Fumiko Kariya packed her bags months ago. Her granddaughter, Michiko, gave her a few pairs of coarse, warm stockings and some 99-cent stretch gloves to wear under her mittens it" the rink in Nagano is too chilly, but Fumiko won't put them on now, even though mild Vancouver has turned unseasonably cold. Those, she says, are her Olympic clothes. Fumiko turns 82 on Feb. 15, the eve of the meeting between the Canadian and U.S. hockey teams at the Games. She says watching her grandson Paul in the Olympics will be the dream trip of her life and her last trip back to Japan.
This will be Paul's second trip there. In 1991 he played in Yokohama, in an international junior tournament. He remembers the rink was new, the food was good, the hockey was fun, but it was an obscure tournament played before scouts and crowds he could have counted himself. He returns next month as a rock star, a fourth-generation Canadian-Japanese playing in the sport's biggest showcase.
"Paul probably doesn't fully realize his importance to Japan," says Montreal Canadiens assistant coach Dave King, a three-time Canadian Olympic coach who is general manager of the Japanese team for the 1998 Games. "He's the most revered NHL player there. Sure, they like Wayne Gretzky and Raymond Bourque, but because of Paul's heritage, he's the guy the focus will be on. There's not a lot of hockey in Japan, but they know the game. The Japanese see themselves in Paul. He's 5'11", not 6'3". He's skilled and courageous. His presence in Nagano could motivate a lot of Japanese kids to play the sport.
"I don't know, but maybe Paul took something from the Japanese way of doing things, at least in the way he has planned his career. Most players see a goal, the NHL, and all they want to do is get there as quickly as they can. Hut Paul's whole career has been planned around long-term decisions. He wanted to go to the East Coast to play college hockey, to do some weight training there and get stronger, and he did. He wanted to play for the Canadian national team, and he has. Everything's been step-by-step, even in his contract decisions."
On Nov. 30, 10 days before Kariya signed the two-year, $14 million deal that ended his 32-game holdout with the Anaheim Mighty Ducks, Canada's Olympic general manager Bob Clarke announced the members of the team in a televised ceremony. As Kariya watched in his parents' family room in Vancouver, his heart beat a tattoo. Edmonton Oilers general manager Glen Sather, who's influential in league councils, had been saying that players not under NHL contract shouldn't be considered for the Olympic team, and Kariya, one of the five best players in the world, worried that Clarke might have the audacity to leave him home.
"My father played rugby [fly half in the 1960s] for Canada, and I always found it neat to represent my country," says Kariya, whose miss in a shootout with Sweden cost Canada the 1994 Olympic gold medal. "Besides, growing up I wasn't a big guy, but I could skate and had skills, so everyone was pointing me toward the international game. Not that I didn't want to play in the NHL. That's every kid's dream. But more important for me was the chance to represent Canada."
Why shouldn't he be honored to play for a country that shipped his grandparents to a detention camp in the woodlands of British Columbia?
The checks arrived late in 1988. There was $21,000 for Paul's grandfather, Isamu; $21,000 for Fumiko; $21,000 for Paul's uncle Yasi; and $21,000 for Paul's father, Tetsuhiko, whom everyone calls T.K. Isamu and Fumiko and their son Yasi were uprooted from Vancouver in June 1942 and resettled in an internment camp in Greenwood, which is 180 miles east of Vancouver, hard by the U.S. border. Fourteen months later, on Aug. 6, 1943, T.K. was born in Greenwood. The Kariyas didn't really need the money, which was a token of apology from the Canadian government. Isamu, who died in 1995, owned a Vancouver dry-cleaning business that he and Fumiko operated for 20 years after returning from Greenwood, and then he had worked from '70 through '81 as a purchasing agent for the University of British Columbia. T.K., who has a master's from Oregon, was teaching at a high school, and he, wife Sharon and their five children were middle-class comfortable. The redress Canada paid to the approximately 14,000 surviving internees did nothing but open a small window to a distant, surreal period in their lives.
"It never was brought up at home," says Paul, 23. "I remember being at my grandmother's when the checks came. Really, that was the first time anybody had said much about it."
"My bachan"—the Japanese word for "grandmother," the name T.K.'s children call Fumiko—"never went into details about what it was like in the camp," says Michiko, 24, the eldest of Paul's siblings and the only member of the family he would allow SI to interview for this story. "Certainly we knew about the camps. We knew our father had been born there. But there was no bitterness on my grandparents' part. They looked at it as a mistake that Canadians had made collectively. They started fresh when they came back to Vancouver, but they were never bitter, never accusatory."