Below is a select listing of teaching resources for learning about Japanese Canadian internment. It includes resources developed in-house by the Nikkei National Museum, collaborations with academic and community partners, and the references we find most helpful to supplement our own materials.
This list is a living document meant to highlight the richest introductory resources for K-12 students and teachers. We encourage you to explore other resources you may find on specific areas of interest, and on Japanese Canadian history and culture beyond internment.
NNM developed or co-developed this resource.
In person Taiken field trips are available in half-day and full-day options.
Taiken digital field trips are customizable to your classroom and schedule. Tour our museum exhibits with the video call platform of your choice!
Journeys Kits are hands-on experiences for your classroom available for loan. Pick up from our front desk, or we will ship it to you across Canada thanks to a sponsorship from the NNMCC Auxiliary.
Journeys Education Kit online resources: Oral history clips, teaching guide, lesson plans, and more designed to accompany our Journeys Education Kits in classroom use.
In the Classroom - Exhibits
Journeys Digital Resource explore Japanese Canadian dispossession with downloadable primary source documents, photographs, interactive apps, sample lesson plans, and more. Suitable for elementary and secondary students.
Writing Wrongs: Japanese Canadian Protest Letters of the 1940s online exhibit with videos, archival photographs, and a searchable primary-source archive. Suitable for secondary and undergraduate students.
The Nikkei National Museum recommends using these terms when teaching our history:
✓ Japanese Canadian
- people born in Canada with Japanese ancestry
- people who immigrated from Japan to Canada and became Canadian citizens
- long-term residents of Canada with Japanese ancestry
✓ Japanese Canadian internment
- Implemented by the Canadian government
- Majority of people impacted were Canadian citizens
- All people impacted were Canadian residents
We do NOT recommend:
- Only if referring to people in Japan or exclusively to people who did not reside permanently in Canada
- Individuals can choose to identify as Japanese but it is not appropriate as a broad term for Canadian citizens, or for Canadian residents who faced systemic racist barriers to obtaining Canadian citizenship
X Japanese internment
- Internment took place in Canada and had no connection with the Japanese government or military
- Our community continues to feel the impact of othering language that implied Japanese Canadians were foreign “enemy aliens” due to their race
Learn and prepare
JapaneseCanadianHistory.net: supported by Greater Vancouver Japanese Canadian Citizens’ Association, made with contributions from teachers. Resources for elementary and secondary.
Videos with Activities
Taiken Video Resources - with worksheets: four Japanese Canadian elders share their experiences before, during, and after the Second World War. Three videos 15-20 minutes in length with accompanying lesson plans and worksheets, and one additional six-minute video. Suitable for elementary and secondary students.
Omoi: Cultural Experiences videos: video series of Japanese Canadian community members sharing their experiences with Japanese culture. Includes accompanying activity. Suitable for all ages.
Nikkei Stories: twenty short (3-5 minute) videos sharing site-specific stories of prewar Japanese Canadian neighbourhoods in Powell Street and Steveston. Includes educational resources.
Film based lessons: Minoru: A Memory of Exile (Grades 9-12)
Taiken: History Mystery Card Game: Follow the lives of real Japanese Canadians through the internment years through this interactive and informative card game. Recommended age 10+
KimonoPlay online game (cultural resource): Learn about kimono customs by dressing your own kimono doll. Suitable for all ages: recommended 5+
Student-friendly Introductory Resources
Righting Canada’s Wrongs: Japanese Canadian Internment in the Second World War by Pamela Hickman and Masako Fukawa: this overview of Japanese Canadian internment is full of photographs that bring the narrative to life.
Justice In Our Time: The Japanese Canadian Redress Settlement by Roy Miki and Cassandra Kobayashi: an account of Japanese Canadian internment and the fight for Redress as told by two leaders of the Redress movement.
Secondary - available free online
The Politics of Racism: The Uprooting of Japanese Canadians during the Second World War by Ann Sunahara: this readable overview of Japanese Canadian internment from a legal perspective provided vital historical evidence for the Redress movement in the 1980s.
Challenging Racist “British Columbia”: 150 Years and Counting: an open-source publication that links an overview of Japanese Canadian internment with experiences of Indigenous and other racialized communities in British Columbia. Links historical racism with current issues in British Columbia.
Books are listed in ascending order of reading level (simplest first).
Naomi’s Tree by Joy Kogawa: Picture book that touches on immigration from Japan to Canada and internment experiences.
Naomi’s Road by Joy Kogawa (teacher resources): Simple chapter book about experience of internment. Very little historical detail, a good enhancement to factual resources. Naomi, protagonist, is a very young child, about 7 years old in 1942; narrative begins with childhood in Vancouver and finishes after the end of the war with the family living on a sugar beet farm.
A Child in Prison Camp by Shizuye Takashima: Colourful illustrations and narrative poetry. Based on the author’s childhood experiences.
On Being Yukiko by Jeff Chiba Stearns and Lillian Michiko Blakey: Graphic novel of Japanese Canadian experiences – from picture-bride immigration to internment – from perspective of a fifth-generation Japanese Canadian middle school student named Emma Yukiko. Emma’s grandmother tells her the story of her grandmother and mother. Includes some conversation among Emma and her friends about race and identity in a contemporary context. Some of the text might be challenging for younger readers, but they can still follow the main story through illustrations.
Torn Apart (Dear Canada series) by Susan Aihoshi: First-person diary account of 12-13-year-old Mary Kobayashi and her family: May 1941 – January 1943. Their ordinary Canadian life in Vancouver with her friends transforms with the government’s increasing restrictions on Japanese Canadians. Lots of great detail about specific experiences of family separation, the experiences of waiting to leave Vancouver, and early weeks in internment camp.