Friday, November 16, 2018

Dedication ceremony offers apology and hails historic past of Prince Rupert's Cherry Blossom Trees and Shimizu family

A plaque located on the plaza at the Federal building on
Second Avenue West now tells the story of the Shimizu family
and their remarkable gift of Japanese cherry blossom trees to Prince Rupert

(click to enlarge image)

The Federal government has paid tribute to the family of Shotaro "Tom" Shimizu, hosting a plaque unveiling at the plaza in front of the Federal building on Second Avenue West on Thursday, the latest step in their work to make amends for the damage caused to the original trees donated to the City of Prince Rupert by the Shimizu family close to sixty years ago.

As is well known in Prince Rupert by now, the stand of trees which stood along Fourth Street and around the DFO building were damaged and almost cut down during the course of some landscaping that took place at the Federal building in March of this year.

The incident was one which shocked and angered many in the community and led to calls for some form of action on the part of the Federal Procurement office to make amends and to ensure that such misunderstandings were to never happen again.

And while the events of March left a long lasting scar in the downtown area, they also served to remind the community of the generosity of the Shimizu family and provided for a chance to review the history of their time in Prince Rupert, as well as to bring the community together to find ways to honour the the memory of the family.

Towards that goal came Thursday's gathering of family, Federal, Municipal and Provincial officials, along with invited members of the public to dedicate a new plaque to chart that history.

The ceremony took place under sunny skies in Prince Rupert Thursday afternoon, with seven members of Mr. Shimizu's family in attendance for the event.

And while Mayor Lee Brain has been out of town this week and was unavailable to attend, the City of Prince Prince was represented by Councillors Barry Cunningham, Blair Mirau and Reid Skelton-Morven, along with MLA Jennifer Rice who was also on hand for the dedication ceremony.

Members of Prince Rupert Council and MLA Rice with Henry Shimizu
in front of the plaque of remembrance to the gift from his father of
1500 Cherry Trees to Prince Rupert
(photo from City of Prince Rupert)
The plaque, which faces Second Avenue on the plaza, notes the history of the Shimizu family In Prince Rupert as well as their time in an internment camp during the Second World War, part of a period of Canadian history that reflects the tensions and unfairness of the decisions of those times.

The plaque which has been placed on a stone base, also puts  a focus on the remarkable generosity of the Shimizu family to the community that their past generations once called home.

"This plaque is to commemorate Mr. Shotaro "Tom" Shimizu's donation of 1500 cherry trees to the City of Prince Rupert.

Mr. Shimizu made his home in Prince Rupert in 1907. He owned and operated the New Dominion Hotel and Restaurant with his business partner George Nishikaze until 1942 when the Japanese Canadians of the West Coast were unjustly interned and dispossessed of their property during the Second World War. He moved to Edmonton in 1946 but always retained a deep affection for Prince Rupert.

Despite having gone blind after the war, in a great act of generosity and forgiveness he donated 1500 ornamental cherry trees (sakura) to Prince Rupert in 1959 and 1960. 

In Japan, cherry blossoms have a special significance, speaking to the fragility and beauty of life"

In addition to the plaque dedication, the Federal government has also purchased and planted a pair of additional cherry trees to join the remaining stand that continues to regenerate its leaves along Fourth Street.

The Northern View has posted a very informative piece on the story and yesterday's evens to their website which you can review here.

CBC's Daybreak North has also covered the story through the week, their look at the return of the Shimizu family for the dedication can be accessed here.

For more items of note on Community events in Prince Rupert see our archive page here.

To return to the most recent blog posting of the day, click here.

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