SEDAI: The Japanese Canadian Legacy Project

Sharing the unique history and experiences of Canadians of Japanese ancestry

The SEDAI Team

The SEDAI Project was founded in 2004 by a dedicated team of extraordinary volunteers from diverse backgrounds and experience. The Project operates as a committee under the auspices of the Japanese Canadian Cultural Centre (JCCC) and reports directly to the Board of the JCCC. The core members of the SEDAI Project Committee are described below.

Ann Ashley

Ann has a B.A., B.Ed and taught high school English, in Ghana, West Africa with CUSO for 2 years after graduating from university. On her return to Canada, she became a Specialist Teacher of the Deaf and taught for the Toronto District School Board for over 33 years. She was also involved in the writing of curriculum on teaching English to the Deaf for the Toronto Board. Retired from the public school system, Ann now teaches English in a private girl’s school.

Ann is active in the Japanese Canadian community and has been a member of the SEDAI Project Committee since its inception. She currently sits on the JCCC Board of Directors as Vice President of Management. Some of the committees she is involved in include the Executive, Sedai, Heritage, and Membership & Marketing committees. Ann sits on the Board of Directors of Momiji Health Care Society as Past Chair, after spending 5 years as Chair of the Board. At Momiji, Ann is involved in the Executive, P.R.& Marketing, Nominating, Board Development and Bazaar committees. Ann also sits on the Board of Directors of Nikkei Voice.

Elizabeth Yuriko Fujita

Elizabeth began her tenure as Sedai Project Coordinator in July of 2012. She holds an Hons. B.A. from McGill University, which she followed with a three year tenure on the JET Programme in the city of Izumi, Kagoshima Prefecture. After an internship in the Political Section at the Canadian Embassy in Tokyo, Elizabeth returned to her native GTA in the hopes of utilizing her experiences abroad by nurturing involvement and engagement with the community.

Having a mother born into the difficulties of postwar Okinawa, and a nisei father who lived through internment in Tashme, her interest in her Nikkei heritage and the international Japanese diasporic community has grown from her roots. From acting as the sole Canadian representative for a junior cultural exchange program with the Okinawan Prefectural government in 2002, to her continued participation as former Events Coordinator with the Toronto chapter of the JET Alumni Association, Elizabeth continues to volunteer her time to the greater Japanese affiliated community in Toronto on the Sedai Committee, the Nikkei Voice Board, the JCCC Arts Committee, the JCCC Heritage Committee and Archive Collection Committee, the Nikkei Heritage Museum Committee, the Toronto Okinawa Kyuyokai/Kenjinkai Board, and the organization of numerous events throughout the GTA.

Neil Henderson

Neil is a partner with the Canadian law firm Borden Ladner Gervais LLP where he practices out of the firm’s Waterloo region office. Neil earned a B.A.Sc. in engineering science from the University of Toronto in 1986 and obtained a law degree from the University of Western Ontario in 1990. Neil is a registered Canadian and United States patent agent and a Canadian trade mark agent. Neil’s practice focuses on strategic IP portfolio creation and management Neil also advises clients on IT/copyright law, including software licensing, distribution and outsourcing.

Prior to practising law, he spent four years in Japan where he worked as a technical consultant at a patent firm and as a patent and legal advisor to a private company. As such, Neil has a depth of experience in Canadian, U.S. and international IP practice from both the Canadian and Japanese perspectives.

Neil is a director of the Toronto Intellectual Property Group, the Toronto Japanese Language School and the Waterloo Law Association. He has been a member of the SEDAI Project Committee since its inception.

George Hewson

George has a B.A., M.A., B. Ed. and taught History, Civics, French, and Economics for thirty years in various Canadian secondary schools. Recently, he has written the “World Religions” and “Native Studies” curricula for the Ontario Ministry of Education. Now a member of both the Education and Programs Departments at the Royal Ontario Museum, he teaches a wide range of courses including “The World of the Samurai”. A member of the JCCC for over twenty years, he served a term on the Board of Directors. The New Canadian and Nikkei Voice have published his articles on teaching about the Japanese Canadian internment, Japanese sword-smithing and kamikaze pilots.

His interest in things Japanese began in 1975 when he started his budo training. He spent a year in Japan to deepen his study. Now he is one of only three non-Japanese members of the Canadian Aikido Federation to hold the senior rank of rokudan (sixth-degree black belt). At present, he is past-president of the Ontario Aikido Federation and vice-president of the Canadian Aikido Federation. He and his wife, Gerry (nee Nishimura), own and operate Aikido Seishinkai. Gerry is the highest ranked Canadian Nisei Aikidoist at yodan (fourth-degree black belt).

