Standing atop a dresser in Janet Tsujimoto’s suite at Tapestry at Village Gate West in Toronto are a number of dolls dressed in beautiful dresses and accessories; all replicas of Janet’s designs. Paintings hang on the wall and knitting projects sit next to her chair. It is apparent that Janet is an artist in a number of mediums.
If you are on the Tapestry mailing list for the past few years you would have received a Christmas card featuring resident art. We ask each of our retirement communities in Vancouver and Toronto to submit a few pieces for consideration. Without fail, Janet’s paintings stand out every year.
“When I moved to Tapestry, I decided to join the art class. I had not done much painting before I moved here”.
The vibrant art class was just the right place for Janet to flex her creative muscles. Our Restaurant Manager Jill shares her talent and passion with residents by leading this class. The art hanging on the common area walls are beautiful expressions of resident knowledge and experience. A number of Janet’s pieces are of mountains and deep green forests which she paints from memory. Though Janet has lived in Ontario since she was a young woman, her story began in BC where her family settled and made a living fishing.
Janet pulls out a photo album as she tells her story. She looks fondly at a photo of her sewing class of 1945. This was how she got her start in dress making and design. Janet and her family were relocated from their west coast home, through Hastings Park in Vancouer and onto Slocan Japanese internment camp in the interior of BC where she took the class.
“They rented out our home and fishing boat to a Norwegian family,” Janet explains. Though the government would be collecting and keeping the rent money and Janet’s family was not allowed to return home.
When the war ended, Japanese who were interned were not allowed to move back west of the Rockies. Options were limited to rural areas but through connections with other families and persistence, Janet was able to move to the greater Toronto area. A young woman in her 20’s, she landed a job supervising a group of female employees who sewed clothing for an American manufacturer.
“It was a bit tough because I was younger than almost all the women I supervised, but we worked well together”.
Janet’s career continued in textiles. She would eventually meet her husband, have a family, and settle in Etobicoke. When her husband required extra care, Tapestry was one of the first places Janet considered. She had a sister-in-law who already resided at Tapestry. Besides art class, Janet also knits dolls for kids at the boy and girls club; hundreds over the years. She talks about kids and the importance of language. Janet wonders if Japanese is being lost with the current generation.
With her family, she made trips across the country and back to BC but has always lived in Ontario. She was curious about how many Japanese seniors live at our retirement communities in Vancouver today. Her story makes one wonder how different our retirement communities would have been without Japanese internment.
After eight years living at Tapestry, Janet recently decided to move closer to family. Her artwork will remain a beautiful reminder of her story, her warm demeanor, and her positive outlook.