Overview

With the construction of the Y2K wing completed in 2000, the VJLS-JH Board of Directors began looking to the future of the organization and how they could ensure its continued sustainability and relevance to all Canadians interested in Japanese culture and Japanese Canadian history. A preliminary three phase plan was developed that sought to achieve the following outcomes:

  • Open a licensed daycare program with a Japanese immersion preschool program
  • Achieve recognition as a National Historic Site
  • Tell the story of VJLS-JH and its community through its programming and physical structure

The first phase of this plan was accomplished in 2012 with the opening of Children’s World, a fully licensed daycare facility that now provides up to 25 daycare spots and over 50 Japanese immersion preshool spots for parents from across Metro Vancouver and has helped VJLS-JH grow its revenues to over $1.2M per year.

The second phase of this plan was accomplished in 2019 with the Federal Government of Canada recognizing VJLS-JH as just one of three National Historic Sites in Metro Vancouver. In the year since this announcement was made, we have not only received increased interest from the media to share story of our community, but many former students and their families have sought to reconnect with us to celebrate and remember the past as well as to help us look to the future ahead. Additionally, in receiving national status VJLS-JH now qualifies for Federal Heritage Funding and new areas of larger funding streams which will empower us to share with local grassroots and non-profit groups who continue to need access to affordable and accessible space.

Japanese Hall - National Historic Site Japanese Language School- National Historic Site

The third phase of this plan began in 2017 and was led by a committee of Board members and community volunteers. In developing this third phase further, the committee examined other examples of cultural communities telling their stories and landed on the dual concept of an Interpretive Centre and Community Archives as the best means of preserving and sharing the organization’s history with the broader community. At the same time, the 20 year old Y2K building had begun to show signs of age and disrepair and crucial repairs and upgrades were incorporated into the project to ensure that the building would continue to last for another 100 years.

Project Building Committee

From 2017 – 2020 the Interpretive Centre project was led by a committee of board members and volunteers that included:

  • Laura Saimoto
  • Ian O’Briain
  • Les Murata
  • Pat Demens
  • Daniel Tetrault
  • Denny Enjo

The Building Committee worked to develop the original scope of the project, research national examples of similar projects, and guided the initial design phase of the project that has been shared with the broader community for consultation and feedback. From 2017 – 2019, there have been 15 stakeholder sessions which have included, directors, staff, members and supporters, committee members, volunteers, community partners, and local area neighbours. Based on integrating this feedback as well as number crunching, the original plans have gone through several iterations to reflect needs, budget, feedback, and creative solution brainstorming.

A sub-committee was struck to support the community archives project which will store valuable VJLS-JH historical records, documents, and items. This committee has been supported by the following volunteers:

  • Edward Leblanc
  • Naoko Kato
  • Shirin Eshghi
  • Tomoko Kıtayama
  • Keiko Kurashina

In 2020, management of the project was transferred over to the new Executive Director, Darius Maze, and Facilities Manager, Luke Chuang, who will manage the day-to-day work and community consultation needed for this project. They will continue to be supported by the Building and Library and Community Archives committees in moving this important work forward.

Project Goals

The Interpretive Centre project has three core goals that VJLS-JH hopes to achieve. These goals are listed below along with the anticipated outcomes from the project that will help us reach them:

  • Preserve and Share the history of VJLS-JH and the Japanese Canadian Community
    • Make essential repairs
    • Update facility to increase accessibility and usability
    • Embed history in the walls and spaces of the building
    • Embed Japanese Canadian history in VJLS-JH programs
    • Offer historical walking tours & public-school fieldtrips
    • Host exhibits on Japanese Canadian History
    • Establish a community archives
  • Engage Community
    • Support community programs’ access to space
    • Provide flexible workspaces for community partners
    • Create gathering places for community to come together
    • Events that share Japanese Canadian cultural practices and history
    • Attractive and engaging exhibits that attract members of the public and visitors to BC
    • Japanese Canadian exhibition area and community archive room
  • Achieve Financial Sustainability
    • Creating a shared space for individuals, community partners, and local businesses
    • Office space rental to community partners and local businesses, or a local educational institution
    • Renting out event and gathering space​s in the Hall and 5th floor Tatami Room

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