Zennosuke Inouye’s descendants were happy to visit a Surrey park now dedicated to their grandfather, on land not far from where he farmed in the years after ‘The Great War’.
The Surrey pioneer is commemorated at Inouye Park, a 44-acre “nature park” located at 8985 Queen Mary Boulevard, south of the original Inouye farm property, in Cedar Hills. The park was previously unnamed, for many years.
Born in Japan in 1884, Inouye moved to Canada in 1900 and later fought for the country in World War I. After military service, he acquired 80 acres of land on Sandell Road (now 128th Street, near 96 Avenue), where he and his wife Hatsuno (née Morikawa) grew strawberries, raspberries, poultry, potatoes land and grain. Zennosuke (pronounced Zen-O-skay) was also president of the Surrey Berry Growers’ Co-operative Association.
“Namening the park after the Inouye family helps the town share this important history, while recognizing the Inouye family’s contributions to the community and acknowledging the many Surrey residents of Japanese descent who have lived here and been forcibly evicted by order of the Canadian government,” reads a post on the city’s Facebook page.
On May 20, Mayor Doug McCallum, along with Councilors Laurie Guerra and Allison Patton, also celebrated the naming of Inouye Park, which “connects the neighborhood as a central greenway ideal for walking, jogging or biking.” , according to a description of the park on the city’s website. “Additional heritage features will be added to the park over time.”
Zennosuke and Hatsuno had five children and eight grandchildren. Four of them – Tami Gunn, along with Barry, Rob and Holly Inouye – visited Inouye Park for the first time on May 20.
Barry Inouye did not know his grandfather, as he was born a few years after Zennosuke’s death in 1957.
“It’s pretty awesome,” he said of the park’s naming.
Barry said he didn’t know his grandfather’s story until he read a 2005 essay written by Peter Neary and published in Nikkei Images, the newsletter of the National Nikkei Museum and Heritage Center Corporationbased in Burnaby.
During World War II, the Canadian government forcibly expelled all citizens of Japanese descent from coastal British Columbia.
“The Inouyes were dispersed and interned between Kaslo and Vernon, BC,” explains a post on surrey.ca. “After the war, Inouye wrote 80 letters to Canadian government officials demanding the return of his land. He is believed to be the only Japanese Canadian in Surrey to have his land reclaimed.
Meet Zennosuke Inouye, a Surrey pioneer and World War I veteran who fought to have his land returned to him after his internment.
Today, a park in Cedar Hills bears his name, on land not far from where he farmed and where 4 of his grandchildren recently visited.
THE STORY: https://t.co/MlwOB5ao4s pic.twitter.com/LOv5LYB0JV
—Tom Zillich (@TomZillich) May 26, 2022
Today, Zennosuke Inouye is one of the characters embodied by The re-enactors, Surrey’s award-winning heritage re-enactment troupe, in which five historical figures are played by actors at events in the town. Other pioneers in the troupe are Eric Anderson, Mary Jane Shannon, Irene Bourassa and Sarjit “Mac” Singh.
Actor Kevin Takahide Lee plays Inouye, who moved from Hiroshima to Vancouver at the age of 16.
Lee didn’t know much about Inouye until he took on the role a decade ago.
“His story is so unique” Lee said in 2015, “because he was the only Japanese-Canadian veteran who finally kept his land, and that’s pretty phenomenal. Internment and, even more so, reparation is something that resonates with Japanese Canadians.
Barry Inouye, who lives in Vancouver, said his family never talked about the war or the internment, “because the Japanese just don’t,” he said.
“So we discovered these things in (the Nikkei Museum newsletter), and it was picked up by Surrey secondary school students (Paul and Manpreet Gill) for a play we saw, and learned even more about our grandfather’s story from it recalls Barry.
Last year, while cycling in Vancouver, Barry discovered the Masumi Mitsui Greenwayalong 59and Avenue from Angus Drive to Argyle Drive.
“It’s another Japanese name and I was like, ‘I wonder who this guy is?'” Barry said. Japanese Canadian from the First World War and that he was also on Vimy Ridge, and when the war was over he created the first Legion for Japanese Canadian veterans, and he was the one who got Japanese -Canadians vote in Canadian elections.
“Because of that, I wondered if the City of Surrey would consider something like this for my grandfather,” Barry continued. “The town already knew my grandfather’s story, I didn’t have to explain it, and emailed Ryan Gallagher (Heritage Facilities and Administration Manager for the city), and he said they would think about it. It was last October, and in January, they said that a park would be named after him.
Barry said his older cousin Rob knew Zennosuke and had visited the Surrey Farm as a child.
“The land was sold after my grandfather passed away, so it’s not something I knew growing up, but I heard about it later,” Barry noted.
“I have been to the burial place of Valley View Cemetery in Surrey, where my grandfather and grandmother are buried, as well as my aunts.
Inouye’s story is also told on storiessurrey.cawhich details his military days and the letters he wrote to the Canadian government, beginning in 1944, in response to the seizure of his land in Surrey.
Rob Inouye, who was eight when his grandfather died, said his story deserved to reach as many people as possible.
“I remember having fabulous dinners on the farm (my grandmother was a fabulous cook), but I don’t remember my grandfather talking much,” Rob recalls. “He was generally quite calm. I don’t think he ever talked about what happened to him during the war, and my grandparents and my parents didn’t talk about their experiences during the internment. In Japanese culture, you “gaman” – endure all the painful memories instead of talking about them.
“I also remember helping pick strawberries,” Rob added. “When it came time to pick, all the parents went to the farm to help. I didn’t like it and for a long time I never ate strawberries. Fortunately, I ended up learning to like them.