Ever since the first Japanese immigrants arrived in Canada in the late 19th century, Japanese Canadians have created their communities in their settlement areas. They came to a new country to find employment and to improve their economic situation. In Open Collections, we have many resources about the history and lives of Japanese Canadians. This post will introduce some of our digitized items and explore four towns where Japanese Canadians resided before relocation.

Why did Japanese people migrate to Canada in early 1900s?

Our digitized book from the Chung Collection, Japanese contribution to Canada, a summary of the role played by the Japanese in the development of Canadian commonwealth (1940) explains the background of Japanese migration. Japan ended its seclusion policy and started to establish treaties with other countries in 1854. In 1884, the Japanese government allowed its laboring-class citizens to emigrate abroad, which resulted in big waves of Japanese immigration to Canada. Having little English-language ability, most of the immigrants engaged in the primary industries which required small degree of training, such as fishing, lumbering, mining, and railroading.

Japanese contribution to Canada, a summary of the role played by the Japanese in the development of Canadian commonwealth, 1940.

 

Vancouver, BC: Powell St.

Many of the immigrants from Shiga, Japan, who experienced flooding, resided in the Vancouver area. They initially found employment at the Hastings Mill area, along the south shores of Burrard Inlet, and gradually started their business in the Powell Street area (Japantown, Nihonmachi, Paueru Gai, パウエル街) in today’s Downtown Eastside. Despite enduring the race riots in 1907, the community itself continued to grow.

Building damaged during Vancouver riot of 1907 – 431 Powell Street, $2, 1907.

 

View of people on Powell Street, Vancouver, 1941.

 

Steveston, BC

The first Japanese arrived at Steveston was known to be Gihei Kuno(工野儀兵衛). People from his hometown, Mio district in Wakayama, Japan had made their livings by fishing and farming, but they had faced severe economic hardship in the late 19th century. On his first visit to Steveston, he was fascinated by the amount of salmon in Fraser river, and returned back to Japan to urge people to go to Canada to fish. As a result, Steveston became the second largest Japanese-Canadian settlement area before the Second World War. His recruitment also made Mio district the largest single sources of Japanese emigrants to Canada.

A digitized book from the Chung Collection, Japanese contribution to Canada, a summary of the role played by the Japanese in the development of Canadian commonwealth (1940), notes that the Japanese population in the area was estimated to be around 4,500 in 1900.

Group photograph at Japanese Language School, Steveston, 1924.

 

Woodfibre, BC

Woodfibre was a small company town operating a pulp mill between early 1900s and 2006. According to Takeo Ujo Nakano’s memoir, Within the barbed wire fence : a Japanese man’s account of his internment in Canada (1980), half of the population of Woodfibre was Japanese, and majority of them were single men. Every month, the Japanese employees were assigned to a pulp-loading duty when a Japanese freighter docked at the port. They gathered and listened to the latest news about their home country.

The digitized book Japanese contribution to Canada, a summary of the role played by the Japanese in the development of Canadian commonwealth (1940) also describes Woodfibre as one of the large centres where Japanese formed a large portion of the employment population:

The Japanese workers in Woodfibre are practically all employees of B. C. Pulp and Paper Company, Limited. They first found their way to this town during the War. In 1918, 59 were working in the mills; in 1920, 100; by 1930, the total number of Japanese employed was 230; but in 1934 it had decreased to 157. Now, 200 are working. (pp.16)

The book also argues that the amount of wages for Japanese workers were lower than the Whites in the lumber, paper and pulp industries. However, it was still seven times higher than the average wage in Japan, which motivated them to continue working there and send money to their home.

Class photograph taken at Woodfibre, B.C.

 

Port Alberni, BC

Port Alberni on Vancouver Island had a small settlement of Japanese Canadians. They engaged in the logging and lumber operation at the McLean Mill. McLean Mill/Banbridge School was built in 1929 served as a community center, and half of the students were Japanese Canadians. However, due to the Japanese relocation, the school closed permanently in 1942.

View of Bloedel Steward Sawmill, Port Alberni, 1933.

