Manzo Nagano

This photo was taken by Charlie Wong in December 1910 in the Nagano home on Government Street, Victoria. Front. From left, are Seki Nagano, Manzo Nagano and Tayoko Nagano. Rear, from left, are George Tatsuo Nagano and Frank Teruma Nagano (courtesy Japanese Canadian National Museum).

In 1854, two and a half centuries of Japan's isolation from the outside world ended. That year, an American naval commander convinced the powerful shoguns to open a limited number of Japanese ports to trade with America and Europe.

Work in the shipyards servicing the growing traffic of foreign steamers enticed Manzo Nagano, at age 17, away from his carpentry apprenticeship. At age 22, in 1877, he decided to leave Japan for Canada, paying his passage on a British steamer by stoking the ship's furnaces. He arrived in New Westminster and, like most immigrants, worked a variety of jobs from fishing for salmon to loading timber on outbound ships. He returned to Japan to take a wife. After a brief stint in Seattle, where Manzo ran a restaurant and sold tobacco, the couple finally settled in Victoria. His businesses included a small hotel and store on Government Street, the export of salted salmon to Japan, and contracting labour to Japanese foremen.

Anti-Oriental sentiment on the West Coast only grew during Manzo's time. In Vancouver in 1907, a rally of the Asiatic Exclusion League turned ugly when the mob converged on Chinatown and "Japtown," smashing windows and throwing rocks—there was even gunfire.

In 1922, bad luck struck Manzo twice. Fire gutted his business and home, and he contracted tuberculosis. He returned to Japan, dying a year later at age 68. In 1977, 100 years after his first arrival, Canada named a peak for Manzo Nagano in British Columbia's Coast Mountains, near Rivers Inlet where many Japanese pioneered the coastal commercial fishery.

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