The Powell Street area in Vancouver, BC, once a thriving community of over 8,000 Nikkei, was decimated during WW II and never returned to its pre-war heyday. Nikkei Stories of Powell Street reanimates the people, places, and events of what was the largest and most vibrant Japanese Canadian centre in Canada.
Prior to WW II, the fishing village of Steveston, BC, had over 2,000 Nikkei. Unlike Vancouver, many returned after internment to rebuild and contribute to the Canadian mosaic. Nikkei Stories of Steveston pays tribute to the struggles and successes of Japanese Canadian pioneers and their descendants.

1833 First recorded instance of Japanese shipwrecks off the west coast of what would become British Columbia. 1842 Ranald MacDonald, son of an aboriginal woman and white man, travels to Japan in search of people like himself, after seeing castaway Japanese sailors off the coast of British Columbia. 1854 Japan establishes diplomatic relations with the West and ends period of self imposed isolation by signing treaty with U.S. Commodore Matthew Perry. 1868 The Meiji Restoration is responsible for the emergence of Japan as a modernized nation, but causes poverty by raising taxes and enforces conscription into the newly formed Imperial Army. 1877 Manzo Nagano, age 22, leaves Yokohama and lands in New Westminster, BC, the first Japanese person known to land and settle in Canada. 1879 Steveston becomes a municipality. 1882 Thirteen canneries operate on the Fraser River with Phoenix Cannery being the first on the Steveston waterfront, built between No. 1 Road and No. 2 Road. 1883 Tomekichi Homma, an educated son of a former samurai, settles in Steveston and begins fishing with other early Japanese immigrants. Takezo (surname unknown) is the first Japanese immigrant employed at the Hastings Sawmill in Vancouver, later the largest employer of Japanese immigrants in Canada. 1886 Yasukichi Yoshizawa is the first boss hired to supervise the Japanese Canadian work force at Hastings Sawmill. 1887 Gihei Kuno, a Japanese fisherman impressed by the abundance of salmon in the Fraser River, returns to his village of Mio in Wakayama Prefecture to recruit fellow fishermen, beginning the flow to immigrants from Mio to Steveston. ··· Yoko Oya is the first Japanese woman to settle in Canada and with her husband, Washiji Oya, opens the first general store to serve the Nikkei community at 457 Powell Street. 1889 Yoko Oya gives birth to Katsuji, the first Japanese Canadian child born in Canada. The first Japanese consulate opens in Vancouver. 1889 First shipment of canned salmon leaves Steveston for London, England. 1890 Japanese Canadians establish boarding houses and other businesses along the streets adjacent to the Hastings Mill, especially on Powell Street. This neighbourhood becomes the major settlement of Japanese Canadians until World War II. 1891 Jukichi Hayakawa is the first Japanese in Steveston to receive a formal fishing license. 1892 Manzo Nagano moves to Victoria, where he becomes an influential member of the Japanese Canadian community. 1893 Caucasian and First Nations fishermen stage a strike demanding a reduction in the number of fishing licenses issued to Japanese fishermen. 1894 The first Christian church for Japanese immigrants opens in Vancouver. ··· Gulf of Georgia Cannery is built in Steveston, (originally named the Malcolm and Windsor Cannery) 1895 Government of British Columbia denies the franchise to citizens of Asian descent. Japanese fishermen and volunteers build the Japanese Methodist Mission in Steveston to improve social conditions for the community. 1896 Rev. Kaburagi Goro becomes the first ordained minister of the Japanese Methodist Church in Vancouver, and establishes a Japanese language weekly, the Bankuba Shuho. 1896 During an outbreak of typhoid fever in Steveston, the Methodist Mission is used to care for the sick, mostly Japanese and First Nations, and becomes known as the first hospital. ··· Japanese Fishermen’s Association is formed to advance the interests of Nikkei fishermen. ··· Tomekichi Homma is elected the first President of the Japanese Fishermen’s Association. 1897 R. W. Large, a medical doctor and minister, arrives in Steveston to serve fishermen and cannery workers at the Methodist Mission hospital. Steveston builds first school. 1899 Two hundred Nikkei men are employed at Hastings Mill in Vancouver. Harold Steves Senior is first Caucasian born in the Japanese Fishermen’s Hospital at the Phoenix Cannery site in Steveston. 1900 The second Japanese Fishermen’s Hospital, built by Japanese Fishermen’s Association, opens on No. 1 Road in Steveston, and offers a type of universal Medicare - the first in Canada. Japanese Fishermen’s Benevolent Society is formed, a new version of the Japanese Fishermen’s Association formed in 1896. ··· A fishermen’s strike over the price of fish leads to tension between Aboriginal, white and Japanese fishermen. ··· Tomekichi Homma, discovering that he is not allowed to vote in British Columbia, launches and wins two legal challenges with the province. 1902 Tomekichi Homma is defeated when the Privy Council of Britain rules that the Province of British Columbia has authority over civil rights, thus restricting the right to vote, hold public office or become a lawyer, pharmacist, architect, chartered accountant or teacher. 1903 The Government of British Columbia, amid increasing public agitation against Asian immigration, makes a first attempt to require immigrants to pass a written English examination. ··· The Bankuba Shuho weekly newspaper becomes a daily, the Kanada Shimpo. 1904 Japanese Methodist Mission offers kindergarten, primary classes in Japanese and Sunday School. 1905 The first Buddhist temple in Canada opens at the Ishikawa Hotel on Powell Street, Vancouver. ··· Tsunematsu Atagi opens the Atagi Boat Works, one of the earliest of many shops in Steveston to build wooden fishing vessels. 1906 The Vancouver Japanese Language School is established at 439 Alexander Street. At Lord Strathcona School in Vancouver, Japanese Canadian students are enrolled in a public school alongside white students for the first time. ··· Japanese immigration to Canada increases as a result of unemployment following the Russo-Japanese War, and widespread crop failure in Japan. ··· Richmond School Board mandates that only children of property owners could attend public school. Most Japanese Canadians lived in cannery-owned houses so their children were excluded until 1923. 1907 An Anti-Asian Riot causes severe damage to Japanese Canadian businesses and homes in the Powell Street area (September 9th). W.L. Mackenzie King, Minister of Labour, is appointed to head a Royal Commission to assess the damages, and awards $9,000 for losses. ··· The Tairiku Nippo newspaper begins publication. ··· Japanese Fishermen’s Benevolent Society builds the first Japanese primary school on the grounds of the Japanese Hospital in Steveston because Japanese children are not allowed to go to regular school. 1908 The Hayashi-Lemieux "Gentlemen's Agreement" restricts Japanese immigration to 400 male immigrants and domestic servants per year, plus returning immigrants and their immediate family members. ··· The picture bride system, a type of arranged marriage where women in Japan would exchange pictures with Japanese men in Canada, becomes widespread.

