Profile of Rev. Kyuichi Nomoto
In the midst of the Great Depression, at a time when very few Asian Canadians were admitted to study at the country’s universities, a brilliant young Japanese Canadian man graduated from the United Church’s Union College at the top of his class.
Kyuichi Nomoto was ordained at the annual meeting of BC Conference in 1934. Flash forward 10 years to June 30, 1944, and he lay dead at Essondale Mental Hospital in Coquitlam, after receiving large amounts of insulin and regular shock treatment.
What could cause such a bright light to flicker and die?
In the 1930s, anti-Asian racism was especially rampant in this province. By 1942, when Canada declared war on Japan, it also declared ca. 21,000 people of Japanese descent “Enemy Aliens,” and stripped them of their identity and possessions. Rev. Nomoto was interned—essentially imprisoned—at New Denver, and was left to minister to the other internees for what was then an indefinite period of time.
Over the next two years his mental health deteriorated. “Those acquainted with Mr. Nomoto know the faithfulness with which he carried the burdens of his people. It was a load which became increasingly heavy and under which he finally broke down” (“Within the Veil,” The Western Recorder, August 1944, 13).
The recent film Nomoto: A BC Tragedy was researched and produced with the help of our Regional Archives files. It will screen at the Powell Steet Festival in Vancouver this August, followed by a panel discussion.
“The past continues to work its way into the present,” writes Jungian psychologist and author, Dr. James Hollis. May we all be aware of this and be gentle with each other.
– Blair Galston, Archivist