Japanese Canadian History in Brief・日系カナダ人 の歴史の概要

Whether you have visited us many times, or are thinking of doing so for the first time, you may or may not know about the history behind the Nikkei National Museum & Cultural Centre. Here is a quick one-page overview of some of the major aspects of Japanese Canadian history. It includes recommended reading for those who want to learn more.

Downloadable version

The Nikkei National Museum & Cultural Centre (NNMCC) officially opened on September 22, 2000, at 6688 Southoaks Crescent in Burnaby, British Columbia, across from New Sakura-So, an independent seniors' apartment. Nikkei Home, which provides assisted living for seniors, opened next door in 2002. The land for these buildings was purchased with money from the Japanese Canadian Redress Foundation. Further funds to construct the centre were raised by individuals in the community.

People of Japanese heritage have a long history in Canada. During the late 19th century and into the 20th century, many people came from Japan to work in industries such as fishing, mining, logging, and farming. Japanese communities existed in various places on the west coast of British Columbia and on Vancouver Island, with the largest community centred around Vancouver's Powell Street on the east side of the city.

On December 7, 1941, Japan launched a surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, in the United States. The United States declared war on Japan, and Canada followed suit. In Canada, concerns were raised that the Japanese Canadian population living near the coast would spy on or sabotage Canadian military and security measures for the Japanese. However, experts in the military and the RCMP did not believe that Japanese Canadians posed any threat to safety or security. Despite this, the Canadian government responded to the public's racism, and ordered all "persons of Japanese racial origin" to be removed from the "restricted zone", within 100 miles of the west coast of British Columbia.

Almost 22 000 people were affected by this order. Most of them were Canadian citizens, and more than half of them were born in Canada. Most of the Japanese nationals had been living in Canada for over twenty-five years. Men, women, and children were forced to leave their homes, many with only two days' notice or less to prepare. With severe restrictions on luggage, they left behind not only significant assets such as homes, cars, and boats, but also treasured heirlooms and many other precious possessions. These were later sold by the government without the owners' consent.

The largest number of Japanese Canadians were sent to hastily built camps in the BC interior, where they lived in tiny, crowded shacks with no insulation. This is often called the internment. Men aged 18-45 were forced to leave their families to work in road camps, or, if they protested this, were sent to prisoner of war camps. Some families, in order to stay together, went to sugar beet farms on the prairies, where they worked very long hours and lived in poor conditions for almost no pay, or went to other provinces.

In 1945, Japan surrendered, and the second world war ended. But even though no one could argue they were still a security threat, Japanese Canadians were still not allowed to return to the coast. Instead, they were told to either move east of the Rocky Mountains

(outside of BC) to show cooperation for the government's policy of forced dispersal for Japanese Canadians, or go to Japan. Around 4000 people went to Japan, over half for the first time. The others still had to find a way to start their lives over again for the second time since 1942. It wasn't until 1949 that Japanese Canadians were finally allowed to return to the coast, and given the same rights as other Canadian citizens, such as the right to vote.

In the 1980s, people in the Japanese Canadian community started to organize, and lobby the government to apologize for their actions against Japanese Canadians from 1942-1949. This movement is known as the fight for redress.

On September 22, 1988, the Government of Canada signed an agreement with the

National Association of Japanese Canadians (NAJC). The government formally acknowledged their unjust treatment of the Japanese Canadian community in the 1940s, and as compensation, awarded $21,000 to every surviving Japanese Canadian who had been affected by the unjust policies of forced dispersal and dispossession, as well as a $12 million community fund to the NAJC. This money funded many initiatives, including the building of cultural centres and seniors' homes, as well as supporting arts and culture projects across Canada.

Recommended Reading

The following books are available in the museum's resource centre, located inside the museum gallery and open Tuesday-Saturday 11am-5pm.

Taiken: Japanese Canadians since 1877
Published by the Nikkei National Museum, Taiken is also on display on the walls of the second floor of Nikkei Centre. It provides a more detailed overview of the history of Japanese Canadians with many historical photographs.

