Authors: Tianran Han & Tiger Zheng
The photo shows a shop owned by Japanese was destroyed during the Anti-oriental riot in Vancouver, 1907. In the photo, the showcase of Uchida store seemed smashed by stones. Why this stored was attacked? I did some research about the shop owner’s family and history background of early 20th century Canada and Japan, and had some findings related to Japan’s international status at that time.
1.Recapping the Riot.
To begin with, let’s make clear what had happened at that time. Like many Japanese Canadians, the Uchida Family suffered from the Anti-Oriental Riot happened in September 1907. As is illustrated in the photograph, the grocery store was damaged during the riot. The accursed prejudice of race is making trouble everywhere. There the attack was mainly on Chinese and Japanese immigrants. On the Labor Day, 7 September 1907, a trade union march protesting against Asian immigration flared out of control, leading to significant property damage in Vancouver’s Chinese and Japanese neighborhoods. The Vancouver police managed to restore order by daybreak, but Vancouver awoke to see that almost every glass window in the Chinese and Japanese districts had been broken. While a handful of people were injured during the violence, no one was killed. 24 people were arrested and charged with crimes related to the violence. Attention quickly turned to assessing the factors that led to this embarrassing breakdown in civility. Although seemingly an insignificant incident, having taken place in a remote borderland, the exclusion of Japanese residents in British Columbia revealed several facets of early twentieth-century politics. For Japan, as a rising empire, it was the continuation of the struggle for recognition as a world power in the international arena and “positioning among the most advanced countries on the earth”. For Canada, the issue of Japanese immigration revealed some centrifugal trends existing within the British Empire that threatened to destroy its unity. The sense of uncertainty of British Columbians and their strong willingness to preserve the ‘British character’ of the province appeared to be significant factors in the dominion’s domestic politics.
2.Life of Japanese Canadians
The Japanese in Canada has the largest proportion of the third generation or more individuals (28.2%) when compared to all other visible minority groups, such as Southeast Asians and the Chinese, which reflects its long history of immigration to Canada. The first generation of immigrants, called Issei, arrived between 1877 and 1928, and the second after 1967. According to the 2011 National Household Survey, people of Japanese heritage number 109,740, or 0.3% of the country’s population, and are many Canadian-born citizens. Like many other immigrant groups, the experience of Japanese immigration was influenced by situations in their home country, situations in Canada and international conditions. Most Japanese Canadians were living along the west coast British Columbia, such as Vancouver and Victoria, forming strong communities, including Japantown/Powell street, and many cultural and social institutions such as the Asahi Baseball Club, St. Paul’s Church, Japanese Hall, Nippon Hospital, co-operative associations for selling Japanese produce and fish, baseball clubs and many others. By 1941, there were over 100 such associations and clubs. Unfortunately, this vibrant infrastructure of social institutions, as well as a strong sense of community, was deliberately destroyed after the outbreak of the war between Japan and the US with Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor in Hawaii. After the war, few Nisei (the second generation) parents encouraged their Sansei (the third generation) children to speak Japanese and the rate of interethnic marriage within the community climbed sharply. Furthermore, many former internees did not share their experiences with their children as they sought to “shed the cultural markers of Japaneseness”. The experiences of internment have been captured in books, documentary films, and artwork. Today, this historic trauma suffered by Japanese Canadians appears forgotten in Canadian society, especially when Asian Canadians, including Japanese Canadians, are seen as “model minorities” for their economic and academic success.
3. Why are Japanese people moving overseas?
The outside world seemed not perfect, why Japanese still chose to the immigrant? Japan kept isolated for about 220 years because of Shogun’s policy of “Sakoku”(Closed Door Policy, enacted since the 1630s and ended by Perry’s landing in 1853), which barred foreign people from entering the country and restricted Japanese people going abroad. After the Sakoku Policy was broken after a serial of unequal treaties, communication between Japan and the world became frequent. Since late 19th century Meiji Restoration, Japanese’ enthusiasm to the west kept rising, people started to learn some knowledge about the outside world. What’s more important, more ships sailed between Japan and the west, transportation condition for immigrants was satisfied. On the other hand, the unstable environment might contribute to Japanese seeking for a better life out of the island. Since late 19th century, Japan had experienced dramatic social change, although Meiji Restoration brought the country to a new age, contradicts between the new and old power vacillated the society. For example, the Satsuma rebellion in 1877, the war between samurai and the new imperial power, crushed the imperial government in finance greatly. An interesting coincidence was in the same year, Nagano Manzo became the first Japanese who settled down in Canada. From above, there was a combined force of “pulling” from the western world and “pushing” from the homeland that triggered Japanese people to go overseas.
4.Conflict in a globalized world
In the 19th century, Japan switched from a closed-door country to an active player in global. On one hand, the government initiated a serial of learning from the west in all aspects; the atmosphere of “going out” spread across the country, many talents traveled oversea, Ito Hirobumi, Okuma Shigenobu, ItobeInazo were some representatives. On the other hand, the dramatic growth of national power stimulated Japan’s ambitions to own a seat in the world. However, the way it went was too wild- since the late 19th century, Japan initiated the First Sino-Japanese War, the Russo-Japanese War, the Second Sino-Japanese War and some other attacks on the neighbor. Then finally grew into an ally of Nazi and Fascist in WWII. Started with good willing but ended up with disaster, the 19th and 20thJapan’s rise and fall was a lesson for social transformation.
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 Julie Gilmour, “Interpreting Social Disorder: The Case of the 1907 Vancouver Riots,”
 Igor R. Saveliev, “‘A Question between Empires’: The Restriction of Japanese Immigration in British Columbia and the Reassessment of Japan’s Foreign Policy, 1907–1908,” P314
 Ibid, pp. 315.
 Izumi Sakamoto et al., “Social Inclusion of Japanese Canadians: A View from Toronto”
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 Massa, E. and Weinfeld, M., We Needed to Prove We Were Good Canadians: Contrasting Paradigms for Suspect Minorities.
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 Pon, G., Importing the Asian Model Minority Discourse into Canada: Implications for Social Work and Education.
Laver, Michael S., The Sakoku Edicts and the Politics of Tokugawa Hegemony.
 Hunt, Lynn, Thomas R. Martin, Barbara H. Rosenwein, R. Po-chia Hsia et al. The Making of the West, Peoples and Cultures,712-13.
Ken Adachi, The enemy that never was: A history of the Japanese Canadians
Goto-Jones, Christopher. Modern Japan,42-61.