History of BC-Japan Relations

The inauguration of formal ties between Japan and Canada began with the establishment of the Japanese Consulate in Vancouver. Opened on June 22, 1889, the Consulate was the first Japanese government mission in Canada.

Completion of Canada’s rail link to Vancouver in 1886 and the opening of the Pacific sea route between Vancouver and Yokohama in 1887 sowed the seeds of growth for trade between Japan and Canada.


Expectation of expanding trade and a concomitant rise in the number of Japanese immigrants entering British Columbia were factors that influenced the Consulate’s opening in Vancouver.


Headed by Consul Fukashi Sugimura, the first office was located in a rented two-story residence on Howe Street, a part of the block now occupied by the Metropolitan Hotel.

The first Japanese immigrant to Canada predated the Consulate’s opening by 12 years. Manzo Nagano, an adventuresome 19-year-old youth, stowed away aboard a British ship and landed in New Westminster in 1877.


Official immigration from Japan commenced 10 years later in 1887 with the opening of a regular steamship service between Yokohama and Japan. This gave rise to a gradual increase in the number of Japanese crossing the pacific.

But with a majority of would-be immigrants intent on landing in the United States, the Japanese immigrant population in Vancouver remained small until the turn of the century - a mere 200 residents when the Consulate opened in 1889.


Immigration to Canada expanded noticeably after the United States in March 1907 imposed strict controls on Japanese entries to the U.S. mainland via Hawaii. In the year following the U.S. restrictions, some 7,600 Japanese, most of whom were diverted from their initial intent, rushed to enter Canada.


In the wake of this sizable influx, discrimination against Oriental settlers intensified, culminating in the so-called Powell Street Riot of September 1907.




(Photo courtesy: Shingo Fukushima,
Tokyo, grandson of Consul Sugimura)


(Photo courtesy: Masao Morisaku, of Los
Angelas, great grandson of Manzo Nagano)

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