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Eiji Okawa

Eiji Okawa, PhD

Assistant Professor


Abbotsford campus

email Eiji


Born and raised on the island of olives and soy sauce in Western Japan, I am a historian of Japan as well as East Asian diaspora and transnationalism in twentieth-century Canada. After completing my doctorate degree in Asian Studies at the University of British Columbia, I worked as a postdoctoral fellow with Landscapes of Injustice, a collaborative research project on the dispossession of Japanese Canadians during the Second World War. He also teaches skiing and enjoys walking and cycling the neighbourhood with his kids. 


  • MA, UBC
  • PhD, UBC

Teaching Interests

I plan to teach courses that explore stories, perspectives, and forces that shaped history in traditional and modern East Asia.

Research Interests

I am interested in analyzing how members of historical communities expressed themselves, related to one another as well as the surrounding environment, and created and navigated schemes of power. I like to do history ground-up. Currently, I am developing two articles on the social experiences of the so-called early modern transition in Japan. Using medieval/early modern temple documents as well as modern migrant writings that would strike many historians as obscure, I seek to recover and analyze historical voices that have been neglected or muted in mainstream historiography. By taking their expressions seriously, I hope to expand our scope of knowledge and raise questions about how we imagine the past.


  • “Landscapes of Meaning: Rethinking the Uprooting of Japanese Canadians,” in panel Landscapes of Injustice (5c). Canadian Law and Society Association Conference, Congress 2019. University of British Columbia. June 3, 2019.
  • “Custodians of a Sanctum: Structuring Social Relations at Mt. Kōya Monastery in the Early Tokugawa Era,” in panel 14: Routinizing the Hidden and Sacred: Reinventing Space and Ritual from 17th- to 19th-Century Japan, ASPAC Conference 2018, Washington State University. June 8-10, 2018.
  • “Master of Territorial Allocations: The Tokugawa State and Local Conflicts at Kōyasan Temple in the Seventeenth Century,” in panel Social Tension and Social Position in Tokugawa Japan. 15th International Conference of the European Association for Japanese Studies. Universidade Nova de Lisboa. Sep 2, 2017.
  • “Race and Normative Categories,” in the Canadian Committee on Migration, Ethnicity and Transnationalism roundtable, On Language, its Discontents, and Its Future. The Annual Meeting of the Canadian Historical Association, Congress 2017. Ryerson University. May 31, 2017.
  • “Nature and Religious Landscape at Mt. Kōya in Medieval and Early Modern Japan,” in panel Nature Views, Religion and Ethics I. Association for East Asian Environmental History Conference. Kagawa University, Japan. Oct 25, 2015.
  • “The Liminal and the Social: Treasures in the Portrait Hall of the Sacred Mount Kōya in Premodern Japan.” Visual and Material Culture Research Seminar Series. Museum of Anthropology, UBC. Oct 30, 2014
  • “Producing a Culture of the Prohibition of Women from Sacred Mountains in Early Modern Japan,” in panel Reconciling Spaces Imagined and Lived in Early Modern Japan. Association for Asian Studies Annual Conference. Philadelphia, PA. Mar 27, 2014.



Book Chapters

  • “Terrains of Myths and Devotion: Ritual Interactions with the Land at the Kôyasan Monastery in Traditional Japan,” in Mika Markus Merviö, ed. Recent Social, Environmental, and Cultural Issues in East Asian Societies (Hershey: IGI International in 2020), pp.135-153.
  • “The Wealth of My Home: A Story of a Japanese-Canadian Family,” in Jordan Stanger-Ross, ed. Landscapes of Injustice: A History of the Dispossession of Japanese Canadians (McGill-Queens Press in 2020)


Journal Article

  • “Japaneseness in Racist Canada: Immigrant Imaginaries during the First Half of the Twentieth Century.” Journal of American Ethnic History, special issue with Landscapes of Injustice (Summer 2018, vol. 37, no.4), pp. 10-39
  • “Land and Soil in the Religious Culture of Kôyasan in Medieval and Early Modern Japan,” International Journal of Public and Private Perspectives on Healthcare, Culture, and the Environment (Jan-Jun, 2017, vol.1, issue 1), pp. 36-50.


Online Essays

  • “Associational Lives of Women in Prewar Japanese-Canadian Community,” Meiji at 150 Digital Teaching Resource (UBC) link
  • “Japanese Culture and Language in Prewar Canadian ‘Mosaic’,” Meiji at 150 Digital Teaching Resource (UBC) link
  • “Tashme Poetry Society,” Tashme Historical Project ( link





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