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Japanese Settlers in Raymond

A Bridal Story

In the autumn of 1898, a sixteen-year-old Japanese youth boarded the Empress of China and left Yokohama, Japan for Victoria, B.C. He was born in March 1882 and was being groomed for life in the monastery. However, when he was sent to help in an already established family business in Cumberland, B.C., irrevocable changes in his life began.

Youthful exuberance led him to travel and assorted work on railways and in the sugar beet fields throughout B.C., Washington, California, Colorado, Utah and finally southern Alberta. By 1909 he had taken up residence in Raymond along with many others from Japan. With the assistance of the Knight Sugar Company invaluable experience was gained in agricultural skills. A drive to recruit men to break land for the Knight Company bought a large influx of Japanese men during those times. He was quick to purchase a quarter section of land with an eye to bringing over two of his younger brothers from Japan, thereby putting down permanent roots in Canada.

Sixteen years after his arrival in Canada, his Japanese bride, whom he had married by proxy, arrived as well. She was city bred and was privileged to have had may benefits, particularly in her education attending Japan's girls' college, Jyogakko. She was given full opportunity to develop her cultural abilities; she played the Koto and the Samiesen, wrote Haiku and other Japanese poetry, worked on calligraphy and sang as well.

Given such a background, one can only imagine her growing disbelief as she travelled inland by train to Lethbridge. She was accompanied by another Japanese lady who was also meeting her husband for the first time. Not only did the barrenness and utter desolation of the area upset her, but added to this was the fact that her husband was two whole days late in arriving to greet them at Lethbridge. He had been preoccupied with work and had also made a joint decision with the other bridegroom that to pay two return fares to Lethbridge to meet their new brides would be wasteful. When a husband finally showed up both women were incensed, the one because her never-before-seen husband had turned up so late, the other because her never-before-seen husband had not come at all! Neither woman spoke to their new husbands for days afterwards.

Their first home was destroyed by fire and the second, which is still in use, was home to many. They were active in both Buddhist and LDS churches. They formed support groups, people were sponsored from Japan, credit unions and youth groups were formed, and dialogue was established between the Japanese and the Caucasians within the community. Their original family of eleven now spans five generations with many of them living in the area today.

Excerpt courtesy of Evelyn Hendry from the Raymond Museum and Archives.

See also:

[back] [First People and Settlers] [New Beginnings] [Adventurous Albertans]

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