Two main waves of Japanese immigration to Canada can be observed in the country’s history. Manzo Nagano, the first Japanese person to come to Canada, settled in Victoria in 1877. At the turn of the century, other Japanese people emigrated mainly from the islands of Kyushu and Honshu. The first generation or wave of Japanese immigrants, known as the Issei, migrated to the Fraser Valley and along the Pacific coastline. Others chose to settle in Alberta, in the cities and surrounding areas of Lethbridge and Edmonton. Those destinations were, however, less popular than the fishing villages, mining towns and logging camps of British Columbia.
By 1914, there were 10,000 people of Japanese ancestry in Canada. By the end of the 1930s, a solid network of Japanese communities, representing a population of 23,000, had been established.
Following the 1941 Pearl Harbor attack, the Government of Canada used the War Measures Act to order the removal of all Japanese Canadians residing within 160 kilometres of the Pacific coast. More than 20,000 Japanese people were placed in internment camps and relocation centres in the interior of British Columbia, in Alberta and in Ontario. At the end of the war, Japanese people had to choose between relocation to Japan or to a province located east of the Canadian Rockies. Most chose to remain in Canada and moved to Ontario, Quebec and the Prairie provinces.
Japanese immigration stopped completely during the Second World War and did not resume until 1967 when a revised immigration law opened the doors to immigrants who met language and education criteria. In 1977, 100 years after Manzo Nagano arrived in Canada, a mountain in British Columbia was named after him. Today, the 90-year time span between the immigration of the Issei and subsequent generations marks a historical division among Japanese people: those whose ancestors arrived before the Second World War and those who arrived in the 1960s and later.
In 1988, the Government of Canada acknowledged the wartime wrongs and offered compensation to each living Japanese person who had been expelled from the coast or who was born before April 1, 1949.
The 2006 Census indicates that more than 21,000 Japanese people declared they were of Japanese ancestry and three quarters of that population were women.
Research at Library and Archives Canada
Grace Tucker, 1942–1968 (MG 30 D200) (MIKAN 103195)
Grace Tucker emigrated from England in 1905. She was a welfare worker who worked with the Japanese Canadian internees during the Second World War. Working with the Anglican Church at the end of the war, she helped with the resettlement of Japanese Canadians. The fonds consists of correspondence, petitions, notices, minutes, agendas, news bulletins, articles, memoranda, forms, pamphlets and photographs.
Keitaro Matsubara, 1942–1969 (MG 31 H96) (MIKAN 101749)
Keitaro Matsubara immigrated to Canada in 1907 and settled in British Columbia. First, he worked as a merchant, and later became a clergyman with the United Church of Canada. He was interned in 1942 in Holmwood, Manitoba. The fonds consists of diaries, photographs, certificates and documents.
Masajiro Miyazaki, 1926–1975 (MG 31 H63) (MIKAN 102358)
Masajiro Miyazaki emigrated from Japan and lived in British Columbia. He worked as a surgeon, until he was interned in 1942. The fonds consists of draft memoirs and correspondence, statistics and surveys, memoranda, lists, notes, clippings, reports and photographs.
Mitsuru Shimpo, 1971– (R5786-0-3-E) (MIKAN 181297)
Mitsuru Shimpo emigrated from Japan in 1962. Shimpo authored a number of books that focus on the sociological aspects of Aboriginal experiences in Canada, and Japanese Canadian internment. The fonds consists of oral interviews and recordings of discussions.
Thomas K. Shoyama 1920–2000 (R10881-0-7-E) (MIKAN 205229)
Born in British Columbia, Thomas K. Shoyama published a newspaper before he was interned during the Second World War. He was part of the Intelligence Corps of the Canadian Army for a brief time in 1945. After the war, he occupied many government positions and taught at universities. The fonds consists of correspondence, reports, speeches, memoranda, honorary degrees, awards, circulars, clippings, photographs and drawings.
Japanese Canadians collection, 1910–1973 (MG 28 V73) (MIKAN 100740)
The Japanese Canadians collection includes various smaller groups of records from many donors. The fonds consists of documents, clippings, interviews, reports, issues, newspapers and photographs.
Japanese Canadian Citizens Association, 1884–1975 (MG 28 V7) (MIKAN 100580)
The Japanese Canadian Citizens Association (JCCA) was formed in 1947 primarily to assist people with claims before the Royal Commission of Japanese Property Losses (Bird Commission) and to fight against discriminatory laws. The fonds consists of records of the JCCA and documents of business operations. It also contains briefs, files, literature, accounts and historical notes.
Immigration Branch: Central Registry Files
Other Series of Records
Library and Archives Canada holds other records pertaining to Japanese immigrants to Canada. Consult the Archives Search database using keywords such as a surname or an organization name.
Research in Published Sources
The Enemy That Never Was: A History of the Japanese Canadians by K. Adachi, 1991.
Years of Sorrow, Years of Shame: The Story of Japanese Canadians in World War II by
B. Broadfoot, 1977.
Chorus of Mushrooms by Hiromi Goto, 1994.
Redress: Inside the Japanese Canadian Call for Justice by Roy Miki, 2004.
Justice in Our Time: The Japanese Canadian Redress Settlement by Roy Miki and Cassandra Kobayashi, preface by Art Miki 1991.
The Politics of Racism: The Uprooting of Japanese Canadians during the Second World War by Ann Gomer Sunahara, 1981.
Reducing the Numbers [microform]: the Transportation of the Canadian Japanese, 1941–1947 by R.L. Gabrielle Nishiguchi, 1994.
Royal Commission on Complaints of Canadian Citizens of Japanese Origin who resided in British Columbia in 1941, that their real and personal property had been disposed of by the Custodian of Enemy Property at prices less than the fair market value by Henry Irvine Bird, 1950.
We Went to War: The Story of the Japanese Canadians Who Served during the First and Second World Wars by Roy Ito, 1992.
Search for books on the Japanese in AMICUS, using authors, titles or subject terms such as:
Asian Heritage Portal
Japanese Canadians Then and Now
National Association of Japanese Canadians
Sedai: The Japanese Canadian Legacy Project
Vanishing B.C. Japanese Canadian internment sites in the Slocan
The Bulletin: a journal of Japanese Canadian Community, History and Culture
Virtual Museum of Asian Canadian Cultural Heritage
Use AVITUS to find other websites about the Japanese in Canada.