Every year at Nikkei Place’s Community Awards + Fundraising Dinner we honour people and/or organizations with awards for their immense contributions in building a strong and vibrant Nikkei community for all. They are our community leaders that help shape our ever changing community. This year, we honour four awardees — Dr. Akira Horii with the Presidents’ Award, Takeo Yamashiro with the Outstanding Community Service Award, Yoko Matsuno with the Japanese Culture Award, and John Endo Greenaway with the Japanese Canadian History Preservation & Education Award.
Meet John Endo Greenaway:
Freelance Graphic Designer and Owner of Big Wave Design
- Founding member of Canada’s first taiko group, Katari Taiko
- Founding member of Canada’s first professional taiko group, Uzume Taiko, with whom he toured extensively across Europe and North America.
- Spent five years as assistant instructor with Chibi Taiko, Canada’s first youth taiko group.
- Since 1993, he has been the Managing Editor of The Bulletin, a journal of
Japanese Canadian community, history and culture.
John Endo Greenaway lived in the downtown east side for over 30 years (His parents co-founded Strathcona’s first housing co-op at Union St. and were involved in the 1970’s fight to stop the freeway).
Now based in Port Moody, BC, in an interview he stated that:
“When my family moved to Vancouver when I was 10 we ended up in Strathcona in what may have been Vancouver’s first housing co-op on Union Street. That was where my mother — a second generation Japanese-Canadian — started to reconnect with her roots, which she had really lost contact with, and also how I became involved in helping to form Canada’s first Taiko group Katari Taiko, work on the Powell Street Festival and more. Amazingly, the Strathcona Community Centre used to let us use its space to practise three times a week for a number of years until they realized that nobody else could do anything else when we rehearsing because of the volume. ”
He co-founded both Uzume Taiko and Katari Taiko (whose founding helped marked the re-emergence of the Japanese Canadian community who had been scattered about the country after World War II). He worked on a collaborative project “AGAINST THE CURRENT” that looked at the important role played by salmon in both Salish and Japanese history and tradition. The collaboration between Chibi Taiko, Katari Taiko, Sansho Daiko, Sawagi Taiko and Vancouver Okinawa Taiko also included storyteller Rosemary Georgeson (Sahtu Dene/Coast Salish) and Salish musicians Tzo’kam, led by composer Russell Wallace with narrations by Greenaway, and Hiromi Goto and Savannah Walling with participation of 25 DTES community members in creating the sets.
John has worked in the print production, design and world music field. Following his departure from Uzume Taiko in 2000, he has concentrated on his freelance design and editing business full time, working primarily in the Japanese Canadian and arts communities. His freelance clients include Hard Rubber Orchestra, Kodo, Lola MacLaughlin Dance, Takeo Yamashiro, Caravan World Rhythms, Gary Cristall Artist Management, JLS Productions, the National Nikkei Museum and Cultural Centre, the Japanese Canadian National Museum, Vancouver New Music Society, Chan Centre for the Performing Arts, Ashe Brasil, Vancouver Moving Theatre, Diane Kadota Arts Management, and the Japanese Canadian Citizen’s Association.
John has received a number of awards such as:
- 2007 North American Association of Asian Professionals Vancouver (NAAAP) award (Arts
- 2013 Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal
- He was honoured by the National Association of Asian American Professionals (NAAAP) at the Spotlight on Leadership Celebration held in Vancouver on October 25, 2007. The NAAAP is a nonprofit organization that promotes the career advancement and leadership development of Asian American professionals in all fields through networking, respecting Asian multiculturalism, and supporting diversity and community service.
Below is a shortened excerpt of his acceptance speech:
“It is somewhat fitting, I suppose, or perhaps ironic—I’m not sure which—to receive the Unsung Asian Hero Award tonight. As editor of The Bulletin, the monthly publication of the Japanese Canadian Citizens’ Association I have spent the past 14 years covering many unsung heroes within the Nikkei community. We have our public heroes of course, the ones we share with the rest of the world – the David Suzukis, Raymond Moriyamas, Joy Kogawas and Thomas Shoyamas – but for every man and woman in the spotlight, there are dozens more toiling away unheralded and most likely underappreciated. They are educators, artists, business owners, fishermen, community activists, cooks, students. Some are imbedded deeply within the Nikkei community, others work within the larger community. Some identify strongly as Nikkei, others would consider themselves simply Canadian. As the latest in a long line of editors dating back to 1958 (the year before I was 8 born), I have made it my mission to profile the many quiet heroes in our midst. It is sometimes like pulling teeth—if you want to talk in stereotypes, then we Nikkei tend to be a rather shy lot—but with a little coaxing, most people will open up, often in surprising ways. A CBC producer asked me the other day how our community magazine, with its relatively small circulation and limited readership can hope to bring these people greater national recognition and I replied that I don’t think that is necessarily my aim. It is, rather, to instill a sense of pride within our community, to build up, issue by issue, a sense of who we are—where we have come from, and where we are going.
As a community I think we are sometimes guilty of dwelling on the past. Indeed, it is difficult to discuss the Japanese Canadian experience without the subject of the wartime Internment coming up…” “It is easy sometimes to play the victim card. But if there is one thing I have learned in my time working in the Nikkei community, it is that we are not a community of victims, but rather survivors. And yes, thrivers. I believe it is important to keep our eyes firmly forward—not forgetting the past, but using it as a springboard to a bright future. As I get older I see more and more value in the Japanese phrase shikataganai, “it can’t be helped”. I used to interpret it as defeatism, but have come to see that it simply means that railing against what can’t be changed is a waste of time and energy. Acceptance doesn’t mean that you give up, far from it—rather, you move on and change what you can.”