Interview with Kunio Suyama
Date of Interview
Kunio Suyama (nickname Kunchi) was born in Cumberland on Vancouver Island, in British Columbia in 1927. He talks about his family history emigrating to Canada after WWI, prior to 1920. Kunio's father emigrated to Canada first. He returned to Japan to get married and Kunio's mother emigrated to Canada after that. They settled in a coal mining town. When the coal mine shut down, Kunio's father started working at a logging camp in Chemainus on Vancouver Island. He talks about growing up in the small town of Cumberland, which Kunio described was a Japanese town and a tight knit community. He describes his home including a bathhouse. Kunio talks about the community's reaction after the bombing of Pearl Harbour. After that, they were removed to Hastings Park in Vancouver, BC and Kunio talks about that experience including attending school. After that, Kunio and his family were removed to Lemon Creek internment camp, BC. During the first few weeks, they lived in a tent since housing structures weren't ready yet and he remembers it started snowing before they were able to move into their house. Kunio talks about their lives in the internment camp including schooling and the bathhouse there. After the disbandment of the camps, Kunio's family separated as some siblings relocated to Toronto while the rest including Kunio emigrated to Japan. Kunio describes the journey on the ship from Canada to Japan. He talks about his first impression of post-WWII Japan. Kunio got a job with the army because of his language abilities. Eventually Kunio and his family would emigrate to Canada except for his father who passed away in Japan. Kunio settled in Toronto and he talks about his work life and meeting his wife at a Buddhist temple. In 1987, Kunio was appointed as the Director for the Japanese Canadian Cultural Centre (JCCC). He talks about his experience with the Japanese Canadian community there. Kunio wasn't heavily involved with the Japanese Canadian Redress but his wife and brother was and they would join protests in Ottawa, ON. Kunio talks about memories of celebrating New Year and Christmas.
Short clip from this interview: https://vimeo.com/374964245
Clip from Japanese Canadian Experience Conference: https://vimeo.com/336915327
Length of Interview
2 hr 55 min
World War II
World War II
Attack on Pearl Harbour
Vancouver Island, BC
Hastings Park, Vancouver
Lemon Creek, BC
Japanese language school
Asahi Baseball Team
Japanese Canadian Cultural Centre (JCCC)
Kika (Nikkei educated in Japan)
Number of Physical Tapes
For uses other than research or private study, researchers must submit a Request for Permission to Publish, Exhibit or Broadcast form.
Kunio Suyama, interview by Lisa Uyeda, August 23, 2011, 2011.235, Sedai: The Japanese Canadian Legacy Project Collection, Japanese Canadian Cultural Centre.