Strength

From their earliest days in Canada, Nikkei like Tomekichi Homma, Rev. Goro Kaburagi, and Etsu Suzuki believed in full rights in society. In 1900 Homma became the public face of a challenge by the community to gain the right to vote. Though Homma won his case in the Canadian courts, the British court reversed the decision, denying Nikkei the vote.

Determination

Because Nikkei weren’t allowed to vote, they were barred from holding public office and from many professions, including law and pharmacy. Work other than manual labour was closed to them with rare exceptions, like Asahi player Eddie Kitagawa, employed by a bank, or Hide Hyodo, the only Nikkei schoolteacher allowed in British Columbia.

Ingenuity

By far the largest group of Nikkei worked as fishermen, with great success. They were skillful, hardworking and innovative at boatbuilding and design. When the lucrative salmon seine fishery was closed to Nikkei, they fought and won legal battl Read More
Strength

From their earliest days in Canada, Nikkei like Tomekichi Homma, Rev. Goro Kaburagi, and Etsu Suzuki believed in full rights in society. In 1900 Homma became the public face of a challenge by the community to gain the right to vote. Though Homma won his case in the Canadian courts, the British court reversed the decision, denying Nikkei the vote.

Determination

Because Nikkei weren’t allowed to vote, they were barred from holding public office and from many professions, including law and pharmacy. Work other than manual labour was closed to them with rare exceptions, like Asahi player Eddie Kitagawa, employed by a bank, or Hide Hyodo, the only Nikkei schoolteacher allowed in British Columbia.

Ingenuity

By far the largest group of Nikkei worked as fishermen, with great success. They were skillful, hardworking and innovative at boatbuilding and design. When the lucrative salmon seine fishery was closed to Nikkei, they fought and won legal battles to continue fishing, developing new techniques for other fisheries in the margins of the industry.

Enterprise

Shut out of most occupations, considered neither citizens nor persons, Nikkei women were among the most entrepreneurial in the community. They operated businesses and boarding houses, and set up schools for their daughters to study dressmaking. By the mid-1930s, there were nearly ninety Nikkei dressmakers in Vancouver.

Mutual support

Tightly knit associations like the kenjin-kai, farmers co-operative, millworkers union, and Gyosha-dantai cared for the well-being of newcomers and provided support in the Nikkei communities. Nikkei founded hospitals, schools and social groups. Churches offered their services. Families and neighbours looked out for each other

Perseverance

Through the heyday of the Asahi club Nikkei persevered, undaunted by hardship, tensions, and discrimination encountered. In 1914, they joined en masse to serve Canada, offering their lives in the Great War. A generation later, they again sought the right to vote, in a time marked by anti-Asian laws like the Chinese Exclusion Act.

© National Nikkei Museum and Heritage Centre 2007. All Rights Reserved.

Homma family

Homma family, ca. 1908.

L-R: Matsu Homma holding baby Junkichi Homma, with Joe Homma standing beside his father Tomekichi Homma.

Homma Family Collection. Japanese Canadian National Museum
c. 1908
94/88.3.002.
© Japanese Canadian National Museum


Eddie Kitagawa

Eddie Kitagawa.

Courtesy of the Kitagawa Family
1922
© Courtesy of the Kitagawa Family


Towing sailboats

Towing sailboats to the fishing ground, Catham Sound, Skeena, 1930s.

Japanese Canadian National Museum
c. 1930
© Japanese Canadian National Museum


Sturgeon

200 pound sturgeon caught during the 1930s. Courtesy of Eiichi Harada.

Courtesy of Eiichi Harada
c. 1930
© Courtesy of Eiichi Harada


Fumiko and Kimiko Saito

Fumiko and Kimiko Saito in front of their dressmaking shop at 818 Smythe Street, Vancouver, ca. 1940.

Kimiko Nasu Collection. Japanese Canadian National Museum.
c. 1940
© Japanese Canadian National Museum


Trois étudiantes de la Marietta School of Costume Design

Three students of the Marietta School of Costume Design, Kana Enomoto, Fumiko Ikeda, and Miss Nishi, walking in the Powell Street district, Vancouver, February 1942.

Gift of Mary Fumiko Ikeda Otto. Japanese Canadian National Museum.
1942
© Japanese Canadian National Museum.


Japanese Canadian Citizens’ League

Japanese Canadian Citizens’ League sends a delegation to Ottawa to lobby for franchise for Japanese Canadians, 1936.

L-R: Samuel I. Hayakawa, Minoru Kobayashi, Hide (Hyodo) Shimizu, Edward Banno.

Tatsue Okamoto Collection. Japanese Canadian National Museum.
1936
© Japanese Canadian National Museum


Video - Mutual Support

From "Watari Dori: A Bird of Passage." CBC Television

[Interpreter] Summers were the best times, with the picnics … If the children are going to enjoy it, the parents, too, will enjoy it. It was always with that feeling.

CBC Television
1973
© CBC Television


Video - Perseverance

Midge Ayukawa in Sleeping Tigers: The Asahi Baseball Story.

"I used to come home from Japanese school around five, five-thirty, and I’d see my father out by the right field with his lunch pail under his arm and watching baseball. I’d sit there and enjoy watching him, because he seemed so happy. He laughed so much when he was watching the baseball, and at home I guess I didn’t hear it very much. You know, life was hard – life was hard."

National Film Board of Canada
2003
© National Film Board of Canada


Learning Objectives

The learner will:
  • Identify and discuss the social conditions of the Nikkei in Canadian society;
  • Describe the influence of Asahi on Canadian population;
  • Explain the positive aspects of such a sport organization;
  • Deduct, from the information given in the exhibition, an overview of Canadian society before the Second World War.

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