In 2004, archaeology professor Robert Muckle was alerted to a site within the forests of British Columbia’s North Shore mountains. There were few old cans and a saw blade found. At first, he suspected the area was once home to a historic logging camp. Little did he know that he would spend the next 14 years unearthing sign after sign of a forgotten Japanese settlement!
It was one that seems to have been abruptly abandoned. There are more than 1,000 items unearthed including rice bowls, sake bottles, teapots, pocket watches, buttons and fragments of Japanese ceramics.
“There was very likely a small community of Japanese who were living here on the margins of an urban area,” Muckle tells Richter. “I think they were living here kind of in secret.”
The settlement is found within an area now known as the Lower Seymour Conservation Reserve, located around 12 miles northeast of Vancouver. Muckle have uncovered two other sites within the region that can be linked to Japanese inhabitants.
No records survive of the people who lived in the North Shore camp, and Muckle has yet to find an artifact that can be reliably dated to after 1920. But given that the inhabitants of the village seem to have departed in a hurry, leaving precious belongings behind, he tells Smithsonian that he suspects they stayed in their little enclave in the woods until 1942, when “they were incarcerated or sent to road camps.”
Find out more about this secret Japanese settlement at Smart News.
Photo from Bob Muckle