Terry Watada

Terry Watada is a Toronto writer with many publications to his credit including two novels, The Three Pleasures (Anvil Press, Vancouver, 2017) and Kuroshio: the Blood of Foxes (Arsenal Press, Vancouver, 2007), four poetry collections, two manga, two histories about the Japanese Canadian Buddhist church, and two children’s biographies. He looks forward to seeing his third novel, The Mysterious Dreams of the Dead (Anvil Press), and fifth poetry collection, The Four Sufferings (Mawenzi House Publishers, Toronto), released in 2020. He also maintains a monthly column in the Vancouver Bulletin Magazine.

Updated May 2019

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Kizuna 2020: Nikkei Kindness and Solidarity During the COVID-19 Pandemic

COVID Ghost Town

In November 2019, I was in a US hospital for five days. My temperature was hovering around 102°F. I sweat profusely, followed by the chills. I couldn’t get out of bed without collapsing to the floor. I was dizzy, I had lost my appetite, I was extremely weak.

This was before COVID was a daily news story, though medical researchers now have speculated that the virus started around that time in Northern Italy (and not China).

I went to the Emergency Ward and the medical staff ran several tests on me. They found that my bladder, my kidneys, and most …

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An Important Anniversary

…for me and my family anyway. Back in 1920, my father first came to Canada from a small village called Kiyama, Fukui-ken, Japan. His father, my grandfather, had brought him and his chonan, his first son, my uncle, to work. Poverty plagued Japan at the time, according to Toyo Takata, our first Nisei historian, and jobs were hard to come by. So many came to North America temporarily to find work.

It was the time of the “Gentleman’s Agreement,” so they couldn’t easily immigrate with wife and children in tow. Not until the late ‘20s. In any case, my grandfather …

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Long-time Gone: Toronto’s J-Town - Part 3

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Every community has and needs services and other institutions. J-Town Toronto was no different. As I mentioned last month, Dr. Kuwabara (family doctor) and Dr. Nakashima (dentist) had offices at Spadina and Bloor, easily visited even from the core of J-Town. Both were our doctors. Dr. Ku delivered me and several of my Nikkei friends!

The Japanese United Church was relatively nearby at Ossington and Bloor, easily accessed by subway or streetcar (before the east/west subway) back in the day. The Buddhist Church started on Huron Street, near Spadina and Dundas, but it moved to Bathurst …

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Long-time Gone: Toronto’s J-Town - Part 2

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The Toronto Buddhist Church started life at 134 Huron Street, in the heart of J-Town, when the Buddhist Church committee purchased a row house for the Rev. Kenryu Tsuji and his wife. Rev. Tsuji sailed on the last boat out of Japan for Canada at the outbreak of WWII after he was ordained a Buddhist minister. He in fact was the first Canadian Nisei to become a minister and later became the Bishop for the Buddhist Churches of America.

I wasn’t even born when the church opened, but I was told it was a lively place …

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Long-time Gone: Toronto’s J-Town - Part 1

Though not widely acknowledged, J-Town Toronto did exist. Very little of it can be found today and, back in the day, no one called it J-Town or Little Tokyo or anything. Probably because it formed for a relatively short time just after 1949 when Toronto’s City Council lifted its restriction of Japanese Canadians living within its confines. It continued through to the early 1980s when most had moved out of the area.

Many Japanese Canadian families and individuals lived in the area roughly bordered by Bay Street in the east, Spadina in the west, Queen in the south, and Bloor …

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