Redress by Roy Miki
Roy Miki, an award-winning Canadian poet and retired professor of English at Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, was also an active member of the Redress movement in the 1980s. Although this book is called Redress, it includes history of Japanese Canadians from the earliest immigrants in the 19th century, until the signing of the agreement in 1988. Miki also includes stories about his own family's experiences, as well as an insider's perspective on the long struggle for redress. Miki is an engaging writer, and this book is a highly informative history of Japanese Canadians, with a particular focus on the actions leading to redress in the 1980s. Available in the museum resource centre, museum shop, in bookstores, and online.

This is My Own by Muriel Kitagawa
Muriel Kitagawa was a Japanese Canadian Nisei (Canadian-born) woman who was forced to leave Vancouver in 1942 along with her husband and four young children. This is My Own is a collection of her writing, mostly from the period of uncertainty leading up to her departure from Vancouver. It consists chiefly of letters to her brother, Wes Fujiwara, who was a medical student in Toronto at the time, but also includes other pieces of her writing, such as articles she wrote for the Japanese Canadian community newspaper, The New Canadian. Kitagawa's letters show the injustice and confusion of the time, and she writes eloquently about her Canadian identity and to deplore the way her government is treating her community. An excellent inside account of the 1942 uprooting. Available in the museum resource centre, museum shop, in bookstores, and online.

The Enemy that Never Was by Ken Adachi
Published in 1976, this is the first comprehensive history of Japanese Canadians. Since it was written prior to the success of the redress movement, it feels dated at times, but Adachi had closer access to memories of the prewar and internment-period Japanese Canadian community than later historians, and his research and data have become indispensible to many researchers who came after him. This book is out of print, but is available in the museum resource centre.

Stories of my People by Roy Ito
True to its title, a compilation of stories about different Japanese Canadian individuals, many of them known personally to the author Roy Ito, a Nisei who fought in World War II. Divided into sections based on each story's primary time period, the book contains personal recollections and accounts of important moments in Japanese Canadian history, and more offbeat stories of unique individuals or strange happenings in the community. This book is out of print, but is available in the museum resource centre.

More Reading


Karizumai: A Guide To Japanese Canadian Internment Sites - Nikkei National Museum

Justice In Our Time: The Japanese Canadian Redress Settlement by Roy Miki and Cassandra Kobayashi


Obasan by Joy Kogawa (novel)

The Plum Tree by Mitch Miyagawa (play)

Surrender by Roy Miki (poetry)


The Sword, The Medal and the Rosary by Terry Watada, illustrated by Kenji Iwata

Children's books

Naomi's Road by Joy Kogawa

When the Cherry Blossoms Fell by Jennifer Maruno

Caged Eagles by Eric Walters Films


Sleeping Tigers: The Asahi Baseball Story

Ohanashi: The Story of Our Elders DVD series

Henry's Glasses


Nikkei Stories nikkeistories.com

Tashme Historical Project tashme.ca

You are also welcome to browse the resource centre and the books in our museum shop. Museum staff members will be happy to assist you in recommending additional books, and/or helping you find more information on any particular areas of interest.


日系文化センター・博物館(通称 NNMCC) は、ブリティッシュ・コロンビア州のバ ーナービー市サウスオークス・クレセン ト(Southoaks Crescent) 6688番地に位 置し、自立型老人ホームさくら荘の向か いに2000年9月22日に開館しました。その 後、2002年に本館の隣に介護の必要なお年 寄りの方々が住む日系ホームが完成しまし た。日系プレイスの敷地は日系カナダ人補 償基金によって購入され、NNMCCは個人の 支援によって建設されました。


19世紀末期から20世紀初頭、日系人は漁 業、鉱業、林業、農業に従事していまし た。日系コミュニティーはバンクーバー市 東部のパウエル・スト リートを中 心に栄え、 日系人はブ リティッシ ュ・コロン ビア西海岸 やバンクー バー・アイ ランド各地で 暮 ら し て いました。


