The Suitcase Project Community Talk by Kirsten Emiko McAllister

The community talk/workshop series is funded by the Salt Spring Foundation.

Community Talk
June 23rd (Fri) at the Library’s Program Room
Open 6 pm for exhibition browsing (refreshments available)
The talk starts at 7 pm

Speaker: Kirsten Emiko McAllister, Ph.D., Professor in the School of Communication at Simon Fraser University

Emiko McAllister will discuss the Japanese Canadian internment, dispossession, dispersal and the role of art in rebuilding the Japanese Canadian Community. She will also examine our responsibilities to Indigenous Nations and the other groups currently experiencing hardship and how the community’s larger pursuit of social justice urges us to look beyond our own experiences of persecution.   

The talk will offer an opportunity to acknowledge the painful memories of Japanese Canadians and the contentious history of British Columbia, allowing us to see the landscape in which we live with different eyes.

Together with The Suitcase Project by Kayla Isomura, the local Japanese Canadians’ history in photographs is also on display. The exhibition will be on until July 7th at the Library’s Program Room.

The Suitcase Project by Kayla Isomura at the SSI Public Library

From June 2nd to 30th, the JGS will be hosting a photo/video exhibition The Suitcase Project by Kayla Isomura at the Program Room in the SSI Public Library.

Special programs during the Exhibition:

Artist Talk by Kayla Isomura June 2nd at 7 pm
Community Workshop of Intergenerational Memories by Susanne Hunter: June 16th from 5 pm to 8 pm
Japanese Canadian Memory Projects: Rebuilding the Community and Recognizing Our Responsibilities Today by Kirsten Emiko McAllister (professor of Simon Fraser University): June 27th at 7 pm

(please find more details below)

What would you take with you if you were given a moment’s notice to pack up and leave your home, uncertain if you would ever return?
This question was a reality for about 22,000 Japanese Canadians living on the BC coast in 1942, including 77 people on Salt Spring Island. 
Isomura’s multimedia exhibit brings us the experience and history of the Japanese Canadian community’s mass uprooting and internment in the 1940s in a personal way that we can feel and connect with.

Through her photography and video of the participants’ packing process, supplemented by local archival photos, we will learn about this dark chapter of Canadian history and connect with how it impacts us today. It is also an opportunity to reflect on the uprooting and dispossession of people around the world due to natural disasters, political instability, and war.

Kayla Isomura is a Vancouver-based photographer currently exploring intergenerational trauma and racialized identity.

Exhibition Opening and Artist Talk by Kayla Isomura
June 2nd Friday:
Reception from 6 pm 
Artist Talk from 7 pm to 8:30 pm

Kayla Isomura will share her personal account of the project’s creative process.
While this started as a question of dispossession, it more broadly became a conversation about the legacy of this history today, whether related to personal identity, family, community or global politics,’ says Isomura.

Community Workshop facilitated by Susanne Hunter, MD, RCC
June 16th Friday: 5 pm to 8 pm.

Exploration of Intergenerational Memories – How Do We Relate? 
A gently guided exploration of intergenerational and collective trauma and healing through the Japanese Canadian uprooting experience.

  • What are signs in ourselves and others of carrying intergenerational and collective trauma? How does it affect our lives? 
  • What can we do to contribute to its healing in ourselves and our community?
  • What can we do when we experience or witness mistreatment because of race, gender, culture, age or status?

Preregistration required. Fifteen spots are available for this workshop.
Please write to <>

Community Talk by Kirsten Emiko McAllister, Ph.D., Professor in the School of Communication at Simon Fraser University
June 23rd Friday: 7 pm to 8:30 pm

Japanese Canadian Memory Projects: Rebuilding the Community and Recognizing Our Responsibilities Today

McAllister will explore how the community’s wider pursuit of social justice requires us to go beyond our own experiences of persecution and examine our responsibilities to Indigenous Nations and our links to other groups facing persecution today.

Presented by the Japanese Garden Society of Salt Spring Island.
Sponsored by the Salt Spring Island Public Library.
The Exhibition’s community talks and workshop are funded by the Salt Spring Foundation.
Archival photographs are courtesy of the Salt Spring Island Archives.

This mini travelling version of the Suitcase Project is a loan from the Nikkei National Museum.

