251 Powell St – Asahi Rice Mill

By Bianca Chui and Nicholas Wong

Figure 1: “Building damaged during Vancouver riot of 1907 – 251 Powell Street, Asahi Rice Mills Co., $70” from UBC Library Open Collection

 

The Location – 251 Powell Street

 

The photo depicted Asahi Rice Mill Co on 251 Powell Street after the 1907 Anti-Asian Riots in Vancouver. The business was on Powell Street and located between Main Street and Gore Street, which is near the Northwest corner of Nihonmachi.

Figure 2: Green location marker – 251 Powell St, Red shaded area – Nihonmachi boundary

From the 1890s until the beginning of World War II in 1942, Powell Street was a thriving neighbourhood and home to the Japanese-Canadian community.[i] Contained the stores, schools, factories, churches and homes of nearly half of the 22,000 Japanese Canadian at the time, Powell Street was the symbolic centre of the urban and commercial base for entire Japanese-Canadian population scattered around British Columbia in various industries such as logging, fishing, sawmill, or agriculture.[ii] As Kobayashi wrote in her book on Powell Street, the area provided “both jobs and available housing for Japanese immigrants” and became an almost exclusively Japanese Canadians from the beginning of the 20th century until 1942.[iii] Kobayashi defined the area boundary as “Alexander on the north, Cordova on the south, Main on the west and Princess on the east”.[iv]

 

In 1907, Nihonmachi suffered from the Anti-Asian riots and the collection from UBC Library contained photographs of buildings and businesses under damaged.

 

In a 1908 report by W.L. Mackenzie King to the Federal government,[v] he assessed $46.50 as actual damage and $150.00 as resultant damage for Asahi Rice Mill.[vi] As neither figures are close to the $70 amount associated with the photograph, the amount was likely not related to the damage claims.

Figure 3: Portion of Mackenzie King’s 1908 Report; damages related to Asahi Rice Mills is highlighted in yellow

Context – 1907 Anti-Oriental riots

1907 Anti-Oriental riots happened between September 7-9 in Vancouver.[vii] This was one of three major riots happening across the North American west coast coined the Pacific Coast race riots of 1907. Besides Vancouver, other cities that were involved included of Bellingham, Washington and San Francisco, California. These riots are often grouped together, however the San Francisco riots were more or less independent while the Bellingham riots were what spurred on the Vancouver riot.[viii] The Bellingham riots that took place on September 5 were sparked by protests against Asian immigrants taking cheaper wages, taking away jobs, and lowering overall wages. The added affect from these riots were that many of the Chinese in Bellingham fled northwards to Vancouver provoking the “Asiatic Exclusion League” and their subsequent riot. The Vancouver riots which took place later on September 7th and 8th were spearheaded by the “Asiatic Exclusion League” which was concerned about the growing Asian population and wanted legislation to restrict immigrants. The San Francisco riots were spurred by the demand for segregated schools between Japanese and Caucasian students.[ix] This image represents a tangible reminder of the vigilante attitudes associated with of the overall movement of Anti-Orientalism within Vancouver.

This building in particular, Asahi Rice Mill, as true to its name was a Japanese owned rice milling business. While the overall function of the mill itself is fairly self-explanatory, in actuality the building itself served a greater purpose for the Community. In the floor above the rice mill was a makeshift classroom. This classroom was significant due to it being the continuation and expansion at the time of the first school in Japan town, allowing for people like Chitose Uchida (the first female graduate from UBC in 1916) to reach higher education. So, this store was not just a Japanese business it was also a place of education. As a result, the rice mill, instead of just a place of industry or employment represented an integral part of the community which was spawned out of necessity for the growing enclave of Japanese immigrating to Canada.  This fact underlies its significance to the community and its damage having a much greater impact than monetary loss.

Compared to the other images from the same collection, the damages to the buildings were not as extensive, that of which being a broken window in the center of the store’s shopfront. Many of these buildings would have been highly connected with the community of the Japanese people living there at the time and the multitude of such images underlies the extensiveness of the riots.

