Japanese Canadian Journey

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The Nakagama Story

by Rochelle Yamagishi

Japanese grocer carrying a bag of rice

The general history of Japanese Canadian immigration in the early 1900s, and subsequent forced removal of Japanese Canadians from the west coast of Canada to southern Alberta during World War II to work on sugar beet farms, is interwoven with the personalized story of a particular entrepreneur, Ryutaro Nakagama, who established the first Albertan Japanese food store in Lethbridge, Alberta. Young and single at the time, the author’s father, Ryutaro, viewed his move to Canada as a new adventure, a chance to break away from existing conditions in his homeland. On April 16, 1924, eighteen-year-old Ryutaro arrived in Victoria, British Columbia, on the S.S. McKinley. His older sister, Miye, and her husband, Chosaburo Nakagama, had emigrated earlier, and sponsored Ryutaro to work in Steveston, British Columbia. Chosaburo had his own fishing boat and fishing license under which the two men could fish, so Ryutaro worked with his brother-in-law in the fishing industry for three years, from 1924 to 1927. Typically, Japanese immigrants at the beginning of the 20th century came to Canada only temporarily, but he seemed intent on staying in Canada to make his future. The decision was confirmed when he became a naturalized Canadian citizen on October 2, 1926.

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Publisher: Trafford Publishing
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About the Author

Rochelle Yamagishi is a tutor with Athabasca University.