September 2015

“The Most Asian City”…

In 2014 The Vancouver Sun released an article (see the end of this post for the link) titled “Vancouver is the most ‘Asian’ city outside Asia. What are the ramifications?” The article mostly focused on Asian populations and demographics in Vancouver, and the increasing rate of Asian immigrants to Canada’s west coast. However the title got me thinking about the general topic of this blog: “Asianness” in Vancouver.

One of my missions when creating this blog was to look at why Vancouver has such a strongly Japanese-influenced consumer culture, and I believe a large aspect to that influence is the actual population of Japanese immigrants in Canada. This led me to wonder about a second part of my goal here; to find out how authentic Japanese-based consumerism is in Vancouver, and how it’s changed in a Western market and economy rather than an Asian one. Surely, if Japanese immigrants are the ones who’ve implemented their culture into ours, it should be authentic to their routes. However, that is the mission of this blog, and assumptions should not be made. I will be going straight to the source with this project to explore my inquires about Japanese culture in Vancouver.

Which brings me to a popular topic: the Japanese dollar store phenomenon. Yesterday as I was eating lunch with my girlfriend she casually said “I could really go for a Daiso run right now.” I heartily agreed. What is it about Daiso, Richmond’s very own Japanese super-store that makes us want to spend everything we have? Daiso is a Japanese dollar store that markets themselves (at least in Canada) as selling quirky and unique Japanese products and knick-knacks for unbelievably affordable prices. What’s not to love?

Although Daiso is not a Vancouver-exclusive company, with locations all over Asia and down North America’s west coast, Vancouver is the only city in Canada which hosts a Daiso store, as well as being Daiso’s first North-American location. Vancouver’s close ties to Daiso render its own website,, separate from the general website of its other various locations at To examine the authenticity of Vancouver’s location versus the original Daiso brand, I took a look at both websites.

There were some very distinguishable differences. The primary noticeable difference was that Diaso-Japan site was clearly meant for wholesale retailers to buy Daiso products in bulk, whereas the Daiso-Canada site was an informative guide to the nature of the store, including a page for frequently asked questions and a page outlining the layout of the Richmond store. Another noticable difference was the Daiso logo. In locations outside of Canada, and on the Daiso Japan website, the logo is in a sophisticated font, in white writing on a red background as so:header1 (




However the Canadian Daiso is more “Kawaii” (Japanese word for ‘cute’ that has become a style phenomenon world wide). With it’s colourful image and bubbly font, it sells the store as a cheap and cute rather than valued and useful:

Daiso_at_Aberdeen (



It’s also notable that while the Daiso Japan site has more Japanese words, phrases and writing on it, the Canadian site’s logo includes the word ‘Daiso’ in Japanese. Perhaps this is to create a sense of authenticity.

To conclude my findings, although there are differences between Daiso in Vancouver / Richmond and Daiso in Asia, the discrepancies are minor. However, it’s worth mentioning the fact that as opposed to becoming more ‘westernized’ in it’s Vancouver location, Daiso opted to use it’s Japanese culture as a selling point to Canadian consumers. This is interesting in relation to the article I mentioned earlier. Perhaps Daiso attempt to cater to the large groups of Japanese and other Asian routes in Vancouver, providing a sense of authenticity and heritage. Or perhaps it caters to a different group, one more focused on the culture as a trend. Regardless, Daiso seems to be a booming business in Vancouver despite their single Canadian location, and it’s mission to sell authentic and cheap Japanese products appears to be very successful as part of Vancouver’s consumer culture.


Welcome to the blog!

Hello readers,

Now that you’ve found this blog you probably have a few questions about what exactly it is. This first post will attempt to answer any queries you may have.

You might be wondering, “what is ‘A Japanese Vancouver’?” The aim of this blog is to discern between the Japanese representation in Vancouver’s consumer culture, versus realities of Japanese lifestyle and culture in modern Japan.

“So what exactly can I find here?” This blog will review different aspects of Japanese influence in Vancouver’s commercialism, including but not limited to restaurants, markets, dollar stores, and general stores. I will be exploring the origins of certain Vancouver-based Japanese products and companies, in order to examine how the merchandise has deviated from it’s original marketing in order to sell in Western culture. By examining the marketing’s originality, I mean that I will be looking at the authenticity of Japanese consumer culture, in relation to how it is presented in the context of modern-day Japan, and how it is done here.I’m interested in how things, particularly in a consumerist context, change when they are marketed to Japanese people who are conscious of the history, authenticity, and beginnings of the companies and products, as opposed to when they’re marketed in a Western society. Overall, I’ll be examining how Japanese culture is depicted and thought of in Vancouver, through the products and experiences Japanese companies aim to sell here.

“Who are you and what inspired you to make this blog?” Time to introduce myself! My name is Leah, and I’m a second year student at UBC. I plan to major in English literature, however, this blog was created as a project for my GRSJ 230 class – Gender Race Sexuality and Social Justice in Modern Asia. I’m originally from Toronto, and only moved here in 2014 to start studying at UBC. Although I’m white and my ethnic background is Israeli / Eastern European, I’ve always been enthralled with certain aspects of Japanese culture (particularly Japanese cuisine – yum!), and one of the first things I noticed when I moved to Vancouver is that it was far richer in Japanese influence than Toronto. With a healthy abundance of sushi restaurants, teahouses, companies like Daiso and Yokoyaya, and of course Japanese architecture and agriculture such as UBC’s own Nitobe garden, I was amazed and overwhelmed by the representation here compared to back home. This led me to wonder, if Japanese culture differs from one province to the next, how does Japanese representation in Vancouver differ from its origins in Japan? Also, why is there so much Japanese influence in Vancouver?

To conclude, I will leave you with this link to Tourism Vancouver’s guide of Japanese culture, aspects of which I will likely be discussing in further posts: