Hapa Collaborative on the meaning and process behind the Steveston Nikkei Internment Memorial

We wanted to thank Hapa Collaborative for their support of the Paueru Gai Dialogues series. You may remember the Steveston Nikkei Internment Memorial from our 9th dialogue – this summer, we had the opportunity to talk in-depth with Joe Fry at Hapa Collaborative about the design process and intention behind this project we both hold close.

The memorial brings together elements of a traditional Japanese garden, which altogether tell a story of Nikkei displacement and resilience. The boulders, sourced from within Canada, are engraved with the locations of internment sites within BC and beyond, commemorating displacement and relocation. ⁠

The stone paving honours Japanese Canadian elders who handwove crafts salvaged from canned salmon labels during internment – elders continue to weave these crafts in the 石畳編み (ishitadamiami) stone-weave pattern to this day.

The memorial focuses on the story of Nikkei resilience and rebuilding and was designed in partnership with the Steveston community. As part of this participatory process, community members were asked to complete a questionnaire on their thoughts and hopes for the memorial. Each comment was a carefully considered piece that brought together the final memorial space today. In addition, these slips of paper were then given a second life, transformed into lanterns to be hung from ume plum trees, native to Wakayama prefecture, from where many of the Steveston Japanese community emigrated.⁠

A contemplative and emotional space, the memorial invites visitors to continue the global conversation about displacement, accountability, and positive change. It also honours the 75th anniversary of the evacuation of the Nikkei community (2018) and the 70th anniversary of their return (2019).

We really appreciate the support of Joseph Fry, Principal of Hapa Collaborative, as he has been involved with the Japanese community ever since he was a young boy, volunteering for the Powell Street Festival and now as a sponsor. He has extended his support and involvement to spaces within our community as well, including the Nikkei Internment Memorial in Steveston. We hope you have an opportunity to visit and experience the memorial for yourself.

You can read more about the memorial and its design on Hapa Collaborative’s website