The new Canada Post Vancouver Asahi stamp booklet. The pack of 10 stamps comes in a booklet on top of a map of Vancouver’s Powell Street area and an Asahi game ticket. Photo credit: Canada Post.
BURNABY — Next time you receive a letter, you may see some smiling Japanese Canadian faces looking up at you.
Canada Post has released a new stamp that honours the Vancouver Asahi, the Japanese Canadian baseball team. The stamp was unveiled in a ceremony at the Nikkei National Museum in Burnaby by the last surviving Asahi member, 97 year old Kaye Kaminishi on April 24.
“My past teammates, coaches and managers are all looking down, smiling, happy and humbled by the recognition that Canada Post has given them,” said Ed Kaminishi on behalf of Kaye.
Kaye was a third baseman when he played on the team, and can be seen in the new stamp. The stamp is shaped like a baseball and features the image of 11 players from the 1940 team. If you look closely, you can see Kaye smiling from the back row, second from the left.
The team would disband just a year later, when Canada declared war on Japan and 21,000 Japanese Canadians were interned in the interior of B.C.
The Vancouver Asahi formed in 1914 and were based in Oppenheimer Park. The team developed a unique playing style, called “brain ball,” which included bunting, base stealing and squeeze plays to score points. Many of the Japanese Canadian players were physically smaller than their opponents, but they won games with smart strategies, which made them popular to all Canadians.
The Vancouver Asahi story is also one of perseverance in the face of adversity. The team was subjected to racism, but when they played on the field, they brought all Canadians out to cheer for them. Even after disbanding during the Second World War, some teammates brought baseball to the internment camps.
“Canada’s forcible confinement of Japanese-Canadians during the Second World War remains one of the most tragic events in Canadian history,” said the Honourable Carla Qualtrough, Minister of Public Services, responsible for Canada Post.
“This stamp reflects the Asahi’s determination to overcome racism and discrimination through the power of sport. Asahi players exhibited integrity, honour and fair play and were shining examples of what it means to be truly Canadian.”
The ceremony brought out special guests from across Canada, as well as Japan and members of the Asahi Baseball Association, who are named for and inspired by the original team.
The Asahi stamps are now available in booklets of 10 stamps at Canada Post, either at the post office or online, for $9. A special envelope can also be purchased for $1.90 with archival images and a timeline of the Asahi on it.