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When Nikkei women write : transforming Japanese-Canadian identities 1887-1987 1998

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W H E N NIKKEI W O M E N WRITE; T R A N S F O R M I N G J A P A N E S E CANADIAN IDENTITIES 1 8 8 7 - 1 9 9 7 by MARILYN J O Y IWAMA B.S., The Univeristy of British Columbia, 1990 M A . , The University of British Columbia, 1992 A THESIS SUBMITTED IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT O F THE R E Q U I R E M E N T S FOR THE D E G R E E OF DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY in THE FACULTY OF G R A D U A T E STUDIES Interdisciplinary Studies [Anthropology / Asian Studies / English / History] We accept this thesis As conforming to the required standard THE UNIVERSITY OF BRITISH COLUMBIA September 1998 © Marilyn Joy Iwama, 1998 In presenting this thesis in partial fulfilment of the requirements for an advanced degree at the University of British Columbia, I agree that the Library shall make it freely available for reference and study. I further agree that permission for extensive copying of this thesis for scholarly purposes may be granted by the head of my department or by his or her representatives. It is understood that copying or publication of this thesis for financial gain shall not be allowed without my written permission. Department The University of British Columbia Vancouver, Canada Date jJLnt • i^Qi DE-6 (2/88) II ABSTRACT Describing historical accounts of Canadian Nikkei1 experience, historian Midge (Michiko) Ayukawa (1996) writes that these accounts represent "history in the passive voice, and that it is necessary to retell it with the eyes and ears of the people who were directly involved" (3). For Nikkei women, "history in the passive voice" has either completely overlooked their experiences or narrowly defined their social role in terms of domesticity and submission to a patriarchal authority. The dominant image of the Japanese Canadian woman has been that of the "good wife, wise mother" (Ayukawa 1995). This ideal image of womanhood emerged as a component in the dramatic processes of social reform in Meiji Japan (1868-1912). Both Caucasian and Nikkei historians have sustained the power of this mythical image by characterizing those experiences that exceed its conceptual boundaries as merely idiosyncratic. Simultaneously, however, Nikkei women have been weaving narratives of their history which both duplicate and subvert this image of quiet domesticity. This study contrasts processes of identity formation in twentieth-century writing by and about Canadian Nikkei women. I approach these narratives by first analyzing the categories of race, class, ethnicity, culture, and gender that historians, anthropologists, literary theorists, and theorists of ethnicity have constructed in order to interpret and contain them. I then examine how the narratives engage with three dominant discourses of being, namely those concerned with food, sexuality, and the transmission of culture. For several reasons, I treat this body of writing from an interdisciplinary and multi- theoretical perspective. My sources include published and unpublished texts from a variety of disciplines, including anthropology, history, literature, and geography. These texts embrace a wide range of genres, among them fiction, poetry, autobiography, the essay, the journal, the letter, so-called conventional scholarship, and responses to an ethnograhic questionnaire that I have collected. The texts are also informed by both Japanese and "western"2 cultural ideas and 1 "Nikkei" are individuals of Japanese descent living outside of Japan. 2 Some researchers favour the upper case "Western" to describe North American and European theoretical traditions across disciplines (Mennell 1985). I include in the category of "western" all those practices, and sometimes by several additional cultural influences. Their writers create a complex interrelation of textual identities which invites a range of disciplinary and theoretical perspectives. Thus I examine the texts by engaging with a number of theories, including deconstructive postmodernism, deconstructive feminism, feminist anthropology, feminist history, and close textual analysis. I base this study on the theoretical premise that to treat narratives of experience rigorously, the researcher must regard the texts as both objects of study and authoritative critical voices (Cole and Phillips 1995; Chow 1993; Trinh 1989; Clifford and Marcus 1986). Therefore, I look to writing by Nikkei women for its reflections on Nikkei women's experiences, but also for guidance in interpreting the texts under study. As well, I read these texts for their critical comment on the conceptual categories that conventional scholarship has used to manage the unruliness and ambiguity of Nikkei women's narratives and experience. By welcoming the categorically disruptive, my analysis offers a theoretical perspective that may help to ensure a creative interrelation of theory and praxis. ideas that become a body of thought as they are used to distinguish them from "eastern" or "oriental." With the success of European and American imperialist projects from the nineteenth century to the present, this "setting-off against the Orient," as Said calls it (Orientalism 3), exceeds national boundaries. One can say, then, that there are critics of Japanese ancestry, residing in Japan and elsewhere, who write from a western point of view. Thus, I depend on the lower-case "western," to emphasize the constructed nature of western ideology, as opposed to the stricter geographical or political connotations suggested by the proper noun. iv Table of Contents Abstract ii Table of Contents iv Acknowledgements vi Dedication vii INTRODUCTION 1 Stories 1 Questions 3 Approaches 3 Strategies 8 I THE SELF IN ONE ANOTHER Chapter I Creating Categories of Being 20 1.1 Gender 23 1.2 Assimilation I 30 1.3 Race and Class 1 36 1.4 Race and Class II 61 1.5 Culture 79 1.6 Ethnicity 92 1.7 Assimilation II 105 Chapter II Becoming One of the Family?: Intermarriage and Multi-ethnic Identities 128 2.1 The Japanese Mother 129 2.2 Intermarriage and Assimilation 132 2.3 Children of Intermarriage .146 2.4 Intermarriage and the New Canadian 148 2.5 Choosing Ethnicity.... 158 2.6 Intermarriage Inside Out 169 II THE BODY IN METAPHOR AND REALITY Chapter III Feeding the Body 190 3.1 Language 191 3.2 Mythology 199 3.3 Alimentary Symbols of Identity 208 3.4 Intersections of the Symbolic and the Literal 232 3.5 Eating Her Way to the Table 252 3.6 Sustaining Vocabularies of Excess 268 Chapter IV Conclusion: Desiring Bodies 312 4.1 The Body Speaking 313 V 4.2 The Body Writing 316 4.3 The Body Mythological 318 4.4 The Body Belonging 320 4.5 The Body Controlled 326 4.6 The Body Disorderly 332 Bibliography 344 Appendix I Race and Class in British Columbia Studies 371 Appendix II Native Nationalism and Cultural Construction in Hawaii 374 Appendix III Research Design of the Intercultural Traditions Survey 381 2 vi Acknowledgements In any interdisciplinary project, academic support is often the most difficult component for the student to secure and the most challenging to negotiate. In this case, members of my supervisory committee were immediately willing to join in my research, and continued accepting the variety of innovations and tasks my project asked of them. Allan Smith spent many hours discussing history from several different disciplinary perspectives, patiently exploring a number of philosophical and institutional borderlines with me. His gentle advice and critical eye have always directed me to another open door. For the time she was able to serve, Millie Creighton energetically and determinedly created a number of unorthodox sites from which I could view anthropology and its ideas of Japan. Sharalyn Orbaugh joined us without hesitation at a difficult juncture in the research process. Her enthusiastic support for the project and her incisive critique of it contributed substantially to the final result. For their encouragement and counsel, especially in the early naive years, my sincere thanks to Midge Ayukawa, Arnold Davidson, Audrey Kobayashi, Joy Kogawa, Takie Sugiyama Lebra, Beryl March, Roy Miki, William New, David Randall, Valerie Raoul, Laurie Ricou, and Aruna Srivastava. Frank Kamiya, Shane Foster, and the History Preservation Committee (now the Japanese Canadian National Museum and Archives Society) provided a warm welcome and archival assistance. In the Special Collections Division at UBC, George Brandak has always been ready to help, introducing me to various individuals and sources of interest. Great numbers of friends and fellow students have provided both intellectual stimulation and commiseration over the years; thank you all. From the beginning, each one of the students in the "Iwama Lab" has been willing to help, and accepting of George's commitment to family; special thanks to Jim McGeer, who was always ready to stand in as "Dad." I am indebted to Susanna Egan for her nurture, and for her convincing example that motherhood, intellectual rigour, and a sense of humour can indeed co-exist. Caroline Latham and the faculty and staff of Meio Daigaku, Okinawa generously offered me a stimulating fieldwork experience. The Kin-cho Fubokai (Parents' Association) and the people of Sesoko, especially Chieko Uchima, Shizuko and Shigeo Nakamura, and the Kinjo family, continue to receive and support me in countless ways. Thank you for your patient teaching. April Hughes loved me through it. Ellen Teng helped me re-discover balance. Hiroshi Aoyagi convinced me to keep faith. Louise Robert laughed with me, stayed near in the dark days, and always provoked me to keep reaching. Eva-Marie Kroller supervised this project with imagination, resolve, and flair, but she has done far more. Early on, Professor Kroller recognized some small potential, and then spent many patient years convincing me of the same. I have tried her trust many times, but she has remained constant. From my heart: thank you. To my Iwama family: thank you for your acceptance, for believing that I could be both mother and student, for "taking the kids" yet again, and for forgiving my empty chair at family gatherings. To my Paul/Brass family: thank you for loving and supporting me across the miles, for understanding why I had to do this, and for contributing in endless ways. To my sons, Adam Taro, Daniel Akihiro, and Sami Yasuhiro: thank you for understanding and patience beyond your years, for flowers, tea, massages, and Mary, and for loving your old Mom in spite of all the grief. George, for your vision, your conviction, and your abiding love—thank you. This work is dedicated to my mother, Colleen (Brass) Paul, loving me fiercely and wisely, and for teaching me to endure. 1 Introduction Stories Existing records tell us that in 1887 Mrs. Washiji Oya (nee Yo Shishido)1 became the first woman to arrive in Canada from Japan. Many women followed Mrs. Washiji, seeking adventure, fortune, and escape. Others came simply out of duty, joining sojourning husbands who had decided to remain in Canada. These pioneers usually found waiting for them a life of labouring at tasks that most had never imagined existed or might ever be required of them. Many worked alongside their husbands in logging camps and sawmills. Many were in charge of the domestic chores in the camps. Some worked as domestics in Vancouver. Others found they had been tricked into prostitution. Still others, on seeing the men they were to marry, chose lives as independent entrepreneurs.2 Yet fully a century later, historian Midge (Michiko) Ayukawa (1988) observed that the written history of Canadian Nikkei was still the history of men. Women do appear in histories of the Nikkei in Canada, but usually only as insignificant actors. Those who write in praise of Nikkei women (Takata 1983; Adachi 1976; Ito 1994; A Dream of Riches 1978) generally restrict their accounts to the women's contributions as settlers, not of a corner of Canada, but of a rowdy lot of immigrant men who needed the stability that women, as these researchers say, provided. Even accounts that chronicle the talents and non- domestic activities and successes of Nikkei women subordinate these endeavours to the successes of men: With quiet courage, patience and dignity, most adjusted to their new habitat and matured as wives and mothers. Unlike the men, the Issei women cannot be singled out for unique or outstanding achievement. Takata 183 1 This is the form Ayukawa (1988) uses to record Washiji's name; Takata (1983) records Washiji's name as "Yo Oya." Ayukawa records most Nikkei names according to Japanese custom, that is surname first. I follow the custom used by each writer I discuss. 2 The greatest number of pioneer women arrived in the years 1919-1925, usually as the bride in a shashin kekkon or photo marriage. These women became known as "picture brides." 3 Issei, nisei, sansei, and yonsei refer respectively to the first, second, third, and fourth generation of Nikkei. Shin issei (new i