From this image we are able to see the after affects of the Anti-Oriental riots taken place in Vancouver, as well as being able to discuss the community and its origins as a whole. Japan town, referred to by its residents as “Poweru Gai” or Powell street started off as the housing community for Japanese immigrants looking for work.[x] The community eventually grew due to the men being able to send for their families or brides to live in Canada. During this growth period, many businesses and services, such as the building in the image above, were established to cater to the Japanese residents. The combination of the cheaper Asian labor and secluded nature of racial enclaves helped to fuel racism that were culminated into the mass riots in 1907. There was also this mass hysteria often whipped about when concerning numbers of Asians being transported into British Columbia to feed fears of Asians, pointed out by the John Mackie from the Vancouver Sun, from the “World Newspaper” an article mentioned “With the arrival of 160 Hindus on the steamer Athenian and with 2,000 Japanese reported to be on the Indiana which sailed from Honolulu to Vancouver last Tuesday, it is evident that the invasion of Asiatics to British Columbia continues.” After this he mentions,” In fact, when the Indiana docked in Vancouver Sept. 18, the World reported there were 275 Japanese on board, not 2,000. But it didn’t apologize for the mistake.”.[xi] It is important to note that the 1907 riots were not exclusively directed at the citizens of a particular country such as Japan but rather the against those with the shared physical appearances of Asians in general and the feeling the “outsiders” were a perceived threat to the established communities. The riots started in Chinatown but quickly spilled over to many of the other Asian districts causing destruction a quote from the Vancouver Sun reported, “Every Chinese window was broken. Thousands of dollars worth of plate glass lay in fragments, and then a start was made on Powell street, where not a Japanese window was spared.”. This image helps to cement the early struggles in Japanese Canadian immigrant history, by showing the damages from the riots and how it affected the community.

The businesses – Asahi Rice Mills and Hori & Kojima

The picture depicted Asahi Rice Mills, which was a rice mill and Japanese importers. It first appeared in City of Vancouver Directory in 1906.[xii] Other than selling groceries, Asahi Rice Mills also appeared to sell items on others’ behalf, such as a steamboat or a Seattle donkey engine.[xiii]

Figure 4: Ad about groceries in Vancouver Daily World (Nov 16, 1921)

Figure 5: Ad in Vancouver Daily World (Sep 23, 1907)

Figure 6: Ad in Vancouver Daily World (Aug 4, 1910)

Asahi Rice Mills later moved to 755 Powell Street in 1915 to 1916,[xiv] and then to 821 Powell Street in 1918.[xv] It is interesting to note that the move to 755 Powell Street put the rice mill outside of Nihonmachi’s defined parameters and the consequential move put it even further eastward.

The City of Vancouver directories mentioned the business up until 1924.[xvi] In September 1923, the business was broken in by “expert cracksmen” and Hichizo Hori, the manager, placed the loss at “$150 in cash and $1300 in cheques”.[xvii] Using Bank of Canada inflation calculator, that would be $2,160.33 in cash and $18,722.83 in cheques.[xviii] This was quite a loss and might explain the business’ disappearance in later directories.

The store was managed by Hori, who was also a real estate broker on the side and worked briefly with Henry R. Kojima. Hori & Kojima, which first appeared in the 1910 City of Vancouver Directory, put a series of ads from 1909 to 1912 on Vancouver Daily World.[xix]

 

Figure 7: Mentions of Hori & Kojima in 1910 Vancouver Directory

Figure 8: Advertisement in Vancouver Daily World (November 23, 1909)

The ads featured land lots and houses all around Vancouver neighbourhoods, such as Point Grey, South Vancouver, and area near Powell Street and Cordova street. They also advertised lands on Lulu Island, which now compromised most of the City of Richmond.[xx] These ads showed the value of houses and land lots, which is valuable as Bank of Canada only provides inflation calculator for values in 1914 and onwards.

 

Figure 9: Earliest ad found by Hori & Kojima in Vancouver Daily World (Oct 23, 1909)

The people – Hichizo Hori and Henry R Kojima

 The Manager

Hichizo Hori was born in Japan around 1873 or 1874.[xxi] He was originally from the Harima Province, which renamed as Himeiji Prefecture during the Meiji Restoration.[xxii] That area is now transferred to Hyōgo Prefecture.[xxiii] He immigrated to Canada in 1897 and became a neutralized citizen in 1900.[xxiv]

He made a visit to Seattle in 1902 and arrived back in Vancouver on January 1, 1903.[xxv] The Border Entries recorded him as 30 years old, single, and able to read and write English.[xxvi] At the time, he resided at 214 Westminster Avenue, which was a Japanese boarding house under the name Oaki.[xxvii]

