Performers from Powell Street – Part 2
(This is a continuation of the January eNews story)
Aiko Saita and Sally Nakamura were both in Japan by 1940, steadily building their overseas entertainment careers, until Japan entering Second World War disrupted their lives. The performance of English songs was prohibited by the government, and Japanese Canadian singers without Japanese citizenship were barred from performing operas. Sally Nakamura’s singing career was cut short, but he found work as an actor in movies. Japan’s public broadcaster NHK also hired him to voice English parts in propagandic radio programs. Aiko Saita performed for the Japanese army stationed on the Asian mainland, but she was captured and imprisoned in a Russian internment camp.
After the war, there was suddenly a great demand for entertainers who knew English songs. Sally Nakamura became a popular singer at the clubs populated by soldiers from newly established American bases, and he also continued his acting career. Aiko Saita returned to Japan and was able to perform in operas again. She always appreciated the Japanese Canadian community’s support, and launched a concert tour in Canada in 1953. On this tour, she was hospitalized by illness in Vancouver and returned to Tokyo. While she was in the Tokyo Teishin Hospital, Sally Nakamura visited his childhood friend and offered to donate his blood for her transfusions. Unfortunately, Aiko Saita did not recover, and passed away in 1954. Sally Nakamura continued working and living in Tokyo until his death in 1992. These performers were a source of pride for Powell Street residents, and there was even an Aiko Saita memorial concert hosted in Vancouver in 2004.
Photo: Aiko Saita – Courtesy of the Japanese Canadian Artists Directory