By NIKKEI STAFF
BRAMPTON, ON — On October 17th, 2012, the local City Council approved official names for three community parks. One of them was Teramoto Park, which the Brampton Guardian newspaper reported, “Honours the memory of one of the first Japanese settlers in Brampton.”
This settler’s name was Etsuji Teramoto, an issei, who came to the Brampton area in 1944. Mr. Teramoto was in Ontario because he had been one of the 38 Japanese in B.C. arrested by the RCMP in December 1941 when war was declared against Japan. The charge, which was never proven, was that those men were allegedly a danger to national security.
Etsuji Teramoto was born in Sakaiminato, a fishing village in Tottori-ken (prefecture) in western Japan. In 1922, he immigrated to Canada and eventually ended up on Mayne Island, one of the southern Gulf Islands in the Strait of Georgia east of Salt Spring and Ganges Islands. There he fished and grew tomatoes that were shipped and sold in mainland B.C., so that he and wife Tsune and children could survive during the 1930s Depression Years.
And it was from Mayne Island that Mr. Teramoto was moved beyond B.C. by the Mounties to internment camps—first in Alberta and then at Petawawa and Angler in remote parts of Northern Ontario.
Meanwhile in 1942, Mrs. Teramoto and her seven young children, Yuzo, Yoneko (Edith), Sho, Emiko, Mitsuko, Masako, and James were moved from Mayne Island via Hastings Park to the Lemon Creek family detention camp in the B.C. interior.
In 1944, Etsuji Teramoto left the Angler internment camp, worked briefly at Northern Ontario lumber camps, and then headed south. As his daughter Mitsuko Shirley Teramoto has reported “[He] found work in a greenhouse at Islington (then a village near Toronto) before moving to Brampton to work in the greenhouses of Walter E. Calvert.”
Then in 1945, the orders came for all B.C. Japanese to decide whether after the war to go to Japan or move east away from the Pacific Coast province. With nothing to go back to at Mayne Island, Etsuji Teramoto decided to have his family join him in Ontario. Since Yuzo was 16 years old, he was required to leave immediately for Ontario. On Dec. 1st, 1945, the family was reunited at last.
Now some details about Brampton: It is a small city northwest of Toronto and part of the so-called Greater Toronto Area or GTA. In fact, it is less than an hour’s drive from downtown Toronto, and much closer than Caledon, the site of the GTA JC community’s annual Canada Day picnic.
In the 1940s when the Teramotos came there, Brampton was naturally smaller, but in 2011 its population was reported as well over half a million—making it the ninth largest city in Canada. And although it’s well known for its large South Asian population, that census also established there were 545 residents of Japanese descent.
Back to the Teramotos: Daughter Shirley wrote that in the late 1940s Father Etsuji rented land at Huttonville on the outskirts of Brampton and resumed market gardening. Mother Tsune’s contribution included pickling surplus daikon and nappa which Etsuji delivered to customers in Toronto and Hamilton.
Then in 1954, a small cottage and two acres were bought and the Teramoto market gardening expanded. Son, Sho Teramoto, worked fulltime for his father. The whole family along with relatives, friends, and visitors pitched in to help. The produce was transported to wholesalers at the Ontario Food Terminal in Toronto.
In November 1957, Etsuji and Tsune Teramoto, like many other issei did in postwar Canada, got their Canadian citizenship. In 1960, Etsuji opened a produce market which meant he dealt with customers directly which he enjoyed.
In 1982 he retired and passed away in January 1983. Wife Tsune passed away in September 1996. Sons, James in 1958 and Yuzo in 1969, predeceased them.
Now members of the Teramoto clan, including sansei and yonsei, are spread across Canada and elsewhere like many large JC families. But some still remain in Brampton which will always be their “home.”
As for Teramoto Park which has been open since this past spring, here is what it is like:
The site is 38 acres and includes two baseball diamonds, a cricket field, play area for little children with swings, slide and splash pool, plus a picnic area and a washroom building. If you visit Brampton, you’ll find it at the northwest corner of Queen Street West and Chinguacousy Road and to the south of David Suzuki Secondary School.
The Brampton Guardian also mentioned that the Teramoto family’s contribution to the local community, which is another reason for the family being honoured, is outlined in the book Wolf’s Den to Huttonville and the Pioneers Who Made It Possible: Circa 1800 and Beyond.
It was written by daughter Shirley Teramoto, a retired school teacher who taught at three local-area public schools.
And Teramoto Park’s official opening is scheduled for October 1, 2013 (time: 10 to 11:30 a.m. to be confirmed) when a sculpture titled “Family” by Marion Bartlet will also be unveiled there.
(Editor’s note: This report originated in a writeup sent by Brampton resident Mary (Nagami) Mori. Added details of the Teramoto family were extracted from Shirley Teramoto’s excellent account in the book Tracing Our Heritage to Tottori Ken Japan, published in 2010 by the Ontario Tottori Ken Jin Kai.)
For more on this story visit the link listed here to the Guardian’s website: http://bit.ly/1gWjQ4U
*We’ll also be updating this story on our Facebook page with some photographs taken from the opening ceremony held earlier last week.