Natalie Higashi

Natalie has a B.A. Hons from the University of Toronto, an M.F.A from the London Film School, and an M.A. from London’s City University in Journalism. She is also the founding partner of Moringa Media, a media production and digital communications company.

Natalie contributed her media skills by editing the interviews captured from the Japanese Canadian Experience Conference in November 2010. She also created the video report about the conference available on the Sedai website.

Natalie is an active member of the JCCC Heritage Committee and is one of the co-chairs of the 70th Anniversary Conference, ‘Keisho: Passing the legacy of Japanese Canadian dispersal to future generations’ being held on 31 March – 1 April, 2012. She will also be hosting one of the breakout sessions and screening her documentary about intermarriage in the Japanese Canadian community that was aired on CBC’s, The Current (April 2011), along with a discussion on the community’s future at the conference.

Andrew Kirby

After living and working in Osaka, Japan for five years, during which time he became reasonably fluent in Japanese, Andrew’s mother asked him to come home to Canada. Andrew completed his MBA at the Richard Ivey School of Business at the University of Western Ontario, with a semester at Keio University in Tokyo. He is now a Project Director with Blast Radius, a leading interactive agency that helps businesses deliver innovative and profitable customer experiences by combining business strategy, experience design, and industry-leading technologies.

Andrew has been a member of the SEDAI Project Committee since its inception where he has lent his considerable skills in web design and project management to the project. Andrew can trace his interest in things Japanese to his mother (nee Shigeta ) and to kendo.

Tracy Matsuo

Tracy is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Sociology at the University of Toronto. She has been involved with the SEDAI Project since its inception. She is excited to be affiliated with a project that will make the experiences of Japanese Canadians more accessible not only to people around the globe but also to current and future generations of Canadians.

Tracy is also a board member of the Greater Toronto Chapter of the National Association of Japanese Canadians (NAJC), where she is a past President. She is also on the organizing committee of Kosaten, a group which provides information and activities for people from Japan to help them adjust to life in Toronto.

Lorene Nagata

Lorene has B.A. and an LL.B from the University of Western Ontario. She practiced commercial litigation for almost 5 years before changing career paths. Since 1997, she has been a legal recruiter and now places lawyers into law firms and corporations through her own company, NagataConnex Executive Legal Search. Through her work, Lorene has gained extensive experience interviewing candidates and her interview skills as well as her management experience are great assets to the SEDAI Project.

Lorene is a founding member of the SEDAI Project Committee and is currently a member of its executive. Lorene is also a Board Member of the JCCC and a member of the JCCC Marketing Committee. By being involved in the project, Lorene’s goals are to preserve the rich cultural history of the Japanese Canadian community, to learn more about Nikkei history and to get more involved/connected with the JC community in Toronto, the rest of Canada – and the US.

Russell Onizuka

Russell has a BSc. from the University of Toronto, is a Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer, a Microsoft Small Business Specialist, Certified Technical Trainer and Certified Document Imaging Architect. He runs his own consulting business helping companies implement software solutions using technology as a tool and streamlining their processes. Among his specialities are Event Management Software, Small Business Solutions, Preventative Maintenance Software and Building Control Systems.

Russell has lent his technical expertise to the SEDAI Project since inception and along with Peter Wakayama, has organized, catalogued and digitized portions of the JCCC photo archives. He is a member of the Board of Directors of the JCCC and is also an active member of the JCCC Heritage Committee.

Connie Sugiyama

Connie has a B.A. and a J.D. from the University of Toronto. She is a senior partner of Gowling Lafleur Henderson LLP, Canada’s largest law firm, where she practices corporate, securities and mergers and acquisitions law from their Toronto office. Connie has served on Gowlings’ National Executive Committee and led the firm’s 115 member National Corporate Finance, Securities and Public M&A Practice Group from 2002-2007.

Connie is the founding Chair of the SEDAI Project and is also an advisor to the JCCC. She has served on the board of the JCCC, where she was also the founding Chair of the “Building Together” Capital Campaign, and on the board of the Japanese Canadian Redress Foundation, the body charged with allocating the $12 million community redevelopment fund awarded as part of the federal government’s 1988 redress settlement.

