Our Story in Voice: Oral Histories

Much of our story reaches back beyond living memory. But there are still some individuals who can remember as far back as the 1940s. Here are some excerpts of interviews with former members and clergy of the Vancouver Japanese United Church. Included are a few related recordings and transcripts from the United Church’s Heritage Alive oral history project, dating from the 1970s.

Interview with former English-speaking members, August 20, 2019

Excerpts from Kimiko Karpoff’s interview with women of the former Vancouver Japanese United Church English-speaking congregation: Jean Kamimura, Sumi Yoshida, Dorothy Yamamoto, Becky Maruno, and Joan Fairs. Also included is minister of the continuing congregation, Rev. Daebin Im. Content relates primarily to memories of the early postwar church, the Vancouver Nisei Fellowship Group and church activities such as the annual Cherry Blossom Bazaar. Content also includes some memories of the Greenwood internment camp.

Transcript: Interview – English-speaking members


Interview with Pastor Dr. George Takashima, September 3, 2019

Excerpts from Kimiko Karpoff’s telephone interview with Pastor Dr. George Takashima of Lethbridge, Alberta. Content relates to childhood memories of the Powell Street Church and kindergarten, life in New Denver during internment, and the importance of this history.

Transcript: Interview – G. Takashima


Interview with Rev. Tadashi Mitsui, October 7, 2019

Excerpts from Kimiko Karpoff’s telephone interview of Rev. Tadashi Mitsui of Lethbridge, Alberta. Content relates to the beginnings of the postwar Vancouver Japanese United Church; experience as a newly ordained minister and new Canadian; congregational activities (bazaar, Christmas dinners); prominent church families; Sunday school and Grace Namba; and reflections on marginalization and victimization.

Transcript: Interview – T. Mitsui


Interview with Margaret Eto, December 2, 2019

Excerpts from Kimiko Karpoff’s interview with Margaret Eto, former member of the Vancouver Japanese United Church English-speaking congregation. Content relates to experience as a child in internment camps at Rosebery and Bayfarm; return to Japan after the war; cultural change from Japan to Vancouver; the postwar congregation and activites (Nisei Fellowship, Baby Band, rummage sales, skits, choir); and influential members of the congregation.

Transcript: Interview – M. Eto


Interview with Rev. Kenneth Moy, December 3, 2019

Excerpts from Kimiko Karpoff’s telephone interview with Rev. Ken Moy of Toronto, Ontario. Content relates to the beginnings of the English-speaking congregation (as independent from the Japanese-speaking congregation); congregational activities; active members; and Grace Namba’s influence.

Transcript: Interview – K. Moy


Interview with May Komiyama, 1992

Filmed interview of May Komiyama, President of BC Conference (1992-1993), speaking about growing up Japanese Canadian, challenges during the Second World War, and the role of the Christian faith in her life. The interview was filmed by Pressure Point, an Interchurch Television production.

Watch video


Interview with May McLachlan, August 2, 1977

Complete sound recording of R.J. Love’s interview with May McLachlan regarding her experience as a Methodist and United Church missionary in Japan, 1923-1942; teaching in the internment camp at Tashme, BC during the Second World War; reconstruction work in Japan, 1947-1963; retirement in Chilliwack and work with the Indigenous United Church at Soowallie. The passage relevant to Japanese Canadian internment can be found at the 11:38 mark, continuing until 26:12.

Transcript: Interview – M. McLachlan


Interview with Dr. W.P. Bunt, December 8, 1970

Transcript of an interview with Dr. Percy Bunt, United Church Superintendent of Home Missions for BC Conference from 1939 to 1958. Discussion of the Japanese-Canadian community begins on page 6 of the transcript. Discussion relates to the difference between Christian and non-Christian attitudes toward Japanese Canadians; mass hysteria during the war; handling of personal property; communities at Greenwood, Grand Forks, Tashme, and Kaslo; the BC Security Commission and the RCMP; and figures such as Rev. Kosaburo Shimizu, Howard Green, and Colonel Mead.

Transcript: Interview – W.P. Bunt (Audio not available.)


Interview with Rev. W.R. McWilliams, February 1970

Transcript of an interview with Rev. W.R. McWilliams, missionary to Japan and minister to Japanese Canadians during and following the Second World War. Discussion of Japanese Canadians begins on page 2 of the transcript. Discussion points relate to: relationship between Japanese Canadians and Anglo Saxons leading up to the war; attitude of Christians vs. non-Christians; his own personal stand as a Christian; description of living conditions at Tashme; role of the WMS in education; thoughts on dispersion of Japanese Canadians; differences between Japanese and Canadian culture. Bessie McWilliams joins the discussion from page 14 to the end.

Transcript: Interview – W.R. McWilliams (Audio not available.)