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Asian Canadian History and Archives

About These Collections

The fonds and collections included here contain the records of Japanese Canadians, various associations by and for Japanese Canadians, and non-Asian creators whose records contain information relevant to Japanese Canadians. They include the records of those who were/are farmers, religious leaders, writers, teachers, and activists, among other professions, in addition to multiple research collections focused on chronicling the Japanese Canadian experience. 

author Joy Kogawa

Vancouver author Joy Kogawa, whose award-winning novel Obasan tells the story of a young Japanese Canadian girl forced into internment during WWII, is photographed here in 1995. Her fonds is housed at RBSC.

Image source: UBC Archives Photograph Collection, UBC Open Collections

Ker, C. (1995, January 1). Author Joy Kogawa [P]. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.14288/1.0159864

Archival Collections by Japanese Canadian Creators

The fonds consists of minutes of the Canadian Japanese Young Men's Christian Association from 1931-1942


Denbei Kobayashi was born in September 1878 in Nagano-ken, Japan. He emigrated to Canada in 1906, where he initially made his living by fishing. After working construction for the Canadian Pacific Railway, he found employment at the Coldstream Ranch in the Okanagan, before moving to Okanagan Centre to work at the Grandview Hotel. He was then awarded a contract by the Okanagan Valley Land Co. in Winfield to plant 800 acres of fruit trees. In 1914, he and his wife bought orchard property in the Okanagan, where he would concentrate on fruit growing for the rest of his career. His family home became a social centre in the area, playing host to everyone from Japanese consuls to ordinary folk. After being converted by Methodist missionaries in Japan, Kobayashi became a devoted member of the United Church in the Okanagan. He was also a writer and supporter of Japanese haiku, judging entries from across Canada in addition to organizing a local group of such writers in 1921. In 1966, Kobayashi was bestowed with a citation and a silver medal by Prince Takamatsu, brother to the Japanese emperor, for his work regarding agricultural development.

The fonds consists of diaries (1913-1940), letters, newspaper clippings, photographs and negatives, receipts, postcards, hand drawn plans, mathematical notations, personal notations, medical inspection notices, church publications, and other miscellaneous documentation.


Zennosuke Inouye was born in Hiroshima, Japan in 1883 and immigrated to Canada in 1900. He became a Canadian citizen in 1914, enlisted in the army in 1916, and served in WWI until he was discharged in 1919 after being wounded. After the war, he and his wife and children turned a portion of their land into profitable berry fields and he became the president of the Japanese Canadian owned and operated Surrey Berry Growers’ Cooperative Association. In 1942, the majority of the Inouye family was forcibly relocated to Kaslo, B.C. by the Canadian government. After WWII, Zennosuke petitioned as an individual to have his land returned to him, writing many letters to anyone who might be swayed by his demonstrated loyalty as a WWI veteran. When his land was returned to him in 1949, he became the sole dispossessed Japanese Canadian veteran to have his land returned.

The fonds consists of photographs and textual records which belonged to the Inouye family. The records are related mostly to Zennosuke and his youngest daughter, Beverly. The fonds has been arranged into the following series: Surrey Berry Growers’ Cooperative records; correspondence; ephemera; land records; photographs; military records; financial records; and voting records.


Formed under the auspices of the Greater Vancouver Japanese Canadian Citizens' Association, the Japanese Canadian History Preservation Committee sponsored an oral history project in 1985 with the goal of chronicling the early experiences of Japanese Canadians. The fonds consists of 134 cassette tapes of 91 interviews with Japanese Canadians and two bound volumes containing an index to individuals interviewed, data sheets, and consent forms for use of the material.


The Japanese Canadian research collection consists of approximately 50 small collections donated by individuals and organizations whose names can be found at the link in the title. The collection encompasses a wide range of topics, including: relocation to internment camps during WWII; farming; lumbering; religious activities; personal reminiscences; and various organizational records. Individual collections have been arranged and described separately and filed in alphabetical order. Most of the manuscript material has been photocopied from original documents.

Roughly 600 images in the collection have been digitized and are available to view online here via UBC Open Collections.


Joy Nozomi Kogawa (nee Nakayama) is a renowned writer who was born in Vancouver, B.C. in 1935 to Japanese Canadian parents. In addition to the honorary degrees she received from Ryerson Polytechnical Institute and the University of Lethbridge in 1991, Kogawa has been granted degrees from Simon Fraser University, Laurentian University, and the University of British Columbia. She has won many awards for her 1981 novel, Obasan, which chronicles the internment and persecution of citizens of Japanese descent by the Canadian government during WWII, all from the perspective of a child. For her work, she was awarded the Order of Canada in 1986. The fonds consists of material related to Kogawa's writing projects, her personal life, her involvement in community organizations, and her participation in literary, cultural, and human rights conferences and events.


