Japanese Hall – 475 Alexander Street

There has been a Japanese school here since 1906 when a new wooden building was constructed and a school established which taught the Japanese language and other general subjects such as math, history and science. In 1907 the windows were smashed in the anti-Asiatic riots, but the school continued in operation, although in 1919 the focus shifted to only teaching the Japanese language. The building became the focus of the community, and in 1928 this building was developed alongside, designed by Sharp and Thompson. The building served the growing needs of the school population as well as the Japanese Canadian community.  It was renamed, the Japanese Hall and Vancouver Japanese Language School to recognize its critical role as a community and cultural organization.

In 1941 there were over 1,000 students registered, but the hall was confiscated and the community moved to camps throughout the interior and Alberta. The armed forces took over the property through the war, and in 1947, the government sold half of the property and facilities to pay for maintenance expenses accumulated during the war.  From 1947 this building was rented to the Army and Navy Department Store until 1952.

Uniquely, of all the Japanese property confiscated during the war, this is the only building that was returned to the Japanese community. By 1961 it had been restored (after damage when pipes froze in 1950) and reopened. The adjacent site to the east, where the original hall had stood, was developed with a larger facility for the school opened in 1999. In addition to the Japanese language classes, Children’s World, a licensed child care and preschool facility operates here.

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Posted April 20, 2020 by ChangingCity in East End, Still Standing

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