cherry tree

Yarn Bombing at Historic Joy Kogawa House

Help writing blossom at Historic Joy Kogawa House! Join Leanne Prain and Mandy Moore, co-authors of the book Yarn Bombing: The Art of Crochet and Knit Graffiti (Arsenal Pulp Press), as we cover the Joy Kogawa cherry tree in hundreds of knitted blossoms.

You are invited to come and knit or crochet pink cherry blossoms to help cover this historic tree, whose story is told in Joy Kogawa’s Naomi’s Tree, a picture book about friendship. Knitters and crocheters of all levels are welcome to attend these FREE events.

Join one of these two community knit-ins at the Historic Joy Kogawa House, 1450 West 64th Avenue, Vancouver, on:

Sunday, January 23, 2 to 3:30pm
Saturday, February 5, 2 to 3:30pm

Or help to stitch all of the cherry blossoms into place at Historic Joy Kogawa House on:

Sunday, March 6, 2 to 3:30pm

Leanne and Mandy will entertain stitchers with daring tales of yarn bombing feats from around the world, books will be available for sale and signing, and refreshments will be served. Yarn and needles will be provided; however, donations of pink yarn are appreciated!

Can’t make it to the event? Mail in your knitted or crocheted cherry blossoms to be added to the tree, as follows:

Historic Joy Kogawa House
1450 West 64th Avenue
Vancouver, B.C. V6P 2N4

Or drop your blossoms in the covered bin you’ll find just down the steps from the sidewalk in front of the house at 1450 West 64th Avenue. Submissions will be accepted up until March 1, 2011. All cherry blossoms should be made out of pink yarn. Patterns to use are available here.

For more information see our Facebook page or visit

Cherry tree blossoms at Kogawa House

Cherry Blossoms at Kogawa House

The cherry blossoms have been out everywhere in Vancouver since late March.   In mid-April I was driving through Vancouver's Marpole neighborhood, when I thought I should go visit Joy Kogawa's childhood home at 1450 West 64th Ave.

It had been back the summer of 2005, when I had received an e-mail from Ann-Marie Metten that Joy Kogawa's beloved cherry tree was diseased and dying.  She and a group that included then Vancouver city councillor Jim Green, gathered grafts from the cherry tree to try to preserve it for future incarnations - because it was feared that the owner would not give up the house.

This was the house that the Save Kogawa House Committee, which I was part of, had worked so hard to save from demolition, when the owner decided to draw up plans to demolish the house and build a new one.  It was an intensive awareness campaign from September to December when The Land Conservancy of BC decided to step in and take on this project, deeming it a worthy Vancouver landmark of cultural and historical importance.  Then it was from December until May, as we tried to raise funds to save the house... almost taking a mortgage out before an anomynous donor stepped in with almost $300,000 to allow TLC to purchase the house. 

But now the task is to continue raising funds and awareness to both renovate the home and restore it to the qualities it had before Joy and her family were forced to leave their house due to enforced internment of Japanese Canadians during WW2 - even though they were born in Canada!  We also want to build an endowment and create a writers-in-residence program as well as community programming.

Last spring, Joy was living in Vancouver, and she went to visit the cherry tree to find a few spare blossoms.  The tree was sickly.  At the open house in September - Joy placed manure around the tree's base, spoke kind words and blessings for the tree.  Joy soon returned to Toronto, but has returned to Vancouver briefly for Christmas with her daughter and grandchildren and recently at the end of March to see relatives and to give a reading for the Alcuin Society at Kogawa House on March 30th.

I drove past the front of the house... everything looks nice, except the white picket fence has fallen down. 

I drove around the back of the house... and saw a most beautiful sight.  The cherry tree was in full bloom.

It is like the tree (and the house) knows it has a new life.  It is an old tree but heavy and full with blossoms.
Beautiful... I know if Joy saw the tree with its blossoms, there would be tears of happiness in her eyes.




