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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Remaking an institution and community : the Vancouver Japanese Language School after the war Otsuka, Chihiro


This present thesis is a study of the re-establishment of the Vancouver Japanese Language School (first established in 1906), and the Japanese Canadian community in Vancouver after World War II. Focusing on the reopening of the school in 1952, this study attempts to discuss how the school's reopening influenced the rebuilding of the Japanese-Canadian community in post-war Vancouver, where Japanese Canadians had had a large ethnic community before 1941. B y regarding the Japanese-language school as a means to comprehend trends in the lives of Japanese Canadians, this study seeks to understand how and to what extent the Japanese Canadians in Vancouver were able to reconstruct their ethnic identity: how much they acculturated into anglo-Canadian society after the devastation of their ethnic community; and how differently each successive generation has perceived the significance of ethnic cultural retention, such as the Japanese language. Until the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour in 1941, the Vancouver Japanese Language School was the largest such school on the Pacific coast of North America, and served the Japanese Canadian community as a transmitter of their ethnic culture and traditions to the next generation. However, after the destruction of the ethnic community by the World War II evacuation of Japanese Canadians in 1942, the leadership of the Japanese Canadians shifted from culturally "Japanese-oriented" issei (first generation) to "more-Canadianized" nisei (second generation). Consequently, demand for fluency in the Japanese language and an understanding of the ethnic culture was replaced with the demand for English and the anglo-Canadian culture. Despite such a huge change in the community, the Vancouver Japanese Language School was reopened, though reduced in size, and continues to operate to the present. This study draws evidence from several works by a long-time principal and teacher of the school, Tsutae Sato, and his wife Hanako, a variety of primary sources from the Sato Collection at the University of British Columbia, and the Japanese ethnic press, as well as the author's interviews with six people who have historical connections to the school reopening and management. By using these sources, this study attempts to examine what the meaning of the school reopening was for the Japanese Canadians after the devastation of their pre-war communities; how the school's function and roles changed from the pre-war to the post-war period; how language education and the Japanese language influenced the formation of Japanese Canadians' particularly that of the nisei ethnic identity as heirs to a Japanese tradition in Canada.

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