North Delta history: ‘Picture brides’ were part of the fabric of Japanese-Canadian community

Third in a series commemorating the 75th anniversary of the internment of Japanese-Canadians in WW2

This photo is typical of what would have been sent to a Japanese matchmaker, who would then pass it on to men in Canada looking for a Japanese wife. (Photo courtesy of the Nikkei National Museum and Cultural Centre)

This photo is typical of what would have been sent to a Japanese matchmaker, who would then pass it on to men in Canada looking for a Japanese wife. (Photo courtesy of the Nikkei National Museum and Cultural Centre)

This year marks the 75th anniversary of the internment of tens of thousands of people of Japanese descent by the Canadian Government during the Second World War. Though few people may be aware of it today, North Delta once had a thriving Japanese community before racism and the fear of “enemy aliens” operating along our coast robbed them of their property and livelihoods.

To commemorate this dark chapter in our shared history, several members of the Delta Museum and Archives Society contributed to this month’s North Delta History feature to help shed light on the Japanese Canadians who helped build North Delta in those pre-war years.

Check out the rest of the series here.

By: Nancy Demwell, John MacDonald and Len Stroh, Delta Museum and Archives Society

By 1924, more than 6,000 “picture brides” had arrived in Canada. Take Koizumi was a picture bride who came to B.C. in 1919. She and her husband’s courtship was organized by a matchmaker in Japan. After exchanging pictures and introductory letters, they chose to be married.

In Japan, Take lived a sheltered life and attended an all-girl’s college. The picture brides reflected the Meiji Era morality. Family devotion and duty were more important than love and affection. Japanese picture brides were taught that absolute submission, subservience and self-denying service were the highest of virtues. Their happiness was considered selfish behaviour. Whether their husbands were worthy or not did not matter; they sought to improve their lives and those of their children.

The motivation for picture brides to emigrate was sometimes a desire for excitement and adventure. Nevertheless, they were emigrating as wives of specific men whom they had never met, and with whom they were often disappointed upon arrival. The Japanese government required that the men were at least 16 years older than the bride as a condition of her emigration.

In 1928, immigration restrictions limited the number of Japanese immigrants and picture brides were no longer included in the immigrant ranks.

Take’s first experience living in B.C. was in a fishing village on the Skeena River. She later moved to Delta where her husband fished and she worked seasonally in a cannery. She also washed men’s clothes at 10 cents a load in the evenings, and worked their 10-acre farm with the help of her children.

After Take’s husband died in 1938, she supported her family with her farm produce. Like other Japanese-Canadians who were interned in camps away from the coast during the Second World War, they had to leave their home in 1942. She and her children were sent to a sugar beet farm where Take toiled with her children as a farm labourer until after the war.



editor@northdeltareporter.com

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