 

If you are interested in other Japantowns, Japanese-Canadian’s lifestyle before and after their relocation, and Canadian attitudes towards Japanese immigrants, the following are the examples of helpful historical resources in Open Collections:

Collections

Books and Documents

Subject Headings

 


References

This February 24 marks the 77th anniversary of Order-in-Council P.C. 1486, issued by Prime Minister Mackenzie King in 1942 to officially begin Japanese Canadian internment. All Japanese Canadians within 100 miles of the British Columbia coast – designated as a “protected area” – were forced to relocate east to the BC interior and other provinces, sometimes with only 24 hours to do so. In early March 1942, the British Columbia Security Commission was established to carry out the forced removal of Japanese Canadians. Vancouver’s Hastings Park was established as a temporary detainment center – detainees were housed in the Livestock Building – through which Japanese Canadians were routed before being moved to internment camps.

Tashme internment camp was located 14 miles southeast of Hope, BC. The 1200-acre site was originally named Fourteen Mile Ranch; the name “Tashme” was created from the names of three officers of the BC Security Commission. By May 1942, people were beginning to arrive at Tashme to begin housing construction:

Tashme Camp under construction, 1942

Construction at Tashme camp

 

In September 1942, families from Hastings Park began to arrive at Tashme, and the camp officially opened.

Japanese Canadians arriving at Tashme Camp

 

The forced removal was completed by the end of October 1942, and Hastings Park was closed. Construction at Tashme continued, including housing, bath houses, and a hospital. Farm buildings from the ranch were also renovated and repurposed. By January 1943, the camp had reached its peak population of over 2,600 residents. It was the largest BC internment camp.

Tashme Camp in winter

The hospital in winter [Tashme Camp], 1946

 

Over the next few years, Tashme functioned as a self-sufficient community. Photos in the Japanese Canadian Photograph Collection provide a glimpse of everyday life at Tashme:

View of Tashme camp

Group photograph of men at Tashme camp

Tashme Secondary School teachers, October 13 1943

Family picnics at Tashme Camp

Japanese boy with pet at Tashme Camp

 

The UBC Archives Photograph Collection also contains several photos of Tashme from the Margaret Sage fonds. Margaret Sage served as a social worker at Tashme from September 1945 to August 1946 and created a scrapbook of 97 photographs from that time.

 

Group photograph including Margaret Sage, [1946]

 

In 1945, the Canadian government gave Japanese Canadians the choice to either move east of the Rocky Mountains within Canada, or move to Japan – where many Japanese Canadians had never lived. Many Tashme residents chose “repatriation” to Japan. During this time, Japanese Canadians from other camps who opted for repatriation were also moved to Tashme. Margaret Sage’s scrapbook documents life in Tashme from 1945-1946, including photos of the repatriation process:

Loading the busses [Tashme camp], May 31 1946

Repatriation – Good bye – See you in Japan [Tashme Camp] , May 31 1946

[Japanese Canadians from Tashme Camp boarding train at Hope?], January 1 1946

 

If you’re interested in learning more about Tashme and Japanese internment, the Tashme Historical Project is an excellent resource. In addition, you can check out our previous blog posts featuring photos from the Japanese Canadian Photograph collection here. 

References

 

Our digital collections cover a wide range of topics and disciplines that you can explore through Open Collections. Among our thousands of digital items, you can find materials to support your research, your teaching, and even your imagination. Below, we’ve selected a few of our collections that may be helpful when researching topics related to Asian Studies.

 

Rikuchū no kuni yōsan no zu. 6

 

There are many collections that can be used as a resource for historical Asian Studies, including:

  • Chinese Rare Books Collection: this collection is mainly composed of works from the Puban and Pang Jingtang. You can find census information, literature, as well as historical, political, and military documents from China covering the years 1368 to 1959.
  • Japanese Maps of the Tokugawa Era: this is the world’s largest collection of maps and guidebooks of the Tokugawa Era. It contains travel maps, guides and stunning woodblock prints. The collection is used as a resource at the ASIA 453: Japanese Travel Literature class. If you are curious to know more, check out our blog post Explore Open Collections: Japanese Maps of the Tokugawa Era.
  • Meiji at 150: the collection is part of the Meiji at 150 project, which was created to celebrate the 150 years since the start of the Meiji Era in Japan. The collection consists of materials produced during the period, including: woodblock prints, photographs, books, albums, and booklets. Visit the Meiji at 150 website to learn more about planned special events, lecture series, workshop series, podcast, and digital teaching resources.
  • One Hundred Poets: the collection consists of 74 books and 20 sets of cards of the Japanese poetry anthology “Hyakunin Isshu” (One Hundred Poets, One Poem Each). This anthology, edited by Fujiwara no Teika, became the most famous poetry anthology in Japan. Get to know about this collection, more specifically about the card sets, by checking out our blog post Utagaruta: a poetry game.

