best. (Machiko’s note. Chie did all the writing by hand as she had beautiful hand writing in Japanese and Matsunosuke did the printing.)

At the end of July, Rev. Furuya succeeded Ms. Bates. We thought our work was at an end but Rev. Furuya asked us to continue printing programs and newsletters. In the end we continued printing until Rev. Furuya’s retirement.

After Rev. Masaki came we no longer continued printing the program but we still were responsible for the annual newsletter.

On July 1st, l984 we moved to this our final place (Machiko’s note: Stapleton Street) and have been living here for two years. This year I will be 80 years old and endowed with good health. I am blessed with a wife who is 70 years old and with whom I have been married for 50 years. I have been a Christian for 58 years. I have 5 daughters and two sons—four of them married, and eight grandchildren. How happy and grateful I am to God that I could live in the world. The rest of my life is in the hand of God.

>> Read an article from one of Mr. Shibuya’s granddaughters inspired by this autobiography by clicking here.


© 1984 Matsunosuke Shibuya

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