Murakami, Michael

Identity area

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Murakami, Michael

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  • Murakami, Mike

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Dates of existence

1943-

History

Michael Murakami was born July 7, 1943 in Kaslo, B.C. His mother, Aiko Murakami (nee. Kondo) was born in Steveston, B.C. in 1917, and grew up in Victoria, B.C. after the Kondo family moved to the area in 1918. Michael’s father, David Masawo Murakami, was born in Vancouver, B.C. in 1917.

The Kondo family began their life in Canada when Shinjiro Kondo, a fish broker, traveled to Victoria in 1900 from Wakayama, Japan. He began work as a fisherman in Steveston, and in 1908 he sponsored Kinu to come to Canada to join him as his wife. Together they had five children, Tohachiro also known as Toki (1909), Matsuye (1910), Fusako (1912), Eichi (1914), Aiko (1917), and a sixth after moving to Victoria, Fumiko also known as Finks (1921).

In Victoria, Shinjiro began again as a fish broker, selling to Chinese restaurants in the area. He also spent his time volunteering for the Japanese Language school and became a Buddhist lay minister. Kinu who was trained as a dressmaker made children’s clothes, adding to the family’s income. The family was close to the Shimizus, who owned a rice mill, and Aiko became close to their daughter. Aiko was encouraged to finish highschool and eventually went into bookkeeping. She was an active member of the Japanese Canadian Citizen League and participated in their conventions with her brother Eichi. Like many women at the time, Aiko worked as a domestic and eventually took up dressmaking. Through these career choices she was able to move to Vancouver and attend Marietta’s School of Costume Design.

David Murakami was the youngest of three siblings. His parents had emigrated from the Yamaguchi prefecture, Japan and had settled in Vancouver across the street from Hastings Park. David worked as a fisherman, along the Skeena River. He held Captain’s papers and also worked as a skipper.

Aiko and David met at a New Years Eve party in 1941, and on May 7, 1942, they married at the Powell Street Japanese United Church. Eiko Henmi was the maid of honour, with Thomas Shoyama as the best man. Their courtship was in the aftermath of the attack on Pearl Harbor, and so the couple were quickly sent to Kaslo, B.C. only 10 days after getting married.

The newlyweds joined many other Japanese Canadians who were also forcibly uprooted and moved to the interior of B.C. David worked as a truck driver for the B.C. Securities Commission and Aiko worked in the local Commission office. David was also named the official photographer in the Kalso internment camp by the B.C. Securities Commission, an important title as cameras had been forbidden to Japanese Canadians. In 1943, their son Michael was born. By 1944 the family moved to New Denver for David’s health. New Denver, B.C. had a recent sanitorium built for interned Japanese Canadians. It was often called “The San”. In New Denver, Aiko began teaching at the New Denver Orchard internment camp school, the elementary school for Japanese Canadians, and when they left in February 1947, she had been appointed principal.

The family eventually moved to Hamilton, then Toronto, ON. Aiko began to work as a secretary for Mitsui’s Canadian office and David became a watchmaker. David served on the board for the Watchmakers Association of Ontario for many years. During her free time, Aiko volunteered for the Toronto Nisei Women’s Club, and also served as president.

During the 1980s both Aiko and David were active in the Redress movement. Both marched on Parliament Hill in April 1988. On September 22, 1988, it was Aiko who ensured the Japanese flag was removed at Westbury Hotel after someone wrongfully included it along with the Canadian flag. In 1988 Aiko and David moved to Edmonton to be with their son Michael and his family. They both continued their work with the Redress movement, helping to organize Edmonton’s celebrations for the monumental victory. Aiko also served as the regional Redress Coordinator in the area.

David Murakami passed away in Edmonton, A.B. in 1992. Aiko Murakami passed away in Toronto, O.N. in 2020.

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Updated March 10, 2023 by E Carroll.
Edited April 13, 2023 by E Carroll.

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Sources

Japanese Canadian Hastings Park Commemoration and Education Project. “New Denver Sanatorium.” Accessed March 6, 2023. http://hastingspark1942.ca/history/new-denver-sanatorium/

Kinross, Ian. "Garden muse — Interview with Mike Murakami." kinross cordless. (blog), March 27, 2013. https://kinrosscordless.com/2013/03/27/garden-muse-interview-with-mike-murakami/

Kondo, Christine. “Family History Series No. 9: Nikkei Fisherman Tohachiro ‘Toki’ Kondo.” National Nikkei Museum and Heritage Centre Newsletter 13, no. 2 (Summer 2008): 14-19. https://centre.nikkeiplace.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/2008-Volume-13-No.-2.pdf

Moritsugu, Frank. “Celebrating David Murakami’s Life.” Letter shared with the Archivist from the donor.

Murakami, Aiko. “Interview with Aiko Murakami (nee Kondo).” Interviewed by Peter Wakayama. Sedai: The Japanese Canadian Legacy Project Collection, Japanese Canadian Cultural Centre, March 31, 2009. https://jccc.on.ca/sedai-catalogue/2010014/interview-aiko-murakami-nee-kondo

Murakami, Michael (donor) in discussion with the Archivist, April 2023.

Shimizu, Yon. The Exiles : an Archival History of the World War II Japanese Road Camps in British Columbia and Ontario. Wallaceburg, Ont: Shimizu Consulting and Pub., 1993.

Switzer, Ann-Lee and Gordon. Gateway to Promise: Canada’s First Japanese Community. Victoria: Ti-Jean Press, 2012.

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