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Zennosuke Inouye was born in Asagun, Hiroshima, Japan, on September 13, 1883. He immigrated to Canada in 1900 and worked various jobs. He worked for Saeki Tadaichi who had a real estate business in Vancouver and became the first Japanese-Canadian to get a chauffeur license. He became a naturalized citizen in 1914.
He enlisted in the Canadian Army on June 6, 1916 in Alberta after being denied the opportunity to do so in British Columbia. He served in 13th Battalion of the Canadian Mounted Rifles, Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry, and the 52nd Canadian Infantry Battalion and became one of 222 Japanese-Canadians who served in World War I. Zennosuke was wounded while serving in France in 1917 and then was discharged in 1919. In 1920, Zennosuke married Hatsuno Morikawa (1900-1993). Together Zennosuke and Hatsuno had 5 children: Arthur Rizo (1921-1990), Tom Futari (1923-1981), and Robert Zenso (1925-1995), and then two daughters, Yasuko (Mary) and Kiyoko (Beverly).
Working with Hatsuno and their children, Zennosuke turned a portion of his land into profitable berry fields, and was also the president and a shareholder of the Japanese-Canadian owned and operated Surrey Berry Growers’ Cooperative Association, producers of Sovereign Brand strawberries and jam berries. The cooperative was fairly successful, acquiring a five-acre property in New Westminster.
In February 1942, the Canadian government ordered all Japanese Canadians from coastal British Columbia to relocate to the interior. The Inouye family was sent first to Hastings Park, Vancouver, and then to the small town of Kaslo, British Columbia. There the Inouye family lived in one room and Zennosuke worked as a caretaker for the British Columbia Security Commission. His sons, who were at that time self-supporting, went to Vernon, BC, where they worked on a farm. In 1945, the family was reunited in Vernon, British Columbia.
His brother-in-law, Reverend Jitsuo Morikawa who lived in the United States was also interned during World War II and corresponded frequently with the family before, during, and after the war.
After the war Zennosuke petitioned as an individual to have his land returned to him, he wrote many letters to anyone who might be swayed by his demonstrated loyalty as a World War I veteran. When his land was returned to him in 1949, he became the sole dispossessed Japanese-Canadian veteran to have his land returned.