Nikkei Journey

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Japanese Canadians in Southern Alberta

by Rochelle Yamagishi

black and white photo montage of Japanese Canadians

By Rochelle Yamagishi and Naomi Rochelle Sato

This book was written as a follow-up to the museum exhibit, “Nikkei Tapestry: The Story of Japanese Canadians in Southern Alberta,” which was presented at the Sir Alexander Galt Museum in Lethbridge, AB in 2003. Ten stories have been written from first-person perspectives, telling what it was really like for pioneers, evacuees, and their descendants to be Japanese Canadian. In addition, there are stories about the new immigrants who came to work on farms in the 1970s, and the Redress movement, finalized in 1988.

The stories are all true, taken from books, conversations, and interviews, and interwoven to produce composite characters representing different generational groups, each with their own unique experiences and viewpoints.

The Issei, or first generation, came in the early 1900s, either to the west coast of British Columbia, working in fishing, lumbering, and farming, or to the Raymond area in southern Alberta, to work the sugar beets. After the Pearl Harbor attack in 1941, the Canadian government ordered the confiscation of property and businesses of all persons of Japanese descent living within a 100-mile geographical area from the coast. In addition, all persons were ordered to evacuate to ghost towns in the interior of B.C. or move as families to sugar beet farms in southern Alberta.

The Nisei, or second generation, followed along with their elders, being docile and cooperative during the evacuation, due to cultural norms that emphasized duty and obligation, conformity and obedience. Such cultural beliefs as, “Shikata-ga-nai,” meaning, “it can’t be helped,” and, ”Gaman,” meaning “patience and perseverance,” helped Japanese Canadians as a group to ultimately survive the events of the evacuation.

These stories are important to bring forward, since the Japanese people as a whole are reluctant to talk about these historical experiences. Although they were shamed and humiliated, they have put their efforts into obtaining occupational and educational attainment in Canadian society.

Published:
Publisher: Trafford Publishing
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About the Author

Rochelle Yamagishi is a tutor with Athabasca University.


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.

Published:
Publisher: Trafford Publishing
Tags:

About the Author

Rochelle Yamagishi is a tutor with Athabasca University.