Preserving Heritage: Sharing the Okamura and Banno Families’ Legacy Through Digitization

The Nikkei National Museum & Cultural Centre is proud to announce the completion of our 2023-2024 museum collection digitization project Behind the Lens: The Okamura and Banno Families. Over the last year, we digitized more than 1500 items from the Banno Family Collection with significant materials spanning four generations of the Banno and Okamura families, from the late 1800s through to 2021. These photographs, paintings, and textual records are now available for viewing on our database at

The project was made possible through the generous funding of the British Columbia History Digitization Program and the Government of Canada Museum Assistance Program Digital Access to Heritage.

Ce projet a été rendu possible en partie grâce au gouvernement du Canada

The project team is Sam Frederick, Bailey Irene Midori Hoy, and Lisa Uyeda.


Behind the Lens: The Okamura and Banno Families digitization project contains valuable materials from the Banno Familly Collection that document four generations of the Banno and Okamura families in Japan and Canada. The collection includes records relating to several members of the family, covering their careers in photography, dentistry, and law; their forcible internment in the Kaslo and Tashme internment camps; and involvement in the Japanese Canadian community across British Columbia and the country. The collection also contains many records relating to the Inouye family: Myea Inouye (nee Okamura), Mata Banno’s sister, and her husband Walter and daughter Mayko.

Paul Louis Tsunenojo Okamura, one of the earliest Japanese Canadian artists, was a photographer who operated several photography studios in New Westminster and Vancouver from the late 1890s to 1931. Several of his studio and informal photographs are included in the collection, including a family album capturing his three daughters, Cana, Myea, and Mata, from infants into adulthood.

Mata Banno (nee Okamura) was the youngest daughter of Paul Louis and Misao Okamura and the wife of Dr. Edward Chutaro Banno (married May 1942). Mata worked as a dental assistant for Dr. Eiju Miyake. During the Second World War, she was forcibly interned in Kaslo, BC with her husband and later her children Robert and Victor who were born in Tashme and Kaslo, respectively. Lesser known was Mata’s own skill as an artist and many sumie paintings created by her are also included in the collection.

Dr. Edward Chutaro Banno was the husband of Mata Banno and son-in-law to Paul Louis and Misao Okamura. Dr. Banno was a dentist and activist, involved in the 1936 Japanese Canadian Citizens’ League delegation to Ottawa for the federal franchise. Included in the collection are records of Dr. Banno’s education; photographs and textual records related to the 1936 delegation; and several articles written by Dr. Banno for the New Canadian and the Greater Vancouver Japanese Canadian Citizens’ Association Bulletin on the unjust and racist policies targeting Japanese Canadians.

Robert Tadashi Banno was the eldest son of Dr. Edward Chutaro and Mata Banno and the first child to be born in the Tashme internment camp in 1943. Robert was actively involved in establishing Nikkei Place, serving as the Founding President of both the Nikkei National Museum & Cultural Centre and the Nikkei Place Foundation. He worked as a lawyer with expertise in Japan-Canada business and trade and Indigenous law. Robert’s records consist of his educational diplomas and certificates, photographs of his travels and family, and records related to his involvement with Nikkei Place.

Portrait of Cana, Mata, and Myea Okamura ; circa 1920. Photographer Paul Louis Okamura. Banno Family Collection. NNMCC 2016.

Portrait of Okamura Family in Sunroom ; circa 1930s. Banno Family Collection. NNMCC 2016.

Mata, Edward, and Robert Banno ; circa 1943. Banno Family Collection. NNMCC 2016.

Victor Banno, Dale Banno, Mayko Inouye, and Robert Banno with Snowman ; circa 1950s. Banno Family Collection. NNMCC 2016.

Painting of Cherry Blossom Branch by Mata Banno ; 1962. Banno Family Collection. NNMCC 2016.

Portrait of Banno Family ; circa 1960s. Banno Family Collection. NNMCC 2016.

Robert Banno at Powell Street Festival ; circa 1990s. Banno Family Collection. NNMCC 2016.