O’Hairi Park should be restored

This park is meant to be a rest stop for tourists, and a campground is located at the back. Many people do not know that this park exists.

O'Hairi Park

O'Hairi Park

by Chuck Tasaka

In Greenwood, there is a park owned by the city called O’Hairi Park in honour of Nikkei people who once lived there.

A feature of the area is a Japanese bridge which has been refurbished and painted. A large brass plaque is displayed detailing the internment history in Greenwood; however, some of the information is inaccurate.

This park is meant to be a rest stop for tourists, and a campground is located at the back. Unfortunately, many people do not know that this park exists.

In 2011, I reconnected with my hometown when I had a book launch at the Greenwood Museum. I realized that Greenwood needs a Nikkei identity to show that it was once a bustling, thriving internment centre from 1942 to 1949.

Many families remained in Greenwood after the war because the Greenwood Board of Trade protested against the unfair “Go East of the Rockies or Repatriate to Japan” ultimatum of the federal government.

Most Nikkei people know that New Denver is the “mecca” for showcasing the internment camp history of B.C. The Nikkei Internment Memorial Centre is a designated national heritage site, and the Kohan Garden is the “best-kept secret” in terms of beauty and serenity.

Greenwood, I feel, has as much significance as New Denver in terms of telling the internment history. Why?   Greenwood became the first internment centre in 1942. If not for the community’s acceptance to bring in the Japanese Canadians when no other towns wanted them, what may have or could have happened to the Nikkei people?  That is the “what if” question.

If it were not for Father Benedict Quigley (Franciscan Friar of the Atonement of NY) who went above and beyond the call of duty to drive to the Kootenay towns to find a place for the Japanese, and a chance meeting with then-Mayor W.E. McArthur Sr. in Greenwood in 1942, the course of history could have been a lot different. This story should be told.

There were 11 Japanese war veterans who served for Canada during the First World War and two in the Second World War that were sent to Greenwood. Three were military medal recipients. A plaque or monument should honour these soldiers.

Jim and Joe Fukui of the famous 1938 Asahi Triple Championship baseball team should have a place in Greenwood’s history. The Vancouver Asahi team was inducted in the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in 2003 and the B.C. Sports Hall of Fame in 2005.

Anna Higashi, who remained in Greenwood after the war, is the first female plumber in Canada and the first female to receive the gas-fitter certificate in B.C.

My dream is to restore O’Hairi Park and make it another historic site to complement New Denver. Therefore, I would like to create a Japanese rock garden, redo the gazebo, build a “Wall of Honour” in memory of the families who were interned there, and lastly, a Torii gate.

Donations to this worthwhile historical project will be gratefully accepted. Donations would be used to purchase sakura trees, benches, lanterns, or a “faux” brick in memory of your family who lived in Greenwood. As an example $200 would buy a “faux” brick and a $1,000 would buy a sakura tree.  My intention is to make Greenwood another symbolic centre in Nikkei history.

To be inclusive, one doesn’t have to be Nikkei to donate to this project since two cultures co-existed well in Greenwood. A tax receipt will be issued to donations over $20.

Please make cheques payable to:  City of Greenwood, Box 129, Greenwood, B.C., V0H 1J0—Attention:  O’Hairi Park Project

For further information contact myself, Chuck Tasaka, at 250-756-2251 or e-mail Mr_T8@shaw.ca.