Japanese Canadian Architects, Builders, and Designers in Manitoba
Curated by Catherine Acebo Winnipeg Architecture Foundation
Ryan Takatsu, May 17 2023
In September 2019, I contacted the Winnipeg Architecture Foundation regarding the inclusion of the Japanese-Canadians architects, designers, builders and contractors who contributed to Manitoba’s built environment.
On January 16, 1942, due to repercussions of World War II, the War Measure’s Act enforced the internment of almost 22,000 Japanese-Canadians. The consequences were devastating. Property, businesses, community, and livelihood were appropriated and lost. All Japanese-Canadians were evacuated, primarily in British Columbia. They lost their democratic rights and freedoms as Canadian citizens. One hundred and eighteen of those interned arrived in Winnipeg on April 13, 1942 and then relocated to various communities in southern Manitoba to work as forced labourers on the sugar beet farms. Soon after the war ended and the restrictions were finally lifted in April 1949, many of the families moved to Winnipeg to rebuild their lives and community. There was a loss of identity, culture, and language for the younger generation. The internment experience was everlasting and emotionally hurtful.
Due to lost education and employment opportunities as a result of the war, many returned to school to study (or apprentice in) architecture, design and building trades. The post-war economic and population growth of Winnipeg created a building boom. This set of circumstances made it possible for Japanese-Canadians to thrive as contractors, home developers, architects and designers.
In September 1988, the federal government of Canada acknowledged the social-economic injustices endured during and after the World War II. The redress and formal apology became a reality.
April 2022 marked the 80th anniversary of the arrival of the first Japanese-Canadian internments to Manitoba.
The Japanese-Canadian experience was a long difficult journey of a world war, systemic racism, internment, and relocation. This project acknowledges the importance of the contributions made by Japanese-Canadian to Manitoba’s built environment.
I wish to thank Susan Algie for making this project possible, and to researchers and writers Alexander Gowriluk and Catherine Acebo for documentation.
In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Canada relied on immigrants to provide the labour that the growing nation required. The federal government's immigration policies accommodated European immigrants the most. Like other Asian, African, and South Asian immigrants, Japanese immigrants were denied entry—and when they were allowed to enter, they worked in physically demanding industries and encountered racism in their everyday lives.
Winnipeg's Japanese Canadian architects and builders can trace their roots to the first wave of Japanese immigrants who endured such discrimination. Meiji-era Japan legalised immigration in 1868, and Japanese workers were settling in Canada by 1877. By 1901, Canada's Japanese population grew to approximately 5,000. The population continued to grow, rising to 18,000 residents in 1907. The community became more established when Japanese women arrived in 1908. Most Japanese migrants settled on the West Coast and British Columbia's interior, primarily working in mining, lumber, and construction industries. Only a small number of Japanese immigrants were educated and wealthy. Overall, Canada's Japanese community was composed of working class residents.
Racism played a prominent part in Japanese Canadians' daily lives because it restricted their political and economic agency and social engagement. While the 1885 Chinese Head Tax was not applicable to Japanese residents, Canada still imposed strict policies that prohibited more than four hundred Japanese men from settling in Canada every year. If they got the chance to immigrate, they were prevented from participating in the political process because they were not allowed to vote and hold office. To prevent them from becoming too successful, there were ongoing campaigns to reduce their access to fishing licenses. As shown by harmful and mainstream narratives, discrimination extended beyond government policies. Alarmists believed that Japanese residents were not only incompatible with Canadian life, but could threaten Canada's security. In 1907, entrenched and racist fears led to anti-Asian riots in Vancouver's Chinatown and Japanese quarter, resulting in injuries and significant property damage.
Although many efforts were made to exclude Japanese residents from civic life, they were still active in business, politics, and military service. To counter threats to their livelihoods, they started several businesses and farmed, fished, and mined throughout British Columbia. As they became more engaged in the economy, they gained and cultivated land. Many Japanese men enlisted in the Canadian Armed Forces during the First World War. For their service, veterans were granted the right to vote in 1931.
The Interwar Period and the Second World War: Impact on the Japanese Canadian Community
During the interwar period, British Columbia went through a series of social and economic challenges that caused more anger towards Japanese residents. In 1919, thousands of disabled and ill veterans returned to the coast, seeking employment. In 1929, the coast attracted another wave of unemployed labourers. Their arrivals strained the economy, prompting the broader public to link their anxieties about the economy to ideas about Japanese residents endangering the nation.
After the 1941 Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour, long-standing fears became more visible in federal policies. When Canada declared war on Japan, formalising discrimination against Japanese residents was considered a protective measure. In January 1942, Canada introduced the War Measures Act, which labelled Japanese residents as enemy agents. At the same time, Order-in-Council PC 365 marked the one hundred miles inland from the West Coast as a “protected area.” By marking the region as protected, so-called enemy agents became especially threatening and unacceptable residents.
Order-in-Council PC 1486 officially authorised their displacement, leading to the forced removal of approximately 21,460 Japanese residents. After implementing Order-in-Council 1665 in January 1943, the Canadian government seized and auctioned off their property. The resulting funds were used to build internment camps in the interior of British Columbia and Alberta. Some Japanese residents were tasked with building the internment camps. Others were forced to work in labour camps in northern Ontario. Families were separated because of such aggressive displacement. Canada's policy of internment was in place until 1949.
Displacement to the Prairies in the Second World War
A large wave of Japanese settlement in the Prairies took place when Japanese residents were sent to work on beet farms in Manitoba and Alberta. Manitoba's first Japanese Canadian residents arrived in April 1942, with approximately 1,180 residents relocating to Manitoba.
After disembarking from the railroad, Japanese residents were selected by farmers and taken to tend the fields. Like those working in the internment camps, they were subjected to hard labour, received little to no financial compensation, and had poor accommodations. However, they were allowed to stay with their families. The families first settled in Portage la Prairie, Selkirk, Altona, Steinbach, and the surrounding areas. Restrictions on settlement prevented them from moving to Winnipeg until 1946.
Japanese Canadians in the the Post-War Period
The Canadian government's discriminatory wartime policies had enduring consequences for Japanese Canadians. They were forced to carry identification cards until 1949, years after the Second World War ended in May 1945. To prevent them from concentrating in a single area again, they were barred from resettling on the West Coast. Since their properties and possessions were auctioned, they lost their associated livelihoods, and their economic stability was compromised. While some chose to return to Japan (or were exiled), others were forced to resettle across Canada. The community faced numerous and overlapping circumstances that made finding stability in the post-war period challenging.
Emerging in Manitoba's Trade Industries
As a result of poor wages and working conditions on sugar beet farms, some Japanese families settled in Winnipeg in 1942. Fearful that there might be an influx of Japanese residents in Winnipeg, the Department of Labour prioritised placing them on beet farms and finding lumber and construction work for them in rural locations. When they were allowed to settle and work in the city, they were assigned to poorly paid and laborious work in manufacturing industries.
After the Second World War ended in 1945 and strict restrictions were lifted in 1946, more Japanese residents moved to Winnipeg. Other survivors of internment camps eventually joined Manitoba’s Japanese community. Stripped of their homes and livelihoods, they needed to re-establish themselves without significant financial security and credentials. To do this, they drew upon their pre-existing expertise in construction and woodworking. Before their displacement, many Japanese men worked in British Columbia's mining and wood working industries. During their internment and their time working in internment camps, farms, and other industries throughout the Second World War, they gained more expertise. Displacement destabilised the Japanese community's livelihoods—and to find security, some leveraged the knowledge they gleaned to become builders and designers.
In Winnipeg, Japanese workers collaborated with various communities and notable firms and architects. The trades industries grew because post-war construction generated a high demand for labour. As Japanese workers helped meet growing demand, they solidified their presence in the growing industries and became notable for their work’s quality and reliability. They developed business relationships with Jewish and German-speaking communities, as well as notable Winnipeg firms and architects. For example, they worked with Smith Carter and Associates, Etienne Gaboury, and Roy Sellors. Ultimately, the Japanese community had valuable architects and builders who were instrumental in constructing Winnipeg's built environment in the post-war period.
In Winnipeg's Architectural and Design History
Japanese Canadians’ part in Canada's built environment extended beyond their work in construction. Despite discriminatory barriers, Japanese architects and designers played prominent roles in Winnipeg's evolving architectural and design community. Wartime restrictions and their effects complicated Japanese men and women's architectural ambitions and interest in design, forcing them to take more creative paths. Lacking the formal secondary and post-secondary training that architects required, some began their careers after attending trade schools and working as drafts peoples after the Second World War.
A small number of Japanese Canadians received their architecture degrees at the University of Manitoba's School of Architecture before launching careers with some of Canada's most prestigious firms. As a result, Winnipeg was a popular (albeit sometimes temporary) setting for Japanese residents learning about design. For example, Kiyoshi Izumi attended the University of Manitoba after facing discrimination and limited opportunities in Regina, Saskatchewan. Unlike other Japanese Canadians who were interned and working as labourers, Izumi attended university throughout the Second World War. James Shunichi Sugiyama followed a similar path. In the early 1950s, Izumi and Sugiyama established Izumi, Arnott, and Sugiyama in Saskatchewan. Their firm cultivated a celebrated reputation. Izumi’s sometimes unorthodox approach to architecture drew attention. For example, Izumi tackled the remodelling of Saskatchewan’s mental health facilities by voluntarily taking LSD. In doing so, he hoped to mimic the experience of schizophrenia and better address patients’ needs.
Though some Japanese graduates chose to continue their careers elsewhere, other graduates became established architects and designers in Winnipeg. Most notably, James Yamashita, Stan Osaka, Roy Isaac, and Ron Keenberg established IKOY in 1968. IKOY enabled Yamashita and Osaka to make considerable contributions to Winnipeg’s built environment and architectural scene. The firm had unique approaches to architecture. First, IKOY was the developer on construction projects. Second, the firm’s style was characterised by a colourful and high-tech aesthetic. Yamashita described his approach to design as a “five components system.” The five components were mechanical, electrical, skin design strategy, and implementation or fitments. The colourful designs drew attention to the exposed components inside a structure (known as “tool-kit architecture”). Such principles can be seen in the Red River Community College Auto Diesel Shop (2055 Notre Dame Avenue, 1983). IKOY designed other buildings across Canada, and established offices in Winnipeg, Regina, and Thunder Bay. IKOY's enduring impact on the built environment is emblematic of Japanese Canadians' valuable contributions.
Japanese Canadian Architects, Designers, and Builders: Resistance by Building Physical Space
Japanese Canadians’ careers in architecture, design, and construction were part of a broader effort to counteract Canada’s discriminatory policies and treatment of the Japanese community. By barring them from democratic processes and framing them as threats to national security, Canada historically marginalised the Japanese community. Canada’s repeated attempts to disperse and exile them reflected the nation’s desire to suppress their existence. In Winnipeg, Japanese Canadian architects and builders established themselves as critical members of the community—and in doing so, dismantled harmful ideas and established their inherent value. Their work serves as a physical expression of resistance against alienating narratives.
After the Second World War, the Japanese community launched a redress campaign. On September 22, 1988, the Canadian Government issued an acknowledgement of the wrongdoing, in addition to a formal apology and a redress payment to Japanese Canadians for the Second World War’s internment camps and rampant abuse.
Yoshimaru Abe was born in Fukuoka, Japan in March 1914. He immigrated to Canada in April 1927. He worked with his father at a lumber mill after leaving school in the eighth grade.
During the Second World War, Abe and his family were moved to an internment camp near Red Pass Junction, Alberta. Owing to his past experience working in a lumber mill, he was charged with helping build the Red Pass Junction Camp. After he was transferred to Tashme, British Columbia, he was enlisted with helping build the internment camp again.
When Tashme Camp was shut down, Abe and his family moved to Winnipeg in April 1947. He drew from his past experience in construction and began building prefabricated homes for Jose Construction. In 1943, Abe established Fuji Builders with Tucker Tanabe, Shigeto Shimoji, and Roy Murata.
In addition to building structures through Fuji Builders, Abe consistently utilized his background in construction to contribute to his community. He helped create the Japanese Canadian Cultural Centre (JCCC), designed, constructed, and maintained JCCC’s Japanese garden, and built the Japanese Pavilion’s garden and teahouse for Folkarama.
In March 2006, Abe passed away.
Fuji Builders and Contractors Ltd.
Founded in 1953, Fuji Builders was a partnership between Yoshimaru Abe, Tucker Tanabe, Shigeto Shimoji, and Roy Murata. Tanabe passed away in 1964. The firm routinely hired Japanese Canadian craftspeople, including (but not limited to) Harry Suga, Tosh Omoto, and Akira Tamoto. The firm further expanded their range of employees and diversified their approaches to design by bringing in tradespeople from Japan and Europe. Fuji Builders coordinated with Goodman and Kojima Inc.'s Mickey Kojima to complete electrical work.
The company’s success is tied to its willingness to take risks on complicated projects. As it cultivated a reputation for innovation, it attracted attention from notable firms and families in Winnipeg. For example, Smith Carter and Associates hired Fuji Builders to construct Dennis Carter’s home (544 South Drive, 1957) and Ernest Smith’s home (904 Kildonan Drive, 1959). In addition, the Richardson family regularly contracted Fuji Builders. In 1976, the family donated 475 Wellington Crescent to the City of Winnipeg to transform it into Munson Park. Fuji Builders removed the original wood flooring and installed it into J. Richardson Jr.’s home (611 Hall Road).
In addition to building residential homes, Fuji Builders worked on commercial and notable projects. They renovated Blonde’s Shoe Salon, located at the corner of the iconic Boyd Building (388 Portage Avenue). Later, they were the building contractors for Japan’s Consul General’s residence (460 Wellington Crescent).
While other Japanese Canadian builders led more private lives, Fuji Builders’ celebrity clientele and history of volunteerism made them visible figures in Winnipeg’s Japanese community. Fuji Builders is no longer in business.
Junichi Hashimoto completed his Bachelor of Architecture at the Kyoto Institute of Technology’s School of Architecture and received his Master of Architecture at the University of Toronto. In 1966, Hashimoto arrived in Canada as the Japanese Architects Association’s exchange architect.
Upon graduation, Hashimoto worked as a project architect for Green Blankstein and Russell (GBR) Associates. His projects included the Hospital for Veterans’ Affairs, the Animal Pathology Research Laboratory for the University of Manitoba’s Department of Agriculture, and the Laboratory for Fisheries Canada (501 University Crescent, 1970-1972). He eventually returned to the University of Toronto and received his Master of Urban Design in 1969. He resumed his architectural work with a deeper understanding of urban design. In 1973, Arthur Erickson invited Hashimoto to join Arthur Erickson Architects in Vancouver, B.C. He worked as Arthur Erickson Architects’ in-charge senior project architect for the B.C. Government Office Complex/Robson Square project (525 Superior Street, Victoria, BC).
Hashimoto eventually settled in Edmonton, Alberta in 1977. He first arrived to oversee the Law Courts Addition with Bell Spotowski Architects. He established Hashimoto Architects in 1984. In a joint team effort between Canadian and Japanese architects, he headed Osaka’s most significant housing complex project to illustrate the Canadian 2-by-4 construction method. In 1993, the project was named “2-by-4 Wooden Frame 3-Storey Apartment Pilot Project– Maple Court.” The Department of Construction gave the project a Japanese Ministry Award.
In 1990, Hashimoto consulted with the Edmonton Japanese Community Association about building a Japanese Canadian Cultural Centre (6750 88 Street NW, Edmonton). In 1993, Hashimoto Architects assisted the University of Alberta as the university tried to make the Kurimoto Japanese Garden more capable of withstanding the province's severe and cold climate. The firm built upon the initial design when it integrated the Ozawa Teahouse into the Kurimoto Garden in 1995.
Hashimoto’s work includes the LEED Silver certified park facilities for the City of Edmonton Parks Department, the Amenities Building with solar heating, and the A.H. Savage Building with passive solar geothermal heating and cooling.
In 2012, Hashimoto retired from architecture. He is now an active watercolour painter. As a member of the Federation of Canadian Artists, he has participated in various juried group exhibitions and receives commissions.
Ben Hashimoto was born in Mission City, British Columbia. He was the brother of Hiro Hashimoto, the founder of Hashimoto Construction Ltd.
Before the Canadian government implemented internment policies, Hashimoto worked on his family’s strawberry farm. The Hashimoto family relocated to Arnaud, Manitoba in 1942 to avoid separation in the internment camps. After working as underpaid farm labour throughout the war, the Hashimoto family moved to Winnipeg in 1946.
Hashimoto founded Ben Hashimoto Builders and developed housing in different Winnipeg developments in the late 1960s. He was a member of the Winnipeg Home Builders Association. Hashimoto homes were typically small, nicely designed, and high-quality. Known for building homes with a personal touch, the company earned the St. James Townhouse development project in 1965. While the homes followed basic design templates for one-storey, split level, and two-storey structures, the designs varied from traditional styles to modern and sleek structures. The company further established themselves in the residential home industry when they managed tract housing in Winnipeg’s Westwood development. Hashimoto’s work is illustrated in tasteful bungalows like 7520 Roblin Boulevard.
Hashimoto passed away on November 2, 1993.
IKOY (Isaac Keenberg Osaka Yamashita)
IKOY was founded in Winnipeg in 1968, drawing its moniker from the names of its principal designers: Roy Isaac (I), Ron Keenberg (K), Stan Osaka (O) and Jim Yamashita (Y).
Early projects included the design of an apartment block at 444 Kennedy Street (1971) in Winnipeg and a contract for the interior design of the University of Manitoba Student Union Building (65 Chancellor’s Circle, 1966–69). Following these commissions, the firm gained more experience when it worked on public housing projects in Winnipeg, Saskatchewan and Alberta. Its projects included the Westboine Village Housing Co-operative (32 Shelmerdine Drive, 1973) and St. Andrew’s Place (425 Ellen Street, 1974). In particular, the Westboine Village Housing Co-operative is unique among its other projects because it showcases a more organic exterior. With its local and natural materials, simple shapes, and absence of overhangs, it achieves a simultaneously rustic and modern aesthetic.
While IKOY established itself within Winnipeg’s architectural scene in the 1970s, IKOY pioneered two practices that distinguished the firm from the architectural mainstream. First, IKOY served as the developer of its own construction projects. A key example is Bromley Square (123-10th Avenue SW, Calgary, 1977), a rapidly erected thirty-one-storey complex featuring 396 apartments, office space, a recreation centre and enclosed parking. Second, IKOY’s colourful, high-tech aesthetic contrasted with other firms. The aesthetic was first imagined in the unbuilt plans for a parkade beside the Winnipeg Convention Centre (1977). The bright approach was concretely realized with the construction of Assiniboine Community College in Brandon (1430 Victoria Avenue East) and the design of the IKOY’s offices (396 Assiniboine Avenue, 1978). The architecture of the buildings (as well as future projects) were informed by IKOY’s “five component system.” The components include mechanical, electrical, skin, design strategy and implementation or fitments, linked together by action strategies. Jim Yamashita traced the inspiration for the technique to Jim Powers' design seminar on project and drafting systems.
The firm revealed the construction systems and called attention to the exposed elements with the use of paint. These colours were typically canary yellow, red, green and maroon, with a bright aqua appearing periodically. Eventually termed “tool-kit architecture,” IKOY applied the design to the Red River Community College Auto Diesel Shop (2055 Notre Dame Avenue, 1983) and the University of Manitoba’s Wallace Building (125 Dysart Road, 1986). The Auto Diesel Shop later won the firm a Governor General’s prize.
Similar inimitable landmarks of the firm’s open assembly idiom include the somewhat controversial red Provincial Courthouse in Flin Flon, Manitoba in 1985. According to Keenberg, the building marked the birth of IKOY’s “enhanced amplification” design strategy. Enhanced amplification made construction elements appear as if they had a greater purpose than they served. Comparable projects by the firm from this period are the Winnipeg RCMP Forensic Lab (621 Academy Road, 1987), Deer Lodge Hospital (2109 Portage Avenue, 1987) and the William G. Davis Computer Research Centre at the University of Waterloo (1987).
IKOY continued to make valuable architectural contributions in the late twentieth century. Later projects include the gleaming silver Agriculture Canada Research Centre (2701 Grand Valley Road, Brandon, 1995), with inspiration from the worlds of farming and science; the Base Maintenance Facility and First Regiment Royal Canadian Horse Artillery (1996–8), which won a Prairie 2000 Architecture Award of Excellence; the Militia Training Centre, CFB Valcartier, Quebec (1997); the ADF Steel Plant, Terrebonne, Quebec (1997); and, the Advanced Technology & Academic Centre, Lakehead University, Thunder Bay (2003). Perhaps the most notable work of this later era is the National Archives in Quebec (625 Bd du Carr, 1997), which won IKOY a Governor General’s Medal. Described by IKOY as a “Village of Preservation and Conservation,” the National Archives was conceived to somewhat recall, in a far more modern and technologically up-to-date manner, the ancient Athenian Parthenon.
At the height of their practice, IKOY had offices in Winnipeg, Regina and Thunder Bay. By the 2000s, the three branches closed, and the firm began operating primarily in Ottawa. In 2003, IKOY won the Royal Institute of Canadian Architects’ Firm Award.
Izumi, Kiyoshi "Joe"
Kiyoshi “Joe” Izumi was born in Vancouver, British Columbia in 1921. He graduated from Vancouver Technical College in 1931. While the Second World War aggravated anti-Japanese sentiment in Canada and the Canadian government strategically displaced Japanese residents, Izumi moved to Regina, Saskatchewan and enrolled at Regina College in 1943. Saskatchewan offered a small refuge from the intense nationwide xenophobia, but Japanese residents remained subject of racist policies—for example, they had to report their whereabouts monthly and carry an identification card at all times.
As a result of discrimination and a possible lack of opportunity in Saskatchewan, Izumi attended the University of Manitoba. He was among the small number of Japanese Canadians who had the opportunity to pursue a post-secondary education while others remained in internment camps and worked as farm labourers. In 1948, he won the Pilkington Glass Scholarship. In 1950, he was awarded the first Royal Architectural Institute of Canada College of Fellows Scholarship to study in England. Izumi graduated from the University of Manitoba in 1948 and continued his education in urban planning at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Graduate School of Design at Harvard from 1950 to 1954.
In the early 1950s, Izumi, Gordon Arnott, and James Sugiyama founded Izumi, Arnott, and Sugiyama in Regina, Saskatchewan. The Great Depression and the Second World War created turbulent conditions that pushed many architects out of Saskatchewan, but the lack of competition ultimately benefited Izumi, Arnott, and Sugiyama. The firm had the space to explore and experiment with design.
Izumi’s work was sometimes characterised by unorthodox experimentation. For example, when remodelling Saskatchewan’s mental health facilities, he voluntarily took LSD to recreate the experience of schizophrenia and better understand patients’ needs. The experimentation informed the design of the Yorkton Centre Mental Hospital in Yorkton, Saskatchewan.
In 1986, Izumi joined the University of Saskatchewan’s Faculty of Environmental Science. He later taught at the University of Waterloo before retiring in 1986. After a decade of retirement, he passed away in 1996.
Jack Kobayashi was born in Montreal, Quebec, on June 2, 1963. During the Second World War, Kobayashi’s family was expelled from the West Coast and forced to settle in Montreal. Kobayashi’s passion for design was cultivated throughout his childhood. Since his father worked for Eagle Toys and worked around existing patents, he had the opportunity to play with prototypes. Kobayashi’s interest in architecture emerged when he first drew a floorplan for a police station. Family trips to Toronto further cemented his interest in architecture because it gave him the chance to examine Raymond Moriyama’s Ontario Science Centre.
Kobayashi graduated from the University of Waterloo with a Bachelor of Environmental Studies (Urban and Regional Planning) in 1986. Afterwards, he studied under Kiyoshi Izumi, a notable architect with Izumi Arnott Sugiyama in Regina, Saskatchewan. He later attended the University of Manitoba and received his Master of Architecture in 1992, guided by the work of the university’s most notable modernist professors.
After graduating, Kobayashi worked with, and learned from, various notable architects. At IBI Group Inc., Kobayashi learned from company director Phillip Beinhaker’s style of architecture, planning, and entrepreneurship. His architectural education was broadened when he worked with Etienne Gaboury and James Nishikawa.
In 1993, Kobayashi and Antonio Zedda founded Kobayashi + Zedda Architects Ltd. (KZA), the largest architecture firm operating in northern Canada. Since KZA works in Canada’s sparsely populated northern territories, the firm does not specialise and instead designs a wide range of buildings and architectural features. Furthermore, the firm works as its own developer, property manager, and retailer. KZA works with 360 Design Build (360 DB) to provide urban planners, architects, general contractors, and carpenters. KZA strives to produce work that is regionally appropriate, sustainable, and relies on Indigenous communities’ input as a guiding principle. The revered firm has managed notable projects like Horwood’s Mall in Whitehorse, Yukon. Since 1993, the firm has worked on more than 800 design projects that span over two dozen building types. Their work can be seen in the Yukon, Northwest Territories, Alberta, and British Columbia.