1909 A directory of Japanese immigrant businesses shows hundreds of businesses in the Powell Street area. ··· The Steveston Japanese School opens at Number One Road and Chatham Street near the Japanese Hospital. 1912 The Asahi baseball team,famous for its sacrificing, base-stealing and fielding, is formed. 1913 Rintaro Hayashi, age 12, is brought to Steveston from Japan by his father and begins fishing on the Fraser River. 1914 Outbreak of World War I. ··· The Kishi Brothers open Kishi Bros Boat Works in Steveston to build wooden fishing vessels for fishermen and floats for community celebrations. ··· The first kendo club in Steveston is founded, making it the birthplace of kendo in Canada. 1916 Over 200 Nikkei volunteers attempt to enlist in the Canadian Army. After being rejected in BC, they travel to Alberta to join Canadian battalions of the British army and are shipped to Europe. Chitose Uchida is the first Nikkei to graduate from a Canadian university, qualified as a schoolteacher. She is unable to find employment, except teaching English in the Nikkei community. ··· Of the 225 Japanese Canadians soldiers who saw action in Europe, nearly one quarter were killed. Thirteen received the Military Medal of Bravery, including Masumi Mitsui. ··· 1917 Surviving WWI Nikkei veterans are promised the right to vote. 1919 Japanese Canadian fishermen hold 3,267 fishing licenses, nearly half of all licenses in BC. 1920 The Japanese Canadian War Memorial is officially unveiled in Stanley Park on the third anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge. ··· Rintaro Hayashi becomes head instructor of the Steveston Kendo Club. 1921 Tsutae Sato becomes principal of the Vancouver Japanese Language School where he, with his wife, Hanako, teaches thousands of students. 1922 Steve Sasaki, the father of judo in Canada, opens first judo club in Vancouver. ··· Duff Commission targets Japanese Canadian fishermen by recommending a reduction in fishing licenses to all fishermen “except white residents, British Subjects and Canadian Indians.” 1923 Manzo Nagano, after losing all his possessions when his business in Victoria is destroyed by fire, returns to Japan and dies at age 68. ··· The "Gentlemen's Agreement" is reactivated after intense pressure placed by the British Columbia government upon the federal government, and further immigration is limited to 150 per year. ··· The Richmond School Board approaches the Japanese Canadian community to help with construction costs of an addition to the four-room Lord Byng School. The Nikkei community agrees and the Board begins accepting children of Japanese Canadians who are not property owners. 1924 The number of fishing licenses granted to Japanese Canadians is reduced by 40%. 1926 The Asahi baseball team wins the Terminal League Championship, the first of several league championships over the next 15 years. Hide Hyodo Shimizu, the first Japanese Canadian to receive a teaching certificate in British Columbia, is hired to teach at the Lord Byng School in Steveston. 1927 Yuichi Akune comes to Steveston from Japan, and becomes head kendo instructor as well as a leading figure in kendo in Canada. 1928 The Vancouver Japanese Language School expands to a new concrete building at 475 Alexander, directly east of the original school. Japan and Canada agree to establish diplomatic relations, and Japan opens a legation in Ottawa. ··· The Steveston Buddhist Temple was built on First Avenue, giving Nikkei a place to perform funeral rites and to celebrate marriages. 1929 Canada opens its first diplomatic office in Tokyo. 1930 The first judo club started in Steveston with the help of Vancouver-based Steve Sasaki. A new Lord Byng School, with 14 rooms, is built in Steveston with the Japanese community donating $20,000 of $48,000 total cost. 1931 Sgt. Masumi Mitsui and other World War I veterans become the only Japanese Canadians permitted to vote in Canada. 1934 The Hompa Buddhist Church is built at 604 Cordova Street. 1936 Hide Hyodo Shimizu, with a delegation from the Japanese Canadian Citizens League, travels to Ottawa to petition for the right to vote. The petition is unsuccessful. 1938 The New Canadian is established as the first English-language Nikkei newspaper with the motto, “The Voice of the Second Generation”. 1939 Tom Shoyama, after graduating from UBC with a degree in economics, joins the staff of The New Canadian newspaper. Tomekichi Maikawa, of the Maikawa family of entrepreneurs, opens a new Art Deco-style department store at 369 Powell Street. 1939 Canada declares war with Germany (September 10). ··· Japanese Fishermen’s Association and other kenjinkai (associations dedicated to mutual aid) support the war effort with donations and offers of assistance.

