For us, by us

ensoku 2019 brought young Japanese Canadians and Americans together in unprecedented Vancouver cultural event

photos by Kayla Isomura

Over the May long weekend, 40 young-ish Japanese Canadians, Japanese Americans, and their friends came together to build community and explore our shared heritage and identity. What started as an idea to organize a regional young people’s conference became an independently organized “un-conference.” 

This community gathering welcomed local attendees from across the Lower Mainland and out-of-town visitors from Canadian cities including Victoria, Kamloops, Calgary, Regina, Winnipeg, Toronto, and Ottawa. This was truly an international event with Japanese American participants travelling from Washington, Oregon, Idaho, California, and Massachusetts! 

The full weekend event included a gyoza-making workshop, an open mic with poetry and storytelling, dialogues on present-day Japanese Canadian experiences (connecting to culture, TLGBQ+ and multi-racial identities), an intergenerational community lunch, a stop-motion animation workshop, cross-cultural walking tour of Strathcona, and optional day trips to the Nikkei National Museum & Cultural Centre, Steveston, and Tashme. Lots of fun was had and many new meaningful relationships were built.

Participants shared the following about their experiences at ensoku: 

“ensoku reinforced the importance of storytelling and creative expression for our community, which I’m coming to see as key.”

“There’s a lot of younger Japanese-Canadians who are interested in connecting (with each other and with their history and culture).”

“We need each other and are richer for having this community.”

“I am now hoping to find the Nikkei community within my own city and province.”

As organizers, we were committed to making this event financially accessible. Because of the support of so many organizations and individuals, we were able to provide subsidies for participants to attend and billets for out-of-town guests. 

An event like ensoku is one-of-a-kind. While we have no current plans to turn this into an annual event, participants from other cities have expressed interest in organizing an event like this in their home cities of Regina, Ottawa, Seattle, and Toronto. 

We will definitely take these memories and experiences forward into organizing new gatherings and community initiatives in the future. 

On behalf of the organizing committee, our sincerest thanks to everyone who attended, volunteered, and donated goods or cash to made this event possible. 


ensoku organizers
Kayla Isomura, Erica Isomura, Davin Shikaze, Carolyn Nakagawa, Reiko Pleau, & Lisa Uyeda

Please see The Bulletin for a full list of thank yous and photos from ensoku 2019.