 

Family wedding portrait, Vancouver, B.C.

 

If you are interested in studying Japanese and Chinese life in Canada, then the following collections will be helpful:

  • Chinese Canadian Stories: composed of several sub-collections and fonds, this collection covers a wide range of topics, including Chinese Canadian military service, businesses, and social life in Canada.
  • The Chung Collection: the collection contains materials that can be comprised into three themes: British Columbia History; Immigration and Settlement; and the Canadian Pacific Railway Company. The collection has several materials relating to the Chinese community in British Columbia.
  • Yip Sang Collection: the collection contains Yip Sang’s personal and business-related materials. Yip Sang was an important businessman in the Chinese community in Vancouver and was often referred to as the “major of Chinatown”. Get to know more about him and his collection in our blog post Explore Open Collections: Yip Sang Collection.
  • Japanese Canadian Photograph Collection: this collection contains materials that registered the life of Japanese Canadians in British Columbia. The collection is a great resource for anyone researching about how Japanese Canadians were treated during the World War II.
  • Tairiku Nippo (Continental Daily News): this publication was an important information source for Japanese Canadians in British Columbia. It was published between 1907 and 1941, and is a valuable resource for studying the history of the Japanese Canadians before the World War II.

February 12 is Family Day in British Columbia. While this statutory holiday was created in BC in 2013, falling on the second Monday every February, it has existed in other parts of Canada for even longer.

The very first province to observe Family Day as a statutory holiday was Alberta in 1990, when Family Day was created to give people the opportunity to spend time with their loved ones.

To celebrate the date, we’ve brought you some of our favorite family pictures from our collections.

 

When it comes to building families, often everything starts with a wedding.

[Chinese family wedding], 1940

 

Then, comes the kids

[Two boys dressed as sailors], 1940

Bill Ciss, Elsie and Babe up Grouse Mountain, 1925-35?

 

Sometimes, several kids

[French family with ten children], 1920-29?

 

But there’s always space for one more

[Photograph depicting a family], 1879

 

Happy Family Day!

Shigetaka Sasaki family

 

F. K. Hare and family, 1968

 

The history behind the photos

Two boys dressed as sailors: the photo is part of an album from a Vancouver family. The album contains several registries from family’s travels across British Columbia and the United States, while also showcasing their life in Vancouver.

Bill Ciss, Elsie and Babe up Grouse Mountain: the photo is part of an unknown family album from our Uno Langmann Collection. There are photos from British Columbia or Alberta and other locations not identified.

French family with ten children: the photo depicts a French family traveling on the Duchess of Bedford cruise of the Canadian Pacific Railways.

Shigetaka Sasaki family: Steve Shigetaka Sasaki was the top judoka in his province in Japan before he immigrated to Canada in 1922. He was the founder of the Vancouver Judo Club (Taiku Iku Dojo) and was known as the “Father of Judo in Canada”.

F. K. Hare and family: Frederick Kenneth Hare was a meteorologist and environmentalist. Hare was also the fifth president of the University of British Columbia (UBC).

 

If you are interested in getting to know more about our collections, the Uno Langmann Family Collection of British Columbia Photographs have a lot of family photos from 1850s to the 1950s. You will be amazed to see those pictures, as we were.

 

Sources:

British Columbians reflect on the meaning of Family Day (CBC News)

F. Kenneth Hare (Science)

Family Day in Canada (Time and Date)

Former UBC president Kenneth Hare remembered (UBC)

History of Judo in Canada (Vernon Judo Club)

Shigetaka (Steve) Sasaki Family Fonds (Nikkei Museum)

February 12 is Family Day in British Columbia. While this statutory holiday was created in BC in 2013, falling on the second Monday every February, it has existed in other parts of Canada for even longer.

