Asian Heritage Month
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As It Happened

By Anu Sahota

In May 1960, CBC Television's Explorations aired Japanese-Canadians: Exodus, a two-part documentary study of Japanese-Canadians. It traced their origins in Japanese villages like Mio Mura (footage of which is featured); their immigration to such communities as Steveston, B.C.; the discrimination and prejudice they encountered; their internment and loss of property during the Second World War; and their eventual re-establishment and assimilation after the war. Host Bob Quintrell spoke with Dr. George Ishiwara, a Vancouver dentist who discussed the limited opportunities in the professions for those who didn't yet have the franchise.

japanese

Watch the first part of Japanese-Canadians: Exodus (1960) (runs 6:14)

The program also featured a young couple who expressed only a vague connection to their Japanese heritage - not too unusual since by 1960 many Japanese-Canadians were second or third generation and were likely no more in touch with ancestral customs than second or third generation Canadians might be today.

Interestingly, as Peter, the gentleman in the following clip puts it, being Japanese was very much "in vogue" in the early 1960s. He points to a Japanese influence in theater and contemporary music and architecture (the latter appreciated in the designs of Arthur Erickson, for example). By 1960, Takao Tanabe was already a noted abstract painter, Roy Kiyooka had begun teaching at UBC and the classical Japanese music ensemble, The Koto Ensemble of Greater Vancouver, had been established under the direction of Miyoko Kobayashi. Peter admits that it is a cause of some embarrassment that he is ill-equipped to offer any special perspective at a time when being Japanese in Canada evolved from a burden to a marker of hipness.

Watch the interview from the second part of Japanese-Canadians: Exodus (1960) (runs 4:34)

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