Tragedy Strikes​

On December 7, 1941, just weeks after the Asahi had won their 5th straight Pacific Northwest championship, tragedy struck. The Imperial Japanese Navy Air Service conducted a surprise military strike against the United States naval base at Pearl Harbor. As a direct result of this attack, Canada, following the United States, officially declared war on Japan. The Canadian government also enacted the Defence of Canada Regulations of the War Measures Act to register and label all Japanese-Canadians as “enemy aliens.” Approximately 22,000 Japanese-Canadians, including the members of the Vancouver Asahi, were transported to internment camps within British Columbia known as “ghost towns”. This was done out of fear that they would turn against the Canadian navy. More than half of these Japanese-Canadians sent to the internment camps were second generation, born and raised in Canada.
Japanese-Canadians being relocated in British Columbia
Japanese-Canadians being relocated in British Columbia, 1942. Source: Library and Archives Canada/C-057250.
internment camp for Japanese Canadians in British Columbia
An internment camp for Japanese Canadians in British Columbia, 1945. Source: Jack Long / National Film Board of Canada / Library and Archives Canada/PA-142853.

Part of the War Measures Act against Japanese-Canadians included seizure of property. Any items which could not be physically carried to the camps became government property or were left for the taking. Because of this, few original uniforms from the Vancouver Asahi remain, although the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum has some items in its collection. Their existence shows how important baseball was to these men, and that these uniforms, and the memories they held, were too important to leave behind.

Vancouver Asahi Jersey and Jacket, it is unknown which player these belonged to. Source: The Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum Collection.
Despite the prison-like atmospheres in these camps, people still found a way to use baseball to raise up the community. Former members of the Asahi who had been separated to various internment camps formed small baseball leagues within their camps where they played each other, local townspeople, and even their RCMP prison guards. The informal league would come to be known as the Slocan Valley Championship. These games provided joy in a dismal situation, as well as a sense of strength and resistance among the community, and helped to dispel suspicions and fears surrounding Japanese-Canadian citizens.
Baseball game in 1943 in an internment camp
Baseball game in 1943 in an internment camp. Source: Kerry Yo Nakagaw/Nisei Baseball Research Project.

In 1945, when the war ended, Japanese-Canadians began to be released from these internment camps, although their citizenship rights were not given back until 1949. Instead, Japanese-Canadians were encouraged to go east or in some cases were pressured to relocate to Japan. Although they were “free”, things would never truly go back to the way they were, and the enactment of the internment camps in B.C. is now acknowledged as one of the worst human rights violations in B.C. ‘s history. In 1988, the Canadian Government formally apologized to Japanese Canadian survivors and their families. You can find the apology here: