1906-1918: Birth of the School

The Vancouver Japanese Language School was founded in 1906 at a newly-constructed wooden building at 439 Alexander Street, right in the heart of Japan Town.   From the early 1880s, early Japanese pioneers to Canada began to settle and work in the Powell Street area, which later became known as “Japan Town”.  With the growth of more and more Japanese families in the area, the need for a school that taught Japanese and other general subjects for the children of immigrants, also grew.  And so, in 1905, under the guidance of the Japanese Consul at the time, a Mr. K. Morikawa, a steering committee consisting of members of the Japanese community was formed to establish a school which taught the Japanese language and other general subjects such as math, history and science.

1918-1941: Early Years

As a result of more immigrants desiring to have their children educated in both English and Japanese, in 1919, the policy of the school was changed to drop the instruction of general subjects and to focus on Japanese language instruction only.  Children would thus attend regular Canadian public schools in English and go to learn Japanese language after school.  As more immigrants settled in Japan Town, the VJLS also increasingly played a vital role as a community gathering place and organization.  In 1928, a new building was built to accommodate 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.

1941-1952: Lost Years

With the outbreak of the Second World War in the Pacific in December of 1941, the School, whose population at the time was more than 1000 students, was forced to close its doors.  As part and parcel of the physical internment of all Japanese Canadians to 100 miles east of the west coast, the Canadian Government confiscated all private, commercial, and community properties and businesses owned by Japanese Canadians.

From July of 1942 to August 1947, the VJLS facilities was occupied by the Canadian Armed Forces.  In 1947, the government sold half of the VJLS property and facilities to pay for maintenance expenses accumulated during the war.  From 1947, the remaining building on 475 Alexander Street was rented to the Army and Navy Department Store until 1952.

1953-: Post-war Years Triumph and Rebuilding

In April of 1949 when freedom of movement and resettlement was finally granted to Japanese Canadians, some Japanese Canadians moved back to Vancouver and began the process of rebuilding their lives and their community.  Despite the setback of the war and the lost years, there were many who still believed that learning Japanese was important to the identity of their children and to rebuilding the identity and pride of their shattered community.

As a result of the valiant efforts of many in the community who fought to reopen the School, the remaining half of the VJLS property was restored to the Japanese Canadian community in 1953.  Out of all the Japanese Canadian properties, cars, homes, and businesses that were confiscated and never returned to their former owners, the VJLS stands alone as the only property among any Japanese Canadian private citizen, business or organization to retain ownership after the war.  As the one remaining physical and community link from before the war, it symbolized and continues to symbolize the courage, perseverance, and resilient spirit of the Japanese Canadian community.

The 21st Century and Beyond: Spreading Our Wings

The VJLS-JH has continued to evolve and reflect the changing needs and fabric of Canada’s multicultural society.   With the emergence of Japan as an economic, technological and cultural leader, the importance of Japanese as an international language and the need for multi-cultural and multi-lingual global communicators and citizens has grown immensely.   Traditionally, our students came mostly from the Japanese Canadian community, but now the origins of our student population stem from over 12 different countries.  Moreover, our role as bridge between Canada and Japan on the international level, as well as between the local Japanese Canadian and multi-cultural communities strengthens everyday.

We continue to provide Japanese language and cultural education, and in response to changing societal needs, we have developed new and unique programs.   One of very popular recent program developments is the early childhood education program, Kodomo no Kuni. Exposing pre-schoolers to a second language at the earliest possible age, it provides a language/culture-enriched day-school program.

To embrace the new century and its growing role of VJLS-JH as a center for multi-cultural education and culture and community programs, in the Year 2000, the VJLS-JH built a new spacious facility adjoining the original 1928 building (now a designated heritage building).

Building on our proud heritage of education and community for 100 years, VJLS-JH continues to spread our wings to meet the challenges and new objectives for the next 100 years.


1905Marquis Komura Jutaro visited Vancouver on the way home to Japan and donated $150 to the Consular Morikawa to establish school for Japanese citizens in Canada.
Japanese School Establishment Committee established. Founding Members: Morikawa, Sasaki, Sato, Murakami and Kanemura.
1906On January 12, "Vancouver Kyoritsu Nihongo Gakko" (Vancouver Japanese Citizens' School) opened. Instructions followed curriculum set by the Japanese government with addition of English class.
In July, new wooden structured school building was constructed on 439 Alexander St.
1909Brick building built at back of the original building as an extension.
74 students.
1912Ijikai (board of directors) is formally established.共立日本國民學校維持会が正式に発足。
1916Gakuyukai (alumni association) established.学友会発足。
1919School's name changed to "Vancouver Kyoritsu Nihongo Gakko" (Vancouver Japanese Language School). School narrows its focus to teaching only the Japanese language.校則を改め、「晩香坡日本共立語學校」と改名し、日本語教育を主な目的とする。
1923Boshikai (women's auxiliary) is formally established.
273 students.
1928New school building and the Japanese Hall is completed beside the original wooden building on 475 Alexander St.
Opening ceremony on March 11.
1937Imperial Highness Prince and Princess Chichibu visit Vancouver and the School on their way to King George's Coronation in Britain.3月30日、秩父宮同妃両殿下がご来校。
1941Pacific War breaks out. School is forced to close its doors.
1010 students.
1942Japanese-Canadians are forced to evacuate 100 miles from the West Coast and all private, commercial and community properties and businesses forfeited by the Canadian Government.
487 Alexander building leased to the Department of National Defence.
1945June 19 - Akiko Kurita, graduate, teacher at Nobeoka Elementary School, killed during the air raid. The war ends month after.6月19日。栗田彰子(卒業生)、盛岡小学校教諭。空襲により殉職。
1947Canadian Government sold half of the VJLS property and facility to pay for maintenance expenses.カナダ政府により校舎の半分を売却される。
1949Japanese-Canadian granted freedom of movement and resettlement.移動と移転の自由が日系人に認められる。
1947-1952475 Alexander St building was rented to Army & Navy department store.
In 1950, cold weather caused piping for heating system to freeze and left extensive damage to the building. Army & Navy department store left the building.
1952Sep 6 - Ijikai re-established to re-open the school.
Sep 20 - Community reopens school at temporary location on Jackson St (Present Vancouver Buddhist Temple).
9月20日ジャクソン街旧体育館(現 バンクーバー仏教会)にて授業開始。
1953March - Restoration of the School property and reopening of the School in pre-war building.
Boshikai re-established.
1956The first carnival (bazaar) was held after the War.戦後初めてのバザー開催。
1961Building renovation completed.建物の改修が完了。
196210th anniversary since reopening.再開10週年祝賀会。
1965On Oct 3, His and Her Imperial Highness Mikasa visited School.10月3日、三笠宮ご夫妻、本校に来臨。
196760th anniversary celebrated. 創立60週年記念式典
1971Saturday class (conversation class) established会話科(土曜クラス)の第一回入学式挙行
197220th Anniversary of the School reopening.
The first graduation ceremony ever since the end of the War.
19761st Japanese Study Tour (4 students) visited Japan日本研修旅行。生徒4名。
1979Major renovation completed with Neighbourhood Improvement Plan (NIP) Grant.
Boshikai 25th Anniversary
198230th Anniversary since reopening戦後再開30周年
1984Fundamental Classes started
197 students.
1988Kindergarten Class startedキンダークラス授業開始
1990Student council started.生徒会発足
1991Year 2000 Project (Y2K) conceived by the Board of Directors.理事会により、VJLS2000年計画が承認される。
1992Year 2000 project receives $1.4 million from the Japanese Canadian Redress Foundation.
Boshikai dissolved.
Boshikai scholarship fund established.
40th Anniversary since reopening.
1994Y2K Project purchased property adjacent to 1928 school building.1928年に落成した校舎に隣接する敷地を購入する。
19951928 School Building designated as an official heritage site by the City of Vancouver, category B(M).1928年校舎がバンクーバー市歴史的建造物に指定される。
1997Y2K Project ground breaking新校舎地鎮祭
1999New school building and Japanese Hall (Y2K Project) completed.
"Children's World" opened.
2000June 25 - Opening ceremony of Y2K building6月15日、新校舎落成式
2004Her Highness Princess Takamado visits VJLS.
Her play "Lulie, the Iceberg" was performed at the Hall for the children in Vancouver.
2006Centennial Celebrations - 100 years of Education and Community Spirit百周年祝賀会
2009July 12 - His and Her Majesties Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko visited School.7月12日、天皇皇后両陛下ご来校。