Short Version

Welcome to the Nikkei Memory Capture Project’s Audio Journey!

This audio journey is a collaboration between the Nikkei Memory Capture Project and the Nikka Yuko Japanese Garden in Lethbridge, Alberta. The shorter entries below complement and expand the histories represented on the Time Map located in the Bunka Centre at the Garden.

Listen to the entries while visiting the Bunka Centre or enjoy from your own space.

Please begin by listening to the welcome greeting.

100: Welcome Greeting


There is a common phrase that is said to characterize the history of Japanese Canadians: Shikata ga nai – it can’t be helped. This phrase powerfully conveys how, following their persecutions during the Second World War, Japanese Canadians turned away from the past, and instead moved on with their lives to reclaim their place in Canada. Indeed, the creation of a cherished site of Japanese culture in southern Alberta, the Nikka Yuko Japanese Garden, as Lethbridge’s preeminent centennial project, symbolizes the quiet and dignified effort.

The Japanese Canadian history of southern Alberta comprises diverse histories which overlap and diverge. There were many communities in the first half of the twentieth century making up southern Alberta’s Japanese Canadians, whose aspirations, priorities, loyalties, and perspectives converged and conflicted.

Japanese Canadians created, innovated, integrated, protested, and above all shaped southern Alberta for themselves, impacting the lives of their neighbours in increasingly layered, complex, and integral ways. Shikata ga nai is not only it can’t be helped but also figuratively means, our way is another way.

Waves of Migration

The Japanese Diaspora

101: The Trans-Pacific Context
102: The Canadian Context 

Southern Alberta’s Early Settlers

103: Introduction
104: Three Waves of Migration
105: The Third Wave of Migration: Shakonsai ‘Picture Brides’
106: The Recollections of a Picture Bride
Settling Southern Alberta
107: Structures of Settlement: Nihonjin Kyokai, Okinawa Doshikai
108: Raymond Buddhist Temple
109: Settling Southern Alberta: Good Years, Bad Years
110: Recollections of Sugar Beet Farming
111: Crossing the Racial Divide: Interracial Marriage


On 7 and 8 December 1941, Imperial Japanese forces attacked the United States in Hawai’i and the British Empire in Hong Kong and Malaya. Opportunistically, the Dominion of Canada systematically expelled over 21,000 Japanese Canadians from the West Coast. The removal of Japanese Canadians into incarceration and internment settings, including southern Alberta, was spurred by anti-Japanese racism in British Columbia. Designated as “enemy aliens” Japanese Canadians were stripped of their civil rights as Canadian citizens. In 1944, the Prime Minister admitted to the House of Commons that no Japanese Canadian was found to have been a security threat. The so-called “evacuation” of Japanese Canadians was a failure of Canadian democracy.

The Five dimensions of ‘Evacuation’
201: The Five Dimensions of the Evacuation


202: Mass Incarceration and Internment
203: ‘Keeping the family together’ nikkei memory capture project logo 
204: Displacement in Southern Alberta: Gang Labour
205: ‘Gumbo’ nikkei memory capture project logo 
206: ‘Heartbreak’ nikkei memory capture project logo 


207: ‘There were maggots all over’ nikkei memory capture project logo 
208: ‘Just scared’ nikkei memory capture project logo 


209: ‘The loss of his farm’ nikkei memory capture project logo 
210: ‘They shut us down completely’ nikkei memory capture project logo 


211: Dispersal
212: ‘Amerika-jin ja nai!’ nikkei memory capture project logo 


213: ‘Four groupings of Japanese’ nikkei memory capture project logo 
The Hisaoka Family Memoirs
214: Introduction nikkei memory capture project logo 
215: Journey East – Leaving Mission Arriving in Lethbridge
216: Families Sorted, Selected, Scattered


Although the Second World War ended in 1945, wartime restrictions on Japanese Canadians were not removed until 1949. With the restoration of their civil rights, they increasingly mixed in wider society in public settings like school and work. However, social life remained largely segregated. In this context, Japanese Canadians – especially the Nisei drew on their own Japanese resources, even as they sought outwardly to integrate into mainstream society. The result was a flourishing of Japanese Canadian life networked across cultural activities and events, food, sporting leagues and competitions, business innovations, religious communion, and of course most visibly, the Nikka Yuko Japanese Garden. There was never any danger that they would form an ethnic enclave, nevertheless, the cultural and social infrastructure they evolved was akin to a ‘Japan Town’ in southern Alberta.

Early postwar Re(Emergence)

The Intrepid Nisei

301: Introduction: ‘People looked up to me’ nikkei memory capture project logo 
302: ‘They opened SAIT’ nikkei memory capture project logo 
303: Reprise – Assimilation

Emerging Communities

304: The Japanese Canadian Citizens Association (JCCA) Part 1 – Introduction
305: The JCCA: Recollections of Toshiko Tanaka
306: The JCCA: Part 2 – Centrifugal Forces
307: The Young Buddhist Association (YBA): Introduction
309: The YBA and what we did: ‘Excursions’ nikkei memory capture project logo
313: Glimpses of Personal Life: ‘We were called the bath-house gang.’ nikkei memory capture project logo
POstwar transformations

Communities Overcoming Discrimination

401: ‘There was real conflict there’ nikkei memory capture project logo 
402: ‘We were constantly trying to get the discrimination down’ nikkei memory capture project logo 
403: ‘She was a bear’ nikkei memory capture project logo 

Transforming Southern Alberta

404: Allies 1: ‘If she’s gonna do something, she’s gonna do it’ nikkei memory capture project logo 
405: Allies 2: ‘He went to bat for us with the government’ nikkei memory capture project logo 
406: Crossing Lines of Desire – Interracial Marriage: ‘How I felt about dating a hakujin’ nikkei memory capture project logo 
407: Interracial Marriage and Its Significance
408: The Emotions of Interracial Marriage: ‘We’ll all wonder, what’s Japanese?’ nikkei memory capture project logo 
409: Buddhism in Southern Alberta: Introduction and Letter from Tomomi Okutake
410: Buddhism in Southern Alberta – Schism
411: Similar Histories of Southern Alberta’s Buddhist Temples


In the summer of 2022, the Nikka Yuko Japanese Garden officially opened its Bunka Centre. In many ways, it culminated over a hundred years of Japanese Canadian history. It is a tangible legacy of the vision of southern Alberta’s Japanese early settlers to establish an enduring Japanese community proud of its ethnic and cultural heritage. It is a remembrance of waves of migration, struggles overcome, persecutions survived, hardships endured and shikata ga nai – it can’t be helped, out way is another way. But, that is not all. It is a celebration of communities thriving, friends made, families nourished, and above all, creativity, innovation, and resilience. It draws off of the richness and resources of Japanese culture as a global culture that helps to define the twenty-first century. Born of Japanese inspiration and evolving in southern Alberta, the Bunka Centre proclaims in optimism and with aspiration, shikata ga aru – there is a way: imagine, shape, and embrace the histories of our collective future.