Redefining Home: A Story of Japanese Canadian Resettlement in Toronto

2019, Art, Campbell House Museum, History
2019, art, Campbell House Museum, culture, forced relocation, history, installation, internment, Japanese, Japanese Canadians, Toronto
About This Project

March 1, 2019 – April 1, 2019

Partner: Campbell House Museum

Location: Campbell House Museum

Project Members: Meghan Drascic-Gaudio, Hailey Graham, and Madeleine Howard


Redefining Home: A Story of Japanese Canadian Resettlement in Toronto uncovered the hidden story of Harold and Hana Kawasoe, a young Japanese Canadian couple who lived in the attic of Campbell House from 1948-1951.
During the Second World War, the Canadian government forcibly removed 22,000 Japanese Canadians from their homes along the British Columbia coast, confiscating and selling most of their possessions. Many Japanese Canadians were exiled to internment and work camps in the province’s interior. Some families were forced to relocate to sugar beet farms in Alberta and Manitoba, while others were deported to Japan. Harold and Hana, like many Japanese Canadian citizens, eventually left for Ontario, leaving their homes and families behind in British Columbia. Removed from everything they had ever known; how did this young couple eventually make Toronto their home?

Redefining Home follows Harold’s and Hana’s remarkable journeys to Toronto and the new lives they created for themselves in an unknown city. It uncovers the support they received from employer, friend, and ally C.F. Wood, whose Hobbs Glass business operated below their attic rooms in Campbell House. More broadly, the exhibit explores how Japanese Canadians overcame immeasurable loss and senseless discrimination to rebuild new homes and lives in Toronto.

The exhibition, which spans both floors of Campbell House Museum, invites visitors to engage with the topic through archival materials, family photographs, and historical objects – assembled for display in the very house where Harold and Hana lived from 1948 to 1951. The exhibition features photographs, documents, and objects from the Kawasoe family, the Japanese Canadian Cultural Centre, and the Nikkei Museum and Cultural Centre. On display is Harold’s personal photo album, containing never-before-seen images of Japanese Canadian life in internment camps, Ontario’s labour camps, and mid-century Toronto family snapshots.

The exhibition also features original contemporary art installations by Japanese Canadian artists Lillian Michiko Blakey and Laura Shintani. Their work reflects on the Japanese Canadian experience, following themes of resilience, loss, cultural adaptation, forgiveness, and the idea of unspoken stories.

Planning of this exhibition took place from October, 2018 – February, 2019. The initial steps were to conduct interviews with Don and Arlene Kawasoe, Harold and Hana’s children, as well as David Wood, the son of C.F. Wood. Simultaneously, the team conducted research into the treatment of Japanese Canadians by the Canadian government during the 1940s. Campbell House provided a limited budget, which covered the cost of the outdoor, promotional poster. In order to raise more funds to see this exhibition come to fruition, the curatorial team set up a GoFundMe campaign, raising over $2000. Content and didactic development, including production design, occurred in the two months leading to the exhibition’s opening. Installation of the project took place over the week of February 25, 2019. Opening night, February 28, 2019, saw a packed house with over 100 people in attendance. Stakeholders, friends, family, and members of the Japanese Canadian community came to celebrate in the success of the exhibition. After the opening reception, the curatorial team conducted two curatorial talks in March, 2019 which included tours of the attic where Harold and Hana lived, along with words from artists Lillian Michiko Blakey and Laura Shintani.

Redefining Home was marketed through promotional postcards and banners, social media posts from Campbell House Museum, advertisements in the Japanese Canadian Cultural Centre’s and National Association of Japanese Canadians’ monthly newsletters, and a press release.

The exhibition opened with great success and support. Redefining Home was covered by numerous media outlets, including CBC and Nikkei Voice, the national Japanese-Canadian newspaper. The CBC aired a televised segment about the exhibition on March 3, 2019. As well, CBC radio host Gill Deacon talked about the exhibition on her show “Here and Now”.

The CBC article about the exhibition can be found here:

The link to the Nikkei Voice article can be found here:

We would like to extend our thanks to Don and Arlene Kawasoe, David Wood, Lillian Michiko Blakey, Laura Shintani, the Japanese Canadian Cultural Centre, the Nikkei National Museum and Cultural Centre, the Faculty of Information, Dr. Heather Read, Bryce Kanbara, and all our generous donors for their support of the exhibition.