Report from Edmonton (EJCA)
by Sanae Ohki
The organization that is today’s Edmonton Japanese Community Association (EJCA) has its beginning in 1947 when the National Japanese Canadian Citizen’s Association was formed. So, EJCA has 66 years of history. EJCA has held its Board meetings since 1969. EJCA joined the Japanese Canadian centennial cerebration in 1977 by showing Japanese movies, joining the Klondike Day parade, arranging a taiko show, exhibiting historic photos, and displaying Japanese dolls and ornaments. The centennial events strengthened the ties between its members and encouraged to start many activities since then. The newsletter Moshi Moshi started in 1977. Co-incidentally, the Metro Edmonton Japanese Community School, another major Japanese-Canadian organization in Edmonton, was also established in 1977.
In 1994, the EJCA Centre was opened. The Redress fund for re-building Japanese Canadian communities covered a half of the construction cost. The building is not big but very functional with a hall, two meeting rooms, a lounge, a kitchen/bar, an office and a library. It is located in a beautiful Millcreek Park.
EJCA organizes annual events such as New Year’s parties, Karaoke concerts, Hima Matsuri, Sukiyaki Dinners, movie festivals, Bazaars, Picnics, and Christmas parties. It participates in Edmonton area events such as the Heritage Festival and the Kurimoto Japanese Garden Spring Festival. There are about 20 affiliated clubs that are mostly related to Japanese culture. One unique nature of EJCA is that its membership is widely open to people of non-Japanese origins who are interested in Japanese culture. In fact, out of the current membership of about 400 families, 200 families are of non-Japanese origins. They enjoy/learn Japanese culture by joining clubs such as kendo/naginata, taiko, karate, tea ceremony, chigiri-e art, Japanese conversation, go, awa odori, bonsai, karaoke, calligraphy, and jujitsu. Other clubs are table tennis, chorus, young children’s group, arts, and seniors. A flower arrangement club will start in April.
While EJCA is operated by its Board of 8 – 12 members, there are committees for specific tasks such as those looking after the Library, Culture Programs, Garden, Finance, Heritage Festival, Scholarship/Grants, and History Projects. The Board members share responsibilities for communications, the membership, and the Centre operation.
The Culture Programs have been very successful with two unique programs in addition to language education, Japanese culture introduction/demonstration at Canadian communities and schools, and various culture workshops designed for EJCA members. One is the Explore Japan program for Grade 10 students and the other is the Japan Today program for Grade 8 students.
Explore Japan: In 2010, the Alberta Japanese Teachers Association (AJTA) requested EJCA for culture demonstration to students who started Japanese language class at Grade 10. These teachers wanted to give their students opportunities to experience Japanese culture that was very difficult to demonstrate at each school. Responding to the request, a committee was established in co-operation with EJCA that provided resources/materials/equipments, Alberta Education that provided knowledge in education in Alberta, the Edmonton Public School Board that provided the facility, and AJTA. The Consulate General of Japan in Calgary has been providing a major fund together with Alberta Education. The University of Alberta and Japan Foundation in Canada were also sponsors. In short, this program became available by the co-operation of many organizations. In 2012, the program was held for two days on November 6th and 7th. About 270 students and guests from 9 high schools attended the program. They received hand-on workshops in taiko drumming, Karate, flower arrangements, tea ceremony, calligraphy, origami, Kimono (Yukata) wearing, and the presentation of modern Japan by a young Canadian who was in Japan. Also, they learned about opportunities to visit Japan by exchange programs, scholarships, and the JET program. The program received excellent feedbacks. One teacher thanked the program saying that students got really eager to learn the Japanese language after the event.
Japan Today: Started in 2003, EJCA has been providing an opportunity to understand various aspects of Japan such as its nature, history, language, society, customs, technology, and everyday life to Grade 8 students. It is a supplement to the Grade 8 Social Studies curriculum in the “Japan” module. Students in the Edmonton area’s junior high schools come to the EJCA Centre by bus and join a two-hour program including the introduction to Japanese language , presentation of history, geology, and modern life in Japan, trial of Japanese kimono, toys, and Karate workshop. EJCA and the Consulate General of Japan in Calgary provide funds. On average year, 30 – 35 events are held from January to June for over 1,600 students.
Heritage Festival: Since 1976, the Edmonton Heritage Festival has been held annually over the August long weekend in William Hawrelak Park. Showcasing Alberta’s cultural diversity, the three-day festival offers visitors the opportunity to sample the food, entertainment, and arts and crafts from a variety of countries and cultures. The Japanese pavilion is one of over 50 pavilions representing countries/areas around the world. Compare to other communities like Italian, Germany, and French, EJCA is very small. But EJCA has been representing the Japanese-Canadian community by showing our culture and food like other larger communities. To do so, over 150 volunteers work hard. Recently a photo booth service was added where visitors wore Yukata and got pictures taken. Chicken karaage and Okonomi-yaki have been always very popular and profitable items!
Japanese Language classes: For the last three years, EJCA has been offering 3 levels of beginner’s class. About 30 members are enjoying the new experience in a friendly environment. It is nice to hear their Japanese conversations at the centre.
History Project: Japanese history in Edmonton started around 1910 when the Japanese who landed in the Vancouver area explored other parts of Canada. The hiistory project is tracing these people and community activities. The phase 1 of the project finished in March 2012. Altogether, 24 interviewed were held, many documents were collected, and community activities were recorded. We are now in the phase 2 that is filling the gap of records collected, organizing them, and adding more interesting aspects of the history to the database.
EJCA is a good example of a small community association where anyone who has an interest in Japanese culture can learn/share Japanese culture, can contribute to the promotion of Japanese culture in Canadian society, and improve wellness of each other. It operates the centre efficiently by having one half time manager. It has been financially solid and very active. Please refer to www.ejca.org for more details of EJCA.