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Powell Street Festival Society

In 1877 the first Japanese immigrant arrived in Canada. By 1921, about 4000 Japanese residents lived, worked and played in the vibrant district of Powell Street. In 1942, almost 22,000 people of Japanese ancestry were uprooted from their homes in B.C. due to misguided political actions. Half these people came from the Powell Street area, and few returned.

In 1977, Vancouver’s Japanese community launched the Powell Street Festival to honour the Centennial. In 2011, the arts, culture and heritage festival is the largest of its kind in Canada. The Powell Street Festival promises fun for all, with dance, music, film, visual arts, martial arts, sumo wrestling and delicious Japanese food.

Crowd watching sumo at the 2010 festival. Photo by Aki Mimoto. Used with permission of the Powell Street Festival Society.

The 35th anniversary party on July 30-31, 2011 at Oppenheimer Park marks Vancouver’s oldest community-based festival. Located in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver, the area was once the city’s Japantown.

From May to October, the Powell Street Festival Society presents a dynamic mix of cultural events in collaboration with other organizations. These gatherings honour tradition and investigate innovations in Japanese Canadian and Asian Canadian culture. The inclusive atmosphere invites a broad spectrum of artists: emerging, established, professional and amateur.

Collaborative performance by Tetsuro Shigematsu and Ray Hsu at Spatial Poetics in IX in 2010. Photo by Noah Photography. Used with permission of the Powell Street Festival Society.Spatial Poetics X is an interdisciplinary event in which artists collaborate and experiment. Music, performance, live animation, sound, video and literature are intermingled and re-ordered. The restructured spaces are unique and imaginative. On July 7, paired artists explored the concept of rebirth within the grassroots experience. Curators and co-founders Cindy Mochizuki and Miko Hoffman launched Jukkai, a publication documenting the ten-year history of Spatial Poetics.

The Exhibition Monogatari: Tales of Powell Street (1920-1941) runs May 28 - October 1, 2011 at the National Nikkei Museum and Heritage Centre.


The Powell Street Festival is funded in part by the BC Arts Council, supporting artists and arts organizations in communities across BC