The relationship between Japan and the Prairie provinces after the Second World War



Before the Second World War, Japan held a Consulate office in Vancouver. Reports by then-Consul are still preserved and they say he visited the Prairie provinces and met with high-ranking people including the Premier of Alberta. The last Consul left there in May, 1942 due to the war. But immediately after the San Francisco Peace Treaty took in effect in April, 1952,a new Consul arrived in Vancouver in May, 1952.

Then, Japan opened the first Consulate office in the Prairie provinces in Winnipeg, Manitoba in December, 1956 (The office became the Consulate-General in July, 1967 and was closed in December, 1992). At the time, Winnipeg was the biggest city in the Prairies (population: 410 thousand) and the fourth biggest in Canada, following Montreal, Toronto, and Vancouver. When establishing the office, consideration was given to 1) the importance of the Prairie provinces’ agriculture (in particular, Winnipeg was a distribution centre of Canadian wheat) and 2) oil and gas in Alberta. (The right picture: a grain elevator in the vicinity of Regina, Saskatchewan. The lower right picture: the Edmonton refinery operated by the Suncor Energy.)

Entering the 1960’s, the relationship between Japan and Alberta developed significantly. Around this period, many coal mines were closed in Canada as coal consumption such as a fuel for locomotives disappeared. However, Japan still needed a large amount of coal amid its high economic growth and started importing coal from Alberta in 1962. Then, exchanges of large-scale delegations started.

  • October, 1963: A trade mission led by Mr. Allen Russel Patrick (Albertan Minister of Industry and Development) visited Japan.
  • October, 1964: A Japanese economic mission led by Mr. Yoshihiro Inayama, President of Yawata Iron & Steel Co. Ltd. Visited six provinces (eleven cities) in Canada including British Columbia and the Prairie provinces. President Inayama made a speech at the third Northern Resources conference held in Edmonton.
  • May, 1966: Albertan Premier Ernest Manning and his spouse visited Japan as Japan’s official guests.
    Following this trend, Japan opened its Consulate office in Edmonton, Alberta in March, 1967. (The office became the Consulate-General in October, 1971 and was closed in January, 2005. To replace that, the Consulate-General in Calgary opened.)
  • September, 1970: Albertan Premier Harry Strom visited Japan to open the province’s office in Tokyo. He met with Japanese dignitaries in politics and economy, including Prime Minister Eisaku Sato.
  • June, 1971: A large economic delegation led by Chujiro Fujino, President of Mitsubishi Corporation visited Canada, including Alberta.
  • September, 1972: Albertan Premier Peter Lougheed visited Japan leading his first overseas trade mission.
 During this period, JAPEX (Japan Petroleum Exploration Co., Ltd.) established JAPEX Canada in 1966 and started research activities on oil sands in Alberta. Following experimental production, it resulted in the establishment of Japan Canada Oil Sands Limited (JACOS) in 1978 and the company initiated a joint development of oil sands in Athabasca field. (Later on, due to the change of various situations, it is very regrettable that the company divested from the oil sands production there in 2021.)

The relationship between Japan and the Prairie provinces, especially with Alberta was affected by an international trend of energy demand and supply, and recently, climate change related policies as well. However, under current unstable international situation, Japan relies more than ever on the Prairie provinces to secure its food and energy security. The provinces are continuously important suppliers of grains, such as wheat. Energy on the other hand, in order to take importance in addressing climate issues, major Japanese companies have a great interest in producing hydrogen and ammonia in Alberta.

2.Japan’s Imperial Family and Alberta

Japan’s Imperial Family has close ties with Alberta, starting with the friendship between HIH Prince Chichibu (a younger brother of the late Emperor Showa) and Mr. Yuko Maki, the expedition leader of the Mt. Alberta climbing party in 1925. (Please refer to the first part of this series.)

In April, 1953, then-HIH Crown Prince Akihito (currently the Emperor Emilites) stopped by in Calgary on the way to London, U.K. (He attended HM Queen Elisabeth II’s coronation ceremony on June 2.) In Calgary, a lot of Calgarians welcomed him, he rode a hose and wore a white cowboy hat, which is a staple of the Calgary Stampede.

Also, Nikka Yuko Japanese Garden (The right picture), Lethbridge, southern-Alberta has close connection with Prince Takamatsu and Prince Takamado Families. The University of Alberta in Edmonton also has a strong connection with Prince Takamado Family. (Please refer to the first part of this series.)