Kosaburo Shimizu was born in 1893 in the Shiga Prefecture of Japan and emigrated to British Columbia in 1907. After graduating high school, he taught English at the New Westminster Japanese Methodist Church, where he was baptized in 1913. In 1915, Shimizu began classes at the newly established University of British Columbia and eventually went on to graduate with an M.A. in English Literature from Harvard. In addition to his education, he was ordained as a minister of the United Church and subsequently became the pastor of the Vancouver Japanese United Church in 1926. During the 1920s and 1930s, Shimizu worked to build up and reinforce Japanese Christian fellowship. Shimizu devoted much of his efforts to bridging the growing rifts between first- and second-generation Japanese Canadians as well as between Anglo-Saxon Canadians and Japanese Canadians. With the advent of WWII, he was relocated to the internment camp in Kaslo, B.C. After the war, he and his family moved to Toronto, where he organized the Japanese United Church's work in the Church of all Nations. The fonds consists of diaries (1909-1922, 1924-1961), notebooks, copies of sermons, and miscellaneous materials related to Shimizu’s religious work and personal life. Many of the documents reflect his involvement with church congregations and Japanese-Canadian relations.


Mitsuru Shimpo was born in Manchuria in 1931. He graduated from the International Christian University in Japan (1957) and then received his M.A. in Sociology from the Tokyo Educational College. After his graduation, Shimpo returned to ICU as a lecturer (1959-1962) before emigrating to British Columbia. He attended the University of British Columbia to pursue doctoral studies in research sociology, carried out field studies in Japan, and authored a number of books which focus on sociological aspects of Japanese Canadians and Indigenous peoples in Canada. The fonds consists of correspondence (1960-1983), scrapbooks (1970-1977), and diaries (1962-1976), as well as eight sound recordings (1971) of Japanese Canadian pioneers talking about their early experiences in the province and the period of the Japanese internment during WWII.


The National Association of Japanese Canadians (NAJC) was formed in 1947 as the National Japanese Canadian Citizens’ Association (NJCCA) before it officially became the NAJC in 1980. Since its establishment, the association has focused on strengthening the Japanese Canadian community and advocating for the equality of human rights for all persons, especially racial and ethnic minorities. It provides leadership for the Japanese Canadian community in Canada at the national level, represents a number of chapters across the country, and was responsible for the Japanese Canadian Redress Movement beginning in the 1980s, whereby justice was sought for the acts of discrimination committed against Japanese Canadians during and after WWII by the Canadian government. The fonds consists of materials documenting the activities of the NAJC during four general time periods: the pre-redress period (including records of the NJCCA before it became the NAJC); the birth and development of the redress movement in the 1980s; the implementation of redress following the September 1988 settlement (1988-1992);  and the post-implementation period (1993-present).


The Pitt Meadows Japanese Farmers' Association was organized in the 1920s for educational purposes and community activities, such as information related to agricultural practices and skills through seminars and brochures. In 1928, it was united with other similar organizations of Japanese farmers in the Lower Fraser Valley under the Consolidated Farmers' Association of the Fraser Valley. The Association ceased to be active after the war broke out in the Pacific in December 1941, when all the Japanese Canadian organizations were ordered to stop operating. The fonds consists of correspondence, financial records, receipts, invoices, printed material, and related items pertaining to the activities of the Pitt Meadows Japanese Farmers' Association (1937-1942) and the Canadian Japanese Association in Vancouver. There are references to the Japanese Language School and the town of Mission, as well as printed material pertaining to the Sino-Japanese War.


Richard Alan Shiomi was born in 1947 in Toronto and attended the University of Toronto as well as Simon Fraser University before travelling the world between 1972-1974. He returned to Vancouver in 1975 to teach briefly at Langara College and, in 1977, he participated in the Japanese Canadian centennial as a member of the Japanese Canadian Citizens Association. He was also a member of the Powell Street Review, a co-editor of the anthology Inalienable Rice, and a producer of audio-visual material about Japanese Canadian history. The fonds consists of correspondence and writing as well as material relating to the Japanese Canadian Citizens Association and the internment of Japanese Canadians during WWII.


Roy Akira Miki was born in October 1942 in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Over the years, he has worked as a professor at Simon Fraser University and enjoyed success as a writer, poet, and editor. He has received awards, grants, and honours for his literary achievements, including The Association of Asian American Studies 1997 Poetry Award for his work as editor of the book Pacific Windows: The Collected Poetry of Roy K Kiyooka and the 2002 Governor General’s Award for Poetry, which he received in recognition of Surrender, a work concerning the internment of Japanese Canadians in the 1940s.

Miki has also been recognized for his efforts on behalf of the Japanese Canadian Redress movement. He was a researcher, writer, activist, and negotiator for the movement, serving as Chair of the Vancouver Japanese Canadian Redress Committee. Miki also participated in many conferences and events dealing with multiculturalism and ethnicity and has written and edited several books about Japanese Canadian history. These include Justice in Our Time: The Japanese Canadian Redress Settlement (co-author, 1991), and This Is My Own: Letters to Wes and Other Writings on Japanese Canadians by Muriel Kitagawa (editor, 1985). The fonds consists of correspondence, manuscripts, pamphlets, academic papers, poems, research material, notes, minutes, programmes, photographs, and other material related to Miki’s work as a writer, editor, professor, and activist, as well as his personal life. 


Shizuye Takashima was born in B.C. in 1930. At age eleven, she was sent with her family to the Japanese internment camp of New Denver in British Columbia’s interior. Following the war, Shizuye studied art at the Ontario College of Fine Arts, where she continued on as an instructor after graduating. Her experience in internment camps was the subject of her award-winning autobiographical novel, A Child in Prison Camp. The fonds consists of an annotated draft manuscript of the novel.


Tatsuo Kurihara is a professional photographer and freelance writer. The fonds consists of thirteen of Kurihara's photographs of Japanese Canadian fishermen, their families, and daily life in the fishing community of Steveston, B.C. between 1985-1986.


The fonds consists of minutes and membership rolls of the Methodist Church of Canada’s Woman's Missionary Society Japanese Auxiliary from 1911 to 1925.


Yasutaro Yamaga was born in Japan and came to British Columbia in 1908. After working as a labourer, he purchased ten acres of land near Haney, B.C. and led the Japanese Farmer's Union in the Fraser Valley. After WWII, he moved to Ontario, where he established the Nipponia Home, the first home for Japanese Canadian senior citizens in Canada. The fonds consists of biographical information, diaries (1962-1966), manuscripts, correspondence, and collected historical material pertaining to the Haney Agricultural Association (1906-1962), Fraser Valley Japanese Language School (1920-1953), Nipponia Home (1941-1969), and Japanese Canadian United Church (1919-1966).


Gordon Goichi Nakayama was born in Ozu, Japan in 1900. In October 1919, he traveled to Vancouver, B.C. and taught at various Japanese language schools and attended Bible School until meeting his wife Lois, an Anglican missionary. After their marriage, he attended the Anglican Theological College from 1929-1934 and was appointed pastor of the Church of the Ascension in Vancouver, where he served until 1942. During the internal displacement of Japanese Canadians during WWII, Nakayama served as pastor at the Slocan Japanese Anglican Church from 1942-1945 at the Slocan, B.C. internment camp. Following the war, he and his family were sent to Coaldale, AB, to establish a Japanese Canadian Anglican Mission, where he served as pastor and later vicar of the Church of the Ascension in Coaldale from 1945-1978.

After retirement, he moved back to Vancouver and focused more on missionary outreach work. As a missionary, Nakayama traveled to most major cities in Canada, the United States, and Japan, as well as many countries in South America, Europe, Africa, and the Middle East. He also wrote nearly 20 books, primarily in Japanese, including: religious tracts and collections of sermons; biographical or autobiographical books; non-fiction works on the Japanese Canadian / Issei community; poetry collections; and a number of articles and pamphlets.

In 1994-1995, Nakayama confirmed and admitted to significant immoral sexual conduct over many years while in the office of priest before voluntarily resigning the privileges of his ministry. In March 2014, his children, Joy Kogawa and Timothy Nakayama, published an open letter in the Japanese Canadian Citizens’ Association’s The Bulletin, acknowledging an initiative underway by the JCCA Human Rights committee to disclose Nakayama’s offences.

The fonds consists of textual records, photographs, and audiovisual materials spanning the period 1905-2001. Materials are primarily related to Nakayama’s career with the Anglican Church of Canada, missionary work, and research and writing projects (the latter primarily related to Japanese internment and the Japanese Canadian community), as well and his personal and family life. Audio-visual materials consist of two films on three 16mm film reels on the subject of WWII and Japanese culture.

