A Vancouver sports team whose legendary success in the Pacific Northwest was cut short by war has since been repeatedly commemorated, with the latest such tribute coming from the nation’s postal operator.
Canada Post held a special event today (April 24) at the National Nikkei Museum and Cultural Centre in Burnaby to unveil a new stamp that features the Vancouver Asahi, a historic amateur baseball team comprised of local Japanese Canadian players.
The team, who played in Japantown in what is now Oppenheimer Park in the DowntownEastside, was formed in 1914 by businessman Matsujiro Miyasaki. They outwitted their opponents with strategic techniques involving bunting, teamwork, and speed.
Unfortunately, they were forced to disband when all Japanese Canadians along B.C.’s coast were interned during the Second World War in 1942.
The team has since been inducted into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame (2003) and the B.C. Baseball Hall of Fame (2005), and was recognized as a national historic event by the federal government in 2008. Several films have told the story of the team, including documentaries and the Japanese feature drama The Vancouver Asahi (Bankuba no Asahi), which had its world premiere at the 2014 Vancouver International Film Festival.
In February, Historica Canada released a Heritage Minute to raise national awareness about the Asahi.
Tonight, Canada Post unveiled their new Asahi stamp at an event attended by several special guests.
The main guest of honour was 97-year-old Koichi Kaye Kaminishi, the last surviving member of the team.
Also in attendance was Star Trek actor and activist George Takei, who is currently in town filming a TV series and experienced the Japanese American internment as a child; Nikkei National Museum director and curator Sherri Kajiwara; Canada Post general manager of operations (Pacific region) Doug Matsumoto, who emceed the event; Burnaby North–Seymour MP Terry Beech; Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame board member Rob Fai; and Canada Post’s strategy and corporate marketing senior vice-president Leonard (Len) Diplock.
Members of the current Asahi Baseball Association, inspired by the original team, also attended.
Kaminishi gave a speech in Japanese in which he thanked Canada Post on behalf of the Vancouver Asahi Baseball Club, as well as guests who travelled from Japan and the U.S. to attend the event.
“This event, I hope, will be part of Canada’s history,” he said. “My past teammates, coaches, and managers are all looking down, smiling, happy, and humbled by the recognition that Canada Post has given.”
The stamp was revealed to be circular in the shape of a baseball, with the Vancouver Asahi team pictured upon it.
The stamp will be available in a booklet of 10 stamps ($9) as well as a special envelope ($1.90) featuring archival images and a historic timeline on the front, with a summarized story of the Asahi on the back.