Densho Digital Archive
Japanese Canadian Cultural Centre Collection
Title: Bill Hashizume Interview
Narrator: Bill Hashizume
Interviewer: Norm Ibuki
Location: Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Date: October 29, 2005
Densho ID: denshovh-hbill_2-01-0002

<Begin Segment 2>

NI: So you were born in 1922?

BH: 1922.

NI: And at that time, your father was a farmer?

BH: Farmer, yes.

NI: What kind of farmer?

BH: Strawberry farmer mainly, berry farm, fruit farmer. And as most farmers in Mission, they concentrated on growing strawberries. Not only strawberries and berries, various... and then during the wintertime, they grew hothouse rhubarb.

NI: Hothouse rhubarb?

BH: Yeah.

NI: Regarding hothouse rhubarb, I do have a more extensive article written in the book that I published, The Japanese Community in Mission, which is this. [Holds up book]. And later on, later on, this occurred after I left Mission in 1938 for Japan, but between 1939 and '41, they started growing hops.

NI: Hops?

BH: Hops.

NI: For what purpose was it?

BH: It was a good product, marketable product, and it supplemented strawberries. It didn't, it didn't coincide with the strawberry growing season, it was, the harvesting is done sometime in September and October. And, which, you know, which gave the farmers extra income. And during the winter season, hothouse rhubarb, it supplied additional income to the farmers because during the winter, they couldn't grow anything else except some who went to work in the sawmills and logging camps during the winter.

NI: I see. Let's get back to your father, though. When did he arrive in Canada?

BH: He arrived in 1903.

NI: Okay.

BH: He arrived in 1903. The family was quite well-to-do, and his mother, since he said that he wanted to go Japan -- the reason why he wanted to come to Canada was after... no, during the late 1800s, okay, he served three years in the army.

NI: In the Japanese army?

BH: Yeah, in the Japanese army. And then with the impending war between Japan and Russia, you know, looming, he said, "I already served three years." He says, "Now I want to go outside and learn more -- well, try and make a living or strike it rich." And with that, he, his mother gave him quite a sum of money to travel, and he intended to go to Los Angeles, but while on board the ship, he was distracted by fellow Wakayama kenjins who were returning to Canada.

NI: Oh, they were returning, or they were...

BH: No, no, they were returning from Japan. After the fishing season, why, there's nothing to do, so with the money they saved, well, earned, they went to Japan and then spent the winter there and came back. And it was during that, on the boat there, they got to know him, says, "Oh, you're from Wakayama-ken." They says, "How about trying fishing with us?" So he did that, but the first year turned out to be a disaster because it was a poor salmon run that year. And all the money he had with him, which in those days, five hundred bucks, that's quite a sum.

NI: He had five hundred dollars when he first came to Canada?

BH: Yeah, uh-huh. Well, fishing boat, he had to get the net and this and that. Now, after the season was over, he found himself -- [coughs] excuse me -- almost broke. So whatever money he was able to salvage, he went looking for a job. But that didn't last, so he went over to Victoria on Vancouver Island, a place called Saanich. There he looked for a job, and he begged a hakujin farmer for a job, which the hakujin farmer says, "Okay," says, I think he was paid only about fifteen dollars a month, that included room and board. And one good thing about this farmer, he was a schoolteacher. And also, he gave my father an English name called George, and he says, well, my father's name was Tashiro, Tashiro Hashizume. Says, "Hey, Tashiro," rather than calling him, says, "I'll call you George." And, "George, do this, George, do that." Says, "Well, hitch up the horse or clear the farm or this and that." Well, this schoolteacher taught him not only how to look after farm animals, how to grow strawberries, how to plant potatoes, how to harvest them and this and that, but taught him English, too, which turned to his advantage because you're in an English-speaking country, you have to know, be able to speak some English to get by on. So he did that, and he stayed there for two and a half years.

NI: On that farm?

BH: Uh-huh.

NI: Do you know the farmer's name?

BH: No, I don't. That's one thing I've been trying to find out but unsuccessfully.

NI: How old was your father when he came to Canada?

BH: He must have been twenty-three or twenty-four or something like that.

NI: Okay, I see.

<End Segment 2> - Copyright © 2005 Japanese Canadian Cultural Centre and Densho. All Rights Reserved.