Historically known as Little Tokyo, Japantown is situated between Gore and Dunlevy suburb and lies along Powell Street. Since it has never truly recovered from its treatment in World War II, Japantown now consists of small Japanese shops and restaurants.
The first ’Issei’ (translated to Japanese immigrant) first arrived in British Columbia in the 1890’s and they worked in local mills and canneries of Vancouver. As most were fishermen, they were seen as a treat to the local fish industry. Tension broke in 1907, when a racist mob descended into Japantown As Britain and Japan were allies, the situation around immigration issues were decidedly delicate. Politicians were sympathetic towards the Japanese community but no real actions were taken as they were fearful of the wrath of the mob. In the end, Japan passed its own immigration laws thus restricting the flow of immigrants out of the country.
Friendship between Japan and Canada deteriorated in the 1930s causing a boycott of Japanese goods when war was declared against China. Japanese men were not permitted to join the war effort in 1941 and the state began its registration and fingerprinting of all Japanese men and women. When Japan made its attack on Pearl Habor in 1941, all Japanese males between the age of 18 and 45 were rounded up for resettlement. These ‘enemy aliens’ as they were seen then, were forced from their homes and relocated to labor camps.
Japanese Canadian were finally given their freedom and citizenship in 1947. The government was forced to recognized them as citizens and were given compensation. Today, Japantown is a busy and booming town.
Try eating in any Japanese restaurants and you will be presented with a menu of hot and cold dishes. ‘Sushi’ is very popular in Vancuver as Canada boast some of the freshest salmons in the world. (Try the newly invented BC Rolls) If ‘sushi’ or ‘sashimi’ is not to your taste, then try ‘teriyaki’ beef or chicken on a bed of rice. Traditional drinks like ‘sake’ is a must if you haven’t yet tried the rice wine. Like any other restaurants in Vancouver, it is advisable to leave a tip when you are eating in a restaurant.
See Asian Restaurants
Powell Street possessed some of the best grocery stores and is located on the western edge of Japantown A lot of the stores have some beautiful Japanese artworks as well as goods for you to buy.
Walk until you reach 378 Powell and you will arrive at the Japanese Community Volunteers Association also known as Tonari Gumi. This centre which contains a cozy lounge area filled with Japanese books as well activity rooms for Japanese senior citizen is sponsored by Social Services of Vancouver.
Moving east along Powell Street is the Oppenheimer Park which was opened by former mayor David Oppenheimer who helped create the park. In 1902, the park was officially dedicated to the mayor, five years after his death. It is now a site for the annual Powell Street Festival which is held every summer and is a community celebration of Japanese heritage.
The Vancouver Buddhist Church is located at the eastern edge of Japantown. Built for the Japanese community in 1906, the church was seized by government during World War II but returned to the community after the war. It is now a place of homage and worship for Japanese Buddhists.
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