1941 The federal government recommends that Japanese Canadians not be allowed to volunteer for the armed services on the grounds that there is strong public opinion against them (January 7). ··· Japan attacks Pearl Harbour. Canada declares war on Japan (December 7). ··· Twelve hundred fishing boats owned by Japanese Canadians are impounded (December 8). Japanese language newspapers and schools close (December 8). Order-in-Council P.C. 9760 requires all persons of Japanese origin, regardless of citizenship, to register with the Registrar of Enemy Aliens (December 16). 1942 Tom Shoyama uses The New Canadian newspaper, the only Nikkei paper allowed to publish during WWII, to advocate for the rights of Japanese Canadians and becomes an important communication source. The light atop the Japanese Canadian War Memorial is extinguished. ··· Order-in-Council P.C. 365 creates a 160-kilometre exclusion zone on the coast of British Columbia from which male “enemy aliens” could be excluded (January 16). ··· All male "enemy aliens" between the ages of 18-45 are forced to leave the exclusion zone before April 1. (February 7). Order-in-Council P.C. 1486 empowers the government to remove all persons of Japanese origin from the exclusion zone, regardless of citizenship (February 24). Japanese Canadians are restricted in areas of employment, communication and association with other persons, and denied possession of cameras, firearms and radios. ··· The federal Minister of Justice orders all persons of "the Japanese race" to leave the coast (February 26). ··· All property that cannot be carried is placed in the custody of the Custodian of Alien Property as a "protective measure only". ··· B.C. Security Commission is established to plan, supervise and direct the expulsion of Japanese Canadians (March 4). ··· Japanese Canadians from the coastal area arrive at a temporary detention centre in Hastings Park, an agricultural exhibition ground, in Vancouver (March 16). B.C. Security Commission begins assigning men to road camps and women and children to ghost town detention camps in the BC interior (March 25). ··· Entire Japanese population of Steveston (250 families totaling 2000 people) are interned, leaving Steveston a near ghost town (May). ··· The number of students at Lord Byng School in Steveston drops from 550 to 137. ··· P.C. 5523 - The Director of Soldier Settlement is given authority to purchase or lease farms owned by Japanese Canadians. He subsequently buys 572 farms without consulting the owners (June 29). ··· A total of 22,000 Japanese Canadians of whom 75% are Canadian citizens (60% Canadian born, 15% naturalized) are uprooted forcibly from the BC coast (October). ··· Hide Hyodo Shimizu, interned in New Denver, trains high school graduates to teach in the camps, and while travelling to seven separate camps, supervises the education of thousands of children. 1943 Order in Council grants the Custodian of Enemy Alien Property the right to dispose of Japanese Canadian properties in his care without the owners' consent (January 23). 1944 The federal government announces a program to disperse Japanese Canadians throughout the country, to separate those who are “loyal” from those who are “disloyal”, and to deport the disloyal to Japan. ··· Prime Minister King states it is desirable that Japanese Canadians are dispersed across Canada (August 4). 1945 The New Canadian newspaper moves to Winnipeg. At the request of the British government, Japanese Canadians are allowed to enlist in the Canadian Intelligence Corps. ··· Tom Shoyama, editor of the New Canadian newspaper, along with one hundred fifty Japanese Canadians, volunteer for service with the Canadian Intelligence Corps in the Far East. Tomekichi Homma dies in the Popoff internment camp at the age of 80. ··· Japan surrenders after atomic bombs are dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki (August 15). ··· Approximately 10,000 people remaining in the camps, facing uncertainty and unable to confirm new residences east of the Rockies, sign deportation forms. Nearly half later apply to rescind their signatures. ··· Orders-in-Council P.C. 7335, 7356 and 7357 empower the government to assess the loyalty of Japanese Canadians, order their deportation and strip them of citizenship. 1946 On expiry of the War Measures Act, the National Emergency Transitional Powers Act is used to keep the measures against Japanese Canadians in place (January 1). ··· Boats begin carrying exiled Japanese Canadians to Japan (May 31). The Privy Council upholds a Supreme Court Decision that the deportation orders are legal (December). 1947 Deportation orders are cancelled but 4,000 Japanese Canadians have already been deported (January 24). ··· The Citizenship Act extends the franchise to Canadians of Chinese and South Asian origin, but excludes Japanese Canadians and aboriginal peoples (April). ··· The Bird Commission is formed to examine the losses sustained by Japanese Canadians (July 18). 1948 Bill 198 amends the Dominion Elections Act to remove the clause denying the franchise to Japanese Canadians (June 15). 1949 Japanese Canadians gain full rights of citizenship when restrictions imposed under the War Measures Act are lifted (March 31). ··· Japanese Canadians gain the right to vote in British Columbia, and are allowed to return to the west coast. Buck Suzuki, a soldier in the Canadian army during World War II, and a fisherman before the war, returns to Steveston, buys a used boat and net, and along with 28 Nikkei other fishermen, fishes the 1949 season.

