Japanese Maple on Mayne Island

Our October cover features the summery blue sky that we have grown accustomed to this year plus the vivid reds of the Japanese maple. The photo was taken by Pender photographer Nikki Roberts on a recent visit to the Japanese Garden on Mayne Island.

The Japanese Memorial Garden is definitely worth a trip to Mayne. The gardens honour the families that settled on Mayne between 1900 and 1942. Those families were predominantly from the small village of Agarimichi in western Japan. Initially family members worked as fishermen or farm labourers on local farms, eventually establishing their own successful farms and businesses. Among other successes, they ran the largest greenhouse tomato industry in the British Empire. Needless to say, Mayne’s citizens of Japanese ancestry became not only vital cogs in Mayne’s economy, but also valued members of the community.

Sadly and unfairly, all that changed after Japan’s December 7, 1941 attack on Pearl Harbour. Canada’s subsequent declaration of war on Japan triggered a roundup and relocation of all Japanese in British Columbia, regardless of the fact that many were Canadian citizens. The RCMP loaded every Japanese family from Mayne onto the CPR steamship, Princess Mary and dispersed them to camps in the BC interior and in southern Alberta. The families’ property and belongings were sold at auction, with the proceeds going toward offsetting the costs of the internment camps in which they were confined. Hmm, rather like getting Mexico to pay for the wall!

Few of the individuals shipped out of Mayne ever set foot on that island again. Looking back, these wartime actions all seem arbitrary, barbaric and unjust

. . . and they were.

Ironically, one of the few Japanese properties on Mayne Island that went unsold was the Nagata Dinner Bay farm. In 1987, the Mayne Island Parks Commission proposed a plan to use this property to honour Mayne’s Japanese settlers but it was not until 1999 that concrete plans began to develop. Today that long delay seems worthwhile. The Japanese Memorial Garden is a must-see on any visit to Mayne Island.

Beautiful, tranquil, and unique, this is the place to turn off your cell phone and simply appreciate the plants, the rushing water, the tranquil ponds, and especially the history and culture surrounding you.

Special thanks to Richard Philpot for his experience and research on this topic resulting in his article on Mayne Island’s Japanese Garden in the 2005’s Premier issue of Exploring the Best

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