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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Local knowledge about Japanese vegetables and herbs among people of Japanese descent in Southwest British Columbia Tsuzuku, Shie


There is a long history of Japanese immigration to British Columbia (BC). Eastern food knowledge is one of the cultural contributions the Japanese community made to BC. However, there is a concern that this knowledge will be lost in the Japanese communities because many of the practitioners are elders and there is little documentation of intergenerational knowledge. The purpose of this research is to describe the traditional and modern knowledge about Japanese vegetables and herbs among Japanese home gardeners and commercial producers in Southwest BC. Traditional and modern knowledge includes aspects of production and the cultural significance of the Japanese vegetables and herbs used. The primary method of data collection was semi-structured interviews (n=12) with people of Japanese descent in the Lower Mainland and Vancouver Island, BC. The interview participants grew more than 80 kinds of vegetables, herbs and fruit. It was common to integrate hand-powered tools, and natural and homemade products to manage soil, pests, disease and weeds. Based on the findings, I assessed the opportunities and challenges for growing Japanese vegetables and herbs for primary production and as conduits for cultural connections. Some Japanese vegetables, such as daikon (white radish) or komatsuna (leafy vegetable) are already successfully grown within the communities and serve as a cultural connection. Also, the community network is maintained through growing and cooking these vegetables. However, challenges include our short growing season, and labor intensiveness related to production of Japanese vegetables and herbs. This research is one step toward preserving and sharing of knowledge about Japanese vegetables and herbs, along with cultural information across generations and cultures. The result of this research is useful source for describing the local food system and will contribute an information base that should foster improved access to culturally appropriate foods.

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