Connie is an experienced director, having served on many community and private sector boards over the years. She is currently Vice Chair and Chair Designate of Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children and is also on the boards of The Toronto International Film Festival Group, Canada Health Infoways and LuminaTO, the Toronto Festival of Arts and Creativity.

Dan Toguri

Dan completed a bachelor’s and a master’s degrees in Chemical Engineering at Queen’s University and the University of Toronto, respectively. Currently, Dan is a student in the Doctor of Medicine program at the University of Western Ontario.

Dan’s participation at the JCCC began in the early stages of what would become the SEDAI Project. His interest in preserving the stories of Japanese Canadian seniors developed during work at Momiji Health Care Society. As a Sedai volunteer, Dan has been involved in conducting background research, interviewing and establishing the mandate and image of the project.

Bob Tanaka

Bob Tanaka was born in Montreal in 1950. He is a Professional Engineer and is currently engaged in this field. Bob jointed the SEDAI Project Committee primarily to help with research and documentation for the oral histories being captured by Sedai. This gave him an opportunity to learn first hand, the stories of the Japanese Canadians and those connected with them during the internment period. Bob has also served as the SEDAI Project’s Treasurer.

Having lived in many parts of Canada Bob has learned to appreciate the richness, vastness and commonality of Japanese Canadian food tastes. Bob volunteers his time on various activities especially those connected with Japanese Canadian food.

Lisa Kiyomi Uyeda

Lisa is a Toronto yonsei and a University of Toronto Hons. B.Sc. graduate. As the Sedai Coordinator from May 2010 to August 2012, Lisa documented over 100 stories and continues to assist Sedai in collecting the history of Japanese Canadians.

Lisa’s quest to reconnect with her heritage has led her to the Japanese Canadian Cultural Centre (JCCC) where she began volunteering for numerous events and committees. She served on numerous committees at the JCCC including: Heritage, Heritage Archive Collection, Nikkei Heritage Museum, Japanese Canadian Experience Conference, Keisho Conference, Heritage Nikkei Kids Day, Nostalgia Night, Sedai, Origami Crane Project (coordinator), Japan Earthquake and Tsunami Relief Fundraising, and Remembering March 11 committees.

In 2010, Lisa played an active role on the Japanese Canadian Experience Conference Committee. With 450 participants, volunteers, and staff, the conference documented 100 personal recollections during World War II from Japanese Canadians and Japanese Americans. These stories are now available at

In February 2012, during her first journey to Japan, Lisa acted as the Toronto Delegate for the Japanese Canadian Leadership Program hosted by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan. Travelling through Tokyo, Sendai, and Kyoto, Lisa experienced the incredible Japanese culture, traditions, innovative technology, food, and the wonderful people.

In August 2012, Lisa finished her contract with the Sedai project after an incredible two years. In September, Lisa began her Master of Archival Studies at the University of British Columbia. As well this year, UBC recognized the Japanese Canadian students affected by WWII by awarding these students and their families an honorary degree in May 2012. For Lisa, it will be nostalgic attending UBC in September as these individuals did over 70 years ago.

Peter Wakayama

Peter was born in 1936 at Port Hammond, British Columbia and with his family, was interned in Hasting Park, Tashme, and New Denver, British Columbia during World War II. After the war, his family moved east to Chatham, Ontario.

Peter graduated from the School of Architecture, University of Toronto with a B. Arch. He joined the firm of Craig, Zeidler and Strong, Architects, (now Zeidler Partnership, Architects) and after 36 years, retired as a senior partner in 2001.

Active in the Japanese Canadian community, Peter volunteers on several committees at the JCCC, including the Heritage Steering Committee and has been a member of the SEDAI Project Committee since its inception. He is a past chair of Central Region, Community Living Toronto and served on the Board of Directors of CLT.

As a Nisei with first hand experience of the internment, Peter joined the SEDAI Project because of his interest in preserving and sharing the stories of the Japanese Canadian experience, especially in the digital archival format of the SEDAI Project.

Tak Yano

Tak Yano, a.k.a. “Soba Boy”, has been a member of the SEDAI Project Committee since its inception. He has contributed his broad ranging skills as a technology expert, videographer and sound technician and has been a key resource in building Sedai’s archive of oral histories.

Among other things, Tak built an intranet for the SEDAI Project that in the early days, allowed our volunteers to communicate with each other and to track the progress of the project. Tak is also a member of the JCCC’s Heritage Committee and a dedicated volunteer in and around the JCCC.