Koto Kawamoto was one of the 200 Japanese people who came across the Pacific on the S.S. Keman. She was a picture bride, to be married to Sansuke Kawamoto when she arrived. As a stranger in a foreign land, she had a difficult time adjusting and was quite miserable in her first few days. She wrote a story about her trip to Canada, outlining her feelings, the situations she encountered, and what happened when she arrived.
She had come from an urban part of Japan and had expectations of brick houses, proper streets, and the comforts of civilization. Instead, she got a small, drafty shed in the middle of a large piece of partially cleared farmland. To say it was a shock is an understatement.
The family business was berry farming, strawberries in particular. The land had to be cleared, stumps removed, and them properly prepared for berry crops. It was back-breaking work.
Sansuke Kawamoto was the secretary of the Japanese Farmer’s Association [ Hammond Nokai] and involved with the Japanese Language School and the Maple Ridge Buddhist Church. He often acted as a regional representative for those organizations.
Koto had nine children, with the first born in 1909. One baby girl, born prematurely in February of 1923, died only a few hours after delivery.
Koto was the first prize winner in a history contest in the “New Canadian” in December of 1958. Her story was entitled “The Way of Endurance: a Berry Farmer’s Memoir.”
Hiroshi was born in 1918. Many years later, his first job was cutting holly for Brown Brothers Greenhouses. In 1941, despite having been born in Canada, Hiroshi had to submit to fingerprinting and registration along with all other males over 18 years of age of Japanese descent.
At the time of evacuation, the family was forced to leave the farm that their parents had worked so hard to establish. The farm was sold by the government without the Kawamoto family’s permission. They moved to Lillooet for a year and a half and then moved to Vernon for the sake of their children’s education.
In 1953 the Kawamoto children moved to the coast and their parents joined them. Since they had no place to call home, their parents stayed with son Makoto in Vancouver.
Sansuke died in July of 1957 at the age of 72. Funeral services were held at the Vancouver Buddhist Church. Koto died in January of 1972 at the age of 83. She had been in Canada for 65 years. She was buried in the Maple Ridge Cemetery.
It is interesting to note that on both death certificates of her children, she is listed as Koto Tanaka. In trying to locate marriage certificates in Canada, there are none, which leads us to believe they were registered in Japan. Since she was a “picture bride”, such things may have been overlooked in Canada.