Vancouver City Hall "Joy Kogawa Cherry Tree Planting" - November 1st

Vancouver City Hall "Joy Kogawa Cherry Tree Planting"

Today, Vancouver Mayor Larry Campbell pronounced November 1st as "Obasan Cherry Tree Day." Campbell read the proclamation in celebration of the planting of a cherry tree graft from the childhood home of author Joy Kogawa.  Mayor Campbell acknowledged Councillor Jim Green who spearheaded the tree planting initiative, going to the house with Kogawa last year to take the tree clippings that were nurtured for a year for the planting.

Also speaking at the ceremony was Paul Whitney, City Librarian, Vancouver Public Library, and James W. Wright, General Director, Vancouver Opera.  Joy's novel Obasan was the 2005 choice for the library's award winning program One Book One Vancouver. 

James Wright said that when he came to Vancouver he was given a copy of the book "Great Canadian books of the century" written by Vancouver Public Library (1999) (ISBN 1550547364).  He said that he read about Obasan, and it was one of the first books he read after arriving in Vanouver.  Next he discovered Kogawa's children story Naomi's Road, and was so moved by it, he commisioned it as an opera.

Joy Kogawa expressed thanks and gratitude to everybody involved.  She said she was very happy that these things were happening and it was like a shooting star.  She also gave special thanks to Ann-Marie Metten and myself, for the work we are doing with the Save Kogawa House committee.

There was a good sized crowd for the tree planting including media from Globe & Mail, Metro News, CityTV, and Shaw TV.  City councillors attending the ceremony included Raymond Louie, Anne Roberts, Ellen Woodsworth, Fred Bass, Tim Stevenson.  Vancouver Opera staff who worked on Naomi's Road included Music Director Leslie Uyeda, Artistic Coordinator Hitomi Nunotani.

The following is the text that Mayor Campbell read from and was presented in a program that was handed out:

Joy Kogawa Cherry Tree Planting

In Commemoration of the Japanese-Canadian experience during the Second World War

In 2005, Japanese-Canadian writer Joy Kogawa's novel Obasan was Vancouver Public Library's choice for One Book, One Vancouver, a book club for the entire city.  Throughout the summer people read, discussed, and celebrated Kogawa's novel and explored the Japanese-Canadian experience in Canada.  This fall, Vancouver Opera presented "Naomi's Road," and opera for young people based on Kogawa's children's book, Naomi's Road.

2005 also marks the 60th anniversary of the end of the Second World War in Asia.

Kogawa's book Obasan is one of the most powerful books ever written about the experience of Japanese Canadians during the Second World War.  The story of Obasan and its message about the consequences of of war and prejudice are as relevant today as they were when the book was first released in 1981.

The house of Obasan still exists in Vancouver with a cherry tree that Joy Kogawa remembers from her childhood as "propped up and bandaged, but still very much alive."

On September 10, 2005, Vancouver City Council adopted a Motion on Notice to plant a cutting of Joy Kogawa's cherry tree on the City Hall campus as a way to commomorate the experience of Japanese Canadians during the Second World War.

Today, we plant a cutting from Kogawa's cherry tree as a symbol of friendship and to commemorate the experience of Japanese-Canadians during the Second Warld War.

Joy Kogawa with City Librarian Paul Whitney, Oper Managing Director James Wright, and City Councillor Jim Green - photo Deb Martin

More pictures from Obasan Cherry Tree planting at City Hall with Joy Kogawa

More photos from Joy Kogawa Cherry Tree planting at Vancouver City Hall

Mayor Larry Campbell reads from "Obasan Cherry Tree Day" Proclamation, with Joy Kogawa, Paul Whitney and James Wright - photo Deb Martin

Joy Kogawa and City Councillor Jim Green plant the cherry tree graft that they had collected together a year ago, from the original at Kogawa House in Marpole neighborhood. Watching are City Librarian Paul Whitney and Opera Managing Director James Wright. - photo Deb Martin

Joy Kogawa with members of the Save Kogawa House committee with Vancouver City Hall in the background: Ann-Marie Metten, Todd Wong (holding proclamation for Obasan Cherry Tree Day) and David Kogawa - photo Deb Martin
Syndicate content