Lest we forget - Mothers and Wives
The letters, written in Japanese and translated here, are featured in Nakayama Jinshirō’s Kanadadōhōhattentaikan, which was originally published in Tokyo by the Japan Times in 1921. The letters seem to have been written to the association that was formed under the aegis of the Nipponjin-kai specifically to support Japanese soldiers who enlisted to serve in the First World War. The association appears to have informed the families of the death of soldiers in action and also featured obituaries of those who lost their lives in war in a local newspaper (presumably Tairikunippō)
Ito, Roy. We Went to War: The Story of the Japanese Canadians Who Served During the First and Second World Wars. Stittsville, ON: Canada’s Wings, Inc., 1984.
Nakayama Jinshirō. Kanadadōhōhattentaikan, zen [Encyclopedia of the Development of Japanese in Canada]. In Sasaki Toshiji and Tsuneharu Gonnami, eds. Kanadaiminshishiryō, vol. 7-8. Tokyo: Fuji Shuppan, 2000 (originally published by Japan Taimusu in 1921).
Please pardon my handwriting. With much gratitude, I have read your heartfelt letter. Please allow me to extend my humble wishing for the well-being and prosperity of the members of your venerable association. Thanks to the kind support that I have been receiving, I am managing to cope with the sadness. Please do not be concerned about me. Regarding my son, Shinkichi, I believe he was honoured and gratified to have had the chance to go to war in Europe and fight for an allied nation. I had always eagerly waited for news and correspondence from the frontline, to know how he was doing. Earnestly, I had hoped for a quick accomplishment of the mission. I could not wait for his triumphant return at dawn of peace. But now, I am devastated to be notified of his death. I have been wondering: Is this not but a dream? My days now flow as though I were dreaming. As you know, my son is all I have. I am old. There is no word to express my despair. But death is inevitable for all endowed with life. Not to mention, being killed in action is a courageous fulfillment of male honour. Surely, his death is not regrettable. Shinkichi is now celebrated in various newspapers in Japan. Glorious, indeed, was his death. My ancestors and I are pleased at the esteem it has bestowed upon our house.
Yasuko Hara, July 16th, unspecified year
Your profound eulogies for my deceased husband, Kichisaburō, has moved me and my family to tears. Reminiscing the past, it has been twelve years since my husband’s arrival in Canada. He enlisted in the Canadian Japanese Volunteer Corps with a strong conviction. When he was deployed to France, he wrote us a letter to say that death in battle was a fulfillment of martial valor, and that we shall not lament or act thoughtlessly it if he were to die. My husband was merely a humble fellow countryman. Your eulogies not only dignify him but also bless our entire family with honour beyond our worth. Henceforth, I will be devoted to the rearing of our children. I shall ensure that they inherit my late-husband’s intent, and repay the debts to imperial benevolence. We shall never betray the compassionate care that everyone has extended to us.
Keiko Akiyama, July 7th, 1917
This is a letter from a woman who has yet to have the privilege to meet you. My name is Kesayo. I am the mother of Tokuji Satō, whose death in war was recently announced. I learned of Tokuji’s death from your letter. The pains that his death is causing me are difficult to contain. All the same, I am grateful and humbled by your courteous handling of various matters in regards to my son. Thank you very much for not only presenting his obituary, but also for mourning him on behalf of the Japanese community in Canada. The splendid memorial service that you conducted on May 20th moved us to tears. Please kindly continue to extend your gracious support. My emotions are stifling my pen, but allow me to convey to you my appreciations with this humble letter.
Kesayo Sato, Mother of Tokuji Satō, dated June 22nd, unspecified year