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Susan Hidaka (nee Kobayashi) was born in 1929 in Okanagan Centre, British Columbia. She was the youngest of seven children. Her father, Denbei Kobayashi (1878-1968) came to Canada and eventually began work as an orchard worker in Okanagan Centre. In 1913 he returned to Japan to marry Hiro Yanagisawa, coming to Canada together in 1914. They both became prominent members of the Japanese Canadian community in Okanagan Centre, and worked as fruit farmers.
Susan attended a one-room school in Okanagan Centre. Growing up during WWII, she and her family all had to register with the RCMP. They were not interned though, as they resided far already from the western coast. Many Japanese Canadians came to the area to work as help for the harvest, and Denbei Kobayashi helped many settle into life in the area. From 1943 to 1947 Susan attended Kelowna High School. The school was far from her family and she had to find board. She worked the last two years as a houseworker and maid, thus allowing her to obtain nicer board. With no hope for employment in the area after she graduated from high school, Susan moved to Calgary at her teacher’s recommendation to attend Garbutt Business College. From there she got a job with Imperial Oil Ltd and quickly moved up in the company.
In 1957 Imperial Oil Ltd was to open a new office in Toronto. Only men were being transferred, so Susan resigned and took a long holiday in Hawaii. After her return, she went to Toronto to be hired by Imperial Oil’s Public Relations Department with the help of a senior manager in Calgary.
The 1960s also saw Susan begin to work with the Japanese Canadian community in the Toronto area. She began volunteering to help with the Japanese Canadian Cultural Centre (JCCC) project and in 1962 was elected to the Board as Secretary. Here she also met Kunio Hidaka, whom she married. The two moved to Washington D.C. in 1965 so that Kunio could study at George Washington University. Susan found employment with the Washington Hilton Hotel as an executive assistant to the Resident Manager. She worked here for only 3 years, but in that time crossed paths with many influential people, including Joan Crawford, and Ethel Kennedy.
Unsure about the future, the couple moved back to the Greater Toronto area in 1968. Susan continued her volunteer work, which included local politics, the JCCC and the planning for the Japanese Canadian Centennial. By the 80s the Redress movement was underway and though she was never interned, she felt strongly about the many injustices.
In 1985, her husband Kunio passed away suddenly. This loss led her to move back to the City of Toronto to be closer to friends and family in 1987. At the time the Momiji Seniors Centre was underway, and Susan moved in in 1994. From then, she’s been an active Board member and volunteer on many committees.
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Created October 10, 2023 by E. Carroll.