 

Figure 10: Immigration Records – Jan 6, 1903

In 1921 Census, Hori lived in 1214 Georgia E with his family: which consist of his wife, Lucey, and two sons, George and Rosa.[xxviii] He owned the single house constructed out of wood on the location and had a 55 years old female lodger name Aka Suanosuke.[xxix] Hori was around 48 in 1921 and his wife was 33. Lucey immigrated in 1917 but has not been neutralized. The couple had two sons, George age 5 and Rosa age 1; both born in British Columbia. [xxx] Although Hori was able to speak English, his wife could not and the census listed Japanese as the family’s other language.[xxxi]

Figure 11: 1921 Census – British Columbia – Vancouver Centre – Sub District 71 – Ward 4 (from Census of Canada)

Hori was active in the Japanese-Canadian community and acted as president of the Japanese Merchants Association in 1922.[xxxii] He was part of the Vancouver Japanese Traders’ Association formed in 1919 and acted as secretary.[xxxiii]

Figure 12: Section on the newly Vancouver Japanese Traders’ Association in Vancouver Daily World (Feb 26, 1919)

Figure 13: From the Chinese and Japanese section of the 1922 Vancouver Directory

Hori’s older son, George, died in on December 30, 1938, around age 20.[xxxiv] Hori died the year after on Christmas Day around age 65 and was buried near his son in Mountain View Cemetery in Vancouver.[xxxv]

The Partner

Figure 14: 1/3 of a page ad in 1912 Vancouver Directory

Henry R Kojima was a property agent and broker, and once worked along with Hori as part of Hori & Kojima under 251 Powell Street address. He was born in Japan in February 1871 and originally from Osaka.[xxxvi] He immigrated in either 1888 or 1892 and became a neutralized citizen in 1896.[xxxvii]

He made a visit to Seattle on 25 March 1903 and resided at 71 Hastings Street during that period.[xxxviii] The 1903 borders record also noted a previous visit to Seattle around 1901 or 1902.[xxxix] On 24 June 1909, on the East Coast, he made a visit through St. Albans, Vermont, and the records showed he has a brother, likely reside in Quebec at the time. [xl]

Figure 15: Immigration Records – Mar 25, 1903

Figure 16: Immigration Records – June 24, 1909

The US Border Crossing record in 1903 noted his occupation as a broker while the 1909 record noted him as a merchant.[xli] In 1913, he worked as a financial broker at 366 Powell Street.[xlii] In 1920, he became a manager for Japan & Canada Trading Corporate Limited at 400 E Cordova,[xliii] which matched the 1921 Census of Canada record of his occupation as a manager.[xliv]

The 1911 Canadian census showed that he was Buddhist, 40 years old and single.[xlv] He was living as a lodger at 245 Powell Street, which was the address for Ikeda boarding house.[xlvi] (Hori also lived there in 1910.)[xlvii] At the time, he owned an account and paid for insurance that cost $187.[xlviii] It was also noted that he could read and write English.[xlix]

Figure 17: 1911 Census – Vancouver City, Vancouver, British Columbia

Kojima also appeared in 1921 census – now married with a wife and two children.[l] His Japanese name, which served as the middle initial R, was Rinnosuke.[li] His wife Yuki, at age 29, was around 20 years young than Kojima, who was 50 in 1921.[lii] The couple had two children: a son named Sumio at the age of 5 and a daughter named Fusako at the age of 1.[liii] Yuki immigrated to Canada in 1910 and became a neutralized citizen in 1919.[liv]

Although he had an income of 1500, Kojima rented the single wood house (with 9 rooms) on 400 E Cordova and took in two borders – Hisajiso Okada and Moriheue Nakatani.[lv] Other than the toddler daughter, the entire house spoke both English and Japanese.[lvi]

Figure 18: 1921 Census – Ward 3, Vancouver Centre, British Columbia

The Kojima family moved to 233 Main Street in the 1930s,[lvii] as seen through Sumio’s (Kojima’s son) travel records. There are borders records for Sumio’s two visits to Seattle in July 1930 and July 1931.[lviii] He was around 14-15 at the time and 5’5” tall with brown eyes and black hair.[lix] On both visits, his designation was 1643 King Street, Seattle, which belonged to one H R Nagamatsu.[lx] These visits occurred in the summer when school was not in session, and likely to someone they know through the Japanese community along the west coast of North America.