Kobayashi and Zedda’s extensive travels have brought nuance and functionality to their design. For instance, they examined how Japanese bathrooms recycle water in the sink to adjacent toilets and how prefabricated designs eschewed the notion of “cheapness.” Such concepts have meaningful applications to the often-inaccessible Canadian north.
The firm’s nuanced and functional work is complimented by a playful and community-oriented approach to design. For example, KZA designed Dänojà Zho Cultural Centre (1131 Front St, Dawson City, 1997). Throughout its design, KZA centred the client’s needs and their experience with the land. The final design is contemporary and functional, informed by the seasons and the expansive history of nomadic living. The project earned the 1999 Lieutenant-Governor of BC Award of Merit from the AIBC.
Born in Vancouver, British Columbia in 1926, Mickey Kojima was raised in Royston, Vancouver Island. Following the Japanese government’s attack on Pearl Harbour in 1941, the Canadian and B.C. government swiftly displaced Vancouver Island’s vibrant Japanese Canadian community. Along with other Japanese Canadian families, the Kojima family was held in detention in Hastings Park, Vancouver. They were eventually taken to the Tashme internment camp near Hope, B.C.
After the Second World War, the Kojima family temporarily entertained the idea of returning to Japan. Unwilling to do so, Kojima persuaded his family to remain in Canada and relocate to Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan. They stayed in a converted air force base before moving to Sanford, Manitoba and seeking work on the Canadian Pacific Railway yards.
Kojima first experimented with work as a garage mechanic. He eventually studied electrical technology in Chicago, Illinois. After completing his studies, he returned to Winnipeg and began working at Sargent Electric and Radio (609 Sargent Avenue). In 1960, Art Goodman asked Kojima to start a company with him, and soon after, the two founded Goodman and Kojima.
Goodman and Kojima eventually became one of the most reliable electricians for Winnipeg’s Japanese builders. They first worked with a Japanese builder when they took on the Goodwill Radio, a structure designed by Henry Takatsu, a draftsman from Pratt Lindgren Snider Tomcej and Associates. Goodman and Kojima later partnered with Mizawa Construction, a Japan-based developer that expanded into Canada. They worked with Kojima to build their new factory for prefabricated homes near Gimli, Manitoba. Some Japanese builders he worked with included Hiro Hashimoto, Ben Hashimoto, Henry Kuwada, Tom Shimoji, and Ken Teramura.
Despite his ties with the Japanese Canadian community, he sought to diversify his network. He worked with former coworkers and builders at Sargent Electric and Radio. He worked with Smith Agency, a property management company that granted him work in exchange for an insurance policy.
When building his own home, Kojima worked with Takatsu. Kojima had selected the original blueprints from a magazine, but asked Takatsu to create a basement addition. A local Japanese builder, Henry Kuwada, oversaw the construction of the home. To help evoke traditional Japanese home design, the home features a swooping roofline with cedar shingles. Since it was an electrically heated and renewable energy home, it was a display home.
Kojima passed away on May 2, 2023.
Kuwada, Hisao "Henry"
Hisao “Henry” Kuwada was born on October 19, 1908, in Fukuyama, Japan. In 1926, Kuwada immigrated and worked in British Columbia as a farmer. During the Second World War, his family was sent to Tashme Internment Camp in Hope, British Columbia.
With his background in carpentry, Kuwada was assigned various carpentry jobs at the camp, such as building cedar chests and coffins. Since his skills were highly desired, Kuwada’s family was among the last to leave Tashme. When they were finally allowed to leave, they were separated from their extended family. While the Kuwada family was relocated to Winnipeg, their extended family was sent to Toronto. Despite his reservations about remaining in Canada, his family’s precarious economic conditions compelled him to remain in Winnipeg. Kuwada’s family settled in Old Kildonan.
Racist sentiments made finding stable housing challenging for the Kuwada family, but the camaraderie between Winnipeg’s Japanese, Jewish, and German-speaking communities allowed them to eventually establish themselves. Through these communities, Kuwada found employment with Stan Brown Builders. Stan Brown employed Kuwada as a carpenter and respected his craftsmanship. Meanwhile, McDiarmid Lumber’s Alister McDiarmid encouraged Kuwada to go into business for himself.
In the late 1940s, Kuwada first opened Henry’s Construction Co. in Winnipeg’s North End. In 1950, the company was rebranded as Kuwada Construction Co. Ltd. and relocated to 319 Linden Avenue. Through his work, Kuwada developed connections with Winnipeg’s notable architects. He worked with the Dean of the University of Manitoba’s School of Architecture Roy Sellors, and Blankstein Coop Gillmor Hannah’s Izzy Coop. In particular, he designed Izzy Coop’s South Drive home. Meanwhile, the Kuwada family hosted Masahiro Murata, an architecture student from the University of California Berkeley. Murata and Kuwada respectively designed and built 3140 Assiniboine Avenue (1971).
Kuwada Construction Co. cultivated a well-earned reputation for their skill and efficiency. In 1972, Kuwada helped Mickey Kojima build his all-electric home at 14 Cambrian Crescent. As a trusted electrician within Winnipeg’s Japanese Canadian and architectural community, Kojima had a personal relationship with Kuwada. Kojima based the home’s blueprints from a catalogue, but contracted Henry Takatsu to create an additional basement. Takatsu had a sweeping cedar shingle roof that echoed the designs of traditional Japanese homes. Kuwada Construction Co. built the home.
Kuwada Construction Co. faced more challenges in the 1970s. The firm relied primarily on recommendations from reputable clients who attested to Kuwada’s craftsmanship, but such an approach did not sustain the firm as contractors began competing for the lowest possible prices. Shifting market trends led to the firm’s closure in 1974.
Throughout his career, Kuwada continued to deepen his ties with the Japanese Canadian community and encourage positive relations between Canada and Japan. He helped with the initial construction of the Buddhist Temple and sponsored the Japanese Olympic hockey team’s Canadian tour. He served as the President of the Manitoba Buddhist Church and the Honorary President of the Manitoba Judo Association. For his community service, he was awarded the Order of the Rising Sun 6th Order by the Emperor of Japan in 1986. Kuwada passed away on June 20, 1989.
Matsuo, Shizuo Frederick "Fred"
Frederick "Fred" Shizuo Matsuo was born on March 4, 1926, in New Westminster, British Columbia to Shizue and Tatsuo Matsuo. The family included three other children, two brothers, Ruichi (Bob) and Isamu (Sam) and a sister, Midori. The family resided in both White Rock and Duncan, British Columbia.
Following Canada's declaration of war against Japan in 1941, the Matsuos moved to Mount Lehman, B.C. to stay with relatives. Under the War Measures Act, Canada interned 21,000 Japanese Canadians living in British Columbia and moved them inland deeming them security risks. Japanese men between the ages of 18 and 45 were to be sent to logging or road camps in Northern Ontario or, they could stay with their families and be interned in either Alberta or Manitoba to work on sugar beet/grain farms. The Matsuo family opted to stay together and work on a farm.
The family arrived at Winnipeg's Canadian Pacific Railway station in April, of 1942. Waiting in the station were the Manitoba farmers looking for labourers. Many of the farms in Manitoba, harboured anti-Japanese sentiments but, the Matsuos were chosen by an empathetic German farming family from Petersfield who themselves were, facing discrimination in Canada.
Threshing and growing sugar beets was difficult, back breaking work, but by the end of the first sugar beet and grain harvest, the family had proven that they were dependable, hard workers and were accepted and felt at home in the community. Nevertheless, their mail was still censored, and travel restrictions were still imposed.
Of his experience during this period, Matsuo has written: “I firmly believe that living through experiences from this period of time have [sic] been a great benefit in evaluating my personal goals and values. It helped me to further understand some of the more important aspects of our lives such as the true meaning of love, compassion, forgiveness, caring and giving.”
In 1945, after the war, the family moved to Selkirk, Manitoba. Having missed two years of education, Matsuo and his sister returned to high school. They both excelled and graduated in 1946 despite discriminatory treatment by the school. Soon after, the family moved to Winnipeg. Matsuo inquired about enrolling in a chartered accountancy program. Once again, he faced more discrimination and was informed that the program did not accept students of Japanese descent. Undaunted, Matsuo registered for first year commerce at United College, University of Winnipeg. Unfortunately, he wasn’t able to complete his degree, having to drop out of school in 1947 to help provide for his parents and sister when his mother became ill.
Matsuo worked for Anthes Foundry for a few months until he found work with Ariza Construction Inc. He worked for Ariza’s for four years, attending evening classes at St. John’s, Kelvin, and Daniel McIntyre high schools to obtain his architectural drafting qualification. From 1950 to 1952, Matsuo worked for E & M Drafting Services. It was here that he met Jim Searle who would prove pivotal to Matsuo's career.
Searle took Matsuo to Smith Carter Architects (now Architecture49), where he worked for 39 years from 1952-1991. Originally hired as a draftsman, Matsuo would work his way up to becoming one of Smith Carter’s most-respected project managers, overseeing construction on many of Winnipeg’s iconic buildings: Air Canada; the Bank of Montreal; Canada Life (Great West Life Headquarters); and the Trizec Towers among many others.
Matsuo married Alena Takatsu in 1954 and they had five children: Glenn, Colleen, Howie, Randy and Cameron. He retired in 1991.
Matsuo was deeply involved with the Japanese community for many years, becoming President of MJCCA, the Manitoba Japanese Canadian Cultural Association (now JCAM, the Japanese Cultural Association of Manitoba) in 1953. For 18 years, he served as a board member and used his experience as an architectural project manager for the benefit of the association.
Matsuo was brother-in-law to Henry Takatsu, a draftsperson for the Winnipeg firm Pratt Lindgren Snider Tomcej and Associates, and uncle to Mr. Takatsu’s son, Interior Designer/artist Ryan Takatsu. He was also uncle to Sandra Sasaki, Interior Designer/Design Educator, and her brother, Rod Sasaki, Architect/Interior Designer/Warehouse Artworks Owner, children of George Choetsu Sasaki.
This biography was generously provided by Sandra Sasaki.
Akemi Miyahara graduated from the University of Manitoba in 1963 with her Bachelor of Fine Arts. During her time at university, she was an active member of the Alpha Gamma Delta sorority.
Miyahara went on to pursue a career in interior design. In 1968, she was responsible for staging 67 Valley View Drive, Winnipeg’s Chatelaine Approved Designed Home of 1969. She later transitioned from the interior design industry to academia. From 2005 to 2007, she served as the Head of the Department of Interior Design at the University of Manitoba’s School of Architecture. During her tenure, she contributed to the scholarship on design and guided students.
Miyahara retired in July 2007.
Murata, Yoshisuke Roy
Yoshisuke Roy Murata was born in Oshima-gun, Yamagushi-Ken, Japan on April 28, 1919. He owned Jose Construction in Winnipeg and employed Yoshimaru Abe, with whom he later partnered to establish Fuji Builders and Contractors. He was with the firm for thirty-nine years. Murata passed away in 1992.
After moving from Fort William, Ontario, James Nishikawa studied architecture at the University of Manitoba’s School of Architecture. Nishikawa graduated in 1963 and began working for E.J. Gaboury Architects. He eventually became an associate.
Nishikawa’s first major projects included the redevelopment of the town centre and housing complex in Churchill, Manitoba in the 1970s. The construction site was chosen to minimise the number of expropriations, both at the time and in the future. The higher elevation of the site also minimised snow drifts provided cover from the wind and provided a clear view of the Churchill River and Hudson's Bay. The complex included a school, a library, medical facilities, offices, and recreation spaces. Owing to the harsh climate and short building season, many components were built off-site. Construction was completed in 1975. His other projects include Centre Tache (185 rue Despins, 1973) and the Provincial Remand Centre (141 Kennedy Street, 1994).
James Nishikawa was a registered architect with the Manitoba Association of Architects and continues to be a Retired Member.
Osaka, Stanley Hiroaki "Stan"
Stan Osaka was born on July 23, 1931 in Richmond, British Columbia, to Otokichi and Midori Osaka. During the Second World War, he and his parents and sister, Kimiko, were interned at Tashme Internment Camp, British Columbia, by order of the Canadian Government. After the war, he relocated to Montreal to attend McGill University, but later transferred to the University of Manitoba, in Winnipeg, where he received his Bachelor of Architecture in 1957 and his Master of Architecture in 1958. He was active in his fraternity, the Pi Epsilon Chapter of the Zeta Psi Fraternity. Osaka also attended the University of Tokyo from 1959 to 1961 on a Japanese Ministry of Education Fellowship to complete two years of his doctorate studies in Civic Design with Professors Kenzo Tange and Eika Takayama. While in Japan, he also had the opportunity to study for and receive a teaching certificate from the Misho-Ryu School of Floral Arrangement.
In 1962, Osaka met his wife, Georgia Morishita, and they were married for twenty-eight years. Osaka and Morishita had one son, Robert.
Osaka was a founding partner and architect of the architectural and interior design firm, IKOY, where he worked from 1968 to 1978. IKOY became a successful firm that gained national attention. Major projects during this time included apartment and townhouse projects in Winnipeg, Regina, Saskatoon and Calgary, as well as many commercial facilities, schools, colleges and institutional buildings.
In 1978, Osaka established Stan H. Osaka Architect, where he was the sole principal architect working on many university and residential projects. From 1988 to 1997, Osaka became the University Architect and Campus Planner for the President's Office of the University of Manitoba.
Though he was dedicated to architecture, Osaka was equally passionate about serving on the boards of many community organisations, such as the St. Boniface St. Vital Rotary Club, where he was a Director and President, and the Buddhist Churches of Canada, where he served as Director and Treasurer for many years. He was also a Director and President of the St. Vital Curling Club.
Osaka passed away on July 19, 2015.
Born to Shigeo “Shig” Sakiyama and Kishino Sasaki, Grant Sakiyama was born in Winnipeg on June 13, 1951. His path forward in the architecture and construction industry was influenced by his father, who founded the influential O.K. Builders Ltd.
Sakiyama spent summers working on his father’s construction site. Sakiyama received a Bachelor of Science in Microbiology at the University of Manitoba in 1972. He later received an Industrial Education teaching certificate from Red River College. In the following years, he taught drafting, design, graphics, and photography at Glenlawn Collegiate.
Although he worked as a teacher for several years, he transitioned to working at S. Sakiyama Construction (formerly O.K. Builders Ltd.) full-time in 1986. In 1989, S. Sakiyama Construction was renamed to Sakiyama Construction Ltd. After his father died in 1992, Sakiyama went from Vice-President to President. In addition to performing residential renovations, the business began taking on larger projects. For example, the business renovated several locations for the Independent Grocers Alliance (IGA). The firm managed its responsibilities by renovating IGA locations in the evening and renovating homes during the day. By the twenty-first century, the business took on more high-end home renovations and continued building custom homes in the 2000s.
Sakiyama’s work is exemplified by buildings like 36 Victoria Crescent (2009). The ultra-contemporary house was designed by Winnipeg-based architecture firm 5468796 Architecture Inc. The home features a sunken courtyard and three bridges. There is a unique feature of a rear deck that is fully enclosed by a remote-control screen. The house is built with numerous black square and rectangular forms, with floor-to-ceiling windows and wood panelling that contrasts against the black exterior.
Sakiyama continues to run the company with an emphasis on quality and innovative design, and as a result, has ensured its continued success. The firm’s innovative designs attracted a consistent clientele, and Sakiyama worked with some clients on multiple projects in the span of four decades. As a result of Shig and Grant Sakiyama’s fair treatment of employees, employee retention was strong and helped produce consistent work. Coupled with the business’s ability to offer different services according to changing markets, the business continues to be the longest running construction company founded by Japanese Canadians in Winnipeg. It is a seventeen-time gold medal winner of the Manitoba Home Builder Association Renovation Awards.
As of 2020, Sakiyama Construction Ltd. continues to renovate and build custom homes. It is the longest running construction company founded by Japanese Canadians in Winnipeg.
Sakiyama, Shigeo "Shig"
Born in Vancouver, British Columbia on May 22, 1920, Shigeo “Shig” Sakiyama was raised in Haney, British Columbia. Sakiyama’s father, Mokichi Sakiyama, served with the Canadian Expeditionary Forces in France during the First World War. For his service, his name is engraved on a monument in Stanley Park, Vancouver.
Despite the Sakiyama family’s demonstrated commitment to Canada, they were still subject to the Second World War’s policy of displacement. Given the choice between working in internment camps or becoming underpaid farm labourers, the family chose the latter. In 1942, the family relocated to Morris, Manitoba. After moving to Winnipeg in 1947, Sakiyama and his brothers worked as carpenters and worked briefly for Brown’s Construction Ltd.
In the late 1940s, Sakiyama established O.K. Builders. Beginning as a family business that employed his siblings and brother-in-law, O.K. Builders eventually expanded and hired several carpenters from Winnipeg’s Japanese and German communities. Sakiyama’s custom and residential work was featured in Niakwa Park, Windsor Park, Westwood, St. Vital, and East Kildonan.
His designs were characterised by a modern and clean approach. The house at 23 Mohawk Bay featured a modern and open concept living room, dining room, and kitchen, with a vaulted ceiling and fireplace. His homes in Niakwa Park similarly used low-slope roofs and vaulted ceilings. For his own home, he renovated the exterior to integrate a more traditional Japanese design and structured the landscape to complement the house’s design. The quality of his work was further legitimized when his work on 12 Heather Road in Windsor Park was featured in the 1960 Parade of Homes.
The late 1960s brought significant shifts to O.K. Builders, which was renamed S. Sakiyama Construction. The business expanded its focus to both residential and commercial renovations. Some notable renovations included work on the former Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation building (870 Portage Avenue).
Sakiyama’s son, Grant Sakiyama, eventually took over S. Sakiyama Construction in the mid-1980s. In 1989, the business was incorporated and renamed to Sakiyama Construction Ltd. The business began taking on larger projects, and by the twenty-first century was renovating high-end homes and building custom homes.
Sakiyama’s impressive work and strong business management strengthened Sakiyama Construction Ltd. The firm’s innovative designs attracted a consistent clientele, with Sakiyama working with some clients on multiple projects in the span of four decades. As a result of Sakiyama’s fair treatment of his employees, employee retention was strong and helped produce consistent work. Coupled with the business’s ability to offer different services according to changing markets, the business continues to be the longest running construction company founded by Japanese Canadians in Winnipeg.
Sakiyama passed away on May 23, 1992.
Sandra Sasaki obtained her Bachelor of Interior Design in 1975 from the University of Manitoba. At the time, the interior design program was strongly influenced by the German Bauhaus School of Design, arguably the most influential art and design school in history. For this, Sandra will be eternally grateful.
Graduating during a recession, Sasaki had a short-lived (but much loved) job at Eaton’s of Canada in their Merchandising Department in charge of the merchandising for the Portage Avenue windows and the women’s fashion floor.
In 1979, Sasaki and a classmate opened their own firm – Duddridge Sasaki Design Inc. in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, where the economy was booming. In 1982, the firm received an Award of Merit from Design Canada/National Design Council for their Wall Street Medical Clinic. Other notable projects included the Bessborough Hotel, Hong Kong Bank of Canada, and the Saskatchewan Economic Development Corporation (SEDC).
Sasaki returned to Winnipeg in 1981 and worked as a Senior Designer for Environmental Space Planning Ltd. (ESP) - the interior design arm of LM Architectural Group. ESP and LMAG worked both independently and collaboratively with one another – a model that Sasaki embraced. Notable diverse projects included Richardson Greenshields of Canada Limited offices across Canada, Canadian National Institute for the Blind (CNIB), the Beautiful Plains Country Courthouse restoration, Neepawa, MB., and the Gallery Shoppes, Winnipeg Art Gallery.
Sasaki and her husband moved to Toronto in 1988, where she worked in the Store Planning Department of the Hudson’s Bay Company. Notably, she was the Project Manager on the 140,000 sq. ft. Quebec City department store, responsible for all aspects of design, interior construction package (working drawings) and team supervision.
In 1989, the trajectory of Sasaki career veered, and she began teaching Interior Design at Humber College in Toronto. Notably, she spearheaded a curriculum to mirror real life design practice more closely. She also introduced juried presentations and a Year End Exhibition for graduating students.
Following her husband back to Winnipeg in 1993, Sasaki began her Master of Interior Design at the U of M (Design Education). She was also a part-time lecturer. Notably, she won the Teknion/Global (IDCF) Fellowship for her Master’s studies and, the University of Manitoba’s Certificate of Teaching Excellence for her teaching.
Sasaki returned to Toronto in 1999 as an Assistant Professor in the School of Interior Design at Ryerson University. Notably, she began to lay the groundwork for her area of research, working collaboratively with the Department of (Behavioral) Psychology. In 2002, she presented a paper on the Application of Qualitative Data at an International Congress in Kyoto, Japan. She obtained funding for and established the school’s Design Centre and, began laying the groundwork for a Master of Interior Design program. During her tenure, she was active with ARIDO (Association of Registered Interior Designers of Ontario) as a member of their Standards and Regulations Committee and their Professional Development Sub-Committee.
Sasaki returned to Winnipeg in 2006 and came full circle to become the Business Development Co-Ordinator/Architectural Proposal Writer for the LM Architectural Group – another trajectory to her career and one she found particularly challenging and rewarding.
Long time retired, Sandra continues to consult in Business Development, most notably for StateCraft Architectural Fabricators in both their Winnipeg and Seattle offices. The firm has several significant Experiential Graphic Design projects at the Upper Fort Garry Heritage Provincial Park, the Gimli Viking Village, and the East St. Paul Centennial Project.
Koji Sato was born on May 5, 1930, in Vancouver, British Columbia. He worked on his family’s farm near Delta, B.C. until the family was placed in an internment camp in B.C.’s interior during the Second World War.
After the Second World War, the Sato family moved to Japan. Sato eventually returned to Canada and settled in Winnipeg, with his family following in 1955. He learned carpentry by taking night classes at the Technical Vocational School. After completing his certification, he began working with Suzuki Brothers Ltd. and Kuwada Construction. He later became an independent contractor.
Born in Hiroshima, Japan in December 1901, Shigeto Shimoji eventually immigrated to Canada in 1927. Shimoji was a member of the Haney Nokai Farmer’s Association in Haney, British Columbia in 1931. After the Canadian government invoked the War Measures Act, the Shimoji family’s tie to the land was severed and they were forced to live in an internment camp. The Shimoji family may have resettled in Manitoba to do farm labour, but limited records suggest they arrived in the 1940s.
Shimoji was one of Fuji Builders and Contractors’ founding partners. He is the father of Tom Shimoji, another notable Winnipeg builder.
Tom Shimoji was born in Haney, British Columbia on February 28, 1932. After his family’s property was confiscated and they were displaced to an internment camp during the Second World War, existing records suggest that Shimoji’s family moved to Manitoba sometime in the 1940s. To help support his family, Shimoji dropped out of school to work.
Influenced by Shigeto Shimoji’s life as a founding partner of Fuji Builders and Contractors, Shimoji established Thomas Shimoji and Co. Ltd., a carpentry business that did some renovations. He expanded his business to include renovations for retail buildings. Over time, his business renovated several residential and commercial buildings in Winnipeg, such as 400 Portage Avenue and various Ricki’s locations.
By working with a single business to create multiple locations, Shimoji could hire the same subcontractors and buy materials in bulk. Since the renovations were replicated across different sites, Shimoji and his subcontractors became familiar with the design and were able to make the necessary improvements and economise accordingly. As such, he developed a reputation as a reliable and predictable manager who provided steady work and results. Shimoji’s clientele included Ricki’s clothing store and Hangers.
Shimoji passed away on January 26, 2006.
Sugiyama, James Shunichi
James Sugiyama was raised in Vancouver, British Columbia. While records are scarce, Sugiyama likely moved to Regina, Saskatchewan during the Second World War as a means to avoid internment camps and exploitative farm labour. Sugiyama attended Regina College and befriended Kiyoshi Izumi. Together, they moved to Winnipeg to attend the University of Manitoba. In addition to studying architecture, he graduated with a complimentary degree in engineering.
Soon after graduation, Sugiyama founded Izumi Arnott Sugiyama Architects Engineers and Town Planners with Kiyoshi Izumi and Gordon Ryan Arnott. He worked with the firm before joining a firm of consulting engineers and supporting his father’s business in Vancouver.
Sugiyama played a special role in developing the Regina Centre of the Arts (200 Lakeshore Drive, Regina, 1967). The building was developed from a study conducted by a delegation from Regina. The delegation included an alderman, a businessman, a contractor, a building inspector, and Sugiyama as the structural engineer. The delegation studied an auditorium in Duluth, Minnesota, and the study culminated in the development of the auditorium in Regina. The auditorium commemorated Canada’s centennial in 1967.
Suzuki Brothers was a development and construction firm established by brothers Jun (1920–2001), Kaoru Suzuki (1924–2011) and Toru Suzuki (1922–2012) in 1948. The brothers were originally from Strawberry Hill (present-day Surrey), British Columbia. The brothers were part of a community of Japanese farmers that largely focused on strawberry production on former logging lands, but the Canadian government systematically displaced the community during the Second World War.
