Canada’s popularity as a welcoming place for minorities is soaring. In the wake of this popularity, it is interesting to note the vast communities of people from all over the world that have taken up residence. Many different Asian cultures have, for decades, come to play a valued role in the broad and rich culture of Canada. In particular, it can be noted how the Japanese community has deeply taken root in the district of Toronto. Although the Japanese community is not as as populous as other Asian communities in the country, like the Chinese, they have certainly shared their culture fruitfully.
The growth of this community is quite stunning. Back in the 1930s, there were only six Japanese families in Toronto. Today, there are tens of thousands, a large majority of whom are Canadian born. Over the years, many generations of Japanese families have worked towards building a space for their community, their cuisine, and their culture in Toronto. They continue to share the fruits of their labour quite generously today.
With so many Japanese living in and migrating to Canada, a handful of community and cultural centers have flourished. These centers not only help generations of Canadian-born Japanese stay in touch with their roots, but they also help to provide an insight for non-Japanese.
The Japanese Canadian Cultural Centre (JCCC), for instance, has been around since the 60s, and today features a rich heritage program. For over fifty years, this centre has hosted cultural programs, traditional and contemporary performances, martial arts, film screenings, and festivals. The Gendai gallery caters exclusively to art from the Japanese perspective. Children and adults can take various classes here, varying from entertainment to educational to business training. A rich library contains a plethora of resource materials for the community.
The Canadian Japanese Cultural Centre of Hamilton provides several types of membership, and offers classes for various martial arts, cooking, language, and yoga, among other things. The Japan Foundation, Toronto, does much the same. It also organises events, has exhibition and auditorium space, and a public library. The Foundation even offers certain grants. The Japanese Information Centre also plays a role in the community. The centre works closely with the JCCC and the Japan Foundation to organise exchanges, cultural events, cross-cultural education, and scholarships.
Although the Japanese community in Toronto is scattered, certain suburban areas saw an influx of Japanese quite early on. Areas like Scarborough and Etobicoke saw the majority of this influx. Today, downtown areas like Bay Street have flourished with Japanese stores and restaurants, earning colloquial nicknames like Little Tokyo and Little Japan.
Restaurants and Stores
Some of the Japanese restaurants and stores you’ll find in Toronto have been around for decades. Some restaurants cater to exclusively Japanese cuisine, with house staples like sake and sushi. Others, like Blowfish, offer fusion dishes of all kinds. Miku will serve up some of the best seafood you can find, while Guu in Parkdale has some delicious Japanese snack foods. Late-night wanderers on Dundas West can revel in the cocktails and snacks at Imanishi. For a completely traditional Japanese cuisine experience, Zen is one of the top spots.
Those looking for Japanese arts and crafts would love the Harbord Avenue store, “Things Japanese”. This is a shop that is ideal for finding all kinds of products, from teas to chopsticks. People looking for cards, stationery, and origami supplies are drawn to the Paper Place, over on Queen Street. There are several grocery stores that provide Japanese food items and various kitchen staples, such as Sanko, also on Queen Street. These are popular spots for the Japanese and non-Japanese communities alike to experience the culture and cuisine of the Land of the Rising Sun.
The Japanese community has certainly set down some deep roots in Toronto, and they have come to share their culture quite generously.