The 12th Annual Blossom Festival

This year’s annual Blossom Picnic will be on Sunday, May 7th, from 11am at Heiwa Garden in Peace Park. We are co-hosting the event with the local Japanese community.

This festival highlight will feature a performance by Uminari Taiko, a Japanese Taiko drumming troop from Vancouver Island, as well as Japanese classical and pop music. The Salt Spring Literacy Project will also announce the Haiku Contest winners during the event.

There will be plenty of activities for the whole family, including a costume contest, a paper airplane flying contest, origami Ninja Star making, Ninja Star target shooting, Go Fish Yo-Yo water balloons, and Omikuji fortune slips.

For your lunch, we will prepare delicious home-style Inari sushi, Omusubi rice balls, and Okonomiyaki. We recommend pre-ordering Inari Sushi (4 pieces for $7) as they are usually sold out before noon. please email <> by May 6th at 3pm.

We also kindly request any baked goods donations. Please drop it off at the Blossom Picnic’s food table between 11 am and noon on May 7th.

Thank you so much and we look forward to seeing you all at Heiwa Garden.

11:00 Opening music performance by Sarama and Noan
11:10 Opening speech
11:15 Music by the Roly Poly String Trio
11:25 Karate demonstration
12:00 Dress-up Contest
12:20 Music by Masa Ito on Shakuhachi Flute
12:40 Paper Airplane Contest
13:00 Music by Nami and Friends
13:20 Music by the Uminari Taiko
13:50 Join in and dance Bon Odori (Tanko Bushi)

Uminari Taiko









Moving in Peace at the Heiwa Garden

September 18th from 5pm (until around 6:30pm)

The Heiwa Garden to inspire an improvised dance performance by Ontario dance duo: Suzanne Liska and Takako Segawa.

The Japanese Garden Society is very pleased to invite the community to join us at Heiwa Garden on Sunday, September 18th at 5:00pm for a special dance event featuring two accomplished dancers, Suzanne Liska and Takako Segawa.

We are fortunate to have Suzanne and Takako stopover on Salt Spring Island to dance following their participation in the 1st GEI Art Symposium of Japanese Canadian Artists in Victoria, BC. Suzanne is 3rd/4th and Takako is 1st generation Japanese.

The duo will perform an improvisational dance piece in response to and inspired by the Heiwa Garden in honour of the history of the island’s Japanese-Canadian pioneers. The duo will be accompanied by the sound of a shakuhachi played by Masa Ito from Vancouver. Suzanne will also guide an interactive movement weaving through the garden with members of the audience who wish to honour and experience the garden in a new way. Tetsu Aoyama will assist the sound for the performance.

The Heiwa Garden for peace and reconciliation was created by the Japanese Garden Society in 2009. It is to commemorate the island’s Japanese-Canadian pioneers and their internment and is located at the Peace Park across from Artspring in Ganges. 

Admission free. Everyone is welcome.

Dancers Bios

Suzanne Liska is a teacher, choreographer, dancer and researcher specializing in somatic practices, dance/theatre and contact and ensemble improvisation. Suzanne’s practices (contact and ensemble improvisation, dance-theatre, somatics, Taiko, and Butoh) are linked together through physical, collective, and cultural/social embodiment. Suzanne has choreographed and danced in works for CanAsian KickStart, DanceWorks CoWorks, Dusk Dances, and Dance Matters, receiving grants and awards through the Toronto Arts Council, Ontario Arts Council, York University and SSHRC (Canadian Graduate Scholarship). 
Suzanne has a B.A., B.Education, and MFA in Choreography and is a Certified Alexander Technique Teacher. She teaches professional dancers, actors, community dancers, and high school and elementary school students; workshops across Canada, the USA and Japan; and workshops in Toronto for Randolph College, Ryerson University, George Brown College and Humber College. She is contract Faculty in York University’s Dance department and part-time faculty in George Brown College’s Acting and Digital Media department. Suzanne is a Japanese Canadian Sansei/ Yonsei.