3.Hokkaido and Alberta

When talking about the relationship between Japan and Alberta, we cannot omit the relationship between Hokkaido and Alberta. Hokkaido governor Naohiro Dogakinai visited Alberta with his large-scale Hokkaido-Canada, Alaska economic and cultural delegation in September, 1972 to promote the Hokkaido’s “Northern sphere concept”. In the same year, Hokkaido and Alberta reached an agreement, and were able to allow many people to exchange between the two regions. Further in 1980, Hokkaido and Alberta held signing ceremonies of sister relationship both in Edmonton and Sapporo.

Since then, municipalities in Hokkaido and Alberta have continued many sister-city exchanges. And it would be worthwhile to mention exchanges in curling and hockey. Mr. Wally Ursuliak (born in Morinville, Alberta) visited Hokkaido in 1980 and became the first curling instructor in Japan. Then, since 2013, Calgary-born Mr. James Douglas Lind trained Japan’s curling teams. With his assistance, Japan’s women’s national team got fifth place (Hokkaido Bank Fortius CC) at the Sochi winter Olympic games in 2014, bronze medals (Loco Solare) at PyeongChang games in 2018, and silver medals (Loco Solare) in Beijing games in 2022. And we should not forget that about a year and half from 2014, Mr. Eyobe Melketsadik from Edmonton (a former JET program participant, he was an assistant language teacher in Gifu Prefecture) worked as an interpreter for Mr. Lind at the Hokkaido Women’s Curling Academy.

As for hockey, Mr. Doug McKenzie of Edmonton played a significant role on enhancing the connection between Hokkaido and Alberta. Mr. McKenzie, when he visited Hokkaido for the last time, gifted the “McKenzie Friendship Cup” to Hokkaido.

Though this is not related to Hokkaido, there is another important person who contributed to Japan’s hockey scene. He is Mr. Steven Ken Tsujiura. His parents experienced internment in British Columbia during the Second World War, and he was born in Coaldale, southern-Alberta. He joined the Kokudo Ice Hockey Club of then-Japan Ice Hockey League as a player and was one of six North Americans that Japan’s men’s national team invited for the preparation of the 1988 Winter Olympic Nagano Games. He naturalized in Japan in the previous year of the Nagano Games and served as a vice captain at the Nagano Games. Later, he retired from playing and served as a head coach for Japan’s men’s national team for four years.

4.The 15th Olympic Winter Games Calgary in 1988

These Games were held from February 13 to 28, 1988 in Calgary and Kananaskis Country. Mr. Matti Nykanen of Finland was hugely successful in ski jumping (The right picture: Calgary ski jumping hill with Canadian Rockies behind) and Ms. Katarina Witt of East Germany got a gold medal in women’s figure skating.

During these games, speed skating contests were done indoor for the first time in the Winter Olympic Games history. Also, curling appeared for the first time as a Winter Games’ demonstration sport.
Japan’s flag-bearer was Ms. Seiko Hashimoto and captain was Mr. Akira Kuroiwa, both were from speed skating. At figure skating competitions, Ms. Midori Ito did then-most difficult types of jumps successfully and local media described her as a “flying woman”. Though she only got fifth place, she performed an exhibition due to her popularity. At these Winter Games, only Mr. Akira Kuroiwa got a bronze medal among all the Japanese athletes.

Before the Calgary Games, a hand-held replica of the Calgary Tower served as the official Olympic torch during the cross-Canada torch relay. Then, the Olympic flame atop the Calgary Tower was lit during the opening ceremonies on February 13th, 1988, and burned 24 hours a day for the next 16 days until it was extinguished at the closing ceremonies on Friday 28th, 1988. Since then, a tradition of lighting the Calgary Tower’s flame to celebrate Olympic Games around the world was born. (The right picture: The Calgary Tower seen on the opening ceremony day of the Olympic Tokyo Games in 2021.)

5.The 28th G8 Kananaskis Summit

The Summit was held in Kananaskis Country, Alberta on June 26th and 27th, 2002.

6.The Great East Japan Earthquake

 After the Great East Japan Earthquake on March 11th, 2011 (The right picture: Disaster-measures government building, Minami-Sanriku town, Miyagi Prefecture), many of you in this office’s jurisdiction extended very kind assistance to the people in the affected areas.

This office held an online event with the participation of Mr. Yutaka Yamamoto, a Japanese animation director, to commemorate the eleventh anniversary of the earthquake on March 11th, 2022. (Please click the URL below to watch the video.)

With using this opportunity, the office extends its most sincere gratitude to all of you again.

The Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami Commemoration | Consulate-General of Japan in Calgary (