1941年12月7日に日本はアメリカ合衆国の ハワイの真珠湾を攻撃し、アメリカとカナ ダと戦いました。カナダの西海岸に暮らし ていた日系カナダ人は政治家からスパイと 懸念されましたが、軍隊や警察の専門家 たちは日系カナダ人たちがカナダの安全を 脅かす存在であるとは思っていませんでし た。それでもカナダ政府は一般の人種差 別の声に応えて、ブリティ ッシュ・コロ ンビア州の西 海岸から100 マイル(約160キロ)内 リリ・レイコ・ヤノの日本人登録書 の“立入禁止ゾーン”に住む日本にルーツがあるすべて の人を強制移動させました。


その約22,000人の多くはカナダ市民で、半 分以上はカナダ生まれでした。また日本国 籍を持つ多くは25年以上カナダで暮らして いました。老若男女問わず家から離れる事 を強いられ、準備期間が二日しか与えられ なかった人々もいました。持っていく荷物 にも規制があったため、家、車、船、家宝 そして特別な所有物等の重要な資産を残し て去り、その後これらの品々は所有者の了 解を得ることなく政府が売却しました。


ほとんどの日系カナダ人は、ブリティッシュ・コロンビア州の内陸部に急きょ作られた断熱材のない狭い掘っ建て小屋へ強制収容させられました。18歳から45歳の男性は 家族と隔離され土木工事などに従事し、これに抵抗する人はもっと過酷な戦争捕虜収 容所に送られました。離れ離れになりたく ない家族は、草原地域のてんさい畑で長時 間、無休の悪条件で働くか、もしくは他の 州に移動を強いられたのです。


1945年、日本は降伏し、第二次世界大戦は 終結しましたが、日系カナダ人はカナダに 対して脅威ではなかったとはいえ、日系人 の西海岸への移動は許されませんでした。 逆に日系カナダ人は更にロッキー山脈の東 側(ブリティッシュ・コロンビア州の外) に強制移動をするか、日本へ行くかという 選択肢を強いられました。日本へ行った 4000人近くの半分以上は初めての日本でし た。カナダに残った日系人も、再び生計を 立て直す必要があり大変苦労しました。し かし、状況は変わり1949年に日系カナダ人 は西海岸への帰還が許可され、同年に他の カナダ市民と同等の権利である念願の選挙 権も与えられました。


1980年代、日系カナダ人コミュニティー の組織が発足し、1942年から1949年に至 るまでの日系カナダ人への不法な措置に ついての補償を求め政府に陳情を始めま した。この運動はリドレスの戦いとして 知られています。 1988年9月22日、カナダ政府は全カナダ日 系人協会との間で同意書を取り交し、政 府は正式に1940年代の日系カナダ人の扱 いは不法な措置と認識し、保証金として強制移住と所持品の剥奪、不法な措置を 受けた存命する日系カナダ人一人に対し て21,000ドル、同じく全カナダ日系人協 会に1千200万ドルが支払われました。こ れらの基金で文化センターや老人ホーム の建設など、カナダ全土において芸術や 文化の普及活動にも取り組んでいます。





『Taiken: Japanese Canadians since 1877』日系博物館出版(英語) 「体験(Taiken)」は日系カナダ人の歴 史を写真と文章で分かりやすく紹介して いる常設展示の書籍版です。

『仮住まい:日系カナダ人強制収容所ガ イドブック』日系博物館

『正された歴史:日系カナダ人への謝罪 と補償』 ロイ・ミキ、カサンドラ・コ バヤシ

『パウエル街物語:カナダで暮らした6 0年』森田勝義


『Obasan』(邦題『失われた祖国』) ジョイ・コガワ著(小説)

児童書(英語) 『Naomi’s Road 』ジョイ・コガワ著

『When the Cherry Blossoms Fell』 ジェニファー・マルノ 著

『Caged Eagles』エリック・ウォルター ズ著


『The Sword, The Medal and the Ro- sary』原作:テリー・ワタダ、絵:ケン ジ・イワタ


『Sleeping Tigers: The Asahi Baseball Story』

『Ohanashi: The Story of Our Elders DVD シリーズ』

『Henry’s Glasses』

ウェブサイト(英語) Nikkei Stories - nikkeistories.com Tashme Historical Project - tashme.ca

リソースセンターもしくはミュージアム ショップに是非お越しください。博物館 のスタッフはお探しの資料や興味ある分 野の調査のお手伝いをします。

日系文化センター・博物館 製作出版2016年