60 Years of Friendship Through Culture
The JCCC will celebrate its 60th anniversary in 2023. 60 years is an important milestone in Japanese Culture as it signals the start of a new 60-year cycle – synonymous with rebirth. This exhibition highlights Japanese Canadian history from the late 1800’s, with a focus on the opening and history of the JCCC at 123 Wynford Drive in Toronto and its transition to 6 Garamond Court. The JCCC was established to create a safe space for Japanese Canadians, and to share Japanese culture with all Canadians. With the efforts of volunteers and the 75 guarantor families that signed the original mortgage needed to build the JCCC, the Centre has become a vibrant space to grow Nikkei community in the GTA and champion Japanese Canadian culture.
Featured Artist: Elysha Rei レイ.エリーシャ
The Strength in Sixty Sakura
Hand-cut in paper, The Strength in Sixty Sakura represents the strength and resilience of the Japanese Canadian community, captured in the history and programming of the Japanese Canadian Cultural Centre. Commemorating its 60th Anniversary, 60 blossoms adorn these branches, marking each year of education, partnerships, participation and learning at the Centre.
The Sakura has a long history of cultural symbolism in Japan. The country’s distinct agrarian history, and reverence for seasonal connection and nature may be a reason why this tree has become such a powerful emblem of Japan and Japanese culture.
In Springtime this beautiful tree relates to the Japanese tradition of ohanami – translated to ‘flower viewing’ – a cultural event that continues traditions of pilgrimage established in the early Nara period (710 – 784). This annual event coincides with the short window of blossoming flowers, where people travel from far and wide to gather and share the experience, eating food and drinking sake. The ancient roots of the ohanami custom are connected to the belief that kami (spirits) live in Sakura, which lead to communal praying with food and sake under the trees.
Sakura became a symbol of peace, when on 1 April 1959, Japanese Ambassador to Canada, Toru Hagiwara, presented 2000 Japanese Somei-Yoshino Sakura trees on behalf of the citizens of Tokyo, as a gift to the citizens of Toronto for their support of Japanese Canadian after WWII. And between years 2000 and 2012, over 3000 Sakura trees were gifted to Toronto during the Ontario Sakura Project, which were planted in 60 places across the city.
Sakura trees grace the gardens of the JCCC and take naming rights in the annual Sakura Gala event and Sakura Award. There is undeniable strength in the beauty, history, and cultural significance of the Sakura. Now represented in paper, I hope these delicate forms have captured the strength and resilience of the Japanese-Canadian community, and will inspire visitors to learn more about Nikkei heritage.
The Japanese Canadian Cultural Centre (JCCC) is pleased to acknowledge the dedicated individuals and institutions who made 60 Years of Friendship through Culture possible.
Thanks to JCCC staff members Su Yen Chong, Theressa Takasaki, and Sandy Chan for their expertise and guidance in curation. Thanks to graphic designer Sarah Doi who played an integral role in the production and installation of the exhibition. And to the community members, volunteers, and JCCC staff who assisted throughout the process.
Thanks to University of Toronto Masters students Shauna Weimann, Johnny Pham, and Hazel Hay for dedicating their final year of study to the planning and creation of the exhibit. And the University of Toronto’s iSchool for partnering with the JCCC on this project. Leading this partnership were professors Cara Krmpotich and Morgan Mavis.
A special thanks to those in the community who have come before, and built the JCCC into what it is today. And to those community members here today, who continue to bring life to the JCCC.