1950 Order-in-Council P.C. 4364 revokes an order prohibiting immigration of "enemy aliens", and provides for some Japanese Canadians deported to re-immigrate to Canada. Eventually, about one quarter will return. ··· Bird Commission findings awarded about $1.2 million and rejects the National Japanese Canadian Citizens Association appeal that further claims be considered as well as an indemnity for general losses. 1951 Rintaro Hayashi, after ten years of internment and displacement, returns to Steveston and resumes fishing. 1952 The Vancouver Japanese Language School, the only building to be returned to the Nikkei community following the war, reopens on Alexander Street. 1955 Japanese trading companies open their offices in Canada, marking the beginning of a mass business relationship between Canada and Japan. 1957 The B.C. Security Commission office in New Denver closes. 1958 The Bulletin, a bilingual publication published by the Greater Vancouver Japanese Canadian Citizens’ Association, serves Japanese Canadians who have returned to the west coast. 1958 The Steveston Judo and Kendo Clubs reform and practice at the Steveston Community Centre 1964 Japanese Canadian Cultural Centre opens in Toronto. 1965 The Steveston Buddhist Temple opens at 4360 Garry Street. Vancouver becomes sister city to Yokohama 1966 Tsutae Sato, and wife, Hanako, retire from the Vancouver Japanese Language School after nearly 50 years of teaching. 1967 The federal government announces new immigration regulation - a point system for selection that no longer uses race as a category. As a result, a wave of new immigrants from Japan begins to arrive in Canada. 1971 Rintaro Hayashi retires from fishing, but maintains his commitment to the Japanese Canadian community and to the fishing industry. 1972 The Steveston Martial Arts Centre, with the first practice hall, or dojo, of it’s kind outside of Japan, opens bringing kendo and judo clubs together. 1973 Richmond becomes sister city to Wakayama. 1974 Rintaro Hayashi publishes Beyond the Japanese Current, detailing the early history of Nikkei fishing communities. 1976 The Enemy That Never Was by Ken Adachi is the first book to comprehensively document the Japanese Canadian experience.

