A gathering place for the Nikkei community in Canada

A COMMUNITY HUB — From taiko to judo to language classes, the Nikkei National Museum & Cultural Centre has a wealth of options for community members. photo by Manto Artworks

The Nikkei National Museum & Cultural Centre’s origins date back to the Japanese Canadian redress movement. Originally named the National Nikkei Heritage Centre, it was created to be “a place where the community could … gather, be open for all and for greater society to engage with Japanese Canadians to understand and learn more about our history,” Executive Director Karah Goshinmon Foster explained.

The center opened an independent senior housing building in 1998, and the National Nikkei Heritage Centre opened to the public in 2000, aiming to be a place for people “to exchange ideas, education, to learn, discuss and share history, heritage and culture,” Goshinmon Foster said.

The Japanese Canadian National Museum and the National Nikkei Heritage Centre merged in 2003 to create the National Nikkei Museum & Heritage Centre. In 2012, it was renamed the Nikkei National Museum & Cultural Centre.

The Nikkei Place Foundation “disburse(s) funds and property to (its) Nikkei Place partner charities — Nikkei National Museum & Cultural Centre and Nikkei Seniors Health Care and Housing Society,” its Website states.
Goshinmon Foster said the nonprofit has a broad range of cultural classes and programs for children, adults and seniors. The organization also has a Japanese Language School onsite.

According to Goshinmon Foster, the center’s most popular classes are martial arts and Japanese dance.

The museum was renovated in 2019, expanding its archival storage. Goshinmon Foster said it has a collection of Japanese Canadian artifacts. The nonprofit has also expanded its gallery and resource center space in order to welcome more families, researchers and students.

Goshinmon Foster said their Nikkei Matsuri, held annually on Labor Day weekend, is one of the organization’s big fundraisers, having previously attracted 14,000 attendees.

However, due to the pandemic, last year, the nonprofit had to “downsize and change” its plans.

The event celebrates Japanese arts and culture in Canada with entertainment, kimono kitsuke (dressing), tea ceremony, Bon odori, food and more, she said. The outlook for Nikkei Matsuri is uncertain this year, she added.

As with other organizations, the museum and center has had to adapt due to the pandemic. Goshinmon Foster said the nonprofit closed their doors March 18, 2020 and began to “gradually reopen” a few months later, on June 2.

The organization saw a reduction in all of its programming, including martial arts, tea ceremony and bonsai. The organization held two of their larger events — Remembrance Day and “Broken Promises,” which “explores the dispossession of Japanese Canadians in the 1940s” — virtually.

The museum and center is currently operating at a 50 percent capacity, she said.

Despite the uncertainties of operating during the pandemic, the nonprofit continues to offer its community opportunities to connect. “Founded and created by the community, for the community — Japanese Canadians with that vision for the community, I think is very special,” Goshinmon Foster said.

The Nikkei National Museum & Cultural Centre is located at 6688 Southoaks Crescent, Burnaby, BC, Canada. They are open Tuesday to Saturday from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information, call 1 (604) 777-7000 or visit centre.nikkeiplace.org.

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