Figure 19 & 20: Sumio’s border crossing records in 1930 and 1931


ENDNOTES:

[i] Audrey Lynn Kobayashi, Memories of Our Past: A Brief History and Walking Tour of Powell Street (Vancouver: NRC Pub., 1992), 8,12.

[ii] Ibid.

[iii] Ibid, 12.

[iv] Ibid, 19.

[v] He later became an MP for the Liberal party and then Prime Minister during World War II period and was the longest serving Prime Minister in Canadian history. He was working as a deputy minister for the Federal Labour department at the time.

[vi] Canada, Order of Parliament, Department of Labour, Losses Sustained by the Japanese Population of Vancouver, B.C. on the Occasion of the Riots in That City in September, 1907, by William Lyon Mackenzie King (Ottawa: S.E. Dawson, 1908).

[vii] [Unknown]. 1907. “Building Damaged during Vancouver Riot of 1907 – 251 Powell Street, Asahi Rice Mills Co., $70.” P. Japanese Canadian Photograph Collection. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.14288/1.0048866.

[viii] “Hemispheric Orientalism and the 1907 Pacific Coast Race Riots” Erika Lee (2007). Accessed April 07, 2018. Amerasia Journal: 2007, Vol. 33, No. 2, pp. 19-48. http://uclajournals.org/doi/10.17953/amer.33.2.y263745731125524

“Chitose Uchida Collection.” Accessed April 07, 2018. http://www.nikkeimuseum.org/www/collections_detail.php?col_id=F820.

[ix] LEE, ERIKA. “The “Yellow Peril” and Asian Exclusion in the Americas.” Pacific Historical Review 76, no. 4 (2007): 537-62. doi:10.1525/phr.2007.76.4.537. pg 551-553

[x] “MGJapantown.” Vancouverheritagefoundation.org. Accessed April 6, 2018. https://www.vancouverheritagefoundation.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/MGJapantown_web.pdf.

[xi] MackieMore, John, and John Mackie. “This Week in History: 1907 The Asiatic Exclusion League Is Formed.” Vancouver Sun. August 21, 2017. Accessed April 07, 2018. http://vancouversun.com/news/local-news/this-week-in-history-1907-the-asiatic-exclusion-league-is-formed.

[xii] 1906 Henderson’s City of Vancouver Directory (Vancouver: Henderson Publishing Company., 1906), http://bccd.vpl.ca/index.php/browse/title/1906/Henderson%27s_City_of_Vancouver_Directory

[xiii] Vancouver Daily World, September 23, 1907.

Vancouver Daily World, August 4, 1910.

[xiv] 1915 Henderson’s Greater Vancouver City Directory (Vancouver: Henderson Publishing Company., 1915), http://bccd.vpl.ca/index.php/browse/title/1915/Henderson%27s_Greater_Vancouver_City_Directory

1916 Henderson’s Greater Vancouver City Directory (Vancouver: Henderson Publishing Company., 1916), http://bccd.vpl.ca/index.php/browse/title/1916/Henderson%27s_Greater_Vancouver_City_Directory

[xv] 1918 Henderson’s Greater Vancouver City Directory (Vancouver: Henderson Publishing Company., 1918),

http://bccd.vpl.ca/index.php/browse/title/1918/Henderson%27s_Greater_Vancouver_City_Directory

[xvi] 1924 Wrigley Henderson Amalgamated British Columbia Directory (Vancouver: Wrigley Directories Limited., 1924),

http://bccd.vpl.ca/index.php/browse/title/1924/Wrigley_Henderson_Amalgamated_BC_Directory

[xvii] Vancouver Daily World, September 12, 1923.

[xviii] “Inflation Calculator,” Bank of Canada, , accessed April 6, 2018, https://www.bankofcanada.ca/rates/related/inflation-calculator/.

[xix] The newspaper is discontinued in 1924 when The Vancouver Sun bought the newspaper.

[xx] Richmond is designated as a city in 1990.