1977 Japanese Canadians renew national community ties by celebrating the centennial of the arrival of Nagano Manzo, the first Japanese person known to land and settle in Canada. ··· Manzo Nagano has a mountain in British Columbia named after him. ··· Japanese Canadians begin to discuss seeking official acknowledgement and Redress from the federal government for the injustices committed during and after World War II. The first Powell Street Festival takes place at Oppenheimer Park. A Dream of Riches, a photographic history of the Japanese Canadian community, is published by the Japanese Canadian Centennial Project. 1982 Hide Hyodo Shimizu receives the Order of Canada for ensuring the education of Japanese Canadian children during internment. 1984 Art Miki becomes president of the National Association of Japanese Canadian (NAJC) and begins a concerted campaign for redress. The NAJC calls for a review of the War Measures Act to ensure that no Canadians will ever again be subjected to such wrongs. 1985 The American government makes an acknowledgement and pays $1.37 billion in redress to Japanese Americans interned during World War II - $20,000 to each of the estimated 66,000 survivors and $50 million fund to educate the American public about the uprooting (September 17). ··· Price Waterhouse Associates assesses income and property losses by Japanese Canadians during WWII at more than $443 million. ··· Kishi Boat Works, the last wooden boat works in Steveston, closes. 1988 Japanese Canadians, along with many prominent Canadians, rally on Parliament Hill in support of redress (April 14th). Sgt. Masumi Mitsui, one of the last surviving World War I veterans, presides over the relighting of the lantern atop the Japanese Canadian War Memorial, almost 45 years after it was extinguished. ··· The War Measures Act is repealed (July 21). ··· The NAJC announces a Redress Settlement negotiated with Prime Minister Brian Mulroney and the federal government, to acknowledge injustices against Japanese Canadians during and after World War II (September 22). The Japanese Canadian Redress Foundation is established to administer the community funds. Over the next ten years, projects initiated across Canada include community centres and other facilities, cultural and artistic projects, and educational projects. 1988 Kuno Garden officially opens in Steveston, a project of the Wakayama Kenjinkai (association dedicated to customs and traditions)