The family was relocated to Dominion City, Manitoba and performed underpaid farm labour on sugar beet farms. In 1948, the family moved to Winnipeg.
In Winnipeg, the brothers worked in construction sites before establishing the Suzuki Brothers. As a growing firm, they took on the early post-war project of building the Manitoba Buddhist Temple (39 Tecumseh Street, c. 1950), which became an important centre of Japanese Canadian cultural activity. The firm built their own home in East Kildonan. They dug out the foundation by hand and used reclaimed wood from a construction site in Seven Sisters, Manitoba.
Suzuki Brothers was one of several successful Winnipeg Japanese Canadian construction companies. The firm specialised in high-quality custom homes, sometimes with extensive carpentry built-in details. While they shied away from marketing themselves on media platforms, they became a trusted firm through word of mouth. Their reputation for quality craftsmanship earned them work in neighbourhoods like River Heights, Charleswood, Tuxedo, and St. James. While they were a smaller firm, their employees were skilled, dedicated, and kept close ties with the Suzuki brothers, routinely meeting at the homes of one of the brothers on social occasions. Jun Suzuki worked with the firm until his retirement in 1985.
Tanabe, Yutaka "Tucker"
Yutaka “Tucker” Tanabe was born in 1922 in Stevenson, British Columbia. During the Second World War, the Canadian government confiscated his family’s property. To avoid being relocated to an internment camp, Tanabe’s family resettled in a Manitoba farm in 1942.
After restrictions on Japanese Canadians’ movement were lifted, Tanabe moved to Winnipeg in 1949. As one of Fuji Builders’ founding partners, he worked with Smith Carter and Associates, the notable Richardson family, and several other clients.
Tanabe passed away on July 28, 1964.
Takatsu, Henry "Hank"
Henry “Hank” Takatsu was born in Haney, British Columbia in 1927. He was one of seven children born to strawberry and vegetable farmers from Narita, Japan.
As the Canadian government began forcing Japanese Canadians into the western interior and seizing their property, the Takatsu family relocated to La Rochelle, Manitoba in April 1942. While the relocation allowed the family to remain together, working and living on a sugar beet farm disrupted Takatsu’s plans to attend art school. In Manitoba, they stayed in basic accommodations that were not ideal for the climate. Nonetheless, tensions were somewhat alleviated because the Franco-Manitoba community was relatively friendly, and they were spared the sternness of the local Royal Canadian Mounted Police.
The Takatsu family resettled in Winnipeg in 1947. During this time, Takatsu worked in Vermilion Bay, Ontario as a part-time kitchen helper for a logging company. In the mid-1950s, he returned to East Elmwood and established himself within a community of Japanese Canadian families.
After returning to Winnipeg in the mid-1950s, Takatsu simultaneously began his architectural career and pursued an architectural education. He worked for H. Sigurdson and Sons Plasterers, eventually forming Takatsu and Martin Plasterers with Henry Martin. From 1952 to 1953, he completed an architectural drafting course at St. John’s Technical High School. Takatsu drew upon his pre-existing artistic skills when plastering and working as a draftsman.
Takatsu was hired as an architectural technologist by Pratt Lindgren Snider Tomcej and Associates (Pratt and Lindgren at the time) in 1957. In addition, he took on independent design, renovation, and drafting projects for Robert Leslie, Fuji Builders and Contractors, Kuwada Construction, Thomas Shimoji and Co. Ltd, and Ed Boldt. Influenced by other structures in the city, his designs were similarly clean and modernist. Takatsu’s most unique project was creating polyvinyl chloride (PVC) crates for Pic-a-Pop drinks. He used PVC when designing window frames for Duraco Doors and Windows. His innovative approaches were further emphasised when he experimented with plastic frames, which few builders in the city had done before.
In 1972, Takatsu helped Mickey Kojima design his house at 14 Cambrian Crescent. Kojima was a trusted electrician among Winnipeg’s Japanese Canadian architects and builders. Working with Kuwada Construction Co, Takatsu and Kuwada added a basement feature to the original design and constructed a home that paid homage to traditional Japanese homes. Takatsu and Kuwada worked closely on other projects, including the University of British Columbia Student Union Building (6138 Student Union Boulevard, 1968) and the Assiniboine Park Conservatory (15 Conservatory Drive, 1970).
Takatsu retired in 1991 and passed away on October 26, 1995.
Teramura, Kenzo "Ken"
Kenzo Teramura was born on February 25, 1925, in New Westminster, British Columbia. The family later moved to Pitt Meadows, B.C. However, the Second World War and the onset of Japanese internment camps forced the family to resettle in Manitoba as low-wage farm labourers on a sugar beet farm.
In 1954, Teramura moved to Winnipeg and founded K. Teramura Construction Ltd. The firm developed close ties with Goodman and Kojima, who were popular electricians among Winnipeg’s Japanese community. Throughout his time in Winnipeg, he was an active member of the Manitoba Buddhist Church and served on its board in several capacities throughout the years. Teramura continued working at his firm before retiring in 1992. He passed away on August 13, 2005.
Allan Teramura graduated from the University of Manitoba with a Bachelor of Environmental Studies and the University Gold Medal. In 1990, he earned a Bachelor of Architecture with High Distinction from Carleton University. For his academic achievements, he received the Research Thesis Prize and the RAIC Student Medal for highest overall academic standing.
Architectural and Social Contributions
In the following years, he worked in Vancouver as an Intern Architect for Patkau Architects, Henriquez Partners Architects, and BBB. He eventually graduated to Regional Director for Architecture Canada in 2011. In February 2000, he joined Watson MacEwen Architects. After becoming a partner in 2009, Watson Macewen Teramura Architects was established. His work is primarily related to restorations and conservations. For example, he played a substantial role in building Briarcliffe Heritage Conservation District, Canada’s first mid-century modern residential neighbourhood.
In addition to his comprehensive career in architecture, Teramura was engaged in the architectural community. He joined RAIC in 2002, and served as the RAIC Regional Director for Ontario East, North, and Nunavut from 2011 to 2015. He was named President of RAIC in 2016. Throughout his career, he stressed the value of centring Indigenous communities in design processes. As President, he implemented a new RAIC task force that was designed to encourage Indigenous design and engagement in architecture.
Yamashita, James "Jim" Shigemi
Jim Yamashita was born in Vancouver in 1940. During the Second World War, his family was forced to move to Manitoba. Following two years living on a sugar beet farm near the town of Steinbach, the family settled at 859 Arlington Street in Winnipeg’s West End. Yamashita expressed an interest in architecture at an early age. As a child, he created small structures from toothpicks.
Upon a suggestion from his uncle, Yamashita pursued architecture at the University of Manitoba Faculty of Architecture in 1958. In May 1963, Yamashita moved to Regina due to poor economic conditions in Winnipeg. He worked in the offices of Stock, Keith and Associates architects and engineers. He returned to Winnipeg a year later and took a position with the architecture firm of George A. Stewart. Projects were generally handled by individual associates and included suburban libraries, small civic projects, and work for the Salvation Army.
After registering with the Manitoba Association of Architects in 1966, Yamashita was hired by Libling Michener. In 1968, the young architect joined fellow Libling Michener colleagues, Ron Keenberg and Stan Osaka, and submitted a design for the Winnipeg Art Gallery national competition. The three earned an honourable mention for their entry. The collaboration led to a new partnership and the subsequent establishment of the firm, IKOY. The firm soon gained national attention.
IKOY drew its moniker from the names of its principle designers: Roy Isaac (I), Keenberg (K), Stan Osaka (O) and Yamashita (Y). IKOY’s designs distinguished themselves through their sleek and modern aesthetic. Yamashita cited Jim Powers' design seminar on project systems and drafting as inspiration for techniques he applied in his work.
The firm’s interest in revealing and highlighting construction systems are expressed in projects like IKOY’s highly acclaimed office (396 Assiniboine Avenue). The structure used IKOY’s “six component system,” which included mechanical, electrical, skin, design strategy, and implementation or fitments. The system was connected by action strategies. However, the program received less attention in later years as CAD (computer aided drafting) systems developed.
IKOY produced a series of striking buildings during Yamashita’s time with the firm. The Westboine Housing Co-operative’s (32 Shelmerdine Drive, 1985) wood-clad combination of dramatic pitched roofs and exposed orthogonal structure thoughtfully brings together organic and modern elements in its sleek design. With its spare, elegant design, the Westboine Housing Co-Operative bears some resemblance to one of Yamashita’s personal projects, his former home at 565 Parkwood Place (1979).