Takako Segawa is contemporary dancer, choreographer, and performer. Born in Kochi,Japan, she trained in both traditional arts and contemporary Japanese movement styles. Takako graduated from Nippon Sports Science University, and is a certified professional dancer from the London Contemporary Dance School.
Takako’s 20 year career includes performances throughout Europe—in London, Italy, Slovenia, and Greece—and throughout Asia—in Indonesia, China, Singapore, Taiwan, and Japan. From 1999 to 2009, Takako produced Contemporary Dance Arts Vol.1-5 in Kochi and Fukuoka, Japan.
Now based in Canada, Takako has worked with Tedd Robinson, Corpus, JAMII, Maxine Heppner, Michael Coldwell, the Xing Ban Fu Ballet, Susan Lee, Suzanne Liska, Limitless productions, and others. She has received numerous grants to create and mount her works, including from Canada Council for the Arts, Ontario Arts Council, Toronto Arts Council, Ottawa Arts Funding, and the Kochi (Japan) Ministry of Performing Arts. Takako established her company, ‘Fluid Elements’ in 2015.




The 11th annual Blossom Picnic will be on Sunday May 29th

After a two-year hiatus the Blossom Picnic is back! Please join us to celebrate the best of spring in the beautiful Heiwa Garden on Sunday May 29th from 11am to 2pm. The Japanese community on Salt Spring Island is busy preparing fun activities and yummy foods for everyone to enjoy. 

For preorder inari sushi lunch $6: please call Mana at 250-653-0099.


Online Conversation with Mary and Tosh Kitagawa

Challenging Injustice: A conversation with human rights activists Keiko Mary Murakami-Kitagawa and Tosh Kitagawa

The Japanese Garden Society is hosting a conversation on Zoom with human rights activists, Mary and Tosh Kitagawa. This opportunity emerged while we were working on the series of forums on racism.

The recording of the conversation is now up on our website.

Date: April 13th (Wednesday) from 7pm to 8:30pm

Keiko Mary Murakami-Kitagawa and Tosh Kitagawa have spent decades as human rights activists in the Japanese-Canadian community and beyond.

Their zoom conversation with Rumiko Kanesaka, a long-term volunteer of the Japanese Garden Society, will range through history, their own family stories, and what empowers them to emerge from personal and collective trauma as strong community members.

Mary is the older sister of well-known Salt Spring Islanders Rose and Richard Murakami, and with them endured the wartime dispossession and removal of Japanese-Canadians from the island. The generation which experienced the Uprooting of Japanese Canadians from the Coast is vanishing and an opportunity to hear their first-hand story is becoming rare.  

Please join us for an evening with this inspiring couple who continue to devote their lives to challenging injustice. 

Keiko Mary Murakami-Kitagawa and Tosh Kitagawa




Conversations on Racism

Online Conversation Series on Racism hosted by the Japanese Garden Society with assistance from the Salt Spring Foundation

Conversations on Racism” is a series of free online conversations designed to explore the history of racism and colonialism on Salt Spring Island. We will hear from activists who have brought to light histories of injustice and who are challenging current manifestations of systemic racism. The first of three spring conversations will focus on stories about recovering silenced histories of Black settlers and Japanese Canadians (April), the second will be a conversation between three BIPOC activist women (May), and the third will focus on the experience of people of Asian heritage and those with mixed ethnic backgrounds on Salt Spring Island (June).

The series will continue in the fall. These conversations will support a wide understanding of racism in our community, then and now. They will offer inspiration through personal stories of the panelists, and provide examples and suggestions of how to challenge systemic racism.

Please click ‘Anti-Racism Forums‘ on the menu for more details.

This conversation series was made possible by a grant from the Salt Spring Foundation and donations from the JGS supporters. 




Heritage BC Grant Received

We are excited to announce that the Heiwa Garden Restoration Project was chosen as one of 68 recipients of the BC Heritage Infrastructure Funding. 

Heritage BC joins the Province of British Columbia in announcing the results of the single largest funding program to support B.C.’s unique heritage infrastructure.

“Through this funding program, the Province not only provided the
largest one-time infusion of funds into the heritage sector, but it also recognized the importance and potential of heritage infrastructure and its place in our province’s economic picture.” (Paul Gravett – BC Heritage)

Funding will soon flow throughout the province to support projects in 68 communities including Atlin in the northern reaches of the province to Fernie in the southeast corner and to Port Alberni on the western side of Vancouver Island. The projects will ensure that, as a province, we retain and celebrate many aspects of the British Columbia’s history and community life, from Chinese association buildings and Japanese internment camps to well-used town halls and an abandoned historic mine.

