When the friendly waitress handed me this plate during dinner at a Japanese restaurant this past weekend, I knew there would be a story to share. Kudos restaurant is very near an old wooden house and covered with vines on a tiny street in a small Vancouver Island town where you wouldn’t expect to find a Japanese restaurant. The meal was impressive, the waitress and cook (maybe the owners themselves) were friendly and generous (serving us more than one on-the-house item) . . .
and Maneki Neko can be found in more than one spot.
It wasn’t until our after-dinner stroll around the block that we came across a mural and sign and realized that we were walking through what had once been a tiny but thriving Japan town.
Before WW II, the small sawmill town of Chemainus on Vancouver Island had a Japanese community of about 300 people. During the war, Canadians of Japanese descent were removed to internment camps (losing their homes and businesses), and many did not return afterward. Chemainus had a hard times in the early 1980s when its mill closed, but able to transform itself into a tourist destination as a town of outdoor murals. Though very few things remained from the original Japanese community, it is still remembered in one of these murals.
The owners of Kudos restaurant (9875 Maple St –around the corner from the hospital auxiliary thrift store in the lower part of Chemainus) immigrated from Japan a decade or so ago, and are part of a new community, which depends less on natural resource industries (though the mill has reopened) and more on arts, culture and tourism, (the town is now famouse for its murals, eclectic shops, and live theatre).