This page was last reviewed on July 25, 2023.
The Cumberland Japanese Cemetery is located on Union Road near Cumberland Road, adjacent to the Chinese cemetery. The earliest headstones in the cemetery date from 1901, when nine Japanese miners were killed in the No.6 Mine explosion. The cemetery is the final resting place of approximately 198 Japanese Canadian miners, mill workers and families who lived in Cumberland and the Comox Valley until 1942, when all people of Japanese descent were interned in the B.C. interior or further east.
This cemetery, like many others on the West Coast of B.C., represents a tragic interruption in the history of the Japanese Canadians in Canada. The majority of the Japanese Canadian graves in this cemetery pre-date 1942 and the forced relocation of “enemy aliens” away from the coast. After the war ended Japanese Canadians were allowed to return, although many did not go back to the communities where they came from as most, if not all, of what they had there before the war, employment, land, and friends, had been lost or forcibly sold.
The Cumberland cemetery provides link to the living Japanese Canadians who can trace family history back to those relatives who were the fabric of the Japanese Canadian community in Cumberland, and whose offspring and relatives suffered through wartime internment and the complete loss of home. The cemetery provides the powerful physical presence of those links, not just for the Japanese-Canadian community but for all who visit this poignant and spiritual place. It is a story that needs to be continuously told.
On May 30, 2008, Cumberland’s Japanese cemetery was dedicated as a heritage landmark. On that date a plaque was unveiled that recognized the contribution the site adds to Cumberland’s rich culture and history. The Cemetery was also designated heritage by Cumberland Council in 2008.
Annual Obon Tour
The annual Vancouver Island Obon Cemetery Tour takes place annually on a Saturday in mid-August.
The Obon visit is sponsored by the BC Jodo Shinshu Buddhist Temples Federation, a group of temples belonging to the Jodo Shinshu Hongwanji-ha denomination of Japanese Pure Land Buddhism. The purpose of the visitation is to pay respect to the many individuals of Japanese heritage who forged their lives on the Island and who have long since passed on. Many of the individuals buried at the cemeteries on Vancouver Island no longer have descendants living nearby and the Obon Cemetery Visitation is our way of acknowledging the pioneers of our country, letting them know that they may be gone, but they are not forgotten.
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