Archival Collections by Non-Asian Creators

Anna Scantland was born in Saskatchewan in 1931. In 1955, she received her B.A. at the University of British Columbia before marrying Erik Lund. Her experience working at the Hastings Community Centre in Vancouver, B.C. sparked her interest in the issues facing minority and immigrant peoples. She later returned to UBC to obtain her teaching certificate and began her teaching career in 1959. The fonds consists of textual records, such as a scrapbook, the manuscript of her novel Resignation, correspondence, guidelines for writing, and clippings on the subject of women and Japanese Canadians, among others.


David Conde was born in Ontario in 1906, moved to the United States in the early 1920s, and became an American citizen in 1932. From 1945-1946, he worked for the U.S. State Department during the occupation of Japan as the head of the Motion Picture Department of Civil Information and Education Section. In late 1946-1947, he covered the Tokyo War Crimes Trials and was ultimately expelled from Japan by General Douglas MacArthur. In 1964, he returned to Tokyo as a regular correspondent for various periodicals, including the Far Eastern Economic Review and Ta Kung Pao. Several of his full-length books on Japanese, Korean, Chinese, and Asian-American political policies have been published in Japanese.

The fonds consists of records of the International Military Tribunal for the Far East (1946-47), including: trial transcripts; biographical information on defendants; prosecution evidence; and copies of contemporary news accounts and interpretations of the trials. Research notes including printed materials, photographs, ephemera, and interview transcripts used in the writing of hundreds of short articles, news programmes, full-length books, correspondence, and radio programme transcripts that reflect Conde's integral involvement in Asian foreign affairs.


Glenn Willoughby McPherson was born in April 1910 in Portage la Prairie. He became a lawyer in 1935, but only practiced for two years before moving into the public sector as legal counsel to the Custodian of Enemy Property. In 1937, this position involved redistributing property confiscated during WWI, but by 1939, he was advising the Custodian on issues related to WWII. As war broke out, McPherson was also recruited into William Stephenson’s "Security Organization." As part of this dual role, McPherson was responsible for deciding whether Japanese Canadians should be interned in 1942. For the next two years, he administered the confiscated property of the internees. The fonds consists mainly of records assembled by McPherson over the course of his professional career, predominantly related to wartime activities. The Alsop Subfonds contains important records given to journalist Kay Alsop by McPherson, particularly those documenting the decision to intern Japanese Canadians


John W. (Jack) Duggan was born in Toronto in 1919 and joined the RCMP in the early 1940s. In 1943, he was posted to the Slocan Valley, B.C., to supervise the Japanese internment camps, where he would work discontinuously between 1943 and 1947. The fonds consists of a scrapbook and photographs documenting the lives of Japanese Canadian internees in the Lemon Creek internment camp during WWII and their reunions after the war.


Joan Gillis was born on Vancouver Island in January 1928. Her family eventually moved to Surrey, B.C. where she attended Queen Elizabeth Secondary School and made friends with a number of Japanese Canadians. After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, many of her friends and their families were ordered to move away from the coast and were forced into internment camps. Gillis found this to be unjust and wrote letters to her friends while they were being held away from home. The fonds consists of the incoming correspondence Joan received from them, the majority of which took place between 1942-1946 and came from different friends writing from farms and work camps in Northern British Columbia, Manitoba, and Alberta. The letter-writers discuss their day-to-day life at the camps, living and working conditions, their new schools and teachers, and ask after Gillis’ life in Surrey and the on-goings at Queen Elizabeth Secondary School.


The Keenlyside Legal research collection consists of legal documents collected by John Keenlyside over the last thirty-five years. The series entitled “Japanese Canadian historical documents, 1946-1947” contains documents created by civil rights organizations concerned with Japanese Canadian rights.


Thomas Rodney Berger was a Canadian lawyer, politician, judge, and author. He was born in 1933 in Victoria, B.C., received his law degree from the University of British Columbia in 1956, and began practicing law in Vancouver. He eventually rose to national prominence in the 1960s as a defender of the rights of Indigenous peoples in B.C. The 1960s also saw Berger active in party politics both nationally and provincially; he represented Vancouver-Burrard as a Member of Parliament from 1962-63 and as a Member of the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia from 1966-69, when he was briefly leader of the New Democratic Party of B.C. and campaigned unsuccessfully to be premier of the province. In 1971, he was appointed as a judge of the Supreme Court of British Columbia, serving on the bench until 1983, when he resigned to resume his law practice. During the 1970s and 80s, Berger also headed a number of commissions of inquiry related to family law, the rights of Indigenous people, and the environment. His study of human rights and dissent in Canada, entitled Fragile Freedoms, was published in 1981. In 1983, he became involved in efforts to gain redress for Japanese Canadians who suffered internment and mistreatment during WWII. His work with various civil rights causes helped earn him the Order of Canada in 1990. The fonds consists of thirteen series pertaining to Berger’s various activities, one of which is devoted to Japanese Canadian redress.

