SEDAI: The Japanese Canadian Legacy Project

Sharing the unique history and experiences of Canadians of Japanese ancestry

Research Guide for Youth


  • The Exodus of the Japanese, Janice Patton, 1973, ISBN 0-7710-1379-5
    This little book has a good description and explanation of the events of the forced evacuation. There are brief interviews and many well-chosen photographs. It is a fine starting point. It does not have information from government documents that appeared later. It does not deal with Redress.
  • A Child in Prison Camp, Shizuye Takashima, 1971, ISBN 0-88776-074-0
    This semi-autobiographical book tells the story of the forced relocation from the point of view of an eight-year-old child, and, thus, makes it real for younger readers. Key facts are presented, although not analyzed. The main character, Shichan, while not understanding all that is happening, observes her family and community wrestling with issues such as, “Are we Japanese or Canadian? Should we cooperate or resist? Is it better to go to Japan or stay in Canada?” A fine coming-of-age tale that won a Canadian librarians’ prize for children’s illustrated literature, this book is highly recommended.
  • The Eternal Spring of Mr. Ito, Sheila Garrigue, 1985, ISBN 0-689-71809-8
    This is Sara’s story. She was one of many English children sent to Canada in 1940 after the Nazis captured Holland, Belgium and France in World War II. She has come to live with her Aunt Jean family in Vancouver. Sara’s Uncle Duncan was a soldier in his youth. The Duncan family gardener is Mr. Ito. Mr. Ito and Uncle Duncan served together in the Canadian army in WWI.Mr. Ito, an Issei (first generation immigrant from Japan), tells Sara about his native land, which he remembers fondly. But he loves to live in Canada, which his family now calls home. He explains plant secrets to Sara, and shows her a special tree that he has brought from Japan.In Vancouver whites refer to Japanese as “Japs”. They both admire and fear the Japanese, who work so hard. Some white Canadians complain about the Japanese not becoming Canadian enough, because they still speak Japanese and go to Buddhist temples. Someone points out to Uncle Duncan, however, that he still enjoys his Scottish background when he eats haggis and listens to bagpipes.After the Japanese military forces attack Pearl Harbor, there is a genuine fear of invasion. After all, the Japanese army has been very successful against China, and Japanese military vessels are seen off the coast of California and British Columbia. Japanese Canadians are suspected of being spies. The Itos’ home is damaged by vandals who want revenge for the Canadian soldiers killed in Hong Kong, even though the Ito’s had nothing to do with it.The author explains such typical Japanese Canadian ideas as: “One must not be a nuisance to other people” (hito ni meiwaku o kakate wa ikenai) and “It can’t be helped” (shikata ga nai). She describes the shame felt by Japanese Canadians and that felt by certain white Canadians after they realize what they have allowed to happen in a moment of panicThis book is very good at capturing conflicting emotions and various points of view. In a short but touching story Sheila Garrigue brings out many of the key problems that need to be discussed in order to understand what happened when Canadians of Japanese background were punished for something they didn’t do.

Web Sites

Student Activities Using Primary Sources

Open the SEDAI Archive section of the website.

  1. Look at all the photographs in the Pre-War Photos.
    1. Make a list of the kinds of jobs that Japanese Canadians were doing before World War II.
    2. Write a brief description of one (or more) of the photographs and then write your personal comments about what you see.
  2. Look at all of the photos in the Internment Camps section. (They follow the “Pre-War Photos”.)
    1. What would teenagers like the least and the most about the experience of forced relocation?
    2. What would adults like the least and the most?
    3. Write a brief description of one (or more) of the photographs and then write your personal comments about what you see.

Go to the Interviews 2004-2006 section. (Note that you can read transcripts of the videos in this section by clicking “View Transcript” below each video.)

  1. Listen to the interview with Fred.
    1. When and why did his parents come to Canada?
    2. What negative and positive experiences did his father have initially in Vancouver?
    3. How did the attitude of Alfred Wilson and Howard Green contrast with that of Henry Angus?
    4. What happened to Fred’s father when war broke out between Japan and Canada?
    5. What happened to Fred’s mother?
    6. What happened to Fred? Why?
  2. Listen to the interview with Mitsuyoshi.
    1. Why did he go to Japan after WW II?
    2. Why was it difficult for him there?
  3. Listen to the interview with Pat.
    1. What happened to Pat when war broke out?
    2. What did she like and dislike about the camp at Slocan in the B.C. interior?
  4. Based on the interviews with Fred, Mitsuyoshi, and Pat (and the others, if you choose to listen to them), what overall impressions do you have of the Japanese Canadian experience? Use at least three terms from the Glossary of Terms.
  5. To what extent does each of the following terms apply to what happened to the Japanese Canadians? Explain your decision in each case.
    1. alien
    2. assimilation
    3. civil rights
    4. discrimination
    5. genocide
    6. incarceration
    7. national security
    8. prejudice
  6. Write an imaginary letter from a Japanese Canadian in one of the camps to a friend of non-Japanese origin. Indicate:
    1. your age,
    2. what you and your family did before the attacks on Pearl Harbor and Hong Kong,
    3. what you are doing in the camp now, and
    4. how you feel about what is happening.
  7. Draw a series of at least four pictures showing the experience of a Japanese Canadian before and during (and perhaps after) World War II.