Charcoal Pit Kiln Research Project

Galiano charcoal kiln

Kiln on Galiano on Bluff Park

We are very pleased to announce the launch of an exciting project to conduct research on the Japanese Canadian charcoal kilns of the Gulf Islands. We have received a one-time $24,000 grant from the BC | Canada 150: Celebrating B.C. Communities and their Contributions to Canada Fund offered by the BC Museum Association, and a one-time $2,500 grant from the Endowment Fund of the National Association of Japanese Canadians.

The project will be conducted with partner organizations on other islands; on Mayne we will be working with the Mayne Island Lions Club, which is in charge of managing the Japanese Garden there, and on Galiano we’ll be working with the Galiano Club, which manages the public land where the restored charcoal kilns on the island are located.

Mayne charcoal kiln

Reconstructed charcoal kiln in the Japanese garden on Mayne Island.

Many thanks to Toshi Kitagawa and Keiko Mary Kitagawa-Murakami who encouraged the Society to apply for the NAJC grant. We’re very happy that the Association granted us $2,500 to assist with the research and the publication parts of the project. This research will be a big undertaking and we need more funds to support it.

The project has three components:
1) Research: conducting research on the historical charcoal kilns and the Japanese Canadian communities on the Southern Gulf Islands
2) Publication: publishing a 60-page booklet about the historical charcoal kilns and pre-war Japanese Canadian communities on the Southern Gulf Islands
3) Interpretive Panels: Creating six interpretive panels and installing them at appropriate locations to acknowledge the Japanese Canadian legacy and to recognize the funding and support from the BC Government.

Reconstructed charcoal kiln on Saltspring

Several guided tour were organized by the Society to let people know about the historical charcoal kilns and the JC community on Salt Spring Island. The speaker with a blue cap is Steve Nemtim, an expert on such kilns built by early Japanese Canadian settlers.

The research: The team consists of Steve Nemtin from Galiano who is an expert on the historical charcoal kilns built by Japanese Canadians and Brian Smallshaw who is a historian from Salt Spring with extensive knowledge about the Japanese Canadian history. The research began in mid-June and will continue until the end of August.

The publication: It will be a comprehensive booklet about the historical kilns and the Japanese Canadian communities on the Southern Gulf Islands, reflecting the results of the research. It will be written in a style accessible to a wide range of readers, and will be small enough so that people who are visiting the Gulf Islands can bring it along when they visit the sites.

The interpretive panels: The project is aiming to create and install two interpretive panels on each island (six in total).

No research has been done on the historical charcoal kilns and not much has been written about the Japanese Canadian communities on the Gulf Islands. As the Gulf Islands was recognized as a significant place in the Japanese Canadian history and has been included in the BC Register of Historic Places since April 2017 (also will be the Canadian Register of Historic Places), we believe that this project is very timely as well as important to our community.

National Association of Japanese Canadians logo