The theme of this year’s Nikkei Place Community Awards Dinner is “Foundations,” recognizing individuals and groups who have contributed to building a strong and vibrant community from which we all benefit, and ultimately a stronger Canada. Now in its fourth year, the Nikkei Place Community Awards. One of the groups receiving the Outstanding Community Service Award at this year’s awards dinner on September 20 is The Bulletin / Geppo, the monthly publication of the Japanese Canadian Citizens’ Association in recognition of 56 years of service to the community. The NPF spoke to John Endo Greenaway, longtime Managing Editor, about The Bulletin and its long history.
Q. I understand The Bulletin has been publishing for a long time.
A. The Bulletin was first published in 1958 – the same year British Columbia was celebrating its 100th Anniversary. John Diefenbaker was Prime Minister of Canada. Interestingly, that’s the same year the main Post Office opened on West Georgia. I still take The Bulletin there every month to mail them to our members. It was also a year before I was born.
Q. The magazine must have been very different in those days.
A. The first Bulletin was published out of a house at First Avenue and Dunbar in Vancouver. The first editor was Mickey Nakashima (now Tanaka). She named it The Bulletin, after the Montreal Bulletin, as she had lived there before returning to the coast.
The early Bulletins were collections of mimeographed sheets stapled together. It was meant as a way for the community – still making its way back to the coast after the restrictions were lifted – to communicate. When you think about it, that’s the same purpose we serve today. But just as the community has changed over the past 56 years, The Bulletin has changed too. I think what it means to be Japanese Canadian is more complicated, more nuanced, than it was back then. And The Bulletin has to reflect that new reality. Perhaps realities is more accurate.
Q. When did The Bulletin take on the form it has today?
A. I’d say the transformation was gradual, and happened over many years. It’s funny reading back over back issues, the same issues come up again and again – is the JCCA still relevant? What purpose does it serve? The same questions we’re asking today!
Through it all, The Bulletin continued to be published. The really big change, though, for the JCCA and The Bulletin, came during the struggle for Redress. The Board at the time was very ambivalent about Redress and the pages were filled with arguments back and forth about how best to seek Redress, if at all.
Then at the 1984 AGM, a new, pro-Redress Board was voted in. The longtime Publisher, Gordon Mayede, stepped aside and the volunteer staff of The Bulletin resigned as well.
A new staff was quickly put together consisting of English editors Tamio Wakayama and Randy Enomoto, Japanese Editor Sumio Koike and Office Manager Fumiko Greenaway. And a few years later The Bulletin was able to announce the Redress settlement on its cover!
Q. Fumiko Greenaway, she was your mother?
A. She was indeed – she’s the reason I’m here today. At The Bulletin I mean! Anyway, the four of them went about reinventing The Bulletin and really set the pattern for the magazine we have today.
Q. How did you get involved?
A. My mother eventually became Managing Editor and in 1983 the English Editor, Nancy Suzuki, gave notice as she was expecting twins. My mother suggested I apply for the position as I was looking for a bit of extra work at the time. I was playing taiko professionally with Uzume Taiko, but as we all know, the arts don’t pay very well. And I was starting a new family myself. So I said no of course! And then changed my mind a few days later and applied for the job. And here I am, twenty years later!
Q. I see in the last few issues that there seem to be some changes, especially in the Japanese section.
A. Yes, we made the decision, a few months back, to seek out a new direction. We brought on two new Japanese editors to help us chart a new direction. I feel that the Japanese side has been neglected for a long time. This is largely my fault. Because I don’t speak or read Japanese myself, I focused almost entirely on the English section. Kazuho Yamamoto and Kaori Kasai have brought a lot of new energy and ideas to the table and I really feel reenergized myself. It’s been great. And we have a group of new Board members who are also bringing lots of ideas and energy too.
Q. Can we expect more changes?
A. Oh, yes. I can’t tell you what they will be as we’re still trying to figure them out ourselves. But the important thing is that we are searching for new ideas, new directions. We are talking to lots of people, looking for guidance. It’s a pretty exciting time. Keep reading these pages and see for yourself where we go!