More than 200 people attended the unveiling of a new glass mosaic, a two-year-old glass mosaic, and a bench at the Harmony Bell tower, all of which honour Japanese-Canadians, on Oct. 5.
Japanese Consul General Takashi Hatori, his wife Yuju, and Japanese Consul Noriaki Ikeda were three of the guests at the event, which started at the Ashcroft Library. The glass mosaic “Sister City Synergy” has been on display on the side of the building for two years, but the artists who created it—Ashcroft resident Royden Josephson and Japanese resident Kazuhiko Nagaki—were both present to speak about the piece, which celebrates the sister city relationship between Ashcroft and Bifuka, Japan.
Josephson explained that part of the artwork was drawn from a mural that he and Ashcroft artist Jo Petty painted in Bifuka in 2014, and that an iteration of a painting by Nagaki based on the theme of “life” was superimposed on top of it. Incorporated into the mosaic are elements such as the riverbanks of the Thompson, a copper line representing one of our local resources, the five stepping stones found in the Ashcroft logo, and shapes that suggest fish, birds, or perhaps flower petals, grouped in the 5-7-5 arrangement which is the formal structure of Japanese haiku poetry.
“In the mural we looked back at the sister city relationship between Ashcroft and Bifuka,” said Josephson. “Those connections help us to appreciate and understand the differences and similarities of our cultures and personal values, and help us to ‘love our neighbours’.
“This glass mosaic mural reminds us that we need to nurture this relationship. It is a work to celebrate our dynamic cultural diversity.”
Speaking in Japanese, with a translation by event emcee Yoriko Kanamaru-Susanj, Nagaki acknowledged, as did Josephson, the work of glass mosaic artist Marina Papais and her husband, architect Daniel Collett, in the creation of the “Sister City Synergy” mosaic.
“May this art piece be liked as part of our friendship between our two communities,” he said. “I am grateful and humbled that the Consul General of Japan, local dignitaries, and you, the people of the community and surrounding areas, are here to witness this unveiling.”
The crowd then moved to the IDA Pharmacy for the unveiling of an original glass mosaic entitled “Kan Jo”, which translates to “Forgiveness without resentment”. It commemorates the experience of Japanese-Canadians during World War II, who were forcibly removed from their homes, had their possessions, houses, and businesses seized, and were placed in internment camps throughout British Columbia.
The mosaic was created by Papais and Collett, with the assistance of Hiroko Kanamaru, Hannah Franes, Lena Franes, Renee Wongs, Bob Nishiguchi, , and Jeannine Nishiguchi. Papais was inspired to create the mosaic after listening to the personal experiences of local Japanese-Canadians and what they endured during World War II. Kanamaru-Susanj explained that the title was the message from the Japanese-Canadian community.
The mosaic was unveiled by Papais and Collett to a chorus of appreciative exclamations and applause from the crowd. Collett spoke on behalf of himself and Papais, thanking everyone for showing up, and saying they were both thrilled to have come to know the Japanese-Canadian community in Ashcroft.
“We can’t forget what happened in the past. Something like this tells a story but also shows the heart and soul of our Japanese people. We’re really happy to have been involved in this project. It’s community-building, and part of the connection with Bifuka on top of that.”
Kanamaru-Susanj also acknowledged the assistance of the Japanese-Canadian Cultural Centre in Kamloops, which supplied books and resources that provided inspiration for elements incorporated into the mosaic.
The final unveiling was of a bench with English and Japanese words at the Harmony Bell tower on Railway Avenue, which faces the Japanese mosaic at the tower. The Kanamaru, Nishiguchi, Saito, Teshima, Franes, Morimoto, and Ikari families all contributed to the bench, which completes the Harmony Bell project.
Bonaparte Elder Diane Sandy gave a blessing, calling the Harmony Bell a “wonderful thing.” The Reverend Yasuhiro Miyakawa of the B.C. Interior Buddhist Ministers gave a ceremonial blessing at a small shrine which had been erected at the site, and Consul General Hatori said that he was very pleased to be at the ceremony, saying he had not expected to see so many people.
“I’ve been very moved by the warm welcome, the passion, and the vision for harmony,” he said. “I congratulate all who had a hand in this; you’re all to be thanked for your generosity. The cherry blossom motif of the Japanese mosaic [at the Harmony Bell] reminds us of the importance of working together for peace and harmony.
“Thank you for your community spirit and for coming together to celebrate the Bifuka relationship and the larger Canadian-Japanese one.”
Fraser-Nicola MLA Jackie Tegart said that it was a wonderful occasion to celebrate the unveiling of the three beautiful works of art honouring Japanese-Canadians: their contributions to our society, the hardships they have faced, and their determination and ingenuity.
“These pieces are meant to celebrate community and cultural diversity, building roads forward to lead us towards greater peace, harmony, and compassion for one another,” she said.
“How wonderful it is for Ashcroft to have a permanent and physical reminder of this vision, of what we are capable of when we work together—despite our differences—for the good of the larger community.”
Ashcroft mayor Barbara Roden commented on all three projects, noting how the exchange of people and artists between Ashcroft and Bifuka has enriched both communities.
“‘Kan Jo’—forgiveness without resentment—is a beautiful addition to our mosaics. Thank you to our Japanese community for showing forgiveness and contributing so much to Ashcroft.
“And the Harmony Bell is an amazing achievement, a wonderful example of inclusion and welcome, and an opportunity for people to contemplate on what brings us together. In an increasingly divisive world, places such as the Harmony Bell are needed more than ever.”
Terry Anderson of the New Pathways to Gold Society noted how pleased the organization was to have been able to provide funding for the project. “I’m absolutely proud to be here today. The amazing number of people here shows the wealth of feeling you have here in Ashcroft.”
Sue Peters, president of the Ashcroft and District Lions Club, and David Dubois, president of the Rotary Club of Ashcroft-Cache Creek—both of which helped fund the project—also spoke, with Peters noting that the Lions Club was proud to have been part of the project.
“We must never forget the injustices of the past, and we must work together to make sure they never happen again.”
Dubois said that Rotary was very happy and honoured to be part of the project. “It’s all about creating better relationships. Sometimes communities represent a bigger world than where we are, and this is a fantastic example.”
Tim Araki, president of the Kamloops Japanese-Canadian Cultural Association, said that many of the people at the event were Japanese-Canadians who used to live in Ashcroft.
“It’s a truly special day; a time that the Japanese people from here will remember. Japanese people moved to Ashcroft from other areas and made a huge contribution to the community. These mosaics honour not only Japanese people, but other cultures.”
Bishop Barbara Andrews, of the Territory of the People of the Anglican Church, noted that members of St. Alban’s Anglican Church in Ashcroft have been a driving force behind the project.
“I’ve been here three times for dedications at the Harmony Bell, and I’m so touched by the work here. I see the beautiful cherry blossoms [on the mosaic] and then see the beautiful fall colours around us, and realize we have so much to be thankful for, especially the relationship-building with our First Nations and with new people as they came here.
“We enjoy all the wonderful beauty the area provides, and come to the Harmony Bell to contemplate how we can live more closely together in deeper harmony.”
Japanese music was provided at all three locations by musicians Ms Chizu Kan and Ms Tomoko Ueda, who performed using traditional Japanese instruments. The event concluded with a lunch at the Ashcroft Community Hall for all who attended the unveilings.