Digitized Collections

Materials from RBSC and beyond are digitized and available for viewing online at UBC Open Collections. Those that relate directly to Japanese Canadian history are listed below.


As with the larger Japanese Canadian Research Collection of which it forms a part, the Japanese Canadian Photograph Collection (JCPC) was assembled by UBC Library's Rare Books and Special Collections from various donors beginning in the 1970s. While the JCPC documents a wide range of the experiences of Canadians of Japanese descent in British Columbia, the resource is particularly strong in chronicling their treatment during World War II.

Group of Japanese children at Lemon Creek camp

Image source: Japanese Canadian Photograph Collection, UBC Open Collections

[Unknown]. (1949). Group of Japanese children at Lemon Creek camp? [P]. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.14288/1.0048875


UBC Library's Rare Books and Special Collections holds one of the world's largest collections of maps and guidebooks of the Japanese Tokugawa period, ca. 1600-1868. The collection varies in both format and size: items range from small single-sheet maps to more than thirty square feet, and also include a ceramic plate, a woodblock, and maps in scroll format. Unlike most of the collections outside Japan, this collection does not contain many government or administrative maps. Its focus is on privately published and travel related maps and guides published in Japan during the Tokugawa or Edo period. There is world coverage, although the majority of maps are of the whole or parts of Japan.

Fujisawa Yugyōji

Image source: Japanese Maps of the Tokugawa Era, UBC Open Collections

Andō, Hiroshige, 1797-1858. (n.d.). [Maps]. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.14288/1.0222850


The Meiji at 150 collection consists of visual images that were produced primarily in Japan during the Meiji period (1868-1912). They include: 21 Meiji-era woodblock prints; 1 hand-painted kimono book; a 7-volume book on the Ainu; 1 tourist album; 2 Japanese Canadian booklets; and 41 photographs from the John Cooper Robinson collection.

[Japanese girls and woman carrying babies on backs]

Image source: Meiji at 150, UBC Open Collections

Robinson, J. C. (1905, March 31). [Japanese girls and woman carrying babies on backs] [P]. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.14288/1.0364324


The One Hundred Poets collection consists of 74 books and 20 different card sets relating to the poetry anthology Hyakunin Isshu (One Hundred Poets, One Poem Each), edited by the famous poet and scholar Fujiwara no Teika (1162-1241) in the 1230s. It is unquestionably the most famous poetry anthology in the Japanese tradition.

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Image source: One Hundred Poets, UBC Open Collections

[Unknown]. (1912). Karuti 1-kumi [G]. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.14288/1.0305752


The Symposium on Early Modern Japanese Values and Individuality was held at UBC Asian Centre August 28-30, 2013. Jointly presented by UBC Asian Studies, the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science, and the Japan Foundation, and sponsored in part by the Consulate General of Japan in Vancouver, the symposium revisited pre-industrial Japan with an aim of enhancing our understanding of those earlier values and how they have contributed to the emergence of today's Japan. The lecturers delved into changes that had occurred in the Japanese peopleu2019s values and sense of individuality from the end of the Edo to the beginning of the Meiji period. These unique lectures gave the audience a vivid impression of culture, society, and thought in early modern Japan.


The Japanese Canadian newspaper Tairiku Nippō (Continental Daily News) was published in Vancouver between 1907 and 1941. The paper, predominantly written in Japanese, was an important source of information for Japanese immigrants to B.C. The Nippō sheds light on the Japanese Canadian community prior to the internment of Japanese Canadians during WWII. Therefore, the newspaper is relevant to those researching Japanese Canadians and Canadian history more broadly, as well as immigration history, multiculturalism, Asian Studies, and the impact of war. In addition to news stories, the Nippō includes advertisements for Japanese Canadian businesses that were later forced to closed as a result of the internment, as well as religious (both Christian and Buddhist) announcements, and community event notices. There is no equivalent newspaper or resource about pre-war Japanese Canadian society.

Books by Aforementioned Canadians