Thomas Hiroshi Madokoro was born in Steveston, BC in 1920. At one point, Steveston was the largest site of settlement for Japanese immigrants to Canada. In the 1870s and 1880s there was a fishing boom in the Fraser River and many moved to fish. When Thomas was a toddler his parents, Kamezo and Ine Madokoro, decided to move the family of five to Clayoquot Sound.
The Madokos weren't the only fishing families to move to Clayoquot Sound in the 1920s. At the time, there were four settlements established by Canadians of Japanese descent in the area: Clayoquot, Eik Landing, West Wing, and Storm Bay (where the Madokoros settled).
Storm Bay, Prior to 1942
(Photo courtesy of Ken Gibson Collection. Storm Bay is a little ways up Tofino Inlet from the Crab Dock and before the Co-op gas station.)
Thomas' father died when he was still a child and Johnny Yoshio Madokoro, the eldest brother, returned from Japanese language school in Cumberland to learn to fish and became the principal breadwinner for the family. Thomas studied in Vancouver until returning to the Sound at age 16. He joined the Tofino Troller's Co-op that had been established by Canadian fishermen of Japanese descent and bought his uncle's boat the RM. Thomas trolled from Lennard Island to Hot Springs Cove.
During the Internment period, the RM was confiscated with no re-numeration. All of the interned residents of Clayoqot Sound were sent to Hastings Park in Vancouver to await the next upheaval. Thomas and other men were selected to work on road camps in Ontario. He worked in a variety of jobs during the war period. After the war, BC Packer's convinced a few men who had formerly fished off the west coast of Vancouver Island to return.
Returning to fish in familiar water flooded Thomas with emotions, though he ultimately re-settled his family in Delta, BC. In 2000, after 50 years of fishing, Thomas retired. His children had grown up working on the boat and Thomas passed on his boat Hyson II to his son Darby.
This story is just one of the many stories of Canadians of Japanese descent who fished in the waters off the west coast of Vancouver Island and settled in Clayoquot Sound in the early 1900s. To learn about more stories stay tuned for the launch date of the new Nikkei of Clayoquot Sound exhibit, planned for late February.
- Fukawa, Masako, ed. Nikkei Fishermen on the BC Coast: Their Biographies and Photographs. Madeira Park, BC: Harbour Publishing, Ltd., 2007.
- Horsfield, Margaret and Ian Kennedy. Tofino and Clayoquot Sound: A History. Madeira Park, BC: Harbour Publishing, 2014.
- Madokoro, Thomas. ed. Henry Tanaka. "Good Old Days in Tofino." Changing Tides: Vanishing Voices of NIkkei Fishermen and Their Families. Burnaby, BC: Nikkei National Museum & Cultural Centre, 2017.
- Madokoro, Thomas. ed. Henry Tanaka. "Luck Followed Me." Changing Tides: Vanishing Voices of NIkkei Fishermen and Their Families. Burnaby, BC: Nikkei National Museum & Cultural Centre, 2017.
- Madokoro, Yoshio and Quinn Slobodian. An Interview of John Yoshio Madokoro; Port Alberni, BC. #2013.52.1.1-2. Burnaby, BC: Nikkei National Museum, 1999.