Bike Route of Japanese Canadian Historic Sites

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487 Alexander Street Vancouver Japanese Language School and Japanese Hall: The Vancouver Japanese Language School was founded in 1906 in a newly-constructed wooden building at 439 Alexander Street, right in the heart of Vancouver’s Powell Street neighbourhood. From the early 1880s, Japanese pioneers to Canada began to settle and work in the Powell Street area, which later became known as “Japan Town”. With the growth of more and more Japanese families in the area, the need for a school that taught Japanese and other general subjects for the children of immigrants grew. In 1905, under the guidance of Mr. K. Morikawa, Japanese Consul at the time, a steering committee consisting of members of the Japanese Canadian community was formed to establish a school which taught the Japanese language and other general subjects such as math, history and science. It became the center of the Powell Street Japanese Canadian community prior to World War II, with a student population of over 1,000 at the outbreak of the war.

This was the first Japanese language school in Canada and one of the most historic Japanese Canadian community organizations in the country. This place is a symbol for the many Japanese language schools that located throughout the province before World War II. It is estimated that 70% of Japanese Canadian children attended a Japanese language school after regular English public school. Almost all of the schools were closed during the war, and it is significant that the Japanese Language School continues its original function and in its original location. As a grassroots, community organization that has operated for over a century, the Vancouver Japanese Language School and Hall continues to promote education, culture and community, as it did when it first opened in 1906. The school is significant as one of the only properties restored to the Japanese Canadian community after dispossession and World War II.

Powell Street Historic Japanese Canadian Neighbourhood: The Powell Street Historic Japanese Canadian Neighbourhood (Paueru-gai/パウエル街) has seen an ebb and flow of Japanese Canadian culture since the late 19th century. In 1877 the first groups of Japanese immigrants to Canada started what would eventually become a uniquely Japanese Canadian community around the Hastings Mill and Burrard Inlet waterfront. By the 1920s Paueru-gai became known as the centre of Japanese Canadian economic activity and property ownership. Following the forced removal and wartime internment of all Japanese descendants in 1942, Paueru-gai experienced a period of neighbourhood vacancy and economic downturn; most returning Japanese Canadian residents chose to settle in other areas of Vancouver, and in communities like Steveston after the war. However, a few significant organizations such as the Vancouver Japanese Language School and Hall and the Vancouver Buddhist Temple remain as reminders of the former strength of the Japanese Canadian community in this neighbourhood. Significantly, there are a number of historic commercial buildings in the neighbourhood with Japanese Canadian ties to the past, a reflection of the economic prosperity and entrepreneurship of Japanese Canadians in the late nineteenth- and early-twentieth centuries in Vancouver.

Stanley Park (V6G 3E2) Japanese Canadian War Memorial: The Japanese Canadian War memorial in Stanley Park is a tribute to the Japanese Canadian soldiers who fought in wars for Canada. In particular, it is a lasting memory of the 190 men who answered the call of duty for Canada and to the 54 who laid down their lives in defense of freedom in World War I. After the attack on Pearl Harbour in 1941, the light in the monument was extinguished, and was only re-lit in 1985.

2639–2743 Stanley Park Drive, SS Empress of Japan Figurehead (north Seawall): A colourful monument to the SS Empress of Japan (also called the “Queen of the Pacfic”), which crossed the Pacific Ocean more than 400 times. The figurehead was saved from being thrown away, restored by the Province newspaper, and placed in Stanley Park in 1927. 

1672 West 1st Avenue (between Fir and Pine) Kitsilano Japanese Language School: With the increase of Japanese Canadian families in B.C., there was a need for schools that taught the Japanese language along with English and other general subjects such as math, history and science to the children of immigrants. The schools often became the centre of Japanese Canadian communities. Kitsilano was the second largest Japanese Canadian community in Vancouver before the war, with close to 1,000 Japanese Canadian residents. In 1934, the Kitsilano Japanese Language School had a student population of 163. The local judo dojo was located in same building.

1701 West 3rd Avenue (at Pine) Japanese Church of Ascension: A religious place for Japanese Canadians who lived in the Kitsilano area of Vancouver prior to World War II. It is significant that the Japanese Canadian congregation planned, financed, and erected the church building, which opened on April 7, 1935. After internment and dispossession, the church was closed in 1942 and sold by the diocesan authorities, in this case the Anglican Church of the Diocese of New Westminster on July 6, 1945. Apologies for the sale of the church were made by the Diocese of New Westminster under Bishop Michael Ingham in 2010, and by the Church of Canada Primates in 2013.

1515 West 57th Avenue (at Granville) Shannon Mews: Financier Austin C. Taylor bought this estate in 1936, and lived here until his death in 1965. During the Second World War, Taylor was appointed chair of the British Columbia Seurity Commission, a provincial government agency created to manage Japanese Canadian internment.

1450 West 64th Avenue (between French and Cartier) Historic Joy Kogawa House: Childhood home of Japanese Canadian author Joy Kogawa, author of the novel Obasan. Joy Kogawa lived here from 1937 to 1942, when she and her family were forced into an internment camp in the Slocan Valley. Visit the cherry tree in the laneway round back.

703 West 70th Avenue (at Southwest Marine Drive) 40th Marpole Boy Scout Hall and Marpole Japanese Language School: The Marpole Boy Scout Hall and Japanese Language School was constructed by the Japanese Canadian community in the area in 1927. Initially, the building was located on Selkirk Street (between West 71st and 72nd Streets). Primarily used as a Japanese Language School, in 1934 it had a student population of 68. It was also the hub of community activities and a gathering place. The building was confiscated by the B.C. Securities Commission during internment beginning in 1942, changed ownership, and was moved several times over the years. It is significant that the building was able to maintain its role as an important social centre for the Japanese Canadian Community after internment ended. This building is a reflection of the once-thriving Japanese Canadian population in Marpole. 

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2901 East Hastings Momiji Gardens: In 1942, wartime politics brought to a head mounting discrimination against some 22,000 innocent people of Japanese ancestry on this coast. Their properties were confiscated and sold without consent, and they were forcibly dispersed to internment camps in the B.C. interior and to farms in Alberta, Manitoba and Ontario. From March to November, 8,000 men, women and children were confined in livestock barns on these grounds before being relocated. Few voices opposed a federal government policy which denied civil liberties to Japanese Canadians until April 1, 1949 – the day they were finally free to return to the coast.

2901 East Hastings Forum: Designed by architect H.H. Simmons, the Forum was built in 1933 as a worker’s relief project. It is a large, open building along Renfrew Street used for indoor exhibits and commercial booths during the PNE Fair. In 1942, during the detention of Japanese Canadians, hundreds of bunk beds for men and boys over the age of 18 filled the forum exhibition hall. The capacity was 1212. Extra toilet facilities were quickly added to accommodate the men.

2901 East Hastings Livestock Barns: In early March 1942, hundreds of women and children were forced to live in the stench and filthy conditions of this building originally designed to house animals.

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6688 Southoaks Crescent, Burnaby (off Kingsway) Nikkei National Museum and Cultural Centre: Centre of excellence for Nikkei Japanese Canadian history for all Canadians and for many international scholars. The Centre consists of a 1,000 square foot gallery space, archives in a vault, a resource centre, gift shop and three small office spaces. The Museum is the only National institution with collections and archives dedicated exclusively to Japanese Canadian culture and history. The mission of the organization is to honour, preserve, and share Japanese Canadian history and culture for a better Canada. From early settlement in the 1870s through the Internment, and beyond to redress in 1988, the Museum fulfills its mission through its physical presence and an online database of the collection which attracts scholars from all over the world. 40 Vancouver Scout Hall