The Japanese Garden Society will utilize the fund to restore some of the main structures such as the ceremonial gate, interpretive panel, benches and pathways. 

The restoration work will begin in spring 2021. 


Insightful Book about the Dispossession of Japanese Canadians on Saltspring Island During the Uprooting Published

As if They Were the Enemy
As if They Were the Enemy by Brian Smallshaw

UVic Libraries has just published a book by local historian Brian Smallshaw: As if They Were the Enemy: The Dispossession of Japanese Canadians on Saltspring Island.

It’s a micro-history of the uprooting and dispossession of Japanese Canadians as it happened on Saltspring Island during World War Two, but also a study of the larger processes that led to the decision to liquidate the property of Japanese Canadians without their consent – as if they were the enemy.

Print copies are available for purchase on Saltspring for $20 (cash) or can be mail-ordered directly from the author for $26 for delivery anywhere in Canada. Contact Brian at for local pickup or for mail-order.

Electronic copies (PDF) of the book can be downloaded free from the UVic website, and print copies can also be ordered from their website for $24.95 plus taxes and shipping.



New addition to the Heiwa Garden: Mearnie’s Corner Completed

With generous donations from friends and JGS supporters, Mearnie’s Corner was completed in December 2020.

This new addition to the Heiwa Garden commemorates the Society’s founder and first president, Mearnie Summers. She was an activist of gender inequality and LGBT rights, pioneer, teacher, and athlete. Mearnie remembered that she had a Japanese family living next door when she was little. They were gone one day and never came back, but she didn’t know why then and only later learned about the Uprooting of the Japanese Canadians. In 2003 when she heard Rose Murakami speak about her family’s history at a monthly meeting of the SSI Historical Society, Mearnie was so touched and inspired that she and her partner Caffyn Kelley decided to build a memorial garden to address Japanese Canadian history on Salt Spring Island. The Japanese Garden Society was founded in 2004 and the Heiwa Garden was built in 2009 with the heartfelt support of local residents, businesses and organizations. Sadly Mearnie passed away in 2017.

Pass It On was her motto. The Society’s wish to pass Mearnie’s passion on to future generations resulted in the creation of Mearnie’s Corner. The project was led by Japanese garden contractor Ken Ishikawa and was completed in December 2020.

A feature of Mearnie’s Corner is a circle of stones near the black pine tree. The centre-piece stone water basin is called ‘Tsukubai’. It is traditionally for the guests of a tea ceremony to rinse their hands and mouths as a gesture of purifying their body and mind before entering the tea hut.

Ken chose plants that are found in typical Japanese tea gardens, yet are suitable for our climate.

Adopt-a-Plant Program

Through the Adopt-a-Plant Program, you will help Mearnie’s Corner to grow. The adoption fee is the actual purchase price of the plant. Because of the symbolic nature of this program, some plants may be adopted by one or more people.  Please contact us if you are interested in adopting one of the plants listed below. 

For more information and to adopt, please write to: <>

(1) David Viburnum (Viburnum davidii) $25

(2) Dwarf Mugo Mountain Pine (Pinus mugo var. pumillo) $38

(3) Old Gold Juniper (Juniperus x pfitzeriana ‘Old Gold’) $12

(4) All Summer Beauty Hydrangea (Hydrangea macrophylla ‘All Summer

Beauty’) $42

(5) Moshio Japanese Camellia (Camellia japonica ‘Moshio’) $36

(6) Forest Flame Lily of the Valley (Pleros japonica ‘Forest Flame’) $50

(7) Vulcan Flame Rhododendron (Rhododendron ‘Vulvan Flame’) $140

(8) Ramapo Rhododendron (Rhododendron ‘Ramapo’) $52

(9) Lavender Reblooming Azalea (Rhododendron x) $34

(10) Aztec Pearl Mexican Mock Orange (Choisya ‘Aztec Pearl’) $25

Groundcover: Kinnikinnick (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi) $5 each

Mearnie's Corner
Mearnie’s Corner: new plants will flourish and fill the space soon. Ken Ishikawa is standing behind the temporary fence that has been installed to protect the area from unwanted four-legged visitors.