1991 Tomekichi Homma, over a century after his arrival in BC, has a new school named in his honour in Steveston. 1992 Steveston Japanese Canadian Cultural Centre opens. 1996 The Canadian Race Relations Foundation is established. ··· The Census of Canada shows a Japanese Canadian population of 77,130, of whom approximately one third indicate multiple ethnic backgrounds, indicating an intermarriage rate of over 90% in recent decades. 1998 The Sakura-so seniors housing complex is opened, the first component of Nikkei Place in Burnaby, BC (July 4). ··· Keiko Miki becomes the first woman president of the NAJC. 1999 The ground-breaking ceremony for the National Nikkei Heritage Centre is held in Burnaby (March 26). 2000 Grand opening of the new Vancouver Japanese Language School and Japanese Hall at 475 Alexander Street (June 25). ··· The National Nikkei Heritage Centre officially opens in Burnaby (September 22). 2002 September Nikkei Week 125 celebrates 125th Anniversary of Japanese Canadians in Canada. ··· Grand Opening of Nikkei Home, the final component of the Nikkei Place vision. The assisted living seniors residence is a place for seniors to maintain independence within a supportive environment. 2003 The 75th Anniversary of diplomatic relations with Japan. 2010 The last remnant of the Japanese Fishermen’s Benevolent Society complex of buildings is moved from its original site at No. 1 Road and Chatham Street to the Steveston Museum. 2012 Maple Residences, a Senior’s independent living complex opens on the former site of the Japanese Fishermen’s Hospital in Steveston. 2013 The 25th Anniversary of Redress (September 22). ··· The City of Vancouver apologizes to Japanese Canadians in a ceremony held at City Hall (September 25). 2014 The Powell Street Festival avoids displacing a large homeless campout from Oppenheimer Park by relocating its 38th annual event to Alexander Street, in front of the Japanese Language School.


Nikkei Stories gratefully acknowledges the work of many historians and researchers from the Japanese Canadian community on which this Chronology is based. Special acknowledgement is given to Toyo Takata, who explored the lives of the early pioneers in his book Nikkei Legacy: The Story of Japanese Canadians from Settlement to Today, Toronto: New Canada Press, 1983.



Writer / Director

Gordon McLennan

Camera / Editor

Greg Masuda


Linda Kawamoto Reid


Sam Araki / Colin Chan / Naomi Horii / Daniel Iwama / Mariko Kubota / Kai Nagata / Carolyn Nakagawa / Donna Nakamoto / Steve Sakamoto / Lisa Uyeda / Carly Yoshida-Butryn


Greg Masuda

Graphic Design

Cindy Mochizuki / Maksim Bentsianov


Greg Masuda / Clark Henderson

Audio Post Production

Jeff Yellen / Dave Stephens

Social Media Consultant

Lisa Uyeda

Study Guide

Naomi Horii

Archival Film and Photographs

Bazil Izumi / BC Archives / BC Sports Hall of Fame / City of Vancouver Archives / City of Richmond Archives / Clive Cocking / Cumberland Museum / Dave Mitsui / Glenbow Archives / Graeme Wood, Richmond News / Greg Masuda / Gulf of Georgia Cannery Society Archives / Hayashi Family / Homma Family / John Flanders / Langham Cultural Society & Kootenay Lake Historical Society / Kishi Family / Library and Archives Canada / Maikawa Family / Michael Bedford / Miki Family / Mukai Family / New Westminster Archives / Nikkei National Museum / Rumi Sasaki / Saskatchewan Archives Board / Tamio Wakayama / Tomio Baba Family / The Canadian Press / The Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library, University of Toronto / UBC Library-Rare Books and Special Collections / UBC-University Archives / Vancouver Maritime Museum / Vancouver Public Library / Vancouver Sun

Special Thanks

Wendy Au / Linda Barnes / Connie Baxter / Beth Carter / Owen Cameron / Keith Fedoruk / Robin Folvik / Ian Fraser / Linda Hay / Paul Hendren / Kelvin and Kay Higo / Sheila Hill / Tenney Homma / Grant Ikuta / Leslie Irie / Glenn Kishi / Kristen Lambertson / Krisztina Laszlo / Brooke Lees / Bill McMichael / Don Mukai / Bill McNulty / Emiko Morita / Consul General Seiji Okada / Bill Purver / Heidi Rampfl / Kate Russell / Alan Sakai / Loren Slye / Harold Steves / Rika Uto / Mitsuo Yesaki

Nikkei Stories is made possible with a grant from TELUS Optik Local Community Programming and is available for free on demand on TELUS Optik TV

The City of Vancouver - Great Beginnings Program

and by

The City of Richmond

Produced by

Orbit Films Inc.

The stories featured in Nikkei Stories were produced on the unceded lands of the Musqueum, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh First Nations.