Meanwhile, IKOY expressed its open assembly idiom in the Winnipeg RCMP Forensic Lab (621 Academy Road, 1987) and the contemporaneous William G. Davis Computer Research Centre at the University of Waterloo, which was hailed by critic Adele Freeman as “one of the most exciting buildings to appear on the parched Canadian landscape in years.” The more subtly colourful Deer Lodge Centre (2109 Portage Avenue, 1986) and the expansion of the Winnipeg International Airport Terminal Building were other significant projects during this period.
Yamashita left IKOY in 1993 and joined Smith Carter Architects and Engineers. Notable projects he was associated with at the firm included Manitoba Hydro Place (360 Portage Avenue, 2009; with KMPB). In a 2007 interview with the Winnipeg Architecture Foundation, Yamashita describes the changes he has seen over his years in the field to include a move toward process-based contracts versus an earlier era of social and political networking.
In addition to his architectural practice, he served in 1968 as President of the Manitoba Japanese Junior Council. He also lectured at the University of Manitoba Faculty of Architecture (1986–1998), served on the Faculty’s Partner’s Program Advisory Board (1994–2006) and was appointed to the Board of Governors of the University of Manitoba Alumni Association. Yamashita was active on the Council of the Manitoba Association of Architects, has participated in a special task force for the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada and has served on the Standards Council of Canada.
Yamashita continues to work with Architecture49, which absorbed Smith Carter Architects and Engineers in 2014.
Born in 1971, Takashi Yamashita is the son of James “Jim” Yamashita, a notable Winnipeg architect and founding member of IKOY. Yamashita is an architect who simultaneously works in commercial real estate, finance, and development in Toronto, Ontario.
Yamashita received his Bachelor of Environmental Studies (Architecture) in 1992 and his Master of Architecture in 1995 from the University of Manitoba. From 1995 to 2002, he worked for Smith Carter Architects and Engineers, specialising in office and cultural spaces. His projects included the new Canadian Embassy in Berlin (Leipziger Platz 17. 10117, Berlin) and a restoration of Canada House in the United Kingdom (Trafalgar Square London, United Kingdom). In Winnipeg, he designed the Hudson’s Bay Company Gallery addition to the Manitoba Museum (190 Rupert Avenue). In addition to his architectural work, he remained engaged in the academic community by teaching university courses on the history of architecture from 1995 to 1998.
Yamashita later received his MBA from the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management in 2004. Since graduating, he has worked in real estate development and management. After shorter stints with RioCan Real Estate Investment Trust and the Rose Corporation, Yamashita worked with GE Capital Real Estate. He is currently a partner and the president of Takol Real Estate in Toronto. Thanks to his architectural background, he has a keen eye for design that helps him support home buyers and maximise profits. Yamashita is a member of the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada and the Manitoba Association of Architects.
“About.” Warehouse Artworks. Accessed January 2023. https://www.warehouseartworks.net/.
Dion, Louis. “The Resettlement of Japanese Canadians in Manitoba, 1942-1948.” PhD diss., University of Manitoba, 1991.
Miki, Art. “The Internment of Japanese Canadians: A Human Rights Violation.” In Civilian Internment in Canada: Histories and Legacies, edited by Rhonda L. Hinther and Jim Mochoruk, 384-405. Manitoba: University of Manitoba Press, 2020.
Robinson, Greg. A Tragedy of Democracy : Japanese Confinement in North America. New York, NY: Columbia University Press, 2009.
“Sandra Sasaki.” Japanese Canadian Artists. Accessed January 2023. https://japanesecanadianartists.com/artist/sandra-sasaki/.
Sasaki, Sandra Dale. “’Designer’ Education: The Professional Development of Interior Designers.” MA Thesis, University of Manitoba, 2002.
Stranger-Ross, Jordan, Nicholas Blomley, and the Landscapes of Injustice Research Collective. “‘My Land Is Worth a Million Dollars’: How Japanese Canadians Contested Their Dispossession in the 1940s.” Law and History Review 35, no. 3 (2017): 711–51.
“Tom Shimoji.” Winnipeg Architecture Foundation. Accessed February 2023. https://winnipegarchitecture.ca/tom-shimoji.
Walker, Barrington. “Immigration Policy, Colonization, and the Development of a White Canada.” In Canada and the Third World: Overlapping Histories. Edited by Karen Dubinsky, Sean Mills, and Scott Rutherford. Ontario: University of Toronto Press, 2016.
Ward, W. Peter. White Canada Forever: Popular Attitudes and Public Policy toward Orientals in British Columbia. McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2002.
“Westboine Village Housing Co-Operative.” Winnipeg Architecture Foundation. Accessed February 2023. https://winnipegarchitecture.ca/westboine-co-operative-housing/.
"Network." Annual Faculty Newsletter for the Faculty of Architecture. University of Manitoba. September 2007. Accessed February 2023.
Key Terms and Events
August 1914: War Measures Act (Used in First World War and Second World War)
The War Measures Act was first passed in August 1914 to control Ukrainian and other Eastern European residents during the First World War. Under the Act, the federal government had sweeping and comprehensive control over people's daily lives. Such extreme power was rationalised as a protective measure during periods of conflict, invasion, and/or insurrection. During the Second World War, the Act was used again to pass several discriminatory orders-in-council that controlled and displaced Japanese Canadians.
December 1941: Order-in-Council 9591
Shortly after Japan's attack on Pearl Harbour, the Canadian government passed Order-in-Council 9591 in December 1941. The Order mandated that all Japanese residents needed to register with the Registrar of Enemy Aliens. As registered enemy aliens, they were officially labelled as a threat to national security.
January 1942: Order-in-Council PC 365
Passed in January 1942, the Order-in-Council PC 365 designed one hundred miles inland from the West Coast as a "protected area." Order 365 builds upon Order 9591 because it meant that so-called enemy aliens could not reside in a protected region.
February 1942: Order-in-Council PC 1486 and 1665
On February 1942, Order-in-Council PC 1486 gave the Minister of Justice sweeping powers over the movement of Japanese residents in designated protected areas. The Order first manifested through the forced removal of residents from their homes, unwarranted searches of their homes, and strict curfews. The Order escalated when approximately 21,460 Japanese residents were forcibly evacuated from their homes. Empowered by the Order-in-Council 1665, the government seized and auctioned off properties and possessions that people were forced to leave behind.
At the time of forced evacuation, British Columbia's Japanese community accounted for approximately 90% of Canada’s Japanese population.
August 1944: National Emergency Transitional Powers Act
Prime Minister Mackenzie King implemented the National Emergency Transitional Powers Act in August 1944. The Act gave the Canadian government power to continue controlling Japanese residents even after the Orders-in-Council that severely restricted their rights were ending. The Act focused on the “dispersal” and the “repatriation” of Japanese residents.
The focus on dispersing Japanese Canadians prevented them from returning to their homes on the West Coast. Meanwhile, the government used repatriation policies to exile Japanese residents. If they failed to comply, they could be accused of disloyalty.
Dispersal orders were in place until 1947. Even though it had been dissolved, the order already solidified mass displacement and exiled 4,000 Japanese residents.
The 1988 Redress Settlement
Internment continued to burden Japanese residents until the Canadian government lifted all restrictions in 1949. In the same year, Japanese Canadians gained full citizenship rights and the freedom of movement. Despite these events, the exclusionary policies destabilised the community's social and economic security. The redress movement sought to address and correct the injustices that the community faced.
The redress movement started with the 1946 Bird Commission, which was intended to reimburse people for the losses they experienced after their properties were seized. The redress movement was reignited during the 1977 Japanese Canadian centennial. The National Association of Japanese Canadians (NAJC) launched a decade-long campaign that resulted in the Canadian government acknowledging the injustices it inflicted on Japanese Canadians. In September 1988, Prime Minister Brian Mulroney issued a public apology and introduced the redress package.
From the late nineteenth to the mid-twentieth century, Canada introduced several discriminatory policies and reproduced racist rhetoric that directly targeted and marginalized Japanese Canadians. Using repressive measures, the government attempted to suppress the influence of Japanese residents. Winnipeg’s Japanese Canadian architects, designers, and builders helped counteract oppressive narratives through their contributions in Winnipeg’s built environment. As Japanese professionals in the architectural and construction industry lent their expertise to build city spaces, they built spaces that not only enriched the city’s architectural landscape, but they presented Japanese Canadians’ contributions as an intrinsic part of Canada’s growth.