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Section title: Japanese
Introduction | History | Daily Life | Culture | References


History

Beginnings

The first Japanese man to settle in Canada came to British Columbia in 1877. Not every ethnocultural group can name the first to arrive, but the Japanese do have this information. Manzo Nagano was the first Japanese Canadian. He lived in Victoria, where he eventually owned a gift shop, sold Japanese food and ran a hotel.

By 1914, there were about 10,000 Japanese people, mainly men, living in Canada. Most of them settled in British Columbia. In Japan, their families were very poor. There was not enough work for them to earn a living, and not enough food. They hoped for prosperity and a better life in Canada. Many of this early group of Japanese newcomers, or Issei, were young men with very little education. Few could read or write. But they knew how to work hard. They got jobs in the fishing, farming, logging and lumber industries. Some owned businesses to serve other Japanese Canadians.

 
Four unidentified young Okinawan men in Western dress   Tailor shop in Vancouver, British Columbia, 1907

 
  Two immigrants from Okinawa, Japan, 1910

The first Japanese woman to move to Canada was Yo Shishido, who immigrated in 1887, right after she got married. Her two sisters came later. After them, other women came as "picture brides." When a Japanese-Canadian man decided he wanted to get married, he wrote to Japan, asking his parents to look for a suitable wife. When his parents found someone, the couple exchanged photographs. If both agreed to the marriage, the bride travelled to Canada to meet and marry her husband. Altogether, 6,240 picture brides found husbands in Canada. The system lasted until 1925.

 

Glossary

ethnocultural group: a group of people who share a common culture, language and place of origin

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