A Guide to Vancouver's Japanese Culture

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With its peaceful gardens, blossoming cherry trees and abundance of classic and contemporary Asian restaurants, Vancouver fluidly incorporates authentic Japanese culture into the local lifestyle. Experience unique customs, cuisine and cultural events of Japan at destinations around the city.


Indulge in Japanese cuisine

Perhaps the most prevalent example of Japanese culture in Vancouver is the ubiquity of sushi and izakaya-style restaurants. There’s even Osake, an artisan sake maker on Granville Island. An omakase tasting menu at Tojo’s restaurant allows you to sample the chef’s daily choice of fresh sashimi and expertly crafted sushi. Or pull up a seat at a nearby izakaya, a tapas-style Japanese pub that offers a lineup of small-plate dishes. For the ultimate show, make a reservation at Gyu Japanese Teppanyaki Restaurant, where the chefs flip, sear and serve your dinner right at the table.


Stroll through the Nitobe Memorial Garden

Few places outside Japan can capture the authenticity and serenity of this traditional Japanese tea garden, located at the University of British Columbia. Named for renowned agriculturist and educator Dr. Inazo Nitobe, this botanical sanctuary is home to carefully manicured bushes and shrubs, blossoming cherry trees, waterfalls, sculptures, quiet forests and a gently sloping bridge over a still pond. Attend a traditional tea ceremony in the garden’s Ichibo-an, or teahouse, if you happen to visit on the last Saturday of the month throughout the summer.


See the blooming cherry trees

From Stanley Park to Kitsilano Beach, more than 37,000 Japanese cherry trees turn the city pink in the spring. The original 500 cherry trees were given to Vancouver as a present from the mayors of Kobe and Yokohama, thanking the city for honouring the Japanese-Canadian soldiers who served in World War I. Since then, thousands more trees have been planted, including an additional 3,000 in 2011 to commemorate Vancouver’s 125th anniversary.


Experience Japanese cultural events and festivals

The largest celebration of Japanese-Canadian heritage in Vancouver, is the Powell Street Festival, which takes place in the Lower Mainland. This multiday event usually occurs at the end of July or the beginning of August and features visual arts, dance, music, martial arts, films and amateur sumo wrestling, along with an array of crafts and food vendors.

To celebrate the cherry blossoms, the annual Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival includes a lineup of events and activities that pay homage to Japanese culture. Attend the Sakura Days Japan Fair, which includes tea ceremonies, kimono demonstrations, geisha dancing and taiko drumming. Or take part in the annual Haiku Invitational, during which professional and amateur poets are invited to submit creative Japanese-style poems.


Visit Japanese monuments in Stanley Park

Stanley Park is filled with statues, plaques and memorials dedicated to Vancouver’s diverse population. Take a picture of the replica dragon figurehead of the Empress of Japan, a commercial ocean liner that traveled between Canada and Japan from 1891 to 1922. The Japanese Canadian War Memorial is also located in Stanley Park and honours soldiers who fought in World War I.

 


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