On May 7, 2022, the Renewal Opening of the garden was held to celebrate the transformation of the garden into a ‘Lillooet style’ Japanese rock garden. The garden overlooks the original East Lillooet self-supporting Internment Site, which is now a private farm. East Lillooet was one of 10 Internment camps and 7 official self-supporting sites where Japanese Canadians were forcibly relocated to in 1942 with the outbreak of World War II. Deemed a national security threat, over 22,000 Japanese Canadians were forcibly uprooted by the federal government to 100 miles east of the coast. Their homes, boats, cars, businesses and properties were confiscated by the government and sold in order to finance the Internment.
Phase II was a partnership project with the E. Lillooet Seniors’ Garden Committee and the District of Lillooet. Located on new Ministry of Transportation land created by infill over the old highway, it is a historic tribute to the families of the East Lillooet Self-supporting Camp (population. 309).
Garden features include: a stone memorial monument listing Internee families, an Interpretive Sign, Stop-of-Interest sign, Japanese mini-bridge over a rock waterfall (Fraser River); seven tall pine trees within the garden symbolizing the severn years of the Internment (1942-49); border granite rocks from nearby Duffy Lake slide, and gravel representing water; wood arbour overlooking the original Internment site. The Senior Garden Committee came up with the garden theme of 心の光 – Kokoro-no hikari – ‘light in the soul’. It is their hope that the garden will bring ‘light to the soul’ to all who visit, inspiring beauty, serenity and peace.
The 1942 East Lillooet Internment site was situated on 40 acres of land above the banks of the Fraser River and leased from a local landowner. 62 crude tarpaper shacks were built and a series of flumes to carry water from the Fraser River. With no insulation, electricity, or indoor plumbing, conditions in the camp were harsh and barely tolerable, with icicles forming inside the shacks during winter. The Internment ended in 1949, four years after the war ended. Freedom of movement, the right to vote and Canadian citizenship was granted to all Canadians regardless of race that same year.
It is located on the corner of Lytton-Lillooet Highway 12 and Sumner Road, in Lillooet, BC, just south of the Old Airport Garden, and south on Highway 12 from Fort Berens Winery.
Japanese Canadian History