Interesting Episodes in Japan-Canada Relations

  • The first official Japanese immigrant into Canada was Manzo Nagano in 1877, who made his fortune on a British Columbia venture that he set up to export pickled salmon to Japan.

  • Several Canadian missionaries made important contributions to Japan in the field of education.

  • Green tea was the primary Japanese export to Canada in the early days.

  • Tokyo was the site for Canada's third overseas legation.

  • Canada was instrumental in paving Japan's re-entry into the international community after World War II.

  • Japanese techniques incorporated into Inuit woodprints.

  • A Japanese-Canadian designed the Canadian embassy in Tokyo

  • Canada was the first foreign country the Emperor visited

  • Japanese tourists 3rd among Canada visitors

  • A Canadian founded the Japanese YWCA

  • Japanese auto plants in Canada known for quality

  • Manzo Nagano, Canada's first Japanese immigrant

    The first recorded instance of immigration by a Japanese citizen into Canada was that of Manzo Nagano, who smuggled himself into British Columbia in May 1877 as a stowaway aboard a British ship coming from the port of Yokohama. Manzo started out his career as a carpenter's apprentice in his hometown, Nagasaki, where he was born in 1855. At the age of 22, he became involved in boat refitting and repair, and around that time decided that someday he would set out for Canada.

    His first job in Canada was salmon fishing on the Fraser River. With time, though, Manzo would also demonstrate his abilities as the boss of a Japanese-financed lumber mill, and as an executive in the restaurant and hotel business. He finally made his fortune on a venture he set up to export pickled salmon to Japan. In his later years, though, Manzo suffered from tuberculosis, and lost all his assets in a fire. Dejected, he returned to Nagasaki, where he died at the age of 70.

  • Contributions in the field of education by Canadian missionaries

    Many Christians traveled to Japan to pursue missionary work during and after the Meiji Reformation in 1868, and Japan's intellectual community has been particularly influenced by several Canadian missionaries of various denominations. These individuals have played an instrumental role in introducing elements of traditional Western thought into Japanese educational fields. G. G. Cochran and Davidson McDonald were two Methodist missionaries who arrived from Canada in 1873. Cochran became involved in Japan's civil rights movement and eventually founded Doshisha University in Kyoto. McDonald established another university, Aoyama Gakuin, in Tokyo. In fact, Canadian Protestants were responsible for founding numerous educational institutions in Japan during the Meiji and Taisho periods.

  • Green tea: Japan's primary export to Canada in the early years

    It is not exactly clear when Japan and Canada first established trade ties. However, the first known record of trade with Japan is listed in Canadian statistics for 1873. At that point in time, the volume of trade itself was not substantial; furthermore, Japan tended to be lumped together with China. Green tea accounted for $597,000 of the $619,000 in goods that Japan exported to Canada in 1876, a year for which only Japanese statistics are available. Incidentally, Japan began exporting green tea to the United States in 1859. Coffee had yet to gain in popularity then, whereas Japanese tea became popular as a drink mixed with black tea (perhaps due to its rich vitamin C content), particularly in the frigid regions around the Great Lakes.

  • Canada's third foreign legation set up in Tokyo

    Japanese-Canadian diplomatic ties moved into full swing in 1889 with the establishment of a Japanese consulate in Vancouver. The legation Canada opened in Tokyo in 1929 was its third following Washington and Paris. That fact seems to highlight the exceptional importance Canada placed on Japan as a hub for its diplomatic activities throughout Asia at large. Incidentally, Japan in 1929 upgraded its Ottawa consulate to legation status.

  • Japan's re-entry into the international community had strong Canadian backing

    The San Francisco Peace Treaty

    Ties between Japan and Canada after World War II were re-established by the San Francisco Peace Treaty of 1952. In 1954, the two countries sealed the Agreement Concerning Commerce. In the meantime, though, Canada acted in various ways to assist Japan's re-entry into the international community. It was at Canada's initiative that Japan was admitted membership to the Colombo Plan conference that convened in Ottawa in 1954, the same year the accord was sealed. Japan's inclusion in GATT the following year was made possible thanks to the support of both Canada and the U.S. Furthermore, when Japan entered GATT, Canada was one of only a small handful of nations who accorded it most-favored-nation status.

    Again, Japan was nominated by, and had the backing of, the U.S. and Canada when it was given UN membership in 1956. Similarly, Canada demonstrated strong support for Japan's admission to the OECD in 1963. By the end of the 1950s, the Japanese economy had revived to such an extent that its GDP then compared with Canada's in scale. Canada should be accorded a place in history as one country that readily extended a helping hand when Japan was struggling to re-enter the international community.

  • Japanese techniques incorporated into Inuit woodprints

    The innate artistic abilities of the Inuit Eskimos were first noted by movieman-author James A. Houston, a Toronto native born in 1921. Houston is recognized for his efforts to promote the artistic activities of the Inuit. To improve on Inuit stone-print methods, he visited Kyoto in the mid-1950s to study Japanese woodprint techniques and then returned to the Inuit community of Cape Dorset on the island of Buffin, where he began producing woodprints on an intensive scale. That enterprise led to the modern Inuit woodprint form. Incidentally, Inuit woodprints are still based entirely on the use of traditional washi (Japanese paper) imported from Japan. Like their Japanese counterparts, Inuit woodprints also include flower-mark impressions, though they are representative of distinct Inuit communities, and in that respect, differ from the marks used by woodprint artists in Japan.

    (The images are reproduced with permission of the West Baffin Eskimo Co-operative Ltd.)

    "Lune at Sunrise" by Pitaloosie Asia (Lithograph 1994)

    "Springtime Fishing" by Arnaqu Ashevak(Lithograph/Stencil 1994)

    James A. Houston
  • A Japanese-Canadian designed the Canadian embassy in Tokyo

    The Canadian Embassy in Akasaka, Tokyo was completed in May 27, 1991 and designed by Mr. Raymond Moriyama, a Canadian architect of Japanese extraction. The ground floor of the building houses the embassy; the first floor, a gallery and a "Canada Garden" that mimics the shape of Canada. Mr. Moriyama is one of Canada's most highly regarded architects. Other buildings designed by him include the Japanese Culture Center in Toronto and Scarborough City Hall.

  • Canada was the first foreign country the Emperor visited

    Emperor Akihito's first trip overseas was in 1953 when as Crowned Prince he attended the coronation of Queen Elizabeth of England on behalf of his father, Emperor Hirohito. For the trip he made a sea voyage to San Francisco and went overland by train to Canada, where he stopped in Toronto and Ottawa before proceeding to England.

  • Japanese tourists 3rd among Canada visitors

    A total of 17 million foreign tourists visited Canada in 1995, of which about 670,000 were Japanese, ranking them third behind Americans and Britons. Over the last seven years, the total number of tourists coming to Canada has grown by about 9%, but the number of Japanese tourists has grown by 82%. In 1995, the number of Japanese tourists jumped by about 100,000.

  • A Canadian founded the Japanese YWCA

    The YWCA in Japan was founded by Ms. Caroline McDonald. Ms. McDonald came from an old and well-known Ontario family; her father chaired the Federal Parliament. After graduating from college, she came to Japan to lay the foundations of the YWCA. She also worked for improvements in the welfare facilities at Japanese prisons. Ms. McDonald was succeeded as head of the YWCA in Japan by another Canadian, Emma Kaufman, who put in place the groundwork for the organization's current development.

  • Japanese auto plants in Canada known for quality

    A recent survey of quality control at 75 automobile factories in North America conducted by a US research firm ranked two Japanese plants in Ontario as first and second for 1995. The number one ranking plant was again ranked best in North America in 1996.

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