Julie Tamiko Manning is an award-winning actor and theatre creator from Montréal.  She has performed across Canada from the independent stage in Vancouver to the national stage in Ottawa.  Selected theatre credits include: Elena in Butcher (Centaur), Sister in Pig Girl (Imago), Isabella Bird/Win in Top Girls (Segal), Emilia in Othello (Segal Centre/Scapegoat Carnivale), Clarence in Richard III (Metachroma), and Nancy in Oliver! (National Arts Centre).  She is currently working with the French company cie IKB on a project called Identités, about the many facets of the Québecois identity.

Her first play, Mixie and the Halfbreeds, co-written with Adrienne Wong, was produced in 2009 by Neworld Theatre, Vancouver.  Her recent piece, The Tashme Project: The Living Archives, is a one act verbatim play about the Japanese Canadian internment camps during WW2, and was co-created and performed with Ottawa artist Matt Miwa.  They are building a tour of The Tashme Project for the 2019 season, with dates in Vancouver and Kitchener-Waterloo.  Julie is also an Associate Artistic Producer of Metachroma Theatre, whose mandate is to address the under-representation of visible minority actors in Canadian theatre and she is presently finishing up her residency with Montréal theatre company, Imago Theatre.

Lire la proposition en français

Kiyoko Tanaka-Goto was born in Tokyo in 1896.  Her father left Japan for San Francisco in search of a better life, leaving 4-year-old Kiyoko and her mother with nothing.  In 1916, she came to Canada as a picture bride, with the goal of finding her father and bringing him back to Japan. When she arrived in Canada, she and her newly married husband worked on Vancouver Island, cleaning chicken coops and doing laundry for 4 years until she moved to the city of Vancouver, buying up a restaurant with 3 other women, using the money that she had saved from her work on the Island.  In the 20s, she bought the lease of a hotel (now the bar, Funky Winkerbeans in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver) and turned it into a whorehouse.  She hired 12 prostitutes- women of French, German, Japanese, Chinese, African and Italian descent.  As a madam, she was clever and fair.  She took care of her girls, paid them well and knew which policemen could keep her out of jail.  In 1941, the order came to intern all of the Japanese living on the West Coast.  Kiyoko lost everything and went into hiding for a time.  She was eventually found, sent to jail and then interned in Greenwood, BC.    During her internment, she continued to provide clients with a place to gamble as well as illegal dandelion wine made from the flowers she paid the children to pick.  In 1946 after the war, when no Japanese was allowed back to the west Coast, she somehow got a Chinese friend to be her guarantor and returned to buy and run a few gambling parlours in Vancouver’s Chinatown.  She never succeeded in returning to Japan even though her plan was to return after only 4 years in Canada.  She died in 1989.  As much as she had eschewed the culture of the land she had come from, she wanted to be taken care of in Honganji, a Buddhist temple in Kyoto, after her death.

I do not know where her final resting place is.

In an interview with Maya Koizumi, Kiyoko speaks openly about the sex trade, about her husbands and boyfriends, about her connections, about her illegal dealings; she speaks about her preference of Chinese people over Japanese people, she speaks of the loss of her husband, of her work, of her money and of her daughter- she speaks…and by doing so she defies all of our notions of Japanese femaleness.

We, as a society, have expectations of Asian women.  As an Asian woman, I have been expected to be many things, most of which I am not.  I am not quiet, small, exotic nor am I submissive…but I struggle daily trying to fulfill those expectations.  Swimming against those expectations, even in the 21st century, is a heavy weight.  We, as a society, with our obsession for all things porn and the female form, love to devalue, ignore and despise sex workers.  As a woman, I struggle with the unhealthy relationships that men have with women and sex and vice-versa.

What fascinates me about Kiyoko is that she broke EVERY SINGLE RULE and expectation of culture, gender and society.  A young, Japanese woman in the early 20th century had the directness, savvy and confidence to take her place in the new world, a world she created, a world far from home and family, where she was in control.  Kiyoko has become a port-mortem mentor for me.

I want to explore the life of Kiyoko Tanaka-Goto, not as a clichéd dragon-lady pimp (although at times, perhaps she is), nor as a dutiful daughter (although at times, perhaps she is), nor as an exoticised sex-symbol (although at times, perhaps she is), but as a valuable member of Canadian society who most likely had to fight against expectation, and for autonomy and recognition every step of the way.  At first, I thought that I would write this piece from her solo voice, but now I am seeing her story being told by the women who lived with and around her- her employees, her business partners, her mother and daughter-the many women who populated her world.