“The house is not large. But I’d thought it was. As a child I remembered it as huge. It certainly was larger, more beautiful than anything we lived in afterwards. It’s still basically the same the lovely bright sunroom with its bank of windows as we enter the front door.”

― Joy Kogawa

About the Historic Joy Kogawa House

Located in the Marpole neighbourhood of Vancouver, Historic Joy Kogawa House was once the childhood home of acclaimed author Joy Kogawa and her family. Today, the property is a unique live/work space for writers, a space for public events, and an ongoing symbol of the racial discrimination experienced by Japanese Canadians as a consequence of the Second World War.

To see photos of the house, you can browse our image galleries. You can also watch this two-minute mini-tour of the Historic Joy KogawaHouse by the Vancouver Heritage Foundation below. Another great video featuring the House is Bard Around Town – Episode 2 (Tudor Revival).

The history of a home

The house was built between 1912 and 1913 for original owner Robert Mackie, a foreman in the public works department of the City of Vancouver. Mackie lived in the house from 1913 to 1937.

In 1937, the Nakayama family – Gordon and Lois, and their two children, five-year-old Timothy and two-year-old Joy – moved into the house. In the 1930s, Marpole, along with the Powell Street area of downtown Vancouver and the Fairview neighbourhood, was known as an area with a burgeoning Japanese population.

The Nakayama family lived in the house from 1937 until mid-1942 when the Government of Canada, under the War Measures Act, forced nearly 22,000 Canadians of Japanese descent out of their homes. The Canadian Government authorized the confiscation of the evacuees’ property. All of this property – including furniture, clothing, cars, and houses – was auctioned off at a fraction of its value and without the consent of the original owners. The proceeds of the sale were used to pay for the cost of their own internment.

The Nakayama family’s home was sold on September 22, 1944. The family was never able to return to their house in Marpole.

The longing for that house was forever. I always, always wanted to come home. My mother … also wanted to come home. But it was impossible.

Joy Kogawa

Complicated Past

The childhood home of Joy Kogawa, currently known as Kogawa House, was owned by her father, Gordon Goichi Nakayama, who worked with the Japanese Canadian community as a minister of the Anglican Church of Canada. In this position, he did many good things, including helping to build the Church of Ascension in Kitsilano and the Japanese Language School in Marpole. In talking with many Japanese Canadians, we have come to understand that Gordon Goichi Nakayama also betrayed his position of trust and authority and brought considerable harm to the Japanese Canadian community. While owning and living in the house that now celebrates the work of his daughter, Joy Kogawa, we understand that Gordon Goichi Nakayama sexually abused many children. Our hearts go out to these children and to their families who spoke out against this abuse but were not heard. 

In acknowledging this truth, Kogawa House is committed to working with the community to help the healing process for those individuals and families affected by Nakayama’s actions. We understand that acknowledging this history is important to healing. The victims of Nakayama’s clergy sexual abuse include Japanese Canadian families who were living in the Marpole area before the outbreak of the Second World War when the Nakayama family lived at what is now Kogawa House. Those suffering under Nakayama’s abuse include the victims, but also their friends, families, and descendants who now live in communities across Canada. A full acknowledgment of our support for survivors and survivor families is available here.

The story of this house has come to a wonderful place, like a new beginning. It had one birth. It lived its life, and then, instead of dying, it’s been given a second chance. That’s a wonderful, wonderful thing to have. It’s going to live again. It will breathe. It will bring life to people. It will bring reconciliation. Those are the things this house has been called to do.

Joy Kogawa

A literary landmark today

In 2005–2006, Joy lent her support to a community campaign that saved the house from demolition. This campaign was led by fellow authors and friends, the Save Kogawa House Committee, and the Land Conservancy of BC. Donations were received from the public, including a sizeable donation from Ontario senator Nancy Ruth.

The house is now managed by not-for-profit organization Historic Joy Kogawa House Society. Among its purposes, the Society aims to operate and preserve the home as a heritage and cultural centre and as a site of healing and reconciliation. To this end, the house serves as a site for author residencies, public events, and tours for school groups and the general public. Plans are also underway to restore the house to its 1930s appearance.

A literary landmark today

In 2005–2006, Joy lent her support to a community campaign that saved the house from demolition. This campaign was led by fellow authors and friends, the Save Kogawa House Committee, and the Land Conservancy of BC. Donations were received from the public, including a sizeable donation from Ontario senator Nancy Ruth.

The house is now managed by not-for-profit organization Historic Joy Kogawa House Society. Among its purposes, the Society aims to operate and preserve the home as a heritage and cultural centre and as a site of healing and reconciliation. To this end, the house serves as a site for author residencies, public events, and tours for school groups and the general public. Plans are also underway to restore the house to its 1930s appearance.

The story of this house has come to a wonderful place, like a new beginning. It had one birth. It lived its life, and then, instead of dying, it’s been given a second chance. That’s a wonderful, wonderful thing to have. It’s going to live again. It will breathe. It will bring life to people. It will bring reconciliation. Those are the things this house has been called to do.

Joy Kogawa

Discover More About Historic Joy Kogawa House

Learn more about Saving Kogawa House. Read about our Current Writer-in-Residence or take a look at our Past Writers.

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