The very first province to observe Family Day as a statutory holiday was Alberta in 1990, when Family Day was created to give people the opportunity to spend time with their loved ones.

To celebrate the date, we’ve brought you some of our favorite family pictures from our collections.

 

When it comes to building families, often everything starts with a wedding.

[Chinese family wedding], 1940

 

Then, comes the kids

[Two boys dressed as sailors], 1940

Bill Ciss, Elsie and Babe up Grouse Mountain, 1925-35?

 

Sometimes, several kids

[French family with ten children], 1920-29?

 

But there’s always space for one more

[Photograph depicting a family], 1879

 

Happy Family Day!

Shigetaka Sasaki family

 

F. K. Hare and family, 1968

 

The history behind the photos

Two boys dressed as sailors: the photo is part of an album from a Vancouver family. The album contains several registries from family’s travels across British Columbia and the United States, while also showcasing their life in Vancouver.

Bill Ciss, Elsie and Babe up Grouse Mountain: the photo is part of an unknown family album from our Uno Langmann Collection. There are photos from British Columbia or Alberta and other locations not identified.

French family with ten children: the photo depicts a French family traveling on the Duchess of Bedford cruise of the Canadian Pacific Railways.

Shigetaka Sasaki family: Steve Shigetaka Sasaki was the top judoka in his province in Japan before he immigrated to Canada in 1922. He was the founder of the Vancouver Judo Club (Taiku Iku Dojo) and was known as the “Father of Judo in Canada”.

F. K. Hare and family: Frederick Kenneth Hare was a meteorologist and environmentalist. Hare was also the fifth president of the University of British Columbia (UBC).

 

If you are interested in getting to know more about our collections, the Uno Langmann Family Collection of British Columbia Photographs have a lot of family photos from 1850s to the 1950s. You will be amazed to see those pictures, as we were.

 

Sources:

British Columbians reflect on the meaning of Family Day (CBC News)

F. Kenneth Hare (Science)

Family Day in Canada (Time and Date)

Former UBC president Kenneth Hare remembered (UBC)

History of Judo in Canada (Vernon Judo Club)

Shigetaka (Steve) Sasaki Family Fonds (Nikkei Museum)

The Japanese community has had a long history in British Columbia, beginning with the first Japanese person to land on the coast in 1877, a sailor named Manzo Nagano. For the next 70+ years, members of the Japanese community in the province achieved great success while also facing ongoing prejudice and racism, as early settlers in B.C. struggled to accept these new immigrants.

In 1907, Anti-Oriental riots shook various coastal cities along the Pacific, including Vancouver. Pervasive racism, intolerance and economic instability led to extensive damage to Asian-owned properties throughout the city, and prompted the Japanese government to stop emigration of its nationals to Canada.

cdm.jphotos.1-0048857full

Building on Powell St. damaged during 1907 race riots, Vancouver

In February of 1942, in reaction to the events at Pearl Harbor, Canadian Prime Minister Mackenzie King issued a decree to evacuate all Japanese Canadians to “protective areas”, also known as internment camps. Men, women and children, many of whom were themselves born and raised in British Columbia, were relocated to the camps, and much of their property confiscated by the provincial government.

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Truck transporting Japanese Canadian men to Tashme camp

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Japanese Canadians being processed in Slocan

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Group photograph at Slocan camp

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Two men at internment camp , perhaps in Angler, ON.

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Group of children at Lemon Creek camp

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Group of Japanese Canadian girls participating in Bon-Odori (summer festival) at Greenwood camp

This collection documents these events while offering insight into the everyday lives of Japanese Canadians living in British Columbia throughout the 20th century. To learn more about this important collection, click here.

cdm.jphotos.1-0048956full

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Shigetaka Sasaki family

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Mrs. Shigejiro Edamura in front of an unidentified store

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Mrs. Ume Niwatsukino with children Hisako, Hiroshi and Shigeru in Steveston, 1926

In celebration of Family Day we are sharing some of our favorite family portraits found within our digital collections. Want to see more? Simply type in “family” in on our digital collections page! Refine your search to only find images within specific collections. Click on the images to see them enlarged.

What are your plans for the long weekend?

 

 

 

 Which one was your favorite? 

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