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West Coast of Vancouver Island (Tofino and Ucluelet)

Hemlock Street, Ucluelet, British Columbia, Canada

Formally Recognized: 2017/04/01

West Coast Ucluelet; Courtesy of Nominator
Sunahama Dock
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Other Name(s)

West Coast of Vancouver Island (Tofino and Ucluelet)
Japanese Dock, Ucluelet

Links and documents

Construction Date(s)

Listed on the Canadian Register: 2021/04/15

Statement of Significance

Description of Historic Place

The historic place consists of a collection of small communities on the central west coast of Vancouver Island, B.C., including Tofino and Ucluelet, that were settled and inhabited by Japanese Canadian families, most of whom were working in the fishing and boat-building industries.

Heritage Value

The central west coast of Vancouver Island, with its collection of Japanese Canadian communities, has historic, economic, social and political value to B.C., relating to its history of Japanese Canadian participation in the province's fishing industry.

As one of the last fishing areas in B.C. that attracted Japanese Canadian fishers and their families, the growth of Tofino, Ucluelet and other nearby communities on the west coast of Vancouver Island is important for representing the expansion, diversification and independence of Japanese Canadian involvement in the fishing industry under increasing hostility and discrimination.

With the reduction in the number of fishing licenses available to Japanese Canadians in the Fraser River fishery, as many as 60 families were drawn to the west coast of Vancouver Island by 1930, following the pioneering lead of earlier Japanese Canadian fishers and boat builders, such as Kiuroku Shimizu and Kunizo Uyede, in the late 1910s. The site of canneries and a reduction plant in Ucluelet Harbour became the fish processing centre for the local fishing industry.

The west coast of Vancouver Island is significant for the role played by Japanese Canadian fishermen in establishing cooperative buying companies in the mid-1920s, including the Ucluelet Japanese Fishermen's Cooperative and the Tofino Trollers Cooperative Association, dedicated to ensure local fishermen received a fair price for their collective fishing efforts. These cooperatives, or kumiai, also looked after the social and everyday needs of Japanese Canadian families. Notably, the Ucluelet Co-op still exists today, with the busy and thriving Ucluelet Co-op Store a tangible sign of this long-standing organization.

The pre-World War II Japanese Canadian boat building industry makes the west coast of Vancouver Island significant to the history of Japanese Canadians in B.C. One of the most well-known boatworks was the Shimizu Boat Works in Port Albion Bay at Ucluelet, a successful organization which in part represents the contributions of Japanese Canadians to boat building and fishing technology across the province. Its vessels included a 42 foot fish boat, one of the largest and fastest to date, constructed at the Shimizu works by Matakichi Uyeyama in the 1920s. This troller and halibut fishing boat was used to pioneer the use of packed ice for preserving fish, enabling more time fishing before returning to port.

The Boat Works is a symbol of other techniques and technologies that Japanese Canadians brought to the B.C. boat-building industry, such as custom fish nets, gasoline engines and continuous plank frames that allowed the construction of larger, stronger fishing boats. These new innovations are remarkable because Japanese Canadian involvement in the B.C. fishing industry was often subjected to legally sanctioned restrictions that promoted prejudice and discrimination.

Social value is found in the sense of identity and community in this area of Vancouver Island represented by the establishment of farms and the Tofino Japanese Language School. The place names of the various bays and communities are valued as a testament to the Japanese Canadian contribution to the local economy and the growth and development of Ucluelet, Tofino and other nearby settlements.

As with other Japanese Canadians on the B.C. coast, families who lived along the west coast of Vancouver Island were stripped of their homes, businesses, possessions, freedom, and civil rights in 1942 during World War II and were forcibly removed from their homes and incarcerated in internment camps in the interior of B.C. It is significant that Ucluelet was reportedly the only community in B.C, to officially protest the deportation to the internment camps. When the coastal ban was lifted in 1949, a small fraction of the original west coast Japanese Canadian families returned to the west coast of Vancouver Island, becoming integral members of the community.

Character-Defining Elements

Not applicable



British Columbia

Recognition Authority

Province of British Columbia

Recognition Statute

Heritage Conservation Act, s.18

Recognition Type

Provincially Recognized Heritage Site (Recognized)

Recognition Date


Historical Information

Significant Date(s)

1918/01/01 to 1918/01/01

Theme - Category and Type

Developing Economies
Technology and Engineering
Developing Economies
Extraction and Production
Peopling the Land

Function - Category and Type



Food Supply
Fisheries Site

Architect / Designer




Additional Information

Location of Supporting Documentation

Province of British Columbia, Heritage Branch

Cross-Reference to Collection

Fed/Prov/Terr Identifier




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