Canadian Nikkei Series

The inspiration for this new Canadian Nikkei interview series is the observance that the gulf between the pre-WW2 Japanese Canadian community and the Shin Ijusha one (post-WW2) has grown tremendously. 

Being “Nikkei” no longer means that one is only of Japanese descent anymore. It is far more likely that Nikkei today are of mixed cultural heritage with names like O’Mara or Hope, can’t speak Japanese and have varying degrees of knowledge about Japan.

It is therefore the aim of this series to pose ideas, challenge some and to engage with other like-minded Discover Nikkei followers in a meaningful discussion that will help us to better understand ourselves.

Canadian Nikkei will introduce you to many Nikkei who I have had the good fortune to come into contact with over the past 20 years here and in Japan. 

Having a common identity is what united the Issei, the first Japanese to arrive in Canada, more than 100 years ago. Even in 2014, it is the remnants of that noble community that is what still binds our community today.

Ultimately, it is the goal of this series to begin a larger online conversation that will help to inform the larger global community about who we are in 2014 and where we might be heading to in the future.

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Vancouver Shakuhachi master and Tonari Gumi Co-Founder Takeo Yamashiro ~ Part 2

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Were you ever drawn to any other traditional Japanese instruments like the taiko?

Well, it looks to me that today’s taiko players take a totally different approach to training themselves. Mr. Daihachi Oguchi, a jazz percussionist, considered to be responsible for transforming O-suwa style ceremonial taiko into a stage performing art form had yet to organize his group when I was in Japan.

The first taiko performance in Vancouver was by “Ryujin Daiko” from Fukui-ken at the first annual Powell Street Festival in 1977, which I was the project sponsor under a federally funded program “B.C. …


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Vancouver Shakuhachi master and Tonari Gumi Co-Founder Takeo Yamashiro ~ Part 1

While I have never met Takeo Yamashiro in person, he seems familiar to me in a way that good friends are even the first time you meet them.

Now, I had heard of Takeo even when I was living on Bowen Island in British Columbia and in the BC Kootenays in the early 1990s. He was the “Japanese flute player” (shakuhachi). That in itself was an exotic designation as the playing of traditional Japanese music was something that few non-Japanese ever pursued.

When you’re living in Japan amongst the Japanophile gaijin community which is a world unto itself, …


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Junji Nishihata: Following Jesse’s Path - Part 2

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Quebecers seem to have a special relationship and interest with Japanese culture. Is this something that you recognize too?

Quebec is the one province in Canada that consumes the most Japanese goods. In terms of dollar value, the bulk of this is cars and electronics, but anime and manga were available here that were not shown in the rest of Canada. And historically, Quebecers were the first Canadians to visit Japan after its opening by Admiral Perry in 1853.

Can you put your finger on a reason for this?

I would account part of this to …


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Junji Nishihata: Following Jesse’s Path - Part 1

When I reflect on why I have been involved as a writer with the Japanese Canadian community for almost 25 years now, I really have the late, great filmmaker and writer Jesse Hideo Nishihata to thank for much of this.

It was more than 20 years ago when I rolled into Toronto in my camper van and met Jesse who was the editor of the Nikkei Voice newspaper that was born out of the 1988 Redress victory. This was when the NV office was located in an old house on Harbord Street. He was positively effusive and embraced me as …


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Toronto Woodcarver Kats Takada - Part 2

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Title: “Cancer Notice” (butternut wood)

Having retired only recently after working a long time, I was very excited. I could now do all the things I dreamed of doing, with all the time in the world to do it. That excitement turned to bitter disappointment though, when the doctor gave me the news.

As I lay bored in the hospital bed, I couldn't help but wonder if there was some way that I could carve the feeling of shock I felt at that time. I used screws to set the wood to just the right size …



activism art artist Canada Canadian cancer community community activism elderly filmmaker issei Japanese Canadian montreal Montreal Japanese-Canadian Cultural Centre music musician NAJC nikkei nursing home shakuhachi takeo yamashiro Tonari GUmi Toronto vancouver woodcarver