Abandoned Japanese Village Found in Canadian Forest

By Doug Williams
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Getty Images
Getty Images

In reality, he had discovered an abandoned Japanese town. In the Lower Seymour Conservation Reserve northeast of Vancouver in British Columbia, Robert Muckle, an archeologist from Capilano University in Vancouver, found an old logging camp in 2014. At least, that’s what he thought.


There were two small logging camps nearby, one Japanese and one that seemed to have been made up of a variety of ethnic groups. Muckle has spent the last fourteen years excavating the site along with his students. So far, he has recovered evidence of fourteen houses, a wooden water reservoir, a bathhouse, and possibly a shrine.

Over one thousand artifacts have been revealed including medicine bottles, pocket watches, sake bottles, rice bowls, teapots, and hundreds of pottery shards painted in Asian designs.


In about 1918, Eikichi Kagetsu bought logging rights near what is now the Lower Seymour Conservation Reserve, and it is believed that most of the logging work was done by the mid 1920s; however the villagers continued to live in the town after most of the trees had been harvested.

Muckle believes they were able to live in their close knit community until just after 1941 when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. He has been unable to find anything that supports this but believes the inhabitants were removed in 1942 due to anti-Japanese sentiment. He notes that the move, whatever caused it, probably happened quickly, partly because of all the personal items they are finding.

Japanese immigrants started coming to British Columbia around 1877 but were met with resentment and bigotry. According to Smithsonian.com, they were not permitted to vote or to work in many white collar jobs.

An internment camp for Japanese Canadians in British Columbia, 1945.LAC
An internment camp for Japanese Canadians in British Columbia, 1945.

The War Measures Act, established in 1914 during World War I, allowed the government to suspend all rights to any persons or entities for anything deemed objectionable, including everything from the suspension of habeas corpus to censorship to the suspension of the right to trial, and any expression of unfavorable comments about the government would be a dire offence.

Canada’s Human Rights History tells us the act was intended to turn Canada into a country of martial law during a period of emergency.

During World War II, most of the Japanese Canadians that were rounded up and shipped off to internment camps in remote inland locations were from British Columbia, according to The Canadian Encyclopedia.

Many Canadians believed an imminent invasion of Japanese troops was coming and the media played on their fears with overstated stories.

The War Measures Act was brought back into use. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police were instructed to arrest anyone who could be a Japanese spy, and all Japanese owned fishing boats were confiscated. Japanese schools and newspapers were closed.

Japanese-Canadian internees cut logs in Tashme, British Columbia, 1943. National Film Board of Canada. Photothèque. Library and Archives Canada, C-037128
Japanese-Canadian internees cut logs in Tashme, British Columbia, 1943. National Film Board of Canada. Photothèque. Library and Archives Canada, C-037128

Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King issued orders to detain anyone from any “protected area” i.e. the Pacific coast. In order to facilitate the transport of the families, the British Columbia Security Commission was created and the first Japanese removal occurred.

Those who were interred lost everything they didn’t have with them. Homes and businesses were confiscated and sold to pay for the camps. If someone objected to their fate, they were sent to prisoner of war camps.

Nearly 90% of all Japanese Canadians were unfairly subjected to living in fenced off camps in storage barns and chicken houses with no sanitary systems or running water and to work hard labor for the final four years of the war.

At the end of the war, the internees were told they could stay in Canada as long as they stayed east of the Rocky Mountains, or they could go to Japan, where many of them had never been as they were born in Canada. Four thousand people were sent to Japan, which had nearly been destroyed by bombs dropped during the war. The islands were still suffering from radiation poisoning and were not equipped to take on more people.

In 1948, many of the Japanese sanctions were discontinued and they were given the right to vote.

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According to The Canadian Encyclopedia, it wasn’t until 1988, however, that the War Measures Act was repealed and replaced by the Emergencies Act, a much more limited and humane way of dealing with government emergencies.

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