[xxi] Ancestry.com. British Columbia, Canada, Death Index, 1872-1990 [database on-line]. (Provo: Ancestry.com Operations Inc., 2001)

Ancestry.com. British Columbia, Canada, Border Entries and Passenger Lists, 1894-1905 [database on-line]. (Provo: Ancestry.com Operations Inc., 2012)

Ancestry.com. 1921 Census of Canada [database on-line]. (Provo: Ancestry.com Operations Inc., 2013)

[xxii] British Columbia, Canada, Border Entries and Passenger Lists, 1894-1905

[xxiii] “Harima Province,” Wikipedia, April 03, 2018, , accessed April 6, 2018, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harima_Province.

[xxiv] 1921 Census of Canada

[xxv] British Columbia, Canada, Border Entries and Passenger Lists, 1894-1905

[xxvi] Ibid.

[xxvii] Ibid., 1902 Henderson’s British Columbia Gazetteer and Directory (Victoria: Henderson Publishing Company., 1902),

http://bccd.vpl.ca/index.php/browse/title/1902/Henderson%27s_BC_Gazetteer_and_Directory

[xxviii] 1921 Census of Canada

[xxix] Ibid.

[xxx] Ibid.

[xxxi] Ibid.

[xxxii] 1922 Henderson’s Greater Vancouver Directory (Vancouver: Henderson Publishing Company., 1922),

http://bccd.vpl.ca/index.php/browse/title/1922/Henderson%27s_Greater_Vancouver_Directory

[xxxiii] Vancouver Daily World, February 26, 1919

[xxxiv] British Columbia, Canada, Death Index, 1872-1990

[xxxv] Ibid.

[xxxvi] 1921 Census of Canada

British Columbia, Canada, Border Entries and Passenger Lists, 1894-1905

Ancestry.com. U.S., Border Crossings from Canada to U.S., 1895-1960 [database on-line]. (Lehi: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2010)

Ancestry.com. 1911 Census of Canada [database on-line]. (Provo: Ancestry.com Operations Inc., 2006)

[xxxvii] Ibid.

[xxxviii] British Columbia, Canada, Border Entries and Passenger Lists, 1894-1905

[xxxix] Ibid.

[xl] U.S., Border Crossings from Canada to U.S., 1895-1960

[xli] Ibid., British Columbia, Canada, Border Entries and Passenger Lists, 1894-1905

[xlii] 1913 Henderson’s Greater Vancouver City Directory Part 1 (Vancouver: Henderson Publishing Company., 1913),

http://bccd.vpl.ca/index.php/browse/title/1913/Henderson%27s_Greater_Vancouver_City_Directory_Part_1

1913 Henderson’s Greater Vancouver City Directory Part 2 (Vancouver: Henderson Publishing Company., 1913),

http://bccd.vpl.ca/index.php/browse/title/1913/Henderson%27s_Greater_Vancouver_City_Directory_Part_2

[xliii] 1920 Henderson’s Vancouver Directory (Vancouver: Henderson Publishing Company., 1920),

http://bccd.vpl.ca/index.php/browse/title/1920/Henderson%27s_Vancouver_Directory

[xliv] 1921 Census of Canada

[xlv] 1911 Census of Canada

[xlvi] Ibid.

[xlvii] 1910 Henderson’s City of Vancouver and North Vancouver Directory Part 1 (Vancovuer: Henderson Publishing Company., 1910),

http://bccd.vpl.ca/index.php/browse/title/1910/Henderson%27s_City_of_Vancouver_and_North_Vancouver_Directory_Part_1

1910 Henderson’s City of Vancouver and North Vancouver Directory Part 2 (Vancovuer: Henderson Publishing Company., 1910),

http://bccd.vpl.ca/index.php/browse/title/1910/Henderson%27s_City_of_Vancouver_and_North_Vancouver_Directory_Part_2

[xlviii] 1911 Census of Canada

[xlix] Ibid.

[l] 1921 Census of Canada

[li] Ibid.

[lii] Ibid.

[liii] Ibid.

[liv] Ibid.

[lv] Ibid.

[lvi] Ibid.

[lvii] Westminster Street renamed to Main Street in 1910.

[lviii] U.S., Border Crossings from Canada to U.S., 1895-1960

[lix] Ibid.

[lx] Ibid., 1931 Heiden’s Seattle House and Street Directory (Seattle: Heiden’s Mailing Bureau., 1931),

http://cdm16118.contentdm.oclc.org/cdm/ref/collection/p15015coll2/id/14516


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Vancouver Daily World, September 23, 1907.

Vancouver Daily World, August 4, 1910.